Woman saves muscovy duck from uncertain fate at Basin Reserve

10:27 am on 4 July 2023
(L-R) Helen Morgan-Banda, Craig Shepherd, Diane Morgan and Sophie Devine (duck).

From left: Helen Morgan-Banda, Craig Shepherd (with the rescued duck) and Diane Morgan. Photo: Bill Hickman / RNZ

A Wellington woman says she could never have predicted she would make a sprawling catch to rein in one of the most famous names in New Zealand cricket this week.

A muscovy duck, named Sophie Devine, was scooped up by concerned animal lovers after she had made herself at home in the capital's Basin Reserve cricket ground.

The duck took up residence in the grounds nearly two weeks ago and was busying herself exploring and making an impression on the commuters who streamed through the Basin every day.

Despite being in her sixties, Diane Morgan put her body on the line to reel in Sophie Devine with an athletic dive onto the turf beneath the Old Pavilion Stands.

"The answer was corralling her into a corner and she tried to fly up and I just grabbed her. They're very slippery, the feathers are so shiny. I couldn't play cricket to save my life, I couldn't but I did," Morgan said.

Diane's sister Helen Morgan-Banda said she became concerned when she saw the duck showing signs of stress and struggling to drink from a small puddle about a week ago.

"Yesterday I took her some rice and some frozen peas and corn and got a big dog bowl of water. She just drank and drank. Her tail feathers started to fluff up and she was a very happy duck," Morgan-Banda said.

Diane Morgan sprawls onto the Basin Reserve turf to catch Sophie Devine.

Diane Morgan reaches out on the Basin Reserve turf to catch Sophie Devine. Photo: Bill Hickman / RNZ

She said she got in touch with the Wellington Bird Rehabilitation Trust and the two sisters made the decision to uplift Sophie the next day.

Craig Shepherd started the Wellington Bird Rehabilitation Trust from his home in Ohariu Valley nearly 25 years ago.

Now the trust takes in about 1200 birds a year.

Many are nursed back to health in a makeshift hospital that had taken over Shepherd's garage.

The space is packed with custom built pens and incubators made from plywood and plastic crates and even an old dairy's drinks fridge.

On Monday morning seagulls, tui, pigeons, doves, ducks and takehe were all being taken care of in the busy room.

Craig Shepherd funds the majority of the nearly $140,000 it costs to maintain the Wellington Bird and Rehabilitation Trust each year himself.

He said it took about 25 hours a week and the efforts of a dedicated crew of volunteers to keep helping the growing number of birds that turn up on his doorstep.

"I love the people that will go out of their way to rescue a bird. That's the sort of thing that inspires you on days when you think 'this is all a bit dull or a bit sad'," Shepherd said.

Sophie the duck would be checked out and stabilised with a few days of good kai before being found a new home. Shepherd was confident she wouldn't be with him for too long.

"These female muscovys are really easy to re-home, they are lovely birds. When you engage with them they waggle their tail a bit like a dog and that's pretty cool. We end up with people queuing up to take these lovely girls in," Shepherd said.

Craig Shepherd of Wellington Bird Rehabilitation Trust in the garage he has converted into a hospital for rescued birds.

Craig Shepherd of Wellington Bird Rehabilitation Trust in the garage he has converted into a hospital for rescued birds. Photo: Bill Hickman / RNZ

He said the breed don't tend to travel long distances and he would be surprised to find someone keeping ducks in the dense housing near the cricket grounds.

"It's either been dumped or it's gotten away from somewhere and thought 'this place looks pretty good, there's a lot of green grass here'. But from what I've heard it was actually quite hungry and very thirsty," Shepherd said.

Venue Manager for Cricket Wellington Ryan Holland said he had noticed Sophie was spending time on a concrete slab at the northern end of the grounds.

When he came across Helen Morgan at the reserve on Monday morning he quickly offered up the use of the venue's crowd control barriers to help corral the duck.

He said catching up with the 'devine' duck still took most of the morning.

"They stuck at it, it was a tough job to get the duck but they caught it and I'm sure it will be well treated at its new home. Hopefully I don't see it flying back here in the next couple of days," he said.

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