Operant conditioning at the millpond

September 1st, 2015     0 comments     permalink

If one shake doesn't get your attention, he'll do it again

Edward L. Thorndike (1874-1949) stated his “Law of Effect” as, “… behaviors followed by satisfying consequences tend to be repeated …” B.F. Skinner fleshed out that theory a short time later and referred to it as “operant conditioning.” One of our millpond ducks has developed his own method which I mentioned back in June.

Since that time, the duck now known as Yankee has become a pain in the rump. When he thinks there’s a chance he might be fed, he yanks on pant legs to let the feeder know he’s hungry. My summer “ducking pants” are thin ripstop nylon and that damned duck has grabbed my pant leg to shake it and pinched my skin at the same time. I’ve got five bruises on my calf to prove it.

Yankee shakes pant legs vigorously to get the attention of park visitors Yankee may be looking up at you while he grabs your pant leg

Someone who doesn’t find his behavior cute and highly effective at getting their attention might haul off and kick him into the pond. I hope not. It’s amusing when he does it a couple of times, but when he’s extra hungry, he’ll do it a few dozen times in one evening. He learned this skill on his own. You’ll probably meet him on your next visit to the millpond. Wear thick pants.

He doesn't shake pant legs once. He'll keep doing it until you feed him.

When harmless fun becomes harmful

September 1st, 2015     0 comments     permalink

A large tear in the Captain's webbing is a permanent injury

The tiny notch beside his left-most toe in this photo is how I used to identify him. Now the task will be (sadly) much easierIt’s one thing when a five year old chases ducks and quite another when 20-somethings do it. Sunday night a band of five young adults decides it would be fun to chase the ducks after they left the bar. Captain D. Hookt is now permanently injured because of their five minute frolic. Shortly after they left, the duck came up to me with a smear of blood on its bill and a slice in its webbing that will never heal.

In the past, the only way I could readily identify him was a tiny notch out of the webbing beside his outer toe on his right foot. Now, it will be much easier to differentiate him from the other Pekins on the pond, but it’s too bad there’s no way to convince people that chasing ducks isn’t merely a playful experience. It’s can be traumatic.

King/Queen of the Pond

September 1st, 2015     0 comments     permalink

A Mallard drake taunts another duck down below

I still see new behaviors all of the time even after all of these years chronicling the lives of the Brighton millpond ducks. One I’ve noticed this summer is what I call “King/Queen of the Pond.” While I sit on the cement circle near Main Street, it’s not unusual for a couple of the ducks to come up and join me. George almost always does but he stays behind me and won’t come within reaching distance. Some of the others come and sit right beside me as long as I don’t make quick movements.

Once in a while one of these ducks will start taunting the ducks below them on the sidewalk. They yammer at them — squeaky soft quacks voiced incessantly. Sometimes the ducks below yammer back and the two might actually exchange a few nips.

The taunts start with rapid, low volume quacking

It’s usually started by the upper duck. Are they letting the lower ducks know they have an advantage over them? A drake did it last week (above) and a hen did it two nights ago (below right) so it’s not a unique behavior by only one duck.

The ducks below either ignore the “challenge” or start to yammer back and move closer. That signals the upper duck has to escalate the encounter. It reaches down to do a little bill jousting and nipping with the other duck. The Mallard hen reaches down to give the lower bird a few pecks to teach it a lessonIt never amounts to much and ends abruptly. Ducks vie for position within the flock all of the time so these short tussles are probably just another way for the ducks to establish their pecking order.This Mallard hen gives me a sweet look as she beats for more duck chow. Who can resist?

The hen involved this week has become quite trusting of me. She’ll sit close and wait until I offer her a couple of handfuls of duck chow. Then she’ll fly off without saying thanks though she has a certain Mona Lisa smile on her face all of the time which is thanks enough. And look at those freckles on her bill. Such a cutie pie she is.

 

New visitors to the millpond

August 31st, 2015     0 comments     permalink

Two youngsters a feeling around in the water for crawfish or other edibles

This image is also available to download as a Facebook Cover ImageA family of raccoons has arrived at the millpond. It’s either three young ones hunting together or a mom with two cubs. I saw one of the young ones in the shadows about ten days ago then caught up with all three searching for food in the shallows at the northern end of the millpond on August 19.

Each has a fine ringed tail, nice a bushy!Once they tired of being in the water, they headed for a nearby crabapple tree to nibble. After they climbed into it, I was able to photograph them as they ate.

If you’d like to use the photo of the raccoon (above left) as a Facebook cover image, this link downloads one saved in the proper horizontal format.

After searching for food in the shadows, the headed for a nearby crabapple tree

Harvest Festival for millpond muskrats

August 29th, 2015     0 comments     permalink

An adult muskrat returns home with a full jaw of carefully trimmed grass.

The millpond muskrats are having a celebration at the northern end. Vegetation is at its peak and our cool summer with adequate rain has kept it green and delicious. Even though the water level is about a foot below normal this year, it hasn’t curtailed their festival plans. In fact it’s helped their frequent photographer photograph them racing around submerged in a mere 6″-8″ of clear water (below).

A muskrat flies out of its burrow like a projectile heading for the harvest of green water plants

Light rain didn’t stop their antics last night. The whole tribe of 5-8 put on quite a show zooming out of their submerged burrow (to avoid owls and other predators) then leisurely paddling back with their jaws filled with salads.

Bubbles in its fur make it appear lighter in color as it blasts through the water

One of the youngsters (below left) looks like he’s been sneaking Dairy Queen Blizzards behind his parents’ backs. The rodents’ ability to shoot through the water is facilitated by their wide webbed rear feet and the thrashing of their tails which are flat vertically. They can hold their breath for up to 15 minutes if they have to. That skill comes in handy in the winter when the pond is below 12″ of ice and the muskrats need to forage beneath it.

A pudgy young muskrat floats near the entrance to the family's burrow Wide rear feet that are webbed along with a strong tail helps muskrats zoom through the water

Nature’s tenacity

August 29th, 2015     0 comments     permalink

An Evening Primrose and Goldenrod pick unlikely places to grow in a parking lot

She shall not be twarted! Nature will find a way to do as she pleases. Here, she grows a flowering Evening Primrose and a couple of Goldenrod stalks in a crack in a millpond parking lot. She knew better than to plant them in the lawn only inches away since frequent mowing would have ended their chances of producing seeds.

Speaking of Goldenrod, I saw my first Locust Borer (below) this past week. It was attracted to a porch light. I’ve photographed them before during a romantic encounter on a vigorous Goldenrod flower cluster. It’s their favorite food during late summer until they are ready to lay eggs on Black Locust trees.

A Locust Borer beetle is attracted to a porch light after dark

Funnel Weavers are messy housekeepers

August 29th, 2015     0 comments     permalink

A Tunnel Weaver spider awaits dinner to be served

Found on the siding of a building where it can retreat into the crevice created by the clapboards, this Funnel Weaver spider has constructed his web near a porch light that attracts his meals after dark. Besides the remains of past meals and a ball of goo, one of the things he forgot to put into the recycling bin is his former skin which he was forced to shed as he grew into the his present size (left). These spiders are very common and totally harmless though their rapid movements can startle even the least squeamish of us.

CSI: Zoot isn’t Sugar Raye’s duckling

August 28th, 2015     0 comments     permalink

Sparkle (left) and Shine squawking on the sidewalk, their favorite activity

Zoot has the most distinctive feet on the millpondFrom the get-go, Sugar Raye’s family of ducklings had two that looked different from her other four. One of the pair perished days after hatching but the other not only flourished, it soon towered above the other in her brood.

Ducklings within the same brood can have different fathers so I assumed the dark oddball (now officially christened Zoot) was sired by either Dazzle or his son, Razzle. By the time it reached a month old, however, I noticed its unusual feet. Blotchy feet are a distinctive trait for Acona ducks and only one duck on the millpond has a known Acona lineage, the cad named Parfait who was the 2013 offspring of the late, great MooseTracks, an Acona drake who became a coyote meal in the winter of 2014.

Ain’t I smart figuring this all out? Oh, wait a minute. As the weeks passed, Sugar Raye’s blotchy-footed duckling kept growing! How could this be since both Sugar Raye and Parfait are on the small side? On August 16, Zoot was on the millpond sidewalk near Sparkle and Shine (top photo), Franny’s two abandoned ducklings who raised themselves. All three of the birds have similar profiles with green bills and white bibs. Although Zoot’s feet are the most unusual, the other two have slight orange patches on their webbings.

Zoot is slightly larger than the other two birds Sparkle has the most mottling on his/her chest Shine has a very prim white bib

There’s a chance Zoot was one of Franny’s lost ducklings. She managed to misplace 9 of her 11 within days of their hatching on June 14. That makes him two weeks younger than Sparkle and Shine yet he’s the largest. I think it’s more likely Franny dropped an early egg or two into Sugar Raye’s nest. Domestic ducks sometimes do that. Franny’s mothering instincts left her family tree several branches ago. The sex of these three ducks is still unknown but both Zoot and Sparkle sound like females. Hens have louder quacks than drakes. Both of these ducks are incessantly noisy, loud, and amusing to watch.

Almost back to normal

August 28th, 2015     2 comments     permalink

On August 15, I posted a photo of this Mallard hen. At the time, she could barely walk because of an unidentified injury to her left left and her head showed evidence of being battered by the other ducks in the flock.

An injured Mallard hen is recovering very wellHere’s her photo six days later. She is able to put partial weight on her left foot now and the feathers on her head are growing back. The resiliency of ducks is quite amazing and this instance illustrates why they don’t require medical attention for most of their injuries that don’t involve open wounds or emaciation.

The goose shown in the same post has not been seen since I photographed it on August 14. It may have recovered so I can no longer identify it since all geese look similar, moved to another pond or night roost, or it may have died. I keep checking for it though when I visit the millpond. This points to the need to assemble a group of volunteers who can help capture and transport birds needing the services of a rehabber on a moments notice. If you would like to participate, leave a comment. I won’t make it public but am compiling a list of volunteers I can contact when the need arises.

A new fur-covered torpedo

August 16th, 2015     0 comments     permalink

The young muskrat dives along the shore looking for things to eat

A new visitor to the Main Street area of the Brighton millpond arrived this week. It’s a young muskrat horning in on Scout’s territory so it can’t be predicted if this is a short visit or will become a regular thing. I’ve named it Sprout because it might be Scout’s offspring. He lives just north of the area and makes nightly sojourns to devour what the ducks have missed and may have taught the skills to this tyke.

This muskrat is still small and not used to the public like Scout is

Muskrats can be very prolific so I’m surprised how few youngsters I see. Even though there are surely at least ten or maybe 15 muskrat families in residence at the pond, I see only one or two young ones each year. Owls and predatory fish must quickly dispatch most of them when they are still small. Hawks, great blue herons, and turtles may take a substantial toll in the population during daylight hours.

For such a small creature, it can swim and dive quickly

Splat!

August 16th, 2015     0 comments     permalink

Dreams are dashed by gravity daily at the millpond, especially during the summer. Rarely can you walk the millpond trail without seeing at least one pool of melting ice cream on the cement. Brighton, Michigan, is a well known destination for ice cream treats. Walking the trail while eating the gooey concoctions is a tradition. Distractions by the ducks or turtles cause super-sized scoops to topple to the ground.

A dashed dream of deliciousness awaits the night creatures along the millpond trail in Brighton, Michigan

Currently, Brighton has three major dessert establishments: Dairy Queen, Jack’s Custard, and the Yum Yum Tree. Come September, Yogurtopia‘s new store will join the crowded field. This disaster appears to be a double dip waffle cone involving cookie dough vanilla and an unidentified variety of chocolate ice cream. The raccoon and opossums will enjoy it by dawn.

Franny misses the boys

August 15th, 2015     0 comments     permalink

Franny is thrilled to see me arrive with vittles

As a domestic Rouen hen with at least three faithful suitors, Franny has lead an amusing life for more than a year. Fred and Rusty vanished this summer via death or theft, but Dazzle, Razzle, and Duke have endured Franny’s nesting duties and remained close until this past week. They returned to the flock near Main Street leaving Franny alone to face the last few days of nesting.

Her meal is followed by a drink of parking lot waterShe greets my visits with more excitement now that the boys aren’t around to keep her company. As soon as she hears my voice, she usually bounds out of the nest and starts squawking. She’ll eat 3-6 big handfuls of food daily. Last night, she followed her meal by swilling rainwater from a puddle beside the storm sewer in a parking lot (right). That can’t be healthy but urban ducks do such things.

She waddled around looking for her boyfriends after eating

Then she started squawking loudly while dashing around looking for the boys. Off she ran for about 1/8 of a mile squawking as she waddled hoping one of her once-faithful admirers would respond. None of them did. So she went to the pond’s edge, squawked some more and bathed. First she tossed water over her head to wet her back (below).

Tossing water over her head before a short bath revived her

Preening a little, she gets ready to take a short swim and then return to her nestThen she plunged in for a full scrub and perched on a rock for a brief preening session of her disheveled feathers that look particularly shabby lately since she is molting. Instead of waddling, she paddled back, emerged from the pond, and returned to her nest.

The whole recess was 25 minutes away from her six remaining eggs. I hope her devotion to her nest is rewarded with a half dozen ducklings this next week.

Poor parenting for Brood 28

August 15th, 2015     0 comments     permalink

The four day old ducklings spend much of their time looking for their mother

One of the three ducklings vanished two days after hatching“Do you see her? She’s not in this direction?” the four day old chicks seem to be saying as they swim alone in the dark millpond. Brood 28‘s hen is nearby but keep a close watch on her two ducklings. The third duckling vanished two days after hatching. Each hen has its own ability to parent. Some won’t let their ducklings wander more than inches from their side while others virtually ignore their youngsters. Drakes leave shortly after their hens begin nesting so they are rarely involved.

When should humans rescue waterfowl?

August 15th, 2015     1 comment     permalink

Each year, millpond creatures become injured or sick. Their natural inclination is to mask their symptoms so they don’t appear weak to predators. The ones you notice are the sickest or most injured.

A Mallard hen with a battered head and severe limp was found at the millpond this week

When should humans intervene? Our State’s stance is severely injured wildlife is to be reported to the nearest DNR office but they don’t have staff appointed to retrieve them. They usually refer the public to certified wildlife rehabbers who are unpaid trained volunteers who restrict their care to animals brought to them. Most will offer over-the-phone advice to determine if the animal needs to be rescued or left in the field but they cannot afford to do in-person evaluations. Unless specifically directed by a licensed rehabber to capture and bring the animal to them, the best advice is to do nothing. Too often concerned people nab wildlife only to discover no local veterinarian will treat it and rehabbers already have a full plate.

 An undersized Canada goose that's probably young also arrived at the pondLast evening, a frail Canada goose arrived near Main Street limping (right) and a female Mallard showed signs of being battered by members of its own flock (above). Of the two birds, the duck will probably heal well on its own although it looks in terrible condition right now. The feathers will grow back. There are no open wounds on the leg so it will probably improve over time. The goose, however, might profit from medical intervention. Its size tells me it isn’t thriving. Perhaps it’s swallowed a foreign object. Like the duck, there are no wounds on the leg so that’s probably unrelated to its growth pattern and will heal over time.

If someone would like to take on the project of getting the goose to Howell Nature Center after contacting them to see if they have room for it, leave a comment on this post. By doing that, others will know the matter is being handled. I’ll email instructions on how to safely capture and transport it. An animal carrier or light, opaque blanket can be used to calm the bird but plan for a mess in your vehicle during the trip.

Spider enjoys the limelight

August 11th, 2015     0 comments     permalink

The spider's web shines in the light coming from below it

Two lamps embedded in the ground shine upward to the US and Michigan flags at Brighton’s Veteran’s Memorial. This long-legged arachnid decided it would be a fine spot to construct its web to ensnare insects. The low resolution of web browsers doesn’t lend itself to presenting the fine detail of the web’s threads. You can see them better by clicking on the images. I don’t know the species.

The spider was still building its web when photographed shortly after dark

Brood 28 debuts near the Imagination Station

August 11th, 2015     0 comments     permalink

Mom doesn't keep the kids tightly close to her

The three tykes look like they are 2-3 days oldA Mallard hen was found with 3 2-day-old hatchlings near the Imagination Station last evening. She’s hatched 2015’s 28th brood in the Fertility Tournament. While the hen is in attendance, it took me a few minutes to figure out which hen she was. Her youngsters were darting through the swimming flock and many adult ducks pecked at the babies. The hen didn’t bother to come to their rescue nor did she keep them in tight formation like most successful moms do.

I don’t recognize the hen so I can’t give you any backstory. She may be a mom of an early spring brood, but I haven’t compared her photos with other millpond moms. We’ve had 198 ducklings hatch at the pond this year. Will we reach 200? If Franny successfully hatches at least 2 of her 6 eggs, we will. I wouldn’t be surprised if there aren’t other hens on nests hidden in shoreline foliage.

Each of the three looks like a full blood Mallard Brood 28 has only three ducklings

Low water level reveals muskrat runways

August 10th, 2015     0 comments     permalink

Finicky landowners aren’t amused by the excavations of muskrats. They dig extensive burrows into shorelines that eventually collapse bringing havoc to well manicured landscapes. That’s not a problem at the millpond. Most of its shoreline has lush vegetation with entangled root systems that limits erosion.

The millpond’s water level is currently 12″ below normal. The top wooden slat in the dam broke in March which surely contributes to this, but it’s also caused by seasonal as well as upstream conditions. The City of Brighton has no control over the amount of water entering the millpond from South Ore Creek.

A runway of gravel reveals the entrance to a muskrat burrow at the north end of the pond

Muskrat burrow entrances are usually below the waterline so they can enter and exit without attracting predators to where litters of up to nine kits might be. With reduced water depth, the muskrats move silt on the pond’s bottom during their frequent arrivals and departures. Below the silt, tiny gravel (from glaciation eons ago) lines the pond. When the silt is swept away by the muskrats, the location of their burrows is as apparent as if they raised a red flag above their runways (above).

Franny endures tacky home decorating

August 10th, 2015     1 comment     permalink

Franny endures some tacky decor at her nestHow this large flour sack and yeast container arrived on Franny’s doorstep is a mystery. We haven’t had any strong winds within the past day so I suspect some well meaning park visitor or merchant placed it beside her nest thinking it would help conceal her. Being the accommodating hen that she is, she endured the addition to her front yard. My career in design couldn’t tolerate it. I removed the tacky decor that lacked curb appeal and might attract predators.

Franny began sitting on 18 eggs the week of July 20th so she’s in her final stretch. Only 6 eggs remain beneath her, but I’m hoping she hatches a few of them to bring some hybrid Rouen ducklings to the pond in the third week of August.

A Centipede entree? No thanks.

August 10th, 2015     0 comments     permalink

An American Toad awaiting dinner but passes on an offering of centipedesThis American Toad came to the diner (a bright light a few feet above a sidewalk) to select his dinner items from the array of offerings. A trio of Centipedes were within his striking range, but he passed on consuming them. Almost all centipedes have venom to kill or immobilize their prey. It’s possible this amphibian previously sampled one of these multi-legged creatures and got bit or found their flavor not to his liking.

Knuckle waddling and thriving

August 10th, 2015     0 comments     permalink

The drake with the withered foot is happy to be back at the pond getting handouts from the publicI found the Mallard drake with the withered right foot interacting with the rest of the flock last evening. Since returning to the millpond a month ago, he’s become quite skilled at getting his share of handouts.

He walks on his knuckles quite well although he’s a little timid when other ducks want to be where he is. But that’s the nature of ducks. They spend most of their day testing their position within the pecking order. The good news is this chap is thriving.

Lazy or injured muskrat concerns park visitors

August 9th, 2015     0 comments     permalink

The muskrat didn't look nor act well while several park visitors stood nearby

When I arrived on the scene, nine millpond park visitors were observing a prostrate muskrat at the base of the large oak in the northwest corner of the Old Village Cemetery (top). One concerned visitor to our city was on her cell phone attempting to locate a wildlife rehabber who would come to pick it up. Rehabbers, unfortunately, rarely have the time to retrieve wildlife that need medical attention; they expect the critters to be delivered to their facilities.

The rodent wasn’t panting nor could I see any visible signs of an injury. It remained laying on its right side so there was a possibility there was one there. But it took a moment to scratch its left ear with its hind foot which I thought was a positive sign since a severely injured animal wouldn’t probably do that. The sidewalk in this area is several feet above the surface of the water. Later, it was gnawing on a crabapple at the pond's edgeMy wild guess is that a human or pet dog had chased and (maybe) injured it because it was unwilling to leap down to the pond level.

Since no one had the proper attire to capture it — they have long teeth and claws — I suggested we leave it alone, sage advice given by Michigan’s DNR personnel. I tried to cover it with some wild grape vines but the muskrat was not amused so I wove a few branches through the fence balusters to discourage park visitors from seeing or poking at it since it was in such a visible location.

It felt good enough to groom itself later Chewing on green crabapples might be what caused it to have a stomach ache

Ninety minutes later, the muskrat was gone when I returned to check on him. Within 15 feet down at the pond’s edge, a muskrat was grooming itself and gnawing on two green crabapples (above). While I can’t be sure it was the same rodent, I’d like to think it was. Maybe the fellow became exhausted from being chased, drunk from eating fermented berries, or just had a stomach ache from ingesting something that didn’t agree with him.

Beautiful unwanted millpond guests

August 9th, 2015     2 comments     permalink

Purple Loosestrife has some clumps which haven't spread much in the past five years

The flowers on this invasive water's edge plant are beautiful in mid- to late-summerOne of the Brighton millpond’s most beautiful flowering plants is also the least welcome. Purple Loosestrife isn’t out of control on the pond but statewide it has clogged the waterways of countless ponds and slow moving waters. Originally from Europe, it can become so thick in North American it crowds out native species. The USDA has approved four insect species (visit above link) to help control its spread but I don’t know if they are the reason the millpond’s plants haven’t smothered other shoreline vegetation.

Daily summer millpond visits by a large bird

August 9th, 2015     0 comments     permalink

A lonely Double-crested Cormorant visits the Brighton millpond during the daylight hours. He perches high on a bare branch about midway in the pond north of the Brighton Area Fire Station (above). The photo is at the limit of my camera so it doesn’t show much detail. Visit the link provided on its name to read more at AllAboutBirds.org.

The millpond's double-breasted cormorant perches high on a bare branch near the fire station

I’ve also seen him at water level with his wings outstretched drying them in the afternoon sun on the western edge of the pond. Unlike the pond’s waterfowl, Cormorants don’t produce as much preening oil so their feathers absorb water instead of shed it.Because of their dark color and low position in the water when they swim, they are often mistaken for loons at the millpond. They are similar to Anhingas, but that species is only seen along the Gulf coast in the south and lacks the hook at the tip.

Cormorants have not been well accepted in Michigan. This fellow is probably part of the Kensington Metro Park’s colony, but huge colonies are found on the Great Lakes between the Upper and Lower Peninsulas where fishermen complain the birds deplete the fisheries. Frankly, I wish our local one would bring a couple of his buddies to fish the millpond. We are overstocked with bluegills and the birds could reduce the burgeoning population.

Meet Sparkle and Shine

August 6th, 2015     1 comment     permalink

Shine is on the left. I caught the bird at the moment it was lowering its head to preen its chest

A young millpond friend of mine suggested I name one of Franny’s two ducklings from her first brood (Brood 22) “Sparkle.” That’s a fine name so I told her I’ll named the other one “Shine” to easily remember them. Sparkle is the one with more white on its chest (above right). Sparkle is also shown at left while being photo bombed by Onyx in the foreground.

Sparkle is in the background and Onyx is in frontHatched on June 16, the two ducklings have raised themselves since they were about 25 days old. At 7 weeks, they are larger than any of the Mallards on the pond and still have a way to do before they reach adulthood. Their wings and flight feathers are still undeveloped, but it doesn’t matter. They will be land-bound birds with stout bodies.

Both squawk loudly so I think they are hens but can’t be certain until their adult plumage is grown. They are still timid with the rest of the flock and dodge being pecked by birds much smaller than they are, a skill they were forced to learn when as tiny ducklings. They will soon start to throw their weight around. Size matters in duck society and they will surely be two of the larger ducks at the millpond.

Franny returns to the nest

August 6th, 2015     0 comments     permalink

Franny has proved she's a "broody" hen with her tenacious sitting

I was wrong … again. Franny returned to her nest, discarded the three pilfered eggs and is sitting once again. Her three suitors are staying a safe distance away from her but are ready to escort her to the pond a couple of times a day so she can freshen up and stretch her legs.

After a dainty repast I offered her one night this week, she and I returned to the nest and I helped her count the remaining eggs (below). We both came up with seven though there are at least two at a lower level in the nest that weren’t included because I think they aren’t viable. Having started with 18, it’s a mystery where many of them have gone. Hens will move eggs out of their nests when they realize they aren’t viable so I assume she’s done that. No shells are in the immediate vicinity. Will any of these eggs hatch? Franny is more confident than I am. She has a couple more weeks to go. Stay tuned.

Franny counts her eggs for me. She announced there are seven still in the nest

It’s positively alluvial!

August 6th, 2015     0 comments     permalink

The water rushing into the Brighton millpond brought a fresh helping of sand with it that formed an alluvial fan near the culvert

The earth moves beneath our feet ever attempting to level itself. It may take eons for it to happen, but you can view a minute example of it at the headwaters of the Brighton millpond. Strong storms dumped tons of rain a few days ago. The rushing water draining through South Ore Creek brought new sand through the culvert to form an alluvial fan. In ten years, or maybe a hundred, some of this sand will topple over the millpond dam and continue on its journey to reach the Atlantic Ocean. No one reading this blog will be around to see that happen, but it will. Eventually. Nature is very patient and relentless.

The sand and tiny gravel settled out of the water as its speed diminished just feet beyond the culvert

Lost in plain sight

July 31st, 2015     1 comment     permalink

This poor little duckling from Brood 27 (hatched July 19) appears to be all alone in the big, dark pond peeping it’s heart out searching for its mother. This image proves some ducklings aren’t very bright.

A two week old duckling frantically searches for its mom at the Brighton millpond

His mom was less than 40 feet away. The tyke intentionally left his five siblings and mom heading for lily pads. Once it paddled 20 feet away, it started frantically peeping and searching even though mom was watching him. If ducks could do it, I’m sure the hen was rolling her eyes at the conduct of this clueless lad. The youngster was in no danger, but I thank him for allowing me to create a photo that implies that. His mom finally retrieved him from his misguided adventure.

If you would like a desktop image of this duckling facing the world alone, you may download the 1920×1200 image (604k) or click the above photo to enjoy a more reasonably sized one.

Bugs share a meal

July 31st, 2015     0 comments     permalink

Two Red Plant Bugs are feasting on another insect

I’ve been looking below lights in the evenings lately. This is the height of the insect season. I haven’t spotted anything large and dramatic, but wee critters abound in the warm, humid nights. This pair of what I believe are Red Plant Bugs appear to be draining the fluids from their unfortunate catch that’s too small for me to identify.