Signs of autumn

October 20th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

The most colorful shoreline at the millpond is near the north end

A storm front moved in but left as quickly s it arrivedColor is at its peak now. The most colorful millpond shoreline (above) is near the north end where American Hazelnut, mulberry, honeysuckle, oaks , and bittersweet grow thickly together.

Storms increase during autumn here. Cold fronts pass through as the days shorten. November rains are different from teh ones we have now. November rains tend to linger while the mid-autumn storms often barge ub abd tgeb keave hsyt as abruptly.

A quick storm’s wind left a bouquet for the next person who decides to sit at this bench. The cluster of oak leaves arrived still connected to their branch.

Wind left this dried leaf bouquet for the next sitter on the bench

Getting to know an earwig

October 19th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

An earwig was a wiling model for me as it walked along the fence at the Imagination Station

A very cooperative Earwig allowed me to take several photographs of him (or her) so I could get the proper lighting and focus, not an easy task with my camera. I’m not sure of the species. There are 2,000 of them but Wikipedia says only one, Doru aculeatum, is in the northern United States. I’ll take their word for it. I never realized they are as colorful as seen here. Its face is more ant-like than I realized, too. Only the top image is clickable. The one below is at my camera’s full resolution.

I never realized how colorful these insects are

Fishing in clear waters

October 19th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

Three fish lounged near the dam after dark on this evening in the clear millpond waters

Nightly drops into the 40s have cooled the millpond so algae can no longer grow. You can now see fish moving through the water more easily. I found three fish near the dam at night last week (above). The one on the right is a largemouth bass. At least one of the others is a Crappie. I saw the flash of its scales as it was feeding, a unique trait of this species. We call them croppies in this neck of the woods probably for politically correct reasons. Their name comes from the French Canadian “crapet.” Wikipedia says they’re called “specks” in Michigan. That must be in the far north. I’ve never heard that term before.

An 8 pound carp was caught and released by these brothers after dark last week

Fishing has diminished in the colder weather, but these two lads were found landing an 8-pound lunker carp near Main Street. The freshman at Lake Superior State College had come home for a long weekend and convinced his younger brother to join him fishing. They caught (and released) several carp on 4 pound test line. If fishermen don’t mind crisp weather, there are still hungry fish to give them a memorable fight.

Canned corn and wads of bread are the baits of choice. Carp cruise along the Main Street shore after sundown vacuuming up food park visitors intend for the ducks that miss their mark during the day. Muskrats also make nightly runs to find their share of vittles along shore.

Lewis & Clark: Probationary Suitors

October 19th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

Lewis and Clark are subtly moved away from Jemima (in background)

After their thuggish introduction to the millpond, the behavior of Lewis and Clark has settled down a bit. Jiminy and Captain D. Hookt are allowing the new birds to pal around with them as they court the lovely and available Jemima. But they are still on probation. Above, Captain D. Hookt (center) escorts the young upstarts away from Jemima (top left) with Jiminy backing him up. Florence (lower left) watcheso, but whether the Mandarin comprehends the courting rituals of Pekins is a mystery.

A dancing trio of ducks look like Jemima and her two original boyfriendsJemima leads her two drakes on excursions around the pond to find foods to eat. Lewis and Clark trail behind the trio (below). They are sometimes allowed to fraternize with Jemima. It depends upon the moods of the established gents. At night, the five Pekins tend to roost together peacefully and Florence is usually nearby.

Joyce Schuelke, owner of Brighton’s Wildernest store, ordered a trio of ducks doing high kicks (right) from one of her suppliers. They reminded her of the original millpond triad. Someone will surely purchase it for their home to be reminded daily of the threesome. They haven’t learned to dance yet but cheerfully greet park visitors near Main Street.

:ewis and Clark follow the trio wherever they go

Milkweed critters

October 19th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

Insects on Milkweed #4

Detail of Insects on Milkweed #4It’s an odd year for the Brighton millpond’s stand of milkweed at the north end. In past years, adult Milkweed Bugs have appeared in mid-October. I can’t find any on the plants this year. I still see young instars and lots of other tiny insects, but none of the large red and black adults. I think the predators that feast on the young ones have been inordinately successful in stripping the pods of the bugs before they can reach adulthood.

So here are photos of the wee critters I’ve found roaming the pods. There are images of pods with an accompanying close up of bugs upon them. Photographing small creatures is beyond my camera’s capabilities so the close ups tend to be fuzz. You can click on the images showing the full pods to see them larger, but the close ups are at the full resolution of my camera so they don’t link to larger images.

Detail of Insect on Milkweed #2

Insects on Milkweed #2Insects on Milkweed #3I cannot identify the insects shown within these shots. Maybe a future reader can identify them for all of us.

You might find it fun to look at the close ups first and then click on the other shots to se if you can find the bugs on them.

The close up, above, relates to the image to the left. The close up, below, relates to the one on the right. At the top of this post, the close up is directly below the shot relating to it. At the bottom of this post, the two images are side-by-side.

I’ve been rather obsessed with milkweed plants this year. I visit them nearly every time I visit the pond. They have been overrun with invasive Virginia Creeper and Wild Grape vines. I plan to ask the city if I may trim those vines early next year to encourage more Monarchs to visit them.

Detail of Insects on Milkweed #3

The two orange and black bugs in the above shot are Milkweed Bug instars, one is a stage or two older than the other one. There are at least three other insects in the same image. Below, some of the insects look like granules of dirt, but if you look closely, you can see they have legs.

Detail of Insects on Milkweed #1 Insects on Milkweed #1

A wolf in Great Dane drag

October 18th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

October 8: Standing on a bench on the other side of the Imagination Station’s4′ tall fence, a Great Dane stares at ducks I’m feeding. No movement. No barking. It’s a good thing, too. With coyotes, foxes, and unleashed pets in the neighborhood, ducks view all canines as wolves except Tony’s tiny Yorkie, Max. He weights about the same as they do and often ends up muzzle-to-bill as Tony tosses the birds pellets.

A great dane watches me feed the ducks

Ducks recognize specific people and animals. They learn to trust a few of them, but they keep their guard up evaluating every quick movement. I’ve seen ducks flee in terror at the mere sight of a well behaved, leashed dog still 50 yards away. Yet on other days, they ignore a German Shepherd within lunging distance. As a prey species, they are hard-wired to be hair-triggered since there’s no such thing as feather-trigggered.

Rhythms of sunset rain

October 18th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

Detail from Raindrops #1

Raindrops #1Mysterious reflections, murky rings formed by raindrops at the close of the day while the last sunlight surrenders. I’ve always enjoyed photographing ambiguous elements. Many happen when light meets dark.

Park visitors run for their cars or into shops when rain arrives at the millpond. They miss moments like these to avoid damp clothes, maybe a chill.A small price to pay.

Raindrops #2 Raindrops #3

Grace and her new friend

October 15th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

mlyson_angelina_grace_1_750I received this photo of Grace, the millpond’s one legged 10-week-old duckling, in her new residence at Michigan Duck Rescue and Sanctuary. Grace (right) shares a plastic storage bin lined with wood shavings at night with Angelina, another Mallard, who has a congenital twisted bill most likely caused by an improper position within the egg during incubation. During the day, the pair share a large outdoor pen.

Grace is still growing and her leg is not strong enough to support her body so she has trouble standing. Once she reaches full adult size, she’ll gain muscle strength to be able to hop while on land. She’ll also be able to fly within a couple of weeks. That will help her become more self sufficient. Like other one legged ducks, she’s able to swim very well.

When Michigan Duck Rescue feels she’s ready, she’ll be returned to the Brighton millpond.

The Color of Water: Autumn weavings

October 14th, 2014     1 comment     permalink

Detail of autumn reflected in the Brighton millpond #3

Autumn reflected in the Brighton millpond #5Since 2009, I’ve photographed reflections in the Brighton millpond and placed them in a category titled, “The Color of Water.” If I didn’t find the romantic lives of ducks and the shenanigans of pond people worthy of documenting, I could easily spend the rest of my life photographing just the reflections in the pond in all seasons. Each day brings something new to the scene. Autumn, of course, provides the richest colors.

Autumn reflected in the Brighton millpond #1 Autumn reflected in the Brighton millpond #3

The top and bottom photos are at the maximum resolution of my camera. They aren’t clickable, but the other thumbnails click through to larger images loaded with detail you cannot see in the tiny ones in this post. The file sizes are a bit larger than my usual fare. Still, they cannot hold the detail of the originals as illustrated in the images top and bottom. Someday, the Internet will be fast enough for you to see 4-12MB files quickly but we’re not there yet.

Autumn reflected in the Brighton millpond #2 Autumn reflected in the Brighton millpond #4

Detail of autumn reflected in the Brighton millpond #2

Grebes are on the move

October 14th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

A pied-billed grebe searches for edibles in the water lilies. This image is at the full resolution of my camera so it's not clickable.

A pair of grebes share a stand of water lilies with a muskrat at the Brighton millpondPied-Billed Grebes have begun to migrate southward. They visit the Brighton millpond each spring when coming north and again in the fall as they head to their wintering grounds. They arrive before the other waterbirds begin to move.

This pair shared a small territory with a muskrat (right) for a few minutes with neither species seeming to give the other any attention. The grebes were searching for food among the remaining water lily leaves. The muskrat was eating the leaves themselves or other vegetation caught by them in the slowly moving water.

Autumn before the rains

October 13th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

autumn_8546_600

autumn_2114_300Weather predictions may bring an abrupt end to autumn color. Rains and strong winds are anticipated. I captured the color last week and have more images to post when time permits even if weather sweeps them away.

Late afternoon sun weaves through shoreline trees making leaves appear internally illuminated or made of stained glass. These two images are of a small bay on the far side of the pond, backyards of homes behind the trees.

The proper dimensions for a Facebook Cover ImageThe top image is available cropped to Facebook’s exact “Cover Image” dimensions. Click the photo (left) to download and use it.

You can download a hefty 1MB version as an autumn desktop (1920 x 1200px). Be patient.

Before the first frost …

October 13th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

Flowers still bloom in autumn in a pocket garden tended by the Brighton Garden Club, Michigan

I can’t let the growing season end without paying tribute to the Brighton Garden Club. They plant and tend gardens throughout the downtown area that bring visual joy to the city’s residents and add the crowning touch to the city for all of our guests who come to shop or dine. They’ve been mindful to plant perennials and annuals so there are always flowers blooming from spring through autumn.

Ducks are balloonophobic

October 13th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

The balloons twist and turn in the slightest breeze

Brighton High School is conducting the "Pink Week" this weekAlthough its fluid, ducks are territorial. I can count on finding specific ducks at specific places most of the time; the Dam Tribe will be near the millpond dam, the Buda Bunch beside city hall, etc. Not so last night.

There wasn’t a duck within 500 yards of Main Street. Most were farther north in the bay south of Stillwater Grill, an shallow spot ducks rarely visit. The cause of this change in their routine? While I can’t be certain, I think it’s the addition of six pink mylar balloons tied to a millpond railing announcing Brighton High School’s “Pink Week” fundraiser for breast cancer research, a worthy cause.

Six mylar balloons are tied to the millpond railing near Main StreetBecause they are prey species, they are always on alert. Ducks freak when anything unusual enters their environment; a stroller, fishing net, cardboard box, or jacket dropped on the sidewalk. When David Bogdan, sculptor, rows his boat into the southern pond to tend his aluminum water lilies or the skipper of the 3′ long remote control ship tours the water, the ducks vacate.

Six pink balloons bobbling in the slightest breeze is enough to send the ducks packing. Since the balloons will be swinging in the air above a favorite roosting spot all week, it will be interesting to see if the birds eventually adjust or remain farther north until the fundraising concludes.

Grace scoots instead of hops now

October 12th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

Grace is ready to take a vacation away from the pond

Grace, the one legged duckling born on July 28 in Brood 23, had been doing well at the millpond hopping on one leg until three days ago. She came up to me but could no longer stand up. She scooted along the ground on her belly. Since she’s only a ten week old duckling, I think she’s growing so fast her one leg hasn’t been able to strengthen itself to keep up with her growing weight.

Otherwise healthy, it was time to give her a vacation so she can mature and strengthen her leg muscles to be able to hop again. She was captured last evening and was picked up by Matt Lyson to spend a couple of months at the Michigan Duck Rescue and Sanctuary. He’ll provide daily care and decide when, if ever, she is strong enough to be returned to the millpond. We have two other adult ducks on the pond with only one functional leg so I expect she can lead a normal life at the pond eventually.

Another problem solving chipmunk

October 12th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

Teh peanut won't fit in his burrow. What can he do?

It’s the time of year when chipmunks become singleminded in their efforts to stock their larders for winter. Unintentionally, I presented one of the fellows with a problem but chipmunks are pretty good problem solvers. I gave him a shell with three peanuts in it. It was too long for him to get the shell into his burrow so he gave up and decided to shell the nuts and have a meal near the entrance to his burrow. He are gracious enough to allow me to inch forward as he dined. Maybe he liked the company once he realized I wasn’t interested in dining on him or stealing his peanut.

The chipmunk evaluates the way he can quickly get the other two nuts out of the shell After the first nut was eaten, he turned the shell around many times to decide how to get the second and third ones inside

The shell was open at one end so he could see the nut inside. He attacked that end first. It didn’t take him long to dislodge the nut and snarf it down. Then he spun the shell around a few times to decide how to get at the other nuts inside it. He finally decided to rip into the other end.

The first and second nuts were quickly dispatched It was more work for him to dislodge the third nut He ripped through the shell to get to the third nut inside

Finally, he had to rip a lot of shell off to get at the center nut. Chewing and tossing the pieces around in a haphazard way, he eventually succeeded.

Even though peanuts don't grow this far north, this guy is familiar with them due to park visitors A three nut meal all at one sitting seems a lot for a chipmunk The claws and fingers on his hands hold peanuts firmly as he nibbles on them

Once the three nuts were devoured, he disappeared into his burrow. I didn’t have time to thank him for allowing me to take so many photos of him, but I left payment for his modeling services at the entrance of his burrow (below). Maybe he’ll model for me again before he enters his winter torpor.

A gratuity was left at the entrance to his burrow

Autumn in the cattail marshes

October 12th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

Cattails are tall and dried. They glow in the autumn sun.

The geese and swans that nested in the cattail marshes at the Brighton millpond ignore them now, their offspring have grown. The red-winged blackbirds don’t call from the tops of the stalks to claim their territories. They’ve raised their families and departed. But the cattails still provide shelter for ducks when the winds blow, songbirds perch atop the stalks to feast on the seeds, and muskrats seek fresh cattail shoots to nibble on. The low autumn sun paints them in golden hues as they sway in breezes.

A muskrat selects a fresh cattail shoot to devour in late afternoon shadows

Old coot shoots first coot

October 8th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

The first coot of the season arrived at the millpond yesterday

American Coots arrive at the Brighton millpond each autumn on their way from their northern nesting ranges to their wintering grounds where it’s warmer. I found the first one of the season near the shore at Stillwater Grill last evening. More will surely follow. They often travel in large groups. Although they look like ducks in the water, they aren’t. They are related to rails. They are easy to spot. Look for round-ish, dark brown and gray birds in the water that are smaller than Mallards.

Colors of autumn

October 8th, 2014     1 comment     permalink

As the water moves, the tree line its path

Sunset intensifies the colors of autumnAs the evening ended last night, clouds rolled in to bring rain. Sunset intensified autumn colors along the shore of the Brighton millpond. Although fall colors are almost at their peak now, I was more taken by the effect a slight jiggle of the camera brought to the water (above). I cropped the image (right) so the blurred reflections of the trees became the focal point (above).

Opaque storm clouds eventually blanketed the pond but the western horizon glowed orange and red (below).

As the sun went down, rain swept inAutumn arrived abruptly here and is intent on staying instead of giving summer a few chances to bid us farewell. Still bruised from last winter, no one is particularly happy about it but have no say in the matter.

Most hope autumn takes its time to leave. For many, it’s their favorite season; the color, crisp air, and often clear skies. I dwell on what’s coming; a barren landscape and frozen pond.

Swimming with the big ducks

October 8th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

Florence stays near her Pekin friends

Tiny Florence, a Mandarin duck bred for show, was surely raised with Pekin ducks. Normally, size rules in the duck realm; smaller ducks give larger ones a wide berth so they don’t be pecked. Not so with Florence. She roosts with the Pekins nightly and often spends the majority of daylight near them. Often it’s with Jemima and her beaus (above), but Flo spends time with the Buda Bunch and shows interest in the new duo, Lewis and Clark. If any of them bother her, she’s quick to show the inside of her tiny bill to let them know she’s a bird to be dealt with.

She’s figured out Pekin are big but characteristically docile. They typically react to her threats by getting out of her way. If a big duck gets up on the wrong side of the roost and takes a poke at her, she’s nimble enough to dodge it. Or she flies away, something Pekins like always-smiling Marold (below) can’t do at all.

Mrold is a happy, lumbering duck

Meanwhile, back at the pods …

October 7th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

At least two instars of milkweed bugs are on this pod

At least 100 milkweed bugs reside on this milkweed pod clusterI try to visit the stand of milkweed pods at the north end of the millpond on each of my visits. Each instar stage of growth of milkweed bugs is supposed to take about six days to mature, but it seems to me it’s taking longer this year. It might be a result of our colder than normal temperatures.

I’m not convinced any of the young insects will grow to maturity this year due to the fast-approaching winter. Nature has ways of compensating for disastrous events. We’ll have to wait to see what happens.

Milkweed bugs tend to remain static instead of wiggling around Up close, more than just milkweed bugs are evident

Gull able

October 6th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

Even gulls won't eat this burger

Ring-Billed Gulls are common at the millpond during fallIt’s a sad state of affairs when even gulls won’t eat the burgers in our upscale city. I found this one after hearing a gull squawk and then fly away from it.

As autumn intensifies, the Ring-Billed Gull population builds at the Brighton millpond. Their summer fare of fast food scraps found in parking lots dwindles.Diners retreat indoors so the birds are forced to eat more of what nature intends them to eat at waterways.

This is a first-year gull whose wings aren't all gray yetDon’t lose heart. There are still hearty millpond picnickers who don’t pick up after themselves. Gulls play an important part in maintaining the park’s habitat by leaving nothing edible to attract unsavory critters. If we could just teach the gulls to toss the wrappers into the trash bins, we could reduce the city’s maintenance brigade a man or two.

Gulls are one of many species that has adapted well to living with humans, but they are far from admired by the public they serve. If one looks beyond their racket and poopability, their skill in the air is beautiful to watch and their bodies are aerodynamic marvels that let them effortlessly glide while searching for food from above.

Young gulls have taupe speckles on their feathers

Young birds can be identified by their dappled feathers (above). When they reach maturity, the taupe speckles are replaced with soft grays and white to blend with overcast skies as they fly. Adults have black wing tips (below) that may make them easier to spot by fellow gulls diving and circling in the air. Without them, collisions might reduce their numbers. Folks along Michigan shores might welcome that.

Gulls walk around the pond looking for things to eat An adult gull grabs a piece of tossed bread. Note its black-tipped wings

Good time to grow feathers

October 6th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

Five healthy ducklings are still under mom's care at two months oldBrood 24’s hen, who remains unnamed, has been a consistently responsible mother to ducklings for at least the past three years, probably longer. She’s lost a higher percentage of her young this year. It’s probably because of her timing. She nested late. When the eggs hatched on August 1, predators had less choices for a meal so there was a greater chance one of her ducklings would be served.

Now that the kids are almost grown, Nature is giving mom some attention. She’s dropped her flight feathers and is beginning to grow new ones (below). Not that she’s had any choice in the matter. It’s typical for Mallard hens to molt after their offspring are born so their period of flightlessness coincides with their earthbound hatchlings.

Mom has time to grow feathers now that the kids are two months old The flight feathers are just beginning to sprout

She was the last of the wild Mallards to successfully nest this year yet she still has time to grow flight feathers before the fall migration happens in November. Whether she migrates is yet to be seen. Her young will be able to fly south before winter arrives, many late bloomers stay in the region instead of making the long trek.

Autumn at Little Worden Lake

October 5th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

Wild raspberry stems decorate the ground in certain areas

Little Worden Lake is an inaccessible jewel within the City  of Brighton. Its kettle lake teams with wildlife. I’ve seen egrets, double-crested cormorants, several duck species, and mute swans there along with evidence of deer and raccoons. Above, wild raspberry covers the ground in its speckled autumn finest color.

Little Worden Lake has varied terrain and micro environments

Seed pods dot the landscape, some already picked clean by songbirdsSome of the land was disturbed by the construction of the storm water retention pond years ago, but it’s gradually regaining a wide variety of wildflowers that attract native species of insects, mammals, and birds. Yesterday, late afternoon was overcast so these photos retain a gloomy mood but still worth posting. Past the property’s prime wildflower season, we were able to find  late autumn asters, Queen Anne’s Lace, and some early autumn color.

Pale blue asters grow along the retention pond's shore Wild carrot or Queen Anne's Lace still tosses blooms toward the sky after a long season Purple autumn aster is the most prominent wildflower now. The color is bluer than this photo indicates

It was too cold for insects except for one bumblebee hanging onto goldenrod waiting for a warmer day to fly again (below).

A bumble bee hangs onto goldenrod in the cold wind

This series doesn’t include any photos of the lake. To see it, visit past Lake Worden Lake posts.

At dusk, a family group of Canada geese flies over on its way to its nightly roost

Duck thieves

October 5th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

Mrs PomPom has done her best to shield her offspring from danger but has now lost 6 or her original 8 ducklings

A couple of months ago, a fellow millpond duck watcher told me he overheard a conversation by two adult males who were planning to capture millpond ducks for their dinner table. They were deciding which ones were plump enough to serve to their families. This past week, a woman was spotted attempting to lure ducks within reach. By the time I got to the pond to have a chat with her, she was gone. So was the third duckling in Mrs PomPom’s trio of month-olds (2014 Brood 26 shown in these pictures taken October 1).

The remaining yellow duckling was swimming erratically. It was uncharacteristically away from its mother and dark sibling (below, lower right corner) as if it was injured or had been traumatized.

The month-old yellow duckling was swimming erratically and uncharacteristically alone after a woman was sighted attempting to capture ducks at the Brighton millpond

I find it astonishing we have cretins in our midst who think the ducks in our community pond are theirs for the taking. These selfish bastards can purchase ducklings for a few bucks from their choice of online hatcheries or buy ducks for the platter at various specialty markets. Instead, they feel they have the right to rip apart duck families in an environment that’s already hostile to its residents.

They think millpond ducks are props in the park for their personal amusement. They don’t realize each duck is an integral part of families and sub-flocks, and have established relationships with their peers as well as hundreds, if not thousands, of people who consider them their feathered neighbors. At least once a month, someone asks me if I’ve seen Afroduck. Some have relocated to other states and come back to visit their extended families and want to check in with their millpond “friends.” Afroduck died in July, 2011 but the continuing interest in him shows the impact specific millpond birds can have on park visitors. That impact is trivialized by people who can’t think beyond their own wants who think they are “just ducks,” expendable creatures that will be replaced by others soon enough.

PomPom's trio pokes around the shoreline vegetation seeking things to eat, bugs and worms having high protein content so they can grow big and strong The more dominant duckling is the one missing. It's shown here with its dark sibling

Mrs PomPom has now lost six of her original eight ducklings, the first brood she has successfully hatched in the three years she has nested in about five attempts.

If you see anyone capturing, harassing, or injuring domestic ducks on the pond, call the police. They will issue a hefty fine. If you see anyone doing the same with any migratory bird including the ducks (mostly Mallards), geese, or swans, contact the local DNR at Island Lake. These birds are fully protected by Federal laws with fines and jail terms that will make the perpetrators’ head spin. I’d love to see that happen.

Attracting autumn insects

October 5th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

Stink Bug

InsectFellow photographer, Don, and I staged an impromptu “mothing” with a couple of lights and a cloth on a warm evening this past week. Nothing larger than about an inch flew in to be photographed and our photography isn’t stellar. Here are the results.

They aren’t identified because neither of us know enough about insect species to do it confidently. If you’d like to do so, leave a comment by clicking the headline to get to the individual post page then scroll to the bottom.

Moth Crane Fly Fly
Moth Moth Moth

Green Lacewing

Dumped Ducks: Meet Lewis and Clark

October 5th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

Lewis and Clark are beautiful, well care for Pekins who were left at the pond on October 1

The newcomers will eventually become members of a subflock at the pondTwo newly dumped ducks have arrived at the Brighton millpond (above). I’ve named them Lewis and Clark, but I can’t tell you which is which yet. Eventually, I’ll figure it out.

I met the previous owner on the day he dumped them. He told me they were six month old Pekin drakes that had been so brutal in their mating with his female Pekins he had to remove them from his premises. He felt the millpond would be a great place for them to live. I pointed out he had now brought his problem to the millpond’s females that were already subjected to an overabundance of drakes. He hadn’t thought about that before releasing them. I introduced him to the resident ducks and he left with a better understanding of how dumping ducks is unwise. But, alas, it was too late to catch the newcomers.

Unsure of how they fit in, the new arrivals stayed in the waterLewis and Clark are beautiful birds that have received excellent care during their early life. On the night they arrived (left), they huddled together in the water unsure of how they fit into the waterfowl society already in residence. This is a typical response. Each pond has its own social structure.

There are sub-flocks, dominance hierarchies, stable territories, and other behavioral conventions. Through trial and error, newbies determine how they can survive. Most of the time, it’s a fairly smooth transition taking only a few days. But when Jemima and Jiminy arrived, MooseTracks kept Jiminy cornered below the dam for his first two weeks. Tiny Dumpling bamboozled the six larger dumped ducks at the north end of the pond last fall. He wouldn’t let them go near the water for ten days until the new Rouen drake, the powerful Smith, informed Dumpling he was no longer in charge.

On the first night Lewis and Clark (green dot, below) arrived, they attempted to befriend members of the Buda Bunch (magenta) and Mrs PomPom’s three ducklings (yellow). They were rebuffed by Buda who was very protective of Mrs PomPom and her brood.

Lewis and Clark (green dot) approached the Buda Bunch (magenta) and PomPom's ducklings (yellow) to make friends

By their second full day, however, they discovered the charming and irresistible Jemima with her two feckless suitors, Jiminy and Captain D. Hookt (below).

Lewis and Clark swim toward Jemima and her suitors for another mating run

From that point on, they have been making frequent mating runs to attack Jemima while her two boyfriends stand by helplessly jabbering (below).

Jiminy and Captain D. Hookt (in back) cannot defend her Lewis and Clark began to attack Jemima on their second day at the millpond

One of the new ducks does a victory dance after mating with JemimaThe violence of duck mating has been a frequent topic on this blog. The attics of Lewis and Clark (one doing a victory dance after mating, right) has already had an impact on Jemima and her suitors. They are stressed each time the new drakes swim toward them, Jemima has new wounds on her neck from mating (below), and the trio has changed their roosting locations to avoid the brutes (below right).

This illustrates the impact new animals have when thrust into an environment. It happens in every public park. At Kensington Metropark, the nature center’s staff have told me how people often drop off raccoons, squirrels, and other wildlife trapped on their properties without realizing they are influencing the park’s natural balance of wildlife-to-food-resources as well as causing friction between the established wildlife residents and the newcomers.

Jemima has a new wound on her neck as a result of repeated encounters with the new drakes

I’ve said it often but need to restate it:

It is against the law to abandon pets at the Brighton millpond. Abandoning any animal within the city limits without providing for its care and feeding is punishable with a hefty fine.

People think they are doing their unwanted pet a favor; that they will “make friends” and lead a good life in the beautiful environment. They don’t realize an urban pond holds dangers that may lead to their previously loved pet meeting a violent and painful death. It might be in the mouth of predator or against the bumper of a speeding vehicle. Since an informal group brings food in the depth of winter, starvation at our millpond is rare, but domestic ducks cannot adequately forage for themselves.

Jemima, her two suitors, and Florence have changed their roosting habits since the new drakes arrivedBefore purchasing a duck as a pet, owners need to evaluate whether they have the shelter, financial resources, and time to provide it with the care it requires. Ducks merely thrown into a backyard pond or a yard with no water feature or shelter will soon meet their demise through predation in suburban or rural areas.

People who learn too late the responsibilities of owning a duck or a small flock end up foisting their responsibilities onto others when they release them in public spaces. It also needs be noted the city does not provide any care. Many people assume the city or its public safety officers will run to rescue injured or sick animals. Nope. They cannot afford to provide such services. Abandoned pets are at the mercy of the elements and sometimes cruel or ignorant park visitors including their dogs. That’s the reality.

Oooh. A redhead has arrived

October 2nd, 2014     0 comments     permalink

The lone Redhead remained in the water all evening

The Redhead approached other ducks but kept far eough away to avoid being attackedA Redhead drake visited the Brighton millpond last evening, the first I’ve ever seen there. It’s migrating to southern states for winter. It won’t stay more than a day or so. It approached some Mallards but didn’t get too close (left). It obviously felt uncomfortable in its new environment. It spent the evening scanning for predators and attacks by resident ducks and geese. None of them seemed to care a stranger had joined the flock.

On their own now

October 2nd, 2014     0 comments     permalink

Grace is capable of keeping up with her sibling as they begin their life on their own

Grace is graceful on her one leg Grace and one of her siblings arrived without their mom, Five Toes, and the other two siblings. They are at the age where mallard hens begin leaving them to fend for themselves. I suspect that’s what happened. Grace has become such an adept swimmer I couldn’t tell she was the duckling with only had one leg until she got to shore. She had a slight problem jumping up onto the bank. Once she made it, she energetically hopped up the hillside to get her duck chow ration.

I have high hopes for her. Her life won’t be easy, but she has the fortitude to manage. She’s obvious getting enough to eat and cares for her feathers well, both signs she’s capable of being on her own.

Ducks with disabilities tend to be wary. They know they are vulnerable.

Sugar Ray usually hops to me when he sees me. I'm glad he checks in once in a while.Sugar Ray also checked in with me twice this week. He’s learned to hop efficiently and will do equally well. I wonder if both of these disabled ducks will migrate or remain at the pond this winter. It will be about six weeks before we know their decisions.