Duck Lady One looks at Duck Lady Two and wonders who came first.

Duck Lady One looks at Duck Lady Two and wonders who came first.

But this is no joke, no slapstick humor involving a parrot and a punch line. Instead, this is the way Dolores Sherwood and Colleen Watkins attempt to figure out who of the two was the first to start caring for the domestic ducks that have made Rotary Park in Blue Springs their home.

Actually, it’s not a question left to investigation. The answer is clear. Asking appears to be just a way to break the ice between the two ladies.

“Yes, I think I was the first,” Sherwood said. Sitting at a picnic table at Rotary Park, she clutches hard one of two bags of cracked corn she’s brought with her.

About eight years ago, Sherwood was just one of several people who made walking at Rotary Park a regular act. It was during a stretch of particularly cold weather when she spotted a specific group of ducks – specifically domestic ducks, the kind that do not fly, do not migrate and, to be honest, make a mess of things on the sidewalks.

“I just watched them and soon got hooked on them,” she said. “What can I say – I like ducks.”

What troubled her, however, was the fact that the ducks appeared unprepared for the weather. Either that, or they were having a difficult time of it, huddling in bushes and thin areas where the undergrowth was thickest. No natural food source was available to them, and they could not migrate and forage like the wild ducks and geese could.

So in clear violation of the rules, Sherwood took a leap of faith and began to care for the ducks by feeding them a daily diet of cracked corn, typically in the early morning and only during the winter.

“I’m certainly not encouraging anyone else to come out here and feed them,” she said. “As for me, I guess the city thinks it’s OK for me to keep an eye on them.”

And Watkins, too.

A regular walker at Rotary Park as well, Watkins was exercising about two years ago when she noticed one duck, apparently injured, probably from one of the many snapping turtles that call the small pond home. Watkins found herself interested in the duck, much like Sherwood had. She began studying different types. She began keeping an eye on duck families at the park.

“I just got hooked,” Watkins said, amused.

Together, the two Blue Springs women have become Duck Lady One, known in the telephone book and among family and friends as Dolores Sherwood, and Duck Lady Two, or more appropriately to those offering her a birthday card, Colleen Watkins.

They are titles which bring laugher and smiles to both of them.

“It’s funny, and true, I guess,” Watkins said. “That’s what people call us.”

They do not, however, work together. In fact, during a recent interview with both ladies, it was the first time in months they had seen each other. Every so often they e-mail each other; almost all of the time, though, they perform their motherly duties in separate tandem, appearing first early in the morning and then later in the afternoon.

“I’m a morning person,” Sherwood said.

“I feed them whenever I get here,” Watkins said. “I’m not so much a morning person.”

By the time they had first met, Sherwood had been feeding and keeping an eye on the small gathering of domestic ducks each morning during the hard season for about six years. Watkins had been at the park one afternoon when Craig Naler, superintendent of Blue Springs Parks and Recreation, asked her if she knew Dolores Sherwood, who at that moment happened to be sitting in her car in the parking lot.

“I went over and asked if she was the Duck Lady,” Watkins said. “She laughed and said she guessed she was. I told her that’s what people called her.”

Both ladies are recognized often, too. During a walk near the pond, a lady stopped to talk to them, asking about the ducks. They answered her questions with enthusiasm and interest, especially Watkins. She has an encyclopedic understanding of the little animals, which she points out quickly.

Sherwood, on the other hand, appears to identify those ducks to feed more by instinct.

“People feed ducks crackers or bread, but that’s not right,” she said. “That kind of food is dangerous to them.”

And sometimes children are cruel to the ducks, too.

“The kids throw rocks at them,” they both say. “They just aren’t raised right.”

Sherwood agrees.

“If the kids see us keeping an eye on them, caring for them, maybe they’ll learn.”

Domestic ducks are typically bred so their bodies are too heavy and wings too small to support flying. Wild ducks and geese have the advantage of flight, which carries them from the park each night in search of food.

In the Blue Springs parks system, the problem of domestic ducks is not widespread and not a cause for alarm, Naler said, though city officials are asking people to cease bringing the ducks to the ponds and abandoning them.

Naler said parents may be the culprits.

“They think the ducks are cute, right around Easter time when they buy them and give them to kids,” he said. “When the ducks get bigger, they aren’t so cute anymore. Then they bring them to a park or a pond and let them go.”

Currently, there are about four domestic ducks at Rotary Park. There have been more in the past, as many as 12 at one time. A couple years back Naler and the city conducted a round-up to collect them. While not a nuisance, they can create a mess of things on sidewalks. And coupled with that is the fact that the city cares about their well-being.

But the city isn’t planning on accommodating the domestics. The city does, however, try to keep clear those areas of open water, which the ducks need. This year has proven different than in the past, though, in that the fountain has been turned off. Naler said the city is preparing for the installation of some art in the center of the pond, but it will be turned back on once preparations are done.

Naler said visitors to the park should adhere to park rules about not feeding the ducks. Sherwood and Watkins appear on the fringe, however, but Naler said the ladies do more good than harm.

“Because they have a special interest in them, and because they keep an eye on them, it’s not a concern to the city,” Naler said. “It’s nice to have them both. They understand our concern for the ducks and we understand that they care for them, too.”