Minnesota Man Cushions Chicks On Their Big Step Down
Some wood duck ducklings got a soft introduction to the world recently, and you can see it here in one of the coolest videos we've seen in a long time.
For years, Randy Pentel, of Mendota Heights, Minnesota, has hosted nesting wood ducks in a nesting box at his property. When the ducklings are old enough, they follow their mother and jump from the nest to the ground below. Pentel places a blue tarp beneath the nest, which is three stories high, to bring them safely to the ground. He even angles the tarp so the ducklings slide off at the same place and stay together. Best, he films the "annual jumping of the wood ducks" every year, with help from his niece, Laura Reiland, 12, who comes from out of town to help with the event. This year, the birds took their big leap June 20.
"However, it's not without a bit of humor as they tumble and roll at the bottom," Pentel wrote on his Facebook page. "Everyone survived, and no birds were harmed or injured during the making of this film."
Pentel said he also has videos from many previous jumps, and the most ducklings he's recorded during a jump is 27. He wants to use multiple cameras next year and shoot some slow-motion video as the ducklings come down.
After their big leap, the ducklings usually follow their mother to the nearby Mississippi River, Pentel said.
Conservation is nothing new for Pentel.
"My grandparents were both president of the St. Paul Audubon Society (at different times) back in the late '60s or early '70s," he said. "So we were introduced to birds and wildlife at a very early age."
Wood duck numbers declined dramatically in the 19th century but increased greatly from 1966 to the present, thanks in part to artificial nest boxes such as the one Pentel provides. Let's applaud Pentel for his conservation efforts and the cushioned welcome he offers a new generation of woodies.
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Realtree waterfowl editor Brian Lovett has been an obsessive duck and goose hunter for more than 30 years, chasing his passion on the Dakota prairies and the marshes and open water of his home state of Wisconsin. He's been a writer and editor in the outdoors industry since 1991.