Then there were none

July 28th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

By July 19, all for chicks had been lostJuly 17:The fourth, and last, duckling of Brood 21 has been lost. Its fate unknown. Maybe the hen was a first timer. They often don’t have the parenting skills needed to keep their offspring safe or know how to lead them to nutritious food sources. I have a hunch we have a hungry hawk visiting the pond during daylight hours or a Great Horned Owl after dark. All four of the babes were lost within the first five days of their lives. I doubt the snapping turtles could be so efficient.

The UNG celebrates Brighton’s reunion

July 28th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

The sculpture titled "Decision Pending" was in a festive mood last weekendMuch to the chagrin of the sculptor, I’m sure, his “Decision Pending” life-size bronze is lovingly and unlovingly known as the “Ugly Naked Guy” (UNG) by the locals. This work of art generates an incredibly high degree of public interaction. Besides being photographed with scores of tourists, he dons costumes for almost every local event from Christmas to children’s birthday parties.

Brighton’s first annual Community Reunion was celebrated a week ago. People who had moved away were encouraged to return to their home turf. The returnees were quick to visit the UNG to have their picture taken with him. One inebriated reveler added flowers and leaves stolen from nearby gardens to the sculpture to mark the occasion, but a fig leaf wasn’t one of them.

The millpond plants get a haircut

July 28th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

The SwampThing is action

July 17: The SwampThings (they arrive as a bonded pair) came to town the first time last November and made an encore visit last week. Too bad Rube Goldberg isn’t alive to see these contraptions as they chug around the pond clipping submerged vegetation about 6″ above the bottom of the pond. Its impact is mostly cosmetic. Residents of our upscale community don’t like the unkempt appearance of surface vegetation. Granted, if surface vegetation covers too much of any pond, it can reduce the oxygen level in the water thereby killing fish and other pond creatures. But the water quality of the millpond is very good but probably gets a larger than desired dose of fertilers from upstream lawns. It’s my opinion (and only that) money could better be spend ripping out purple loosestrife and other seriously invasive plants.

The SwampThing at rest waiting to start its weed trimming The orange beasts have returned for another clipping

Mowing the plants doesn’t kill them. It merely chops up the existing stems and leaves and retards its annual growth while rattling the ecosystem a bit. While the Things’ conveyor belts collect the majority of the slashed plants, there is evidence of the slaughter along the shore (below). The roots of water lilies and other submerged species quickly send up new shoots to cover the pond again in a month or so but maybe to a lesser extent.

Not all the debris is picked up by the mower

Damaged bills on ducks

July 27th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

Several times each year, ducks and geese damage their bills near the Brighton millpond. Earlier this year, a domestic pair of Pekin ducks were dumped by their previous owner on South Ore Creek. They were named Clementine and Winston after the Churchhills by a duck aficionado named Melanie who has taken the responsibility of their care.

One of the birds suffered a savage attack on June 2oth. She lost half of her upper bill and had deep wounds on both sides of her spine which appeared to be from a coyote seen eating a duck in the same area during the winter. She was so badly injured and bloody I predicted she would live no more than an hour. It happened on a Friday night when no veterinary attention was available or sought because I was certain the amount of blood lost, bloody stools, or later infection of the wounds made rescue futile. Below are images taken a couple of hours after her attack. They are intentionally small so some readers won’t be horrified. If you are squeamish about such things, don’t click to enlarge them.

When Clementine flapped her wings, deep wounds on both sides of her spine were apparent Internal tissue was visible on her back, probably from air sacs Clementine's bill was badly damaged probably as she fled her attacker and hit a tree or other obstacle I left Clementine resting comfortably assuming she was near death

To my astonishment, Clementine not only survived but continues to thrive due to the natural healing power of ducks coupled with Melanie’s stewartship. More than a month after the attack, she reports some of Clementine’s bill has grown back (it will never completely regenerate), she is able to eat well, forage for herself, hasn’t shown any signs of infection, and quacks with vigor incessantly. Here’s to Clementine’s continued good health!

Last evening, I discovered a Mallard hen with her tongue hanging outside of her bill. I took these photos but they are inadequate to fully disclose the extent of her injury. It appears the right side of both the upper and lower bills have been damaged. She probably slammed into some object while fleeing males during mating flights.

It appears both the upper and lower bills are damaged on this Mallard hen

The good news is that she is able to eat. I fed her duck chow which she was able to pick off the ground and swallow. The wounds aren’t fresh so she’s already shown her survival skills and there is hope she continues to thrive.

The birds tongue hangs out of the right side of its mouth The injury is not fresh, no blood was seen

She sustained no other injuries and is able to fly so she will be left at liberty at the millpond. Repairing her bill is, frankly, out of the question. It would require extraordinary veterinary skills and extensive rehabilitation which would cost a great deal of money.

The hen flies well and can eat

It would be wonderful if duck bills could be easily and inexpensively repaired, but the chance of that happening is virtually nil. Any vet willing to embark on creating customized prosthetic bills has a huge learning curve with very little possibility of making it a viable revenue stream in his practice. It would have to be a labor of love. With minor bill injuries, ducks and geese learn to cope. We have at least six right now with notched bills. With major bill injuries, the birds soon die from starvation.

The summer molting of ducks

July 27th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

Some millpond ducks are Molting now. The males are entering their dull “eclipse plumage” and the females are dropping flight feathers since most of the ducklings have hatched. This feather with its iridescent blues/greens, is from the Speculum of a Mallard, the brightly colored Secondary Feathers on the trailing edge of their wings. Both males and females have these colored feather patches, but they are often hidden under other feathers until the bird spreads its wings. Colorful feathers like these brought many bird species near extinction when they were collected in the early 20th Century for the insatiable hat trade. Federal law made mere possession of migratory bird feathers a serious crime and the laws remain in effect.

A feather from the speculum of a Mallard duck

Feathers don’t last forever. The daily activity of ducks beats them up so nature replaces them during two molts a year. The annual cycle for Mallards is explained on the Ducks Unlimited site. Drakes shed both body and wing feathers after the mating season and wear their eclipse plumage until late fall when they go through a partial molt that makes they irresistible to the hens. The old feathers are pushed out by new feather growth.

For about two weeks, the drakes are grounded so they are more vulnerable to predators and rivals within the flock. Currently, several males at the millpond are being brutalized by fellow drakes. More about that in a later post. Feathers are composed of protein so the birds’ protein requirements increase and their intake can influence the quality of the feathers they will wear for at lest 4-6 months. Blood courses through the growing feather’s rachis (center shaft) making feathers heavier than normal. Once feathers reach full size, blood flow ends so the rachises become lighter and hollow. The anatomy of feathers is explained at About.com.

The Rose of Sharon Hotel

July 27th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

Rose of Sharon is a perennial relative of the tropical hibiscus

Each branch of this Rose of Sharon is loaded with flowers and buds ready to popSurrounded by asphalt parking lots and a building, this large Rose of Sharon shrub is blooming its heart out in downtown Brighton. The 12 foot tall tree must have a couple of thousand open blooms on it right now with a myriad of buds waiting for their time to entice insects to scatter their pollen.

Related to the tropical hibiscus, Rose of Sharon isn’t a rose at all. It’s a hearty bloomer in late summer when most other northern perennials have finished their performances. There are several in the downtown area, and I’ve posted midsummer blooms in prior years here.

One of the minor pleasures of photographing flowers at night is discovering unexpected beings horning in on the publicity I give the flowers. I discovered a katydid was an overnight guest on one of the flowers when I viewed the images at home on my large monitor. It’s below at my camera’s maximum resolution. Had I realized he was there when I photographed him, I might have given him more attention.

A katydid finds a flower the perfect overnight lodge

Slowly emptying the nest

July 25th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

Five ducklings remain with the Brood 7 hen but four others have done off on their own

The hen for Brood 7 is in line to become the Brighton millpond’s Hen of the Year. She hatched five of her own chicks on May 21 then adopted nine more from two different broods. Of the fourteen in her diligent care, nine have reached adulthood. Now that they are two months old, they are slowly leaving the family group. She only has five staying at her side now. Some may stick around until they can fly within the next four weeks, but they might become independent before that happens. Mom is the bird in the center in front of the duck in the background, above.

Ducks usually heal quickly on their own

July 25th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

After five days, the hen with Brood 22 is almost entirely healed

Park visitors are sometimes dismayed by wounded ducks they see when they visit the millpond. Drakes as well as hens are often brutalized during the mating season which is at its peak April through July. In addition, birds are wounded by dogs and predators including the pond’s large snapping turtles. The hen with Brood 22 arrived with fresh head wounds (probably from an unsuccessful predator attack) on July 18. In a matter of five days, the wounds are almost entirely healed (above). New feathers will cover her bald spots in a few weeks.

Visitors sometimes capture injured birds in an effort to help them. It’s usually unwise because of the stress and additional injury it can bring. Unless injuries are very serious, it’s best to allow Nature to handle the healing. If you find an injured waterfowl you are sure needs medical attention, alert the Wildernest Store on Brighton’s Main Street. They can have someone evaluate the injury and transport the bird to a licensed wildlife specialist. Most pet veterinarians are not licenced to treat wild birds and critters.

It’s time for daylilies

July 25th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

The center of many daylily varieties have contrasting colors

These are the daylilies I used to create the desktop patternThere is a hillside beside the pond loaded with daylilies that are just beginning to bloom. They are of the Fulvous variety which can be invasive in some situations but they look great along the steep bank at the cemetery. The city of Brighton has planted many cultivated daylilies near city hall. They are already in full bloom adding splashes of summer color near the millpond.

Click this image to download the 1920 X 1200 pixel desktop patternThe daylilies shown here are photos I’ve taken this past week along with a pattern I created (1920×1200) you might enjoy downloading to brighten your computer’s desktop. Just click it for the pattern (right) to download it (618k).

You can expect to see dramatic clumps of these flowers on a visit to the millpond for at least the next month. They like the hot weather August brings.

These daylilies are more than five inches in diameter

Brood 22: Dazzling Swedes?

July 24th, 2014     1 comment     permalink

The eight ducklings and mom (top center) enjoy their new home

The duckling in Brood 22 with the largest white bibJuly 19: The day after they arrived, I had a chance to photograph Brood22 in daylight. Two of the ducklings are clearly full blood Mallards (foreground, above) that look like their mother (with wounds, top center).

The other six look like Black Swedish ducks because of the white bibs (left) on four of them, but I think they are more likely Dazzle’s offspring due to their iridescent greens and blues.

Genes can do unexpected things. Perhaps mixing Cayuga and Mallard stock can produce white bibs? Bibs aren’t a trait of pure bred Cayugas, but all of these ducklings have dark bills and legs/feet identical to Dazzle’s. All eight ducklings and their mom appear to be quite happy in their new environment. They mingle with the other ducks and grab their share of the goodies park visitors toss to the flock. The hen is probably a former resident of the millpond and left to raise her brood where she could avoid being pestered by the millpond’s abundant drakes.

One of the Brood22 ducklings One of the Brood22 ducklings One of the Brood22 ducklings
One of the Brood22 ducklings One of the Brood22 ducklings One of the Brood22 ducklings

Dazzle: Love hurts

July 24th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

Dazzle was limping Wednesday night

I suppose it was inevitable. Dazzle has been chasing hens throughout the mating season and a few of the drakes haven’t been especially thrilled by his conduct. Today, he was limping and has a wound on his left leg. He probably ran into the cement edge of the pond or another obstacle fleeing one of the boys. It’s a superficial wound, but he’s obviously favoring the leg. I treated it with a wound dressing sprayed from a few feet away that should protect it from infection. I’m sure he’ll make a speedy recovering. He’ll still have time to delight several females before the summer is over.

The wound before treatment (left), and after being sprayed with Scarlet Oil, a disinfectant (right).

The wound on his leg wasn't too serious The wound was sprayed to prevent infection

Stag parties updsidedown at the millpond

July 23rd, 2014     4 comments     permalink

The size of its mandibles tells me it's proably a female

A Stag Beetle flails on the sidewalk upsidedownI don’t know how Stag Beetles survive without human crisis management. I found this one “dancing.” His six legs were flailing back and forth as he lay on his back on Monday night. If I hadn’t turned it over, I think it would still be dancing tonight.

Then again, maybe they can easily right themselves but there is some advantage to lying on their backs and waving their legs. Maybe it’s an invitation for mates to party. It seems inconceivable they don’t have a surefire method to flip over.

There are 1,200 species of Stag Beetles. It’s anyone’s guess which one this is.

Another frog poses for Fringo!

July 23rd, 2014     0 comments     permalink

Green Frog at the Brighton millpondI haven’t seen many frogs lately, but this one wanted his portrait taken so I obliged.

It’s a Green Frog, No, I’m not talking about her color. It’s the name of this species which can be as large as bull frogs, but you can tell them apart by the fold above its “ear” (tympanum) that runs along the back on each side. Close up of the latest Green Frog photographed at the Brighton millpondBull frogs don’t have that, but Green Frogs do. This is a female. You can tell by the size of the tympanum. Males’ are larger than the eye. This is the tenth frog to become part of the 2014 edition of Fringo! If you find a frog at the millpond, photograph it. If it matches one of the Fringo frogs, you’ll win a pound of duck chow.

Beautiful smotherers

July 22nd, 2014     0 comments     permalink

Seen from above, individual loosestrife plants can have 30-50 spires of flowers producing 2.5 million seeds annually

Each spire is covered with flowers that produce enormous quantities of seedsNo Brighton millpond plant is showier than Purple Loosestrife (PDF). By mid-summer the plants can reach more than six feet tall and have 30-50 flower covered spires. Too bad the plant is an invasive species that could eventually crowd out most of the other shoreline water plants.

loosestrife_4302_225I’m unaware of any effort to eradicate loosestrife from the millpond. The best method is to hand dig the plants making sure no root tissue is left to sprout again. The chances of that being done are slim due to the cost and labor required.

There is a less labor intensive method that’s been used since the 1990s. Have beetles do the heavy lifting! There are four species of beetles that find loosestrife delicious yet don’t bother other plants. They have been successfully introduced in several locations in the state with encouraging results. Eventually, some beetles will find their way to Brighton if they aren’t already here. I haven’t searched for them.

Cattails flourish at the northern end of the Brighton millpondCattails appear to hold their own where stands of loosestrife aren’t out of control. At the northern end of the millpond, the two species seem to play nicely together with many other plants including scrubby willows, elderberry, a tall decorative species of grass, and at least two varieties of milkweed.

The northern area, however, isn’t popular with any of the waterfowl this year. There must be a reason. Perhaps the birds sense danger from newly arrived predators. In 2013, the area was heavily used by the resident birds. Certainly there are enough food resources for the birds there, and the water quality is good.

 

Curfews Stink: Midnight milling at the millpond

July 21st, 2014     2 comments     permalink

skunks_4468_600

I met some new millpond residents Saturday night. They were heading toward Main Street at 11:00pm. I had visions of carnage under the wheels of tires as revelers arrived at the bars, but they turned back several times because of the lights and noise.

skunks1_4461_321 skunks1b_4472_249

I spent a couple of hours playing cat and mouse with these polecats as they darted for cover inside a wooden shed attached to the Old Town Hall, the raised bed full of shrubs, and the lawn between the Veteran’s Memorial and the Hall. As I did it, I consciously kept what I thought was a safe distance so I wouldn’t wear a new fragrance home.

skunks7a_4426_228 skunks8b_4424_165 skunks8c_4425_167
skunks4a_4417_181 skunks4b_4445_169 skunks4c_4420_210

The four kits are all individually marked so they could be easily identified if I happen to see them again by comparing these shots to new ones. They probably won’t stay in the area for long, however, although Wikipedia says they remain with their mother for almost a year if they avoid the usual traumas that beset skunks. These rodents rarely live more than a year or so and are crepuscular, most active at dusk and dawn. Mom kept them up past midnight on Saturday for a hike to fill their bellies near Main Street on a warm summer night.

skunks5a_4414_296 skunks5b_4438_275

Their tails serve several purposes. They make the animals appear larger than they are and can warn critters (like me) to keep their distance. But for predators too hungry to mind the possibility of a stink bath, grabbing the tail might allow the skunk to escape because the long hairs disguise a slender rat-like tail.

skunks6a_4413_219 skunks6b_4439_351

Bushy tails also mask the number of animals traveling together. In several of these shots, you can’t tell where one animal ends and another begins. The kits snuggle against mom as they move; the family looks like one animal instead of five individual dinners entrees.

skunks7a_4441_328 skunks7b_4446_242

Mom usually leads the way when the family travels, but the youngsters also explore on their own. One entered the Veteran’s Memorial and ran around the enclosed space for ten minutes looking for a way to flee without getting close to me. I was at the entrance.

skunks2b_4452_166 skunks3a_4453_160 skunks3c_4513_232

He tried to climb inside the inset light (below, center) thinking the light was an exit. As he stood with his nose to the light, it looked like he was attempting to make a withdrawal from an ATM machine for critters. Eventually, he escaped my camera and ran in the opposite direction of where his family was located. I wondered how he would reunite with them later since he was 100 yards away when I last saw him. The moms probably hear their calls (or visa-versa) and they may be at a pitch humans can’t hear. Nature has ways to work out such things.

skunks2a_4455_126 skunks2b_4495_111 skunks2c_4517_324

After the fact, I discovered I was within the range of mama’s wrath if she had wanted to spray me. Skunks can reach 10-18 feet with their rear end cannons. I’ll remember that at my next encounter. If you are less fortunate than me, the tried and true tomato juice neutralization isn’t the best way to rid yourself of the stench. Baking soda, vinegar, and mild chlorine bleach solutions are better choices for eliminating skunk odor. Read up on the methods now so you or your pet won’t have to wallow in the odor for the few extra minutes it will take to look them up online.

An enigma inside a millpond mystery

July 19th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

The color in this image is not correct but shows all of the ducklings

Six of the ducks are either Black Swedish / Mallard mixes or DazzlersNow this is truly puzzling: A brood consisting of eight ducklings that are almost grown was seen at the pond for the first time Friday evening. Since they are still too young to fly, the hen must have walked them in from a nearby pond.

Coincidently, I stopped to photograph a family of ducks at a pond about a half mile upstream from the Brighton millpond on July 16 because I noticed many of the ducklings were black (two photos below). At the time, I thought the black ducklings were probably part Black Swedish, a breed of domestic ducks with white chest patches. Since the “Swede Sisters” sired a few drakes last year, these youngsters might be grandchildren of one of them.

Then again, these young black ducks may be Dazzle’s spawn. He’s a cad and can fly to distant ponds to charm hens. I use the term, “charm,” in its broadest sense. For such a small drake he’s still capable of  forcing his affections on hens even though he doesn’t appear to be very good at it. No iridescent offspring have floated in the millpond since his arrival in January of 2012. from his studly conduct. Maybe the hens at other ponds are more receptive to him because they haven’t heard of his cavalier reputation.

Six of the ducks are black The family at a nearby pond

Why would a hen quickly wander from a pond with her youngsters in tow? From the disappearance of the swan family a few weeks ago after the loss of their second cygnet, I think waterfowl can sense when their current environment is too dangerous to remain.

Four of the black ducklings have white chest patches Two of the young are typical Mallard ducklings

The brood’s head has two fresh gashes on it, one on each side (below). Perhaps a mink tried to make a kill and was thrown off. A larger predator would have made a kill, but a small mammal may have bitten more than it could subdue.

The hen has fresh wounds on both sides of her head

2014 Brood 22

July 19th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

Hen Mallard with fresh wounds on both sides of her head
Drake(s) None nearby
DOB (estimate) May 24
Pond Location Near Imagination Station
1st Meeting Near Imagination Station at dusk
Duckling Count 8 verified, July 18. First time seen, ducklings are about 8 weeks old.

This brood must have walked in from another pond. The young are almost adult sized, about 8 weeks old. Six of them are black, two have Mallard coloration. Of the black ones, four have white bibs of various sizes and patterns on their chests. They might be offspring of Dazzle, but they could also be Mallard/Black Swedish mixes.

The hen has two fresh gashes on her head, one on each side.


See all posts about Brood 22 together on one page: 2014Brood22

Cuddling up on chilly nights

July 17th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

The ducklings still like to cuddle on cold eveningsIt feels like Autumn. The freakish drop of cold air from the far north has the 5-7 week old ducklings cuddling up again just like they did when they were first hatched. Perhaps they haven’t built up their insulating body fat layer that protects the older birds all winter long.

Mom is front and center. You can see how her ducklings are almost her size now. Within another 3-4 weeks, they will be taking their first flights. Most of them will be living independently by then although some hens keep the kids under their tight control until they are at least three months old.

Brood 21 arrives after weeks without hatchings

July 17th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

The Mallard hen arrived with 4 day old ducklings on July 14

The hen has a bright white eyebrow

The duck nesting season started on May 13. By June 1, we had 15 broods hatch 96 duckings, a 50% increase over 2013. But the good news stopped by June 5 with a total of 18 broods hatching a total of 112. Since that time, only two more broods have hatched with a total of 5 ducklings. In 2013, 48 ducklings hatched from six broods in the same six week period.

The extended winter might have influenced the mating/nesting season start time, but that doesn’t explain the sharp increase in hatchings. The pond’s duck population did not seem larger than previous years

The following night, the hen arrived with only two ducklings in towArrival of Brood 21 was a pleasant surprise after the weeks without any newborns. The hen arrived with only four on their first day (above). Two were lost to turtles or other predators within the first 24 hours (right and below).

I haven’t had time to thoroughly document the survival rate of the various broods yet this year, but my gut tells me it’s far below last year’s. The northern end of the millpond is almost devoid of ducks now when last year several broods summered there. I identified the hen by the eyebrow and freckles on her billWe have a family of raccoons visiting trash bins each night along the millpond trail. I think they are taking a major toll on hens sitting on nests and the eggs they are incubating.

Several of the consistently productive hens are missing and presumed dead, the swan family has left the pond entirely, and geese are not frequenting the northern region either. It could be an indication of excessive predation from turtles or a fox or coyote roaming the shoreline.

2014 Brood 21

July 16th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

Hen Mallard with light eyebrow
Drake(s) None nearby
DOB (estimate) July 15
Pond Location Near Main Street
1st Meeting On embankment by Imagination Station at night
Duckling Count 4 verified, July 16; Only two by July 17; Only one left by July 18

See all posts about Brood 21 together on one page: 2014Brood21

A hightailed exit; a mulberry moment

July 14th, 2014     6 comments     permalink

A chipmunk demonstrates "hightailing" for me

As a prey species, Eastern Chipmunks are quick to run for cover. This one demonstrates his ability to evade my attempt to snap his portrait. Even though it’s a blurred image, I just might submit this photo to a dictionary web site since it perfectly defines “hightailing.”

Chipmunks also have their tranquil moments. Below, one enjoys the sweet goodness of a ripe mulberry in the afternoon sunshine behind the Wooden Spoon restaurant. The wait staff won’t fault him for his less-than-grateful restaurant manners when they find he only left a purple tip.

A chipmunk takes a moment to relish the sweet goodness of a mulberry behind the Wooden Spoon restaurant

Insects fit for a king

July 14th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

An Eastern Kingbird waits for his next meal atop tree roots at the Brighton millpond

Years ago, a tree toppled in the bay south of the Stillwater Grill. The soil has been washed from the root system by rains. It’s a perfect perch for Eastern Kingbirds that come from South America to summer at the Brighton millpond. The Cornel Lab of Ornitology describes the species as wearing “business suits” with their dark bodies and white chests. They perch waiting for delicious insects to fly into their territory. Out they fly to nab one in midair and usually return to the same perch to wait for the next course to come within range.The second bird in the photo may be an English Sparrow but I’m hoping a commenter enlightens us. Never bet on my birding skills.

Turtle v. Muskrat: A frightening moment

July 14th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

A muskrat enjoys a repast of bread near the cemetery

The adult muskrat made a routine run to the boardwalk where millpond park visitors toss bread to the turtles between the cemetery and Stillwater Grill. He is quick to gather up the pieces of bread if he can reach them before the turtles and bluegills do. Last night, the muskrat was closing in on a piece of bread at the same speed as one of the large snapping turtles. The horrified observers began to scream thinking they were about to see the beheading of the rodent in the gapping mouth of the snapper. Fortunately, the turtle got there a millisecond before the rodent. His jaws snapped shut on the bread and may have gotten a whisker or two as a garnish. The muskrat lived to gather bread for another day. Whew.

New girl in town or an old flame?

July 14th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

The hen is colored by the pink in the sunset

The bird looks a lot like Moxie who left us last fallJuly 11: We had a special guest appearance at the millpond on Friday night, a female Mandarin duck. It may be a new bird, but it may be Moxie who left the millpond last fall.

I don’t think it’s the Mandarin hen who arrived with the two white Mandarins in December. It lacks the red area on the bill above its nostrils and the “nail,” the tip of the bill, appears darker.

Moxie’s bill markings are similar but to confirm it’s Moxie, I’ll have to see her out of the water. She wears a leg band and is quick to threaten other birds when they get in her way even if they are twice her size.

A close up of the rear feathers looks like the brushstrokes in a painting by Francis BaconBoth of these images show some digital photo anomalies due to the low light conditions and the duck’s fast movements. Some parts of the photos look like rapidly painted strokes done by Francis Bacon, an Abstract Expressionist favorite of mine in the 1960s when I was a hungry Wayne State art student.

"Study for a Crouching Nude" by Francis Bacon, 1952The Detroit Institute of Art was open Tuesday evenings back then. I walked from campus to do my homework on a comfortable sofa in the main court. The light was nice, the Rivera murals surrounded me, and ashtrays were plentiful. The public environment and the trickle of the fountain kept me from falling asleep reading dull subjects needed to graduate.

Bacon’s “Study for a Crouching Nude” (1952, right) wasn’t far from the fountain court and a destination on my study breaks. It, along with a few other works in the DIA collection, has influenced my love for ambiguous images for the past 50 years.

It’s curious how certain things embed themselves in our brains because they enter our lives at a receptive moment. They’re often inconsequential things, too, rather than big events. I have a clearer mental image of this painting than who pitched the world series game I attended in 1968. Was it Mickey Lolich or Denny McLain? Selective memories shape us yet we don’t seem to make the decisions of what is placed in our memory banks.

Sorbet is growing fast

July 11th, 2014     2 comments     permalink

Sorbet is quickly becoming an adult as he grows his first adult feathers

Always curious and ready for a handout, Sorbet is good at dodging the adult ducks and geeseIt’s astonishing how quickly ducklings grow. Hatched May 27th with nine siblings, Sorbet is the lone survivor of Brood 15, Just shy of 6 weeks old, it has most of its adult feathers and is about two-thirds the size of an adult.

Sorbet is skilled in dodging adults when handouts are tossed. It’s learned to avoid goose parents who are quick to inflict painful pokes to birds getting close to their offspring.

Its bill looks like it will remain bright orange and black although his father’s (Parfait) is less bright now that he’s a year old. I think Sorbet is a female but the gender of mongrel ducks is hard to identify. By January, we’ll know as it either starts making goo-goo eyes at the drakes or receives them from amorous hens picking favorites in advance of March/April mating.

Summer yellows and whites

July 11th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

There are a number of summer flowers in Brighton’s millpond park now and most of them are either white or yellow. In the harsh light of midday, they aren’t particularly noticeable, but once evening light and full darkness brings the wattage down, they can be spotted against the very green backgrounds with the help of my flash attachment.

Wild Phlox beside a mature cherry tree at the Brighton millpond I have the annoying habit of rattling on when I have some data bouncing around inside my head. But, as a wildflower ignoramous, I’m almost speechless to the delight of a number of people. I try to find information online but it’s frustrating. A close up of the flowers of wild phlox at the Brighton millpond

First of all, if you haven’t noticed, the world has a lot of plants covering its hide. Secondly, there are great online sites for horticulturalists and great sites for botanists, but they often have conflicting names and information. Home gardeners aren’t to be trusted at all. <smile> They may get their knowledge from the next door neighbor or cousin when handed a seedling.

I thought the white flowers (above) were Wild Phlox, but the centers of the flowers don’t look the same as online photos. There are several Michigan varieties to confuse me, too.

Yellow flowers near the millpond Evening Primrose at the Brighton millpond Evening Primrose at the Brighton millpond

I found a tall stalk of yellow blooms (above left) and have no idea what the plant is, but I know the other two above are definitely Evening Primrose. I’m almost sure the ground cover this year’s long-eared taste tester loves (below) is Meadow Vetchling. If you have more knowledge than me, leave a comment so other readers will be better informed than this not so humble blogger.

yellow_6450_600

A gosling with a drooping wing

July 11th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

A young Canada goose has a drooping left wing

Geese parents know which gosling are theirs, but for the life of me, I can’t figure out how they know. All goslings look alike to me. When gosling from several families intermingle, the parents will attack chicks that aren’t their own after the quickest of glances. The only way I can identify a particular goose is when something is amiss. One gosling in a family with seven siblings has a left wing that droops. It isn’t broken. I’ve seen it move in its full range, but at rest, it’s lowered.

The wing is capable of full movement but droops when in its resting stateWill it be able to fly south with its family this fall? Perhaps. It has months to build its strength but we’ve had injured geese winter at the pond and they survive with the 100 or so ducks that remain. NONE of the geese or their children can fly now. The adults have dropped their flight feathers and are growing new ones along with their kid’s growing their first set. In a month, both parents and children will take to the sky. Meanwhile, they seek safe roosting locations at the millpond nightly. Some move to the center of the pond while others seek pondside berths in open areas so they can watch for predators coming from all directions.

Last night something frightened all of the geese away from one of their prime roosting areas beside city hall. The birds that usually rest there (including this droopster) moved to the gazebo. An unleashed dog (some people think it’s fun to let their dogs chase the birds) or a fox/coyote probably charged the birds before I arrived. Frantically fleeing danger may be how this young bird injured its wing last week.

Pick me! Pick me! I’m very bright!

July 11th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

Photographed on double paned glass, the firefly is reflected many times below itself

We called them Lightning Bugs in this region although they are truly “beetles,” not “bugs. Their more common name is Fireflies. They’re so common here on warm summer nights their miraculous ability to illuminate themselves to attract mates is essentially ignored. Kids still find wonder in their bioluminescence, but their parents yawn having seen it often before.

A Lightning Bug rests on a painted wall after being attracted to a porch lightThe Wikipedia article at the above link states all larvae of the 2,000 species of fireflies glow. It’s a warning to predators they aren’t edible due to toxins inside them. They live in the ground from the time the eggs are laid until they are ready to take flight (about 4 weeks). They must not come to the surface during their subterranean childhood. I don’t remember ever seeing tiny worm like creatures glow in the dirt.

The two photos in this post were taken of the beetle attracted to a porch light. The image at the top was shot as it perched on dirty double pane glass. Hence its overexposure and multiple reflections below it. It’s always amazed me how insects can get a grip on glass with such small feet.