GREAT FALLS — The City of Great Falls Park & Recreation Department released dozens of waterfowl back into Gibson Pond on Friday morning. The annual event is usually attended by many people, especially families, who enjoy seeing the birds released back into the pond. Friday's nice weather brought out plenty of people of all ages.
The birds are loaded into a small enclosed trailer at their winter nesting ground on the north end of the park, known affectionately as the Honker Hilton, and hauled a short distance by a truck, and then released into the pond.
"I like seeing the ducks. They're really cute,” Great Falls resident Hannah Griffin said. "I just like wildlife. I like animals, so it's fun to see them."
"All the people from town come out to watch the birds and it's a beautiful thing to see them set free because they're caged all winter. It's a good thing to let them come out and get some sunshine and air,” Great Falls resident Tom Miller said.
Patty Rearden, Great Falls Parks & Recreation deputy director, explained, "We house the ducks all winter long and take very good care of them. They have a happy home all winter. Every Good Friday, because the kids are out of school this weekend, we release them out into the pond and they're always, as you can see, happy to be out."
"We have a great turnout every year and it's fun to see the kids have such a good time, but this year in particular after everything everybody's been through, for them to be able to get out in the fresh air and do it today has been an exceptional experience,” said Rearden.
Each year in October, several City workers put on their waders and pick up rakes to walk around in the pond, nudging the flightless birds toward a pen. They are then loaded onto a truck and driven to the north side of the park and released inside their winter quarters. During the cold months, the birds are kept inside for their own safety as many have clipped wings. Park & Recreation staff care for the birds throughout the winter. The birds also have an indoor pond inside their winter residence.