The ducks at the north end of the pond are a lively group, especially at night. Even though they know me, I have to cajole them by shaking the food jar to convince them to leave their pond activities. Once a few take the risk, the others join the parade up the 6′ tall embankment beside Grand River Avenue. [Duck Trivia: They are very good climbers. Descending is another matter since their center of gravity is forward. Many ducks fly back to the pond instead of trudge down after their snack.]
The ducks aren’t relaxed when they get too far away from the pond. Thirty feet is “far” in their estimation. As long as they do things together as a flock, they are willing to take the chance there might be danger lurking in the night on shore.
Dumpling stands out from the crowd since he’s the only white duck at the north end now. He pals around with the Buff Orpington ducks (they are similar in size to him) when he’s not flirting with the blonde hen. Multi-colored Parfait is easy to spot in the swarm of ducks.
When the food is gone, one of the ducks makes a move. Unless he’s incognito, there isn’t a “lead duck” making important flock decisions. Some duck, any duck, decides it’s time to leave the party and they all move out (above).
The fliers hesitate on the embankment wondering if it’s safe to take to the air and navigate between the dried vegetation. Unlike the waddlers, the fliers don’t do it as a group. Bonded partners and buddies will fly down together. It’s a chance to see the color and patterns in their wings, always a minor thrill for me to watch.
Since it’s such a short flight, the birds merely jump up and spread their wings for a few flaps then they spread their feathers as wide as they can to grab as much air as they can to reduce their landing speed.
As they leave, they never say thank you, the ungrateful louts. But I get even — I take pictures of their butts as they leave and post them on the Internet.
I snapped this shot (right) from below a Mallard drake as he made the flight. It illustrates how they fold their legs and hug them to their bodies to reduce drag.
I also noticed how much smaller his lower mandible is compared to his upper. You can also see the serrations along the edges of the bill. They help him grab vegetation and syphon floating microscopic food from the surface of the pond. The “nail” on the points of both the upper and lower bills give their fingernail-like bills extra strength. They help ducks poke through leaf litter and shoreline dirt looking for small plants, bugs and worms.