Ready, set, duck! Annual derby kicks off for Mass Audubon
Only a few ducks escaped the Mass Audubon Allens Pond Wildlife Sanctuary’s 16th annual Duck Derby on Saturday, which saw nearly 6,000 ducks released with the tide in a fundraising race on the property’s beach.
Around 20 people hiked over the sanctuary trails and beach in perfect weather to watch the ducks being released at Barney’s Joy.
Led by volunteer Doug Hlousek, who pointed out protected birds like piping plovers and answered questions about shells and beachcombed items found en route, the walkers spent the afternoon wading in the ocean and clambering over pebbles to see the fun.
Many of them had ducks in the derby.
Brayden Meagher, 7, and his four-year-old brother Cameron each had a duck named after them in the race.
The brothers enjoyed collecting seashells and even a blue crab claw while waiting for the derby to begin.
Hlousek taught participants about slipper shells and toenail shells — also called jingle shells for the sound they make when you walk on them — as well as piping plovers, least terns, quahogs, blue crabs, and horseshoe crabs.
He’s been leading the beach rambles with Mass Audubon for ten years, and helping at the duck derby for nine years.
“If it wasn’t for the Internet, I’d just be walking up and down the beach,” he joked, before adding more seriously, “It’s such a pleasure to be able to do this.”
The first ducks to cross the finish line earn their sponsors a number of prizes, with a grand prize of a dinner for two anywhere in the world — including flights, two nights lodging, and dinner.
Last place wins an entry in next year’s race to try again.
The ducks are normally released up the beach and carried by wind and incoming tide into a funnel — but this year, the apparatus broke and a dozen ducks made a break for it before being scooped up by volunteers in kayaks.
“I’ve never seen that happen before,” Hlousek noted.
Meanwhile the viewers were dreaming about prizes.
Brayden said that if he won, he’d want to go to dinner at Panera Bread, while Cameron decided on IHOP.
Last year’s winners, Patricia Vasconcellos and her husband, went to Portugal for their prize.
Dartmouth resident Susan Anemone had some ducks in the race as well.
If she won, Anemone said, she’d go to Hide in London.
But she wasn’t counting her ducks just yet. Anemone was just enjoying the walk in the sunshine.
“This is the first time I’ve been on a walk here,” she said. “It won’t be the last one.”
She continued, “We’ve been on this beach before. But to have a destination, and an activity, adds more fun to the walk.”
Martin Paredes and his wife Kathy Vincent came up from Washington D.C. to visit her native Dartmouth for the summer with their children.
“It’s the highlight of my summer. It’s just so pretty,” Paredes said. “The walk is just fantastic. And for the kids, it’s wonderful. We live in the city, in the middle of the city in D.C. So this is just paradise.”
This year’s winner was Dartmouth resident Maureen Jones, a middle school teacher in the Freetown-Lakeville school system.
According to Mass Audubon staffer Gina Purtell, Jones was overwhelmed by the news.
She had only sponsored one duck in the race, named “Meatballs” in the hope of taking her husband to Italy for the grand prize dinner — a dream that may now become a reality.
For more information about the event, visit massaudubon.org.