Fishing Lines Can Be Deadly for Ducklings

This story took place in 2019 and was first recorded on Facebook. I can feel my fear and angst even now. Here is the tale as I told it then.


This is a cautionary tale about fishing lines and birds, but it has a happy ending! People who fish on Big Chico Creek often leave hundred of feet of fishing line behind. Do they try to gather it up? Who knows. I was having a peaceful pedal (not paddle) this morning, seeing beavers, herons, grosbeaks, and osprey. I passed a flotilla of Mergansers on my way.

Finally returning to the boat ramp, I saw some wild splashing and scared away a hungry heron. There caught in a mess of lines was one of the Mergansers, a juvenile almost full grown, struggling. I tried but couldn't get close enough to untangle the duck. A young man in a truck arrived with fishing gear and I called for help. He gallantly made his way along the fallen tree where the duck was trapped and cut her free. But oh no, her beak was ringed by line, pulled tight and deeply embedded. He handed the duck to me while he scrambled back to safety and went to grab a small scissors. I landed and held ms merganser while he tried to snip the line. We decided best to dig in and snip even if we cut into the beak. She had to be able to open it. Finally the last snip and open!

I was shaking hard by this time, but was able to walk to the ramp and set her free.

My new best friend Taylor caught it on video! See

Back to the creek tomorrow armed with scissors to get rid of as much line as possible!

Years later, 3/27/21, I received a message from Taylor:

Taylor: Hi Joan, how are you? I just wanted to let you know that you inspired me to get back into photography. I've been fishing all of my life, but I never really felt good about it. It's so sad to see all of the garbage many fisherman leave behind, and I've never felt good about actually killing an animal to eat it. When we met a couple of years ago and saved that merganser from the fishing line, I realized I should get into photography again instead of fishing. The main reason I still even went fishing was to get out in nature. Anyway, I finally got myself a DSLR and am having way more fun going out and capturing nature in photographs instead of on a hook. I am so glad we had that chance encounter on Pine Creek. Seeing all of your photos in my Facebook feed makes me happy and I hope to be able to take as good of photographs as you one day! Thanks for being such an inspiration!"

Joan: OMG, Taylor, I just spoke about you to a large group on Zoom (my classmates at Wellesley). You're featured in a slide. It gave me goosebumps to read your note. That was a fabulous day for me. And the beginnings of your DSLR career. How wonderful. The link to the presentation is here, if you're interested.

Taylor: Wow that's awesome! I feel honored to be a part of your presentation. I will definitely check it out. That was a great day for sure!

Joan: If you have any questions about local photography, let me know. You certainly made my day today!

Sometimes life has delightful unexpected consequences!

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