By Jeff Martin
I’m not a quack for liking ducks.
Four years ago, I would have thought otherwise. Moving to the Midwest, specifically the Kansas City area, I regarded ducks and all other creatures that flew as just common sights within the confines of a day. They were nothing special. They flitted from branch to eave and left no lasting impression on me.
And then one day, by grace of location, I woke up and heard extraordinary songs that I would later learn to be that of the meadowlark, the warbler, the chickadee.
As it turned out, the Kansas City area is located in one of the largest migratory paths of North American birds — literally hundreds of species passing overhead. Even the Monarch butterfly in late autumn bounces its way through the area as it travels on its long way to Mexico.
I eventually found the Kansas City Audubon Society and, working for a daily newspaper, wrote a story about the organization. I spent a few afternoons in the upstairs viewing room with binoculars faithfully pressed against my eye sockets, searching for the rare bird that may, with any luck, alight on a bending branch.
When I moved here to Western New York, my antenna was up and ready for an aviary experience. I was awestruck by the massive black birds that raided backyards. As big as jetliners, these birds never fail to rouse me from morning sleep.
So when I discovered Gooseneck Hill Waterfowl Sanctuary, located in Delevan, I was thrilled. Featuring 600 birds within two of the largest covered aviaries in the world, Gooseneck Hill is a paradise for geese, ducks and swans.
I should confess, though — I haven’t been but I’m certainly planning on it soon.
Rosemary Miner, who owns the sanctuary with her husband, Milton, said their sanctuary is one of few in the world that offer the space, the habitat and the freedom waterfowl need to thrive.
Back in 1983, she and her husband became interested in waterfowl after a specific type of bird wandered onto their property. In 1990, they opened a sanctuary in Holland, but they soon outgrew the property and moved to Delevan in 1998, opening the current operation in 1999. It seems when you travel to Alaska, collect several species of eggs, bring them back and hatch them, you outgrow most property pretty quickly.
Seven acres are currently utilized in Delevan, but the Miners have 54 acres.
Species of waterfowl include the endangered red-breasted goose from Siberia and the Ne Ne from Hawaii. I’m interested in the Whistler Swan, the second largest swan in the world whose flight speed can reach up to 100 mph. Such speed produces a whistling sound, thus its name. In all, there are 60 varieties of birds at the sanctuary, including singing and dancing swans, 25 rock gardens, and 2,000 koi fish. The ponds on the property are fully stocked with fish, giving the birds a natural habitat.
What’s special about Gooseneck is that all 700 birds are hand raised and people friendly.
“People go to zoos and look at birds and wildlife from behind a fence or glass, but here you can go right up to them and feed them,” she said. “People are amazed.”
Birds are given a sense of freedom not found in any other sanctuary, Miner said. Birds like the Pacific Eider thrive in the sanctuary because of the abundance of fish, algae and grasses.
“There’s so much work involved in running the sanctuary,” she said. “No one in their right mind would do something like this.”
I’m sold. I’ve always loved the people who aren’t in their right mind.
Call (716) 942-6835 for an appointment and rates or visit http://gooseneckhillwaterfowlfarm.com for more information.