Monofilament dangers

July 2nd, 2015     0 comments     permalink

The almost invisible fishing line is knotted on her right leg

It happens every year. At least three ducks have encounters with fishing gear and sometimes they die. In this case, Blonde Bombshell #2 is not in danger of death but she could potentially lose her right foot if the fishing line constricting her leg tightens. She’s been a successful mother on the millpond since at least 2012.

Blonde Bombshell #2 has become entangled with monofilament fishing lineShe was spotted limping near the central part of the pond last night in the company of her two remaining ducklings. She started with ten on June 11. Upon close inspection, she was dragging about four feet of monofilament fishing line behind her and it was knotted on her leg.

Russ and Matt, two gentlemen walking the millpond trail, were encouraged to join in the capture of the domestic duck. (That’ll teach them to come to Brighton for a relaxing dinner. Ha!) The three of us dodged, lunged, cajoled, and attempted to toss Matt’s hoodie over the elusive bird. The futile effort was halted just short of me calling the EMTs to transport my oxygen-starved lungs to the nearest hospital. Thanks for lending a hand, guys!

Her foot looks dark in this photo but the circulation appears adequate to sustain itI had a second opportunity to nab the urban-pond-savvy-hen who is used to avoiding park visitors later in the evening. She brought her two babes to Main Street to roost. That effort, too, wasn’t successful though she allowed me to approach her. That surprised me. She forgot I was the big meany who was out to get her less than two hours before. Ducks do have memories and can easily recognize friends and foe.

She’s not in any danger of losing a foot as of this night. The photo at right makes her foot look dark, but blood is coursing through it; I assure you. In the days ahead, I’ll make other attempts to remove the painful line. I’m not fond of capturing ducks and have only done it a handful of times in the past six years. There’s always a risk of increasing injuries and, when it involves wild species, it can only be done in life threatening situations. If ducks could realize the intent is to help instead of harm them, it would make the task much easier.

If you ever see strands of fishing line discarded near ponds and lakes, please pick it up and get it to a trash can. Ducks and geese are talented in becoming entangled in it.

Brighton is ready for the Monarchs

July 2nd, 2015     0 comments     permalink

Large globes of flowers are blooming on the milkweed plants at the millpondBrighton’s city workers mowed down the shoreline vegetation at the north extreme of the millpond which has increased the opportunity for the Common Milkweed to thrive in the hot sun. At least 50 4′ tall plants are in full bloom now. The globes of dark pink flowers drip with sweet nectar and emit a fragrance almost as pungent as lilacs in the still evening air.

Monarch butterflies are in decline nationwide. Hopefully some of the fourth generation butterflies born this year with discover these plants when they arrive near the northern boundary of their territory. They can lay their eggs here so their caterpillars can grow strong. The butterflies that emerge must make the long journey back to Mexico in late August where they will winter in the cool mountains. Last year, only one Monarch caterpillar was found in this patch. Hopefully more will locate it this July. The plants are ready to greet them.

You’ll surely see more posts featuring these plants. Each year they host a number of insects I enjoy photographing.

Comparing Dazzle with Razzle

July 2nd, 2015     0 comments     permalink

Razzle, on left, is a bit larger than his dad, Dazzle

Franny’s family is spending their daylight hours behind the fire station on Grand River Avenue. There’s a grassy shoreline there they have found to their liking. The grass stays cool in the shade of a large mulberry tree and the birds can sup on the fruit when the mood strikes them.

The above photo is a good one to compare the two Cayuga ducks, Dazzle, and his son, Razzle. Along with Duke, they are Franny’s constant companions and suitors. Razzle (left, above) is Dazzle’s son born last summer but he’s already become larger than his dad. The two are difficult to tell apart. Dazzle has a scruffier bill (think of shoes needing polish) and has solid black legs and feet. Razzle’s extremities have a slight dark-orange hue mixed with the black. Both are stunning examples of the domestic Cayuga breed. That’s interesting since Razzle’s mom was a full-blood Mallard yet he has no traits from her lineage.

Franny's kids are thriving though one of them is a bit smaller

Franny’s two ducklings, above, are doing fine. One is a bit more adventurous and thereby a little larger. Both have some small orangish blotches on their feet that might indicate neither of the Cayugas are their fathers. Cayuga ducks have almost solid black legs and feet. The markings on the kids will change in the weeks to come. We will see if they have any of the Cayuga’s glorious iridescence on their juvenile feathers.

Meet Zoot, a well dressed duckling

July 1st, 2015     0 comments     permalink

Today was the first day Sugar Raye‘s five youngsters (2015 Brood 19) were old enough to hop up onto the millpond’s sidewalk. While I knew one of her ducklings was large and uniquely marked (and possibly adopted), I hadn’t gotten a close look at him while he was on the embankment or in the water.

No other duck looks like Zoot!

Wow. Look at those feet! Since a favorite duck who has since departed this world was named Tux, I decided his fellow should be called Zoot. He’s wearing a dashing suit. His dark coloration suggests he might be Dazzle’s. He has some iridescent green starting to show under his shedding duckling down. But his feet with their black splotches suggest Parfait may be the dad. Parfait’s father was MooseTracks, an Ancona duck. That breed is known for their blotchy black and orange feet.

Look at his fancy feet! Much larger than his four siblings, he might have been adopted early in his life

His white "bib" suggests he's wearing a suitZoot is going to be a big duck like MooseTracks. He’s already larger than his mom … if Sugar Raye is, in fact, his mom. We’ll never know for sure. Besides, mysteries make the millpond more interesting, no?

His white “bib” may indicate he was fathered by one of the two “Bronze Brothers” who were cozy with the lovely and talented Sugar Raye prior to her nesting.

Brood 25 has nine ducklings

July 1st, 2015     0 comments     permalink

The hen for Brood 25 gathers her brood together on the crowded shore near Brighton's city hall

I found Brood 25 on the crowded shore north of Brighton’s City Hall. It’s an awful place to bring brand new ducklings. The area is filled with Canada goose families and is carpeted in goose poop. It can’t be a healthy stomping ground for newbies, but try to convince new hens of that.

Why do ducks and geese like this shoreling for their nightly roost? It gives them a 360 degree view to watch for predators. There aren’t many places along the shore as open as this area and the sidewalks near Main Street.

The hen is approached by another Mallard hen and she shoves her into submission while her ducklings watch

While predators cannot sneak up on the birds here, squabbles between mothers of both ducklings and goslings are common. A Mallard hen arrived with her month-old troupe and the Brood 25 hen immediately attacked her in a rousing chest shoving match (above) while her confused ducklings remained immobile and three almost grown goslings watched the scrimmage.

As the other duck flees, she steps on one of the day old ducklings In her haste to return to her new brood, the mom steps on the same duckling's head

The ducklings gather in front of Dixie thinking he is their motherShe overpowered the other hen the defeated bird stomped on one of her kids (above left) as she fled. Then the mom stomped on the same duckling’s head and neck as she gathered her nine duckings (above right). That poor fuzzball had a rough first day but didn’t appear injured though I’m sure several ducklings are killed each year by clumsy adult waterfowl.

The nine birds dodged several families of goslings and spent time at the feet of Dixie, a 9-month-old Pekin drake who was tolerant of the little ones (right). The ducklings are too young to recognize their mother and approach any adult duck thinking it might be her. After a few clucks, mom took all nine into the water.

This family of ducklings brings a new duckling record to the Annual Brighton Millpond Fertility Tournament. To date, 182 ducklings have hatched on the pond and about 127 have survived their early lives. The previous record was established in 2012, the first year I kept track, when 179 ducklings were born. We will have a few more hatchings this year since the nesting season will go on until at least the end of July though in past years we have had new ducklings arrive as late as November. The survival rate is just under 70% but many ducklings will be lost between now and when most migrate southward this autumn. About 50% of ducklings are usually taken by hawks, owls, raccoons, and turtles along with natural causes.

Once the crisis passes, the hen searches for things to eat Young ducklings stay close to mom for protection

A dozen and a half ducklings in 4 days

July 1st, 2015     0 comments     permalink

Mom plays lifeguard as her ducklings wade in the Brighton millpond

The Brood 24 hen looks down at her six ducklings on the millpond's embankmentWe’ve had a wave of hatchings in the past four days. I’ve already announced Brood 23 with its trio of tykes hatched on June 26. Last night I found two brand new clutches of youngsters.

Brood 24 has six ducklings and mom is bringing them to roost near the Imagination Station. She is within feet of Brood 23 so I think the two hens are either sisters or best buds. The chicks appear to be two days old and all look like full blood Mallards. I’ll place photos of Brood 25 in the next post.

Franny won’t make the cut

June 30th, 2015     2 comments     permalink

The kids stay close to mom when they can

It is with regret I announce Franny is out of the running for Mother of the Year at the Brighton millpond. Even though her two surviving ducklings are doing alright, she has little to do with their well being. They are often left alone while she jabbers with her three suitors or entertains visiting domestic drakes who stop by for a quickie. Castor is shown (below left) on one of his frequent unwelcome dates with her. Her squabbling doesn’t dissuade his advances.

Castor pays an unwanted visit to Franny while her suitors express their dissatisfaction A family portrait of Franny with the family minus Duke who was busy elsewhere at this moment

Dazzle and his son, Razzle, have been steadfast companions for the Rouen hen (above right) and often lead the entire family to roosting locations at twilight (top and below left). Yet both of the Cayuga ducks take pokes at the ducklings when they can get away with it (below right). Drakes are like that. They would much prefer ducklings vanish so the hens will have more time to amuse them.

Dazzle and Razzle lead the way to the family's roosting spot Razzle takes a poke at one of the youngsters

Oompahpah Catalpa

June 30th, 2015     0 comments     permalink

A panacle on a Catalpa tree in full bloomI should have posted these photos last week when the Northern Catalpa trees were at the peak of their bloom. Still, some of the trees are awash in white flowers that are supported on panicles above the huge leaves. Each flower is bell-shaped like foxgove blooms and about 1.5″ in diameter. They are best viewed from a distance since the tall trees can appear as if they are frosted in white flower clusters.

Each catalpa flower is bell-shapes and has burgundy and orange markingsUp close, the ripple-edged flowers are separated, rarely cheek-to-cheek, so they have a “leggy” look to them. They are a welcome sight in June well after the flowering trees bloom in May. By fall, the trees will have foot-long seed pods hanging from their branches.

Catalpas are the sole food source for Catalpa Sphinx Moth caterpillars, sometimes called “Catawba Worms” which are prized bait for fishermen especially in the South. Some anglers actually grow catalpa trees and do their best to attract the moths so they can harvest the caterpillars even though they have the ability to eat so many leaves, the trees may be adversely affected.

Up close, the flowers look "leggy" and the panacles aren't usually completely covered in blooms

 

Nice to find Calamity safe

June 28th, 2015     0 comments     permalink

Calamity floats with her four chicks, Brood 17

I got word this week two ducks were flattened beyond recognition on Grand River Avenue near the headwaters of the millpond. That’s the paddling grounds of Calamity so I made it a point to look for her. I couldn’t find her and thought she might have been killed by a passing car.

Last night, my mood elevated when I spotted her floating with her four ducklings at the north end. She started with eight ducklings on May 27th (2015 Brood 17) but hasn’t lost any more since their early days. That’s encouraging since this is her first successful experience raising a family. Maybe she will become one of the pond’s most productive hens like her mother, Confidia, who departed this world last spring.

Toad matches the sidewalk

June 28th, 2015     0 comments     permalink

A toad's coloration blends with the colors of the wet sidewalk

How’s this for cryptic coloring? An American Toad’s markings are almost a perfect match for the colors in a rain-soaked cement sidewalk. Without the aid of my camera’s flash that provides strong shadows, it would be invisible to the sharp eyes of an hungry owl on this night. It was found patiently waiting for passing insects it could ingest for midnight snacks.

Shirking parental responsibilities

June 28th, 2015     0 comments     permalink

An irresponsible hen has laid four eggs in the raised flower bed beside Main Street

Like humans, some ducks either lack parenting skills or refuse to accept them. One our resident hens has laid four eggs beside a clump of chives in the raised flower bed between the sidewalk and Main Street.

She spent no time building a suitable nest nor has she been tending them. It’s probably a good thing. She would be frantic surrounded by thousands of gawking humans during the July 4th parade.

Why drakes attack other drakes

June 27th, 2015     0 comments     permalink

A Mallard drake was singled out by other drakes and brutalized on Thursday evening

The drake was lead to a safe area with tall weeds to recoverI got a call Thursday evening about a duck with a bloodied head and neck hiding under a car parked on Main Street. It was still cowering there when I arrived an hour later. The driver had to depart so Patty, one of the park’s waterfowl aficionados, and I helped convince the duck to waddle out from under the vehicle.

It was a drake whose head was bright red from the pounding it took from rival males. Almost all of its head and neck feathers had been plucked in the attack. Still shaken, it sought another location where it could avoid the wrath of the other birds.

It searched the weedy area for a safe place to hide for a whilePatty and I wrangled it into a well protected spot behind Main Street storefronts where tall weeds grow. It would be safe from predators while it recovered. Injured ducks tend to hide 1-3 days until their wounds begin to heal and they regain their courage to return to their sub-flock and buddies. We left feeling good he was safe.

Two hours later, I found the same duck looking for a better hiding place. He was leading a parade of two humans who were eating ice cream as they strolled along the boardwalk near Stillwater Grill. The bird was still stressed and refused duck chow as he walked the entire length of the boardwalk.

Why do drakes savagely attack other ducks? At this time of year, it’s almost always to gain mating rights. There is a “pecking order” for courting females similar to the one relating to food. Weak males are pushed aside or bullied to the point they don’t even attempt to approach hens if other drakes are nearby. The rest of the year, males are attacked to establish a more generalized dominance or territorial space. When one bird decides another needs to be taught a lesson, any surrounding drake will be stimulated to join the attacker(s). If the victim is weak, he will be left either bloodied or dead. Deaths aren’t frequent; we have a couple each year at the pond.

Unless the bird is immobilized (rare), they will recover unaided by medical intervention. Humans sometimes rush to their aid and transport them for wildlife rehabilitation, but it’s not usually wise or necessary. They birds just need time to hide and heal on their own. I haven’t seen this drake since he was injured but he will eventually join the activities of the other birds and be a little wiser or more wary of his rivals.

2015 Brood 23 arrives

June 27th, 2015     0 comments     permalink

I was looking for Franny’s two ducklings on the pond’s embankment Thursday night and found a Mallard hen with her wings down. That usually indicates they are keeping new babies warm. In the shadows, I noticed Franny’s two moving away from the hen (below, left). Is another hen providing them with surrogate care? I’m still not sure what was going on. Maybe Franny’s kids were cuddling against her for warmth and she didn’t shoo them away even though she had good reason to do that.

I found the Brood 23 hen with her wings lowered, a sign ducklings are underneath her The birds are less than a day old

Later, Franny led her duckling to another roosting location along with Dazzle and RazzleThe hen, one I don’t recognize, had three first-day ducklings under her (above, right). Moms with newly hatched chicks are highly protective. They rarely let any duck, young or old, near their newbies.

Franny’s kids followed the sound of their mom’s squawking and joined her for an after dark paddle with Dazzle and Razzle (right). Duke, her other suitor, joined them a short time later. Franny isn’t a great mom, but her chicks are doing alright. One of the two isn’t as large as the other but it soldiers on day after day.

Offerings on a plate

June 27th, 2015     0 comments     permalink

A tin can lid with corn kernals left on a park bench as an offering to the next fisherman?

An empty can of corn is left on a boardwalk railingOne of my many idiosycratic behaviors is to photograph things park visitors leave behind intentionally or unknowingly. I’ve posted a few of them on this blog in the Debris du Jour category but I’ve taken hundreds of shots over the years. Someday, they will become a special section on another site if time permits.

Many visitors might be puzzled by this find. They’d wonder why someone would eat a can of corn at this riparian venue. Fishermen would know it’s merely leftovers from a sportsman trying to land a large carp. Corn and bread balls are the carp baits of choice here.

2015 Brood 4 expands again

June 25th, 2015     0 comments     permalink

The Brood 4 hen has acquired more ducklings from other broods

The hen for Brood 4 has taken on the mothering responsibilities of about seven more ducklings. Whether it’s a conscious act on her part or she doesn’t notice is anyone’s guess. On Tuesday evening, she had 13 in her troupe. Now she has 20. The largest brood I’ve seen in my years of recording them is 21 ducklings in 2011 so Brood 4 could break that record if the hen allows more youngsters to join the ranks.

Where does she get all of these extra kids? The southern end of the Brighton millpond is crowded with broods. Maybelline had 13 duckling under her care Tuesday night. Now she only has 8 or 9 as she swims around the pond (below). A lone duckling was swimming around the pond alone two days ago. He may have found Brood 4 to be a willing foster family.

The ducklings in Broods 4 and 7 are now six weeks old. They are at the age where they may break the family ties themselves and waddle off on their own. From here on, I probably can’t accurately report duckling shifts in families or their success at reaching adulthood unless they stay with their original mothers. Some will; some won’t.

Brood 7's hen, Maybelline, is missing four ducklings as she paddles around the millpond

Midnight: Earwigs on the city’s daisies

June 25th, 2015     0 comments     permalink

Almost every daisy growing beside city hall has at least one earwig at its center at night

Three buddies consume nectar or pollen on one daisyEarwigs are bellying up to the bar offered by daisies growing beside Brighton’s city hall after dark. They are omnivores feeding on plants and insects.

Never a favorite of farmers or gardeners because of the damage they can do to plants, they are still interesting creatures. The females actually guard and care for their eggs and young nymphs through their first of five instars.

Find out more about them through the link to Wikipedia in the opening paragraph.

A carp convention near Main Street

June 24th, 2015     0 comments     permalink

A dozen carp arrived all at once near Main Street

Small groups of carp (3-5) frequent the Main Street area of the Brighton millpond every night after dark. They vacuum the bottom of the pond consuming the excess food tossed to the ducks during the day. Last evening, however, more than a dozen arrived all at once. It’s a mystery what attracted them. Too bad no fishermen were there to enjoy the spectacle.

Franny’s Kids: Babes in the water

June 24th, 2015     1 comment     permalink

They humans come too close, they rush into the water but stay close to shore

Franny isn’t a very good mother, sad to say. But her two surviving ducklings are hanging in there. While their mom hobnobs with her suitors on the sidewalk and lawn near the Imagination Station, the kids huddle on the pond’s embankment where they might have encounter with a snapping turtle since mom doesn’t watch for them.

Every once in a while, Franny waddles to the pond’s edge, squawks a call to the kids, and they peep back at her. Then she returns to Duke, Dazzle, and Razzle to jabber about the activities of the day.

Franny's kids cuddle in the brisk night air on the millpond's concrete embankment

Hopping down the bunny trail

June 24th, 2015     0 comments     permalink

A bunny has hopped through the trefoil here

bunny_0566_275There are two young cottontails visiting the grassy areas along the millpond trail this year. I suspect they are offspring of our resident rabbit who I haven’t seen lately. She’s probably nursing another batch of bunnies in her burrow.

The rains we’ve had this month have been a bonanza for the Bird’s-Foot Trefoil which is normally only 3″ tall on this oft-mowed expanse. It’s now more than 6″ tall. At a rabbit’s eye view, you can see trails through it that the bunnies have made (top).

The USDA Forest Service considers this trefoil an invasive weed in many states, but the Michigan State University’s Extension feels it’s a good source of nutrients for grazing cattle in our climate. It’s actually a legume and its sweetpea-like blossoms are a bright, yummy yellow.

Bird's Foot Trefoil is 6" tall in this field

Pollux: Hothead

June 21st, 2015     0 comments     permalink

Pollux attacks Castor after chasing Florence away

June 19: Castor and Pollux, named after the twin stars, arrived at the millpond last November when they were abandoned by the previous owner. They are inseparable and Pollux is the Drake in Shining Armor for little Florence even though he doesn’t return her affection.

So it was quite a surprise when he had a bad day. First, he chased Florence away. Then he attacked Castor violently jumping on his back and biting his neck. It was probably a “pecking order” dispute to let Castor know he wasn’t the Alpha Duck in the pair. Within 15 minutes, they were swimming together again and all was forgiven though probably not forgotten. Castor knows his place now.

Pollux does a little victory dance following the attack as Castor watches at a safe distance

Another addition to Fringo!

June 20th, 2015     0 comments     permalink

A Green Frog has been added to the 2015 Fringo! game

Hey, Brighton frog photographers, I’ve added another player in this year’s Fringo! game. Can you find and photograph it? I found it hunting for insects near one of the street lights along the millpond trail just north of Stillwater Grill.

At night. the frogs are singing and mooing at full strength now that the air and water are warm. An after dark stroll is a great way to get some exercise and hear them.

If you visit the park during daylight, stop on the boardwalk between the cemetery and Stillwater Grill to see the turtles. There are at least 11 snapping and painted turtles in this photo but you may see more or less depending on the day. They will gladly accept a treat of bread from you even if it’s not really good for them. If you have never seen them there before, the first word out of your mouth when one of the large snapping turtles surfaces will be “Whoa!” or “OMG!” People are surprised at the size of the oldest ones.

Turtle activity in the Brighton millpond is in high gear now

Franny moves the ducklings

June 18th, 2015     0 comments     permalink

Running from the drakes, the ducklings scurry after Franny

Franny above, babies below. No one is happy.It was late by the time I got to the pond last night to confirm what Ashley discovered in the afternoon. Franny wasn’t near the parking lot where she had been for the past three days with the ducklings. I heard no peeping coming from the shore either. Her retinue of males were gone, too, so that surely meant she had decided to move the entire family to another location in the pond.

I drove to the pond’s south end hoping to spot Franny where she spent last winter. As soon as I arrived, I heard her frantically squawking near the Tridge. No other duck has the raspy quack like Franny’s. While up on the sidewalk being chased by drakes, her babies were 10″ below her on the pond’s embankment vying for her attention with incessant peeping. Dazzle, Razzle, and Duke (her suitors) watched as she dodged rogue males. Drakes in rut found her irresistible in the pouring rain though she was disheveled and stressed being forced by the boys to leave her chicks untended.

The kids watch as mom bathesFranny eventually returned to her youngsters and bathed to disperse the adrenalin rush from the pack of boys chasing her. The kids looked like they needed a nap after their long journey to the south end and enduring a hectic evening watching mating rituals.

Franny has lost 80% of her brood in less than four days. People ask if ducks grieve. Maybe for an hour but it’s in the form of agitation instead of sorrow. They’re too busy tending surviving chicks, assessing dangers, and finding food.

Dudley discovers the widow, Clementine

June 17th, 2015     4 comments     permalink

Clementine and Dudley getting ready to dine alfresco on their well manicured estate

I needed a happy ending today and got one. Yee Haa! Dudley vanished Monday night. I thought he had been stolen or killed by a passing Main Street vehicle. Today I received photos of him sharing a meal with the widow Clementine, a Pekin duck dumped downstream last summer with her bonded drake, Winston.

Winston had an unfortunate encounter with a car this spring during a chase with another drake. He died at the scene and left Clementine to pine on the banks of South Ore Creek under the watchful eye of her caregiver, Melanie.

On Monday evenings all summer, up to 200 teenagers swing dance at the millpond’s gazebo. Perhaps swing music isn’t a particular favorite of Dudley so he sought refuge in the tunnel below the dam. Not swift of foot or an accomplished paddler, he was apparently swept away by the current to emerge from the 450 foot tunnel into South Ore Creek which is devoid of swing music. There, he found the somewhat battered Clementine who survived a vicious attack by a coyote last July that left her bloodied and missing a portion of her upper bill.

Always a gentleman, Dudley allows Clementine to dine before he snarfs down his share of duck chowIt is fitting and proper these two ducks should be together. Clementine has mourned long enough so sharing the serenity of South Ore Creek with a duck that prefers a quiet life is a perfect pairing. Dudley has also developed a rather portly dimension from the bread and Doritos he’s been eating at the millpond. A more Spartan diet of natural foods coupled with a daily offering of duck chow from Melanie will surely contribute to his health and well being. The photos appearing in this post are provided by Melanie who promises to keep an eye on the new couple and keep the details of their romantic life out of the media.

Poor Franny …

June 17th, 2015     1 comment     permalink

Franny with her nine surviving ducklings on June 14Every day brings more tragedy to Franny’s brood. I had plans to write about her seven remaining ducklings tonight but got word from Ashley that she only has two left. Here’s the story with as much detail as I have:

June 14: I found Franny with what I believe were 11 ducklings under shrubs near her nest. She hatched what I think were 13 eggs in the early morning hours so she lost two on the first day.

June 15: I received word from a duck watcher that there was an incident in the parking lot where one duckling died and another had an injured leg. A Good Samaritan tracked down a duck rehabber in the Lansing area (Howell Nature Center was closed and at capacity) who agreed to accept the injured bird and she drove it there at her own expense. Franny had nine remaining ducklings. This is the day all of the photos on this page were taken. NOte the orange and black-splotchy feet on some of them. Parfait is probably their father. It’s a trait of Ancona ducks like Parfait’s dad, MooseTracks.

The blotchy feet might mean they are Parfait's children Notice the feet on these youngsters

June 16: I arrived about 30 minutes after a team of fire fighters attempted to retrieve two of Franny’s chick from a storm drain that has a direct link to the pond. The ducklings could not be found. I stuck around listening for their peeping in the millpond that night. Nothing. Franny had seven ducklings under her when I left.

June 17: Ashley reports only two ducklings with Franny and one dead on the lawn. Nothing is known about the other four. Sigh.

One has exceptional markingsFranny nested on a landscaped island in the middle of a parking lot. She did this to avoid the raccoon that ransacked two attempts at nesting in 2014. She didn’t move her family away from the nesting site following their hatching which was probably a big mistake. Young ducks need the nutrients they can find near the shore or in lawns — tiny bugs, green stuff and floating duckweed. These little ones have been searching for food on cedar chips and hot asphalt instead. They’ve also been drinking water in parking lot puddles that’s probably laced with oil and gasoline. I’m sure that’s contributed to the death of several.

It’s her first brood. She’s inexperienced as well as being a domestic duck that has had some of her innate mothering skills bred out of her. She doesn’t know how to lead them to good food sources and keep them grouped together. Note how free ranging they are in this photo:

Franny allowed her ducklings to roam too far from her

Successful hens keep their kids in tight clutches so they don’t wander and expose themselves to predation. See the duckling in the top right corner? She’s done as best she could and I hope her remaining two thrive, but if they are lost, I’m sure she’ll nest again this summer. Her suitors stay close by and will see to that.

Franny’s a mom … finally

June 15th, 2015     3 comments     permalink

Franny had 14 eggs and one was left in the next unhatched

In 2014, Franny attempted to nest twice but both clutches of eggs were destroyed by a marauding raccoon. This year, she nested away from the pond near a dumpster behind La Marsa restaurant. That concerned me because raccoons visit the trash bins and dumpsters near the Brighton millpond. Domestic ducks aren’t great at protecting themselves from predators. Franny was dumped at the millpond in August, 2013 with another Rouen hen who was consumed by a coyote in the winter of 2014.

On each of my pond visits during the past month, I’ve made it a point to check on her and provide her with a couple of handfuls of duck chow. She usually would come off the nest to eat it so I could check the eggs. I knew her 14 eggs would hatch this week so when I found her nest empty except for one unbroken one Sunday night, I wasn’t surprised, but I was a bit disappointed that I didn’t find her still sitting there with a few tiny heads poking out underneath her. I thought she had already taken the tykes to the pond and I wouldn’t get a chance to see them on their first day.

Franny presents her hatchlings to me I think there are 11 hatchlings

Dazzle, Razzle, and Duke (her suitors) were in the parking lot about 50 feet from her nest. I walked to them to give them some duck chow. As soon as I rattled the container, I heard a squawk behind me. No other duck squawks like Franny. She was under a shrub with the babies. After she snarfed down two handfuls of food she presented the kids to me.

The chicks are less than a day old

I still can’t tell you how many there are. The maximum could be 13 since she had 14 eggs but one didn’t hatch, but I can only see 11 in these photos. The way they huddle together, the fuzzballs blend into one another and I didn’t want to disturb them any more than I already was doing. Within a day or two, mom will have the troupe in the water and it will be easy to count the ones that are left though it may be less than seen last night.

Most ducklings are dark like Dazzle A couple of them have unusual facial markings

Most are very dark so there’s a good chance their father is Dazzle or his son, Razzle. A couple of them have unusual patterns on their heads (above right) so Parfait may have paid a visit and rendered his services. None of them look like Rusty or Fred, but their traits may reveal themselves as the youngsters begin to grow.

One of the chicks waddled over to me and Franny didn't seem concerned for its safety

One of the little guys waddled over to me and Franny didn’t seem a bit stressed by me being so close to it. I’m not sure that’s a good sign. I’d prefer she guard them with all her might so predators and people can’t come close. Little birds like these are very fragile. Their internal organs aren’t protected by ribs so one wrong squeeze by a child can be fatal within 24 hours.

A few of the young have unique markings so they can  be easily identified as they grow up, something I always appreciate since ducks refuse to wear name tags. At least one of them appears to be gray with a light colored chest (below right). The darkest ones all have white chests now but they might lose those chest markings and become solid black like Dazzle as they grow.

Franny has a jumble of fuzzballs under her At least one of them is gray with a white chest

Rouen hens are rated as “good” mothers so it will be interesting to see how successful Franny is raising her first family. I think she’ll have at least three suitors following along with the kids but drakes aren’t protective of ducklings, but they will alert the entire family when danger comes near. By Monday evening, you might find Franny and her newborns searching for insects and vegetation along the shore or in the water near Stillwater Grill. She may decide to take them elsewhere, but she seems to be content in this area of the pond because there are less rogue drakes with whom she must contend.

The weather is warm but they still seek mom's comfort

Ripple patterns at twilight

June 15th, 2015     0 comments     permalink

The sunset reflected in the millpond before the water tumbles over the dam

Storm clouds moved east of Brighton before the sun set last night. Blues and pinks painted the sky above the millpond dam. Some of the color may be the result of forest fires in Canada. Particles kept aloft can intensify the oranges and pinks of sunsets.

This image is looking at the crest of the dam from the upstream side. The dark lines are reflections of the balusters supporting the railings surrounding the dam.

Florence, jilted but perky

June 15th, 2015     0 comments     permalink

Florence, the Brighton millpond’s resident Mandarin duck, has finally given up on bonded bliss with Castor and/or Pollux, the Pekin drakes that arrived last fall that she swooned over for months. She still spends time with the pair but got the message that neither is romantically interested in her. They know their DNA doesn’t mix with Mandarin but Florence hasn’t been told that apparently.

Florence is the only Mandarin duck on the millpond. Florence arrived in December, 2013. She's a Mandarin duck bred for show and is banded.

Florence seems to be a happy spinster. She flits from territory to territory on the pond and still takes pleasure in threatening duck four times her size with her ferocious quack that sounds more like a sneeze. Since we have no female Pekins on the pond now, she hasn’t had an opportunity to play nursemaid at their nests this summer, but she seems capable of filling her days with other activities.

Even though she’s been at the pond since December, 2013, the majority of park visitors still think she’s a baby Pekin since most aren’t aware of the Mandarin breed.

Onyx’s sister still has a trio

June 15th, 2015     0 comments     permalink

The brood quickly shrunk to six and then five birds

All 11 bobbled on the pond on their first nightMay 24: It wasn’t a surprise when one of Dazzle’s daughters arrived with eleven day olds on the bay north of Brighton’s city hall, but I was surprised by their assortment of colors. One was what I’ve called a “butterscotch baby,” a cross between the hen and one of our virile Pekin drakes. Four were similiar to their mom and the rest looked like standard issue Mallards.

The brood was an assortment of colorsEven though their mom appeared to be attentive, ducklings began to disappear early. Almost overnight, the brigade was reduced to nine then six then five. The butterscotch baby was one of the first to leave us which isn’t unusual. I suspect their light tones are easier targets with aerial predators: hawks, gulls, and owls.

Three out of four of the darkest ducklings also vanished so that is contrary to my thesis that visibility has something to do with longevity.

Brood 14 began with 11 ducklings on May 24

A drake remains with the hen but, like Onyx’s beau, I’m not sure if he’s a bonded partner or a brother. Maybe he’s both. It’s the 21st Century, ya know.

The hen is one of Onyx's sisters Like her sister, this hen has paired with one of the Bronze Brothers

Geese that lived nearby attacked the little birdsAs most ducklings are, this brood was often scolded by nearby Canada geese (right) just because the tykes were in the way. I’ve never seen a goose truly harm a duckling. They just nip at them to encourage them to move.

Five ducklings remained for about a week then one of those disappeared and on June 13, only three were left, a whopping loss of 73%.

brood14_8931_600

Since she appears to have good mothering skills, we must attribute her failure to being a first time parent. Maybe she will do better next year or even later this summer if the drake has anything to do with it.

Soon, only five chicks remained

On June 7, Onyx's sister still maintained a family of four ducklings

From the wide assortment of colors, the trio remaining has little variety. All three are Mallard-like with one being slightly lighter in tone (below minus the dark duck in the back).

Mom supervises her ducklings from the sidewalk