Spirit Duck

I was out diving today, a regular routine dive at the site where we are doing our sea-star wasting disease surveys, keeping an eye out for baby stars, and also shooting stock footage for our latest project www.btlgproject.com (i’m going to try to do 1 min narrated critter videos for all the commonly encountered marine life).  Anyhow standard dive, figured I’d stop and shoot some b-roll of the storm water outfall that we visit pretty regularly.

Before the dive I’d noticed some of those cute little diving ducks, the common goldeneye.   I remember thinking I always wonder what they dive for again and again, i’d always assumed they were chasing fish or whatnot.

10914899_10155234567170438_1136925917853984126_oAnyhow, we were on the storm drain and I was filming on one side and my buddy Lamont was on the other and I saw something behind him.  I thought it might have been the sea lion that had been playing about before the dive, and got a bit excited that maybe I could get some good sea lion footage (normally we only see harbor seals).  I waited for a minute or two and didn’t see anything else so went back to shooting the storm drain.   All of a sudden, one of the little diving ducks comes zooming down, looks at me and then swims around like its looking for dinner, then darts INTO the storm drain, it only swims in a little bit, still looking  I start to worry that I blinded it with my lights and it went in there by accident.   It comes out, still hunting, and then heads to the surface.

I was both elated and a little concerned, its very rare to see them underwater and even more rare to get good underwater footage so i was already kind of on cloud nine 🙂
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Then, all of a sudden, it comes back down, from the same place and zooms right into the storm drain…. and its gone…  I wait, and hold my breath, now i really was worried maybe my lights had disoriented it or something, and then like 10 seconds later I see it in the distance in the drain, chasing something around, and finally after like 25 seconds it comes popping out and rides the stormwater plume up to the surface.   I’m shocked and didn’t really know what to think…Then it (or one just like it) comes zooming back down, and right into the drain…

More than a dozen times we watched, a couple times it came out eating something, maybe shrimp, hopefully not trash.10900104_10155234567345438_3307206334954163207_o

Once or twice might have been a random fluke, but 11 times (or more, we left after 11 or 12).  Its learned that food comes from these storm drains, and now i’m really worried that it will eat the garbage and toxic crap comes out of the drain, and whatever the shrimp and things might be ingesting when they live in there.

It is a vivid reminder that we need to pick up our litter and trash, because here is proof that some adorable little birds are using our storm drains as a feeding site 🙁

The ironic thing is that in some ancient mythology, the goldeneye duck is a spirit animal, one of the animals that can communicate with the spirits in the water… It feels meaningful to me almost like it was doing what it was doing as a message, and letting me film it so that I could continue to tell the stormwater story.  Like I met my spirit animal and it was showing me, without question, that I am on the right path.


To learn more about how to reduce the flow of trash and polluted runoff take a look here:  www.tox-ick.org

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