r By Arianne Brown
It is a cold, snowy day at Spring Lake, and Ron and Kris Hughes are busy chopping up lettuce, cubing bread and bagging up corn and grain. This buffet of food is prepared daily for some local residents who, without it, would not survive the winter. These residents are the many ducks, geese and other birds that call Spring Lake their home.
Serve Daily recognized the couple back in 2016 when they received the Central Bank Good Citizen Award for the positive impact they’ve had in the community, and has since found that there is a little more to the story.
It was nine years ago when the two were driving north on Spring Lake Road when they spotted 2-3 ducks who looked like they had been hit by a car. Concerned for the ducks’ well-being, the couple took them home to further inspect them, and then took one who looked particularly bad to the vet to get cared for. Since then, the Hughes’ have taken care of all the birds at the lake year-round.
“What many people don’t know is that most of the birds here are domesticated,” Kris Hughes said. “The majority have been dropped off here by people who didn’t want them anymore, and those birds have given birth here at the lake. This means that they have only been hand fed, and they don’t leave when the weather gets cold. This is their home.”
The Hughes’ who are now retired, spend money from their retirement fund to purchase the food. They said they get the bread and lettuce when it’s a dollar per loaf/head at various local stores, and they purchase the grain at IFA and the corn from Walmart. They even spend their own time and money taking birds who are sick or injured to the vet, as well as taking measures to make sure that the lake is clean so the birds have a clean and safe place to live.
“There are many people who fish at the lake, and sometimes the hooks will injure the ducks, and we will have to take them to the vet to get treated,” Kris Hughes said. “Garbage is also a big issue, and we want the birds to be safe.”
Although all of their efforts take a significant amount of time and money, they say that they love doing it.
“This is something we love doing,” Kris Hughes said. “When we drive down to the lake, the ducks recognize our tuck and gather around. They know our voices, and they trust us. There are a few Canadian Geese who have come here for the winter, and it is neat to get to know them, too. We have ducks and a turkey that we’ve rescued and have as pets, and we just really love these special creatures. We’ll likely do this until we can’t anymore.”
While the Hughes’ are happy to take on the time and cost commitment as their own, they encourage residents to visit and feed the birds and say that if anyone would like to donate fresh bread, lettuce and grain to their efforts, they wouldn’t turn it down.
If you feel inclined to help the couple feed the birds at Spring Lake, they can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.