Peekskill Herald

Peekskill Herald

Peekskill Herald

For the love of ducks

Pair dropped off in spring need safe home for winter

Celeste Morabito didn’t expect to fall in love when she began taking walks in Depew Park every morning this summer. But over the ensuing weeks, her heart melted when she saw two of the cutest ducks – who were visibly devoted to each other.

 And in the true selfless indication of love, Morabito has succeeded in finding a new home for them so they won’t perish during the winter.  

 Morabito, who is retired, started visiting the park twice a day to feed the ducks.  After she discovered they couldn’t fly and weren’t able to migrate south like most of the waterfowl that inhabit Lake Mitchell in Depew Park, she began investigating a permanent home for them.

 In talking with Cathy Montaldo of Peekskill Parks and Recreation, whose office looks out on Lake Mitchell, she learned that they were dropped off at the lake sometime in the spring, after Easter. Park employees named them “Laurel and Hardy.” Laurel is a beautiful white Pekin duck, and Hardy is a bluish, brown Rouen that is similar in color to the wild flying mallard. A Rouen weighs at least three times that of a Mallard. 

These ducks cannot fly as other water fowl do. (Photos by Regina Clarkin)

 “Lots of times, people get ducks at Easter and then don’t want to keep them, so they bring them here,” said Montaldo. That is echoed by Patrick Moore of Animal Nation, a wildlife sanctuary in South Salem, NY. “People can buy them at lots of places when they are babies; even on Ebay. And they’re cute when they are babies but they require work as they grow and get older,” said Moore. 

That turns out to be a problem with the arrival of winter – especially when it gets cold enough for the lake to freeze.  This pair also would become vulnerable to prey since without the ability to fly, they couldn’t move quickly to escape.

 Morabito’s frequent visits earned her the trust of Laurel and Hardy, and soon she was feeding them out of her hand. But she was concerned about where they could go in the winter.

 Her research led her to discover an animal sanctuary in Wappingers Falls but the facility couldn’t take them since they were at capacity. She then came across a listing for Animal Nation and reached out to them. Happily, she learned the North Salem sanctuary could take the ducks. 

Morabito lucked out with Animal Nation saying they’d accept the two. “We’re overrun with barnyard animals,” Moore noted, saying they currently have ten peacocks. “Covid didn’t help, with people getting chicks and then when schools reopened there are lots of classes hatching program chicks,” said Moore. 

With a commitment from Animal Nation, the new challenge was to find a way to capture Laurel and Hardy humanely. 

 It was clear to Morabito that they were totally domesticated, as they weren’t afraid of people and would eagerly greet her when she arrived. She said they spied her coming from across the lake. “Their eyesight is better than ours,” she told the Herald on Tuesday.

 “They would be walking together, then they’d turn together and lay down together, they were bound to each other. I kept watching them and noticed how they’d turn and face each other and quack away” said Morabito.  “Almost like they were having a conversation.”

 Working with Moore of Animal Nation, the plan was to put Laurel and Hardy’s food  in a cage, and when they went to eat, the cage would close, and they would then be transported to the Animal Nation sanctuary. Park employees even rigged up a string to close the edge of the cage from afar since Laurel and Hardy were very timid if people approached the cage. 

Laurel and Hardy caught on pretty quickly that they would be captured if they stayed long enough to have the front closed.

 But Laurel and Hardy are smart, and they were ‘on to’ the plan to capture them. Weeks went by and every time they saw someone approach the cage when they were in, they would exit. They even devised a ‘scouting’ system where one would go in and eat and the other would stand by the edge and guard, recalled Montaldo. But with persistence, another indicator of love, Morabito was able to have Laurel eat out of her hand two Sundays ago, and Moore from Animal Nation was called and arrived and draped a net over her; unfortunately, Hardy waddled off.

 Morabito continues to visit the lake twice a day, hoping to coax Hardy so he can be reunited with Laurel and introduced to the 100 other ducks that call Animal Nation home. 

 As for Morabito, she plans on visiting them in their Animal Nation South Salem home and knows they’ll recognize her. That’s the confidence of someone in love.








About the Contributor
Regina Clarkin
Regina Clarkin, Editor and Publisher
When the Peekskill Herald weekly newspaper ceased publishing in August 2000 it was the first time in the history of the city that there wasn’t a local newspaper.  The award-winning weekly was often referred to as the ‘glue’ of the community. Founded on January 9, 1986 by Regina Clarkin, Kathy Daley and Rich Zahradnik with a $7,000 credit card line, the paper filled the void created when the daily Evening Star was sold to Gannett and moved out of town. Founding publisher Regina Clarkin continued to live in the Peekskill Cortlandt area and turned her attention to other life endeavors.  Through the ensuing 19 years, Clarkin was frequently stopped in town and asked when she would start up the Herald again. In January 2019, Clarkin decided it was less labor intensive to deliver a weekly blog than a print newspaper so she began posting one story a week about life in Peekskill. After a successful crowd funding campaign in 2020, the Herald was incorporated as a non-profit corporation in July of 2021. Peekskill Herald is a digital relative of the former print edition, featuring many of the favorite aspects of the beloved Peekskill Herald such as old pictures, personality profiles and well written stories about newsworthy events. Regina Clarkin is the editor and publisher of the site. Photo by Joe Squillante