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Spokane’s Downtown “Duck Man” a shining star of spring memories

WILDLIFE — Among the urban wildlife spectacles that stand out in Spokane's history, it's tough to beat the Duck Man's help in usering a brood of ducklings from their nest at Sterling Savings Bank to the water in Riverfront Park.

Joel Armstrong made some good catches in the May 16, 2009 episode  as he helped the mallard mother parade her 12 ducklings down the Lilac Parade route — just shortly before the parade started.

Video of the event rightly made national news, above.

Kudos to the bank, which stepped up and turned the event into a windfall for waterfowl at Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge.

I love a parade!

Good morning, Netizens…

Looking over the news this morning, I could not help but become aware of two females who, in their own respective ways, somehow managed to grab the golden spot atop the news wires since Friday.

The first, a horse named Rachel Alexandra rode into history by becoming the first filly in 85 years to win the Preakness. People, at least those associated with horse racing, will talk about this victory for decades to come, mostly because this big rangy mare set a blistering pace in the race, handily beating out male competition at the finish line.

However, the story that perhaps eclipsed that of Rachel Alexandra winning the Preakness took place in downtown Spokane where a pretty duck sat on eggs for the second year in succession in a concrete awning at the Sterling Savings Bank, eagerly watched from inside by banker Joel Armstrong and Crystal Tobeck and a cast of thousands of others via the Internet. A local television news station took it upon themselves to assign a name to this poor mallard, but to me, she will always be Mama Duck.

Mama Duck chose her nesting spot well, for it is sunny, relatively free of predators, and as we have seen, within easy walking distance to the Spokane River. The rub has always been safely getting the tiny ducklings from their nesting spot ten feet above the sidewalk to the water, and last year Armstrong gathered the fledgling ducks together in a box and helped Mama Duck convey them to the river’s edge.

This year, however, not to be outdone by the Lilac Parade, and despite efforts to replicate last year’s duckling rescue, after a trial-and-error assist from members of Sterling Bank, Mama Duck took charge and marched her brood through bank employees, members of the news media and curious bystanders to the river in their own version of a Grand Duck parade.

This picture, shot by Jesse Tinsley of the Spokesman-Review, captures the moment when, aided and abetted by Joel Armstrong and Crystal Tobeck, Mama Duck proudly marched through the crowds assembled for the Lilac Parade to the river as proudly as if she owned the sidewalk.

One cannot help but wonder at the miracles involved: that Momma Duck unerringly remembered the safe place she found last year to hatch her eggs, and despite the humans that occasionally got in the way, she remembered the way to the river and in so doing, touched a thousand lives with her story.