Toes: Who needs them?

April 19th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

A mallard drake with a foot injured by a turtle

I became aware of this unnamed duck late last fall. I’m sure his loss of toes is from a turtle bite. The wounds were entirely healed by the time I met him. He’s learned to carry on his life very well. Other than a slight limp, he moves quickly and the condition of his feathers and round body indicates he’s healthy. I suspect he’ll thrive as well as Abe has done since his injury in September, 2012.

The left foot is missing webbing between two toes and the inner toe is obviously brokenEach year,  at least a half dozen millpond ducks survive encounters with large snapping turtles that are the main predators of ducklings and their parents for the spring-early fall seasons. Turtles bite their feet from below and pull them down to drown and eat them. Ducks that survive often have horrific wounds and eventually lose toes or an entire foot. Yet their wounds usually heal without medical intervention unless infection overcomes them.

I believe we’ve lost Annabelle and Willaby , but both ducks lived good lives for quite some time after their injuries even though both had to paddle with only one foot.

There are many other unnamed ducks, that have significant foot injuries but they carry on their lives pretty well. The one pictured here (left and below) has lost all of its webbing between two left toes and two toes appear to be broken on the same foot. The injuries were sustained last summer yet he manages, is of normal weight, and takes good care of his feathers. Those are good signs he’s healthy and forages well.

This bird takes good care of himself

Bonded life agrees with Bacall

April 19th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

Dumpling watches every move his love makes

Quiet and poised, Bacall is a happy, satisfied mate with DumplingFrom her abandonment with Bogie by previous owners last May, Bacall has rattled on and on. As I’ve mentioned before, her constant yammering may have caused the two to be dumped at the pond due to neighborhood complaints. Now that she and Dumpling are honeymooning in the central area of the millpond, she’s dead quiet.

Dumpling and Bacall viewed the chow I gave them as if it was a precious thingOf course all of her needs are being met by the charming and solicitous drake who has courted her since last summer. His chances improved once Bogie became dinner for a local predator. Now she leads, he follows; ever the gentleman. If he wore a coat, he’d gallantly fling it over puddles in her path. They float side by side along the shoreline finding things to eat as they trade intimate glances. She might already being laying eggs in some hidden nest. Bet I find it once she starts sitting on them. The cruise the shoreline in well bonded blissDumpling will stay nearby for a few days at least. Then I suspect another hen will catch his eye and reward his courtly manners.

Drakes aren’t known to remain faithful for the 28 days it takes to hatch eggs. They rarely help mom raise her brood. In fact, he or another drake will try to persuade her to leave the little darlings to fend for themselves so she can find bliss bringing his prodigies into the world. Yeah. Drakes are pigs.

Spring: RWBs better indicator than robins

April 19th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

Robins get the media attention when spring arrives, but when the RWBs come back to Michigan shorelines, that’s a true sign spring is approaching. Some flocks of robins stick around all winter here subsisting on berries and seeds while virtually all RWBs in the northern tier of states migrate southward before the snow flies. The millpond RWBs arrived about three weeks ago just as the edges of the ponds began to melt in the marsh areas.

A male red-winged blackbird perches close enough for me to photograph him as he challenges a rival in his territory

RWB is birder lingo for Red-Winged Blackbird which is Anglo lingo for memeskoniinisi in Odawa, an Anishinaabe language of the Ojibwa in southern Ontario and Michigan.

While RWBs are viewed as pests in farm country, they bring action to the millpond marches as they guard their territories from rival males and announce predator arrivals. Those red epaulets and yellow wing bands look more vibrant on their sleek, black bodies. Especially in the golden light near sunset as shown here up close as well as zoomed back to show his shoreline perch.

The same image zoomed out to show it's shoreline perch

Double dating ducks

April 18th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

Two Mallard pairs double date on the Brighton millpond

Almost all of the millpond ducks have paired up and scattered from one end of the pond to the other. These two bonded pairs relax during an evening float. If the drakes weren’t familiar with each other, they would surely not allow this familiarity with their chosen mates. Maybe floating with friends gives both drakes more protection from rogue males seeking a Thursday evening romp with an unprotected hen. Disputes happen in all directions now, the peak of the spring mating season. These two couples ignore them and enjoy the sun as it heads toward the horizon.

You can download a 1920×1200 pixel desktop pattern of this image zoomed back a bit to highlight the patterns and colors in the rippled water. It might take a while. It’s 811k.

Winterkill

April 18th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

The largest Largemouth bass I've seen at the Brighton millpond

I probably dwell on death at the millpond more than some readers find comfortable. No worries. I’m not psychotic. I don’t take pleasure finding carcasses. I do, however, feel it’s important to face the end of lives rather than avoid them. Sometimes it’s to honor the deceased or to acknowledge the tough lives wild creatures lead in an environment most people assume is idyllic. Now that I’m older, I also have to admit I find death profound and beautiful. I’m no longer frightened by it. It’s the final destination of life when peace without pain enfolds all of us. Essentially, it’s a tribute.

No one can walk the millpond trail now without seeing dead fish. The long winter has taken its toll. It stares at you with opaque porcelain eyes like those of the largest largemouth bass I have ever seen in the millpond (above). Panfish bleach in the early spring sun as they thaw. Turtles haven’t revived from winter hibernation but there will be plenty for them to eat this year. With full bellies and slow digestion, perhaps they’ll consume fewer ducks.

Detail of Winterkill with colors shiftedIn the cold water, leaves from oaks and maples wait to decay. In areas near shore, they rest in thick layers of drab colors that only hint at their original autumn hues. The stark assemblage of sharp shapes and bottomless shadows remind us of what we’ve endured especially when it is garnished with a dead bluegill (below).

I prepared a second image from the same frame sans fish and rotated (right). Both images are through a reflected gauze of blue from the clear spring sky.

Winterkill #1

Nature collides with commerce

April 18th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

The duck died on Grand River Avenue near the north end of the millpond

The nameless duck was distinctively markedA domestic/mallard hybrid died on Grand River Avenue this week. How it happened is unknown, but I imagine it fits the typical spring pattern. This is the mating season and drakes become hell bent on transmitting their genes.

Besides their relentless pursuit of hens, males chase their rivals. The short sprints sometimes end in collisions with vehicles along Grand River and Main Street.

This duck is most likely the one killed on Grand River AvenueThe drake killed is a large hybrid of domestic (Buff Orpington?) and mallard stock. He was the only duck with this unusual white neck markings. For the past two years, he’s been a “rogue male,” a drake who prefers cruising the pond with his buddies seeking encounters with numerous hens rather than settling down with just one boring hen who cramps his free wheeling style.

Urban ponds like ours set the stage for death. Not only are there an abundance of ducks, the pond is surrounded by streets filled with moving vehicles to swat them out of the air. Mallards fly at 40-55 mph, even faster when chased, but they can’t dodge cars and trucks when their focus is on evading drakes or reaching an attractive hen before their competitors.

Bricks and water

April 17th, 2014     6 comments     permalink

Reflections of the Old Village Town Hall in Brighton in the water at the dam

Here’s another image taken at the Brighton millpond dam. The bright afternoon sun illuminates the bricks on the Old Village Townhall and contrasts with the darkening sky in the flame-like reflections just before the water leaves the pond.

Surf and Turf Wars

April 16th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

The swan and goose nests re separated by an island of cattails

Since King Arthur’s death this winter, three swans have cased the Brighton millpond to set up shop. This past week, a bonded pair found the bay south of Stillwater Grill a suitable neighorhood to raise a family. There’s only one problem: They don’t like their neighbors, a pair of Canada geese moved in ahead of them for their second year at this site. Swans find ducks amusing, but geese trigger some long-standing Hatfield/McCoy feud embedded in their genes. Canada geese know a crazed neighbor when they see one and do their best to not provoke them. In past years, I’ve seen parents sneak goslings through shoreline underbrush to avoid a cob (male swan) guarding his territory.

The swan and goose nests are separated by a cattail island as shown above. When the gander swims in the bay, the cob convinces him to return home on the other side of the island.

It's a script they follow. The gander comes out, the cob chases him back The gander leads the swan away from his nest

The cob occasionally advances to the front door of the goose abode nest and fluffs up in rage as they stand their ground (below). On one occasion, the cob harassed the goose and her mate snuck in the back entrance to the nest and stood next to her in solidarity (below). Once the kids hatch, the geese will find a safe place to roost with their youngsters. The swan family will probably return to their nest for a while until the water and night air warms.

The cob isn't puffed up to look pretty. He's furious. The Canada geese stand firm at their nest

One of the swans has a healed wound on its lower neck. Feathers are missing on the front and a protrusion is evident on its left side (below left). It might be from a gun shot or arrow, but it could also be from a tree branch it hit when coming in for a landing. The state is currently culling our state’s mute swan population from about 15,000 down to 2,300 by 2030 because they are extremely territorial and don’t allow native species to nest near them. Locals wouldn’t might if the swan evicts the goose family. Most residents feel the goose population is greater than it should be.

One of the swans has a healed wound on its long neck The wound might be from an arrow or gun shot On the other side of the cattails, the swans have established their own nest

The swans are still building their nest in the cattails (above right). Cygnets will hatch in early June unless the eggs are taken by predators or humans.

Stanley needs an image makeover

April 16th, 2014     3 comments     permalink

It’s humbling to blog. My errors are right here for the world to see.

Stanley is a female Rouen duck

From comparing millpond ducks to photos found online, I pegged the four large brown domestic ducks dumped on the pond last summer as Rouen Clairs, an offshoot from Rouens. They were abandoned in two pairs at different times: Bogie and Bacall; Stella and Stanley.

Rusty has convinced me I’m wrong. He’s bonded with Stanley and they are setting up housekeeping in the bay south of the Stillwater Grill. Since same sex waterfowl pairings aren’t common, I did some more duck identification research online. It turns out Stanley and Bogie weren’t Rouen Clair drakes or Rouen Clairs at all. They are Rouen hens. I should have known she was a hen. Look at how beautiful she is as she quacks sweet nothings with the infatuated Rusty (on left, above).

The Rouen has a chipped bill but is doing fine

Stella and Stanley Kowalski were named at Wanda’s suggestion because domestic ducks at the pond “have always depended on the kindness of strangers,” a line uttered by Blanche Dubois in Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire. But Stanley doesn’t look like a Blanche to me. Blanche was fragile and troubled. Stanley is a duck with heft and endurance as evident by her surviving with a chipped bill (above), the result of an unknown mishap after her pond debut. I’m open to a new name for Rusty’s temporary sweetheart.

Don’t buy ducklings and bunnies at Easter

April 15th, 2014     1 comment     permalink

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Meet George and Beatrice

April 13th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

George S. Patton, the upright drake at the Brighton millpondGeorge is an unusual duck. None of the other millpond ducks have his upright posture. His ancestry is unknown but in addition to Mallard genes, he probably sports Buff Orpington and Indian Runner stock in his family tree. He’s big, solid, and always stands tall. For the past two years, he’s roosted directly in front of the site of the new Veterans Memorial at night. Maybe that’s why he stands at attention whenever he’s on land. I’ve named him George S. Patton though he doesn’t appear to have a fighting spirit or be an Alpha Duck.

Beatrice is a dark phase Mallard henGeorge’s wife, Beatrice, has a fitting name for our drake’s bonded partner this spring. She’s a normally sized, rather mousy brunette, a fine example of the dark phase of Mallard hens. It’s too early to know if the pair will produce offspring, but we might have more ducks at attention by fall.

Millpond: Micro-Cosmos

April 13th, 2014     1 comment     permalink

Rapids below the Brighton Millpond Dam #1 With a few tweaks, the rapids become the cosmos

Winter continues to leave the watershed via South Ore Creek. The Brighton millpond is just one of the pools it passes through on its way to Lake Erie and, eventually, the Atlantic Ocean. The higher than usual discharge is only noticeable at the dam where the additional water swirls and bubbles as it tumbles six feet before it enters the culvert.

After photographing the turbulence, I realized the patterns in the water resemble clouds of gases I’ve seen in photos of the heavens from the Hubble telescope. So I fiddled with the image on the left, above. I sandwiched it with a photo of stars from NASA and gave it a dash of heavenly colors and adjusted the froth to look more gaseous. Bingo! It’s ready for the sequel of Star Wars.

Rapids below the Brighton Millpond Dam #2 Rapids below the Brighton Millpond Dam #3
This playful exercise shows is how the principles of Nature are constant whether they are expressed in a small Michigan stream or the entire Cosmos.
Rapids below the Brighton Millpond Dam #4 Rapids below the Brighton Millpond Dam #5

Do these feathers make my butt look big?

April 12th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

Jemima, Captain D. Hookt, and Jiminy stick together most of the time

Jemima, Captain D. Hookt, and Jiminy (respectively, above) are still fast friends and can almost always be seen together near Main Street. The Captain was dumped as a scrawny lad on September 8, 2013. The other two arrived as a pair on August 15 last year, much to the disgust of MooseTracks, the pond’s late feathered sheriff. The two drakes follow Jemima where she leads them, but Jiminy has a bit of trouble keeping up with her. During the winter months, he’s convinced many a park visitor that he’s in desperate need of being fed. Since most folks give him bread, he’s packed on a few pounds. It’s all settled in his hind quarters (right).

Jiminy has gained a lot of weight in his rear half this winterHis waddling makes his rear end sway back and forth in a wide arc that is rather humorous to see as he walks away from you. But it has a serious dimension, too. None of the domestic duck breeds are developed for longevity. The quicker they can grow and be slaughtered for market, the more profit there is for the farmer.

As a Pekin, Jiminy was bred to be butchered within 45-50 days at “market weight,” about 6-7 pounds. He’s almost a year old now and tips the scale at 9-10 pounds. He’ll gain more weight in what could be his 8-12 year life span. Old, heavy Pekins can develop mobility problems and reach a point where they can no longer stand. Hopefully, he won’t have that fate or become so ponderous he cannot escape the danger of predators or humans with evil intent.

The hooked foot on October 6, 2013Captain D. Hookt isn’t far behind in the big behind department. He’s almost as large as Jiminy. The only way to easily tell them apart is to look for Jiminy’s curlier feathers above his tail.

Now that the ducks amble on sidewalks instead of white snow, I’ve noticed some ducks’ webbing is lighter edged. It might be a winter adaptation so less blood is delivered there or could be mild frostbite. Severe frostbite would turn the edge black so I’m prone to believe it’s an species adaptation.

Captain D. Hookt's foot on March 28, 2014The photo taken October 6 (above, left) with the hook still embedded in his foot doesn’t show the lighter edge. The photo taken on March 28 clearly shows it (left).The other foot on March 24, 2014

His other foot (right) proves it’s not from his injury. Some other ducks have similar feet but many don’t. I’ll do some research on this.

A visit to a salad bar then a swim through satin

April 12th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

Floating plants are already growing in the cold water

Just days after the last of the millpond ice melted, tiny green floating plants have begun to sprout much to the delight of the muskrats. Above, a  muskrat leaves a floating salad bar that’s gathered at the culvert where water enters the millpond.

With a few color shifts, the lower part of the muskrat image is a respectable textureMuskrats’ diet is mostly vegetation and the pickings are slim during the winter months so the fresh veggies are a welcome addition to their choices which have been limited to plant roots for months.

The lower part of the above image reflected the cement culvert and the dark blue sky distorted by the swirling of eddies from the water rushing into the pond from points north. A few color tweeks brought out the odd combination of blues with shades of olive greens (above left).

A muskrat swims toward its burrow directly under my feet on the millpond shoreLater, the afternoon weather conditions transformed the millpond water into a brighter range of blues. The sky and ripples give the impression the muskrat is swimming through satinDark clouds covered a portion of the sky and bright blues filled the rest. Ripples picked up reflections with the sheen of shimmering satin, a nice contrast for the fuzzy brown fur of swimming muskrats.

While they seem comfortable swimming during winter months, they must find more pleasure in the warmer waters now.

Parfait is now a major player

April 11th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

Almost a year old, Parfait is ready to pass his genes onto the next gneration of mutant ducks

He's a nicely proportioned drake with distinctive markingsMarch 29-30: I took these shots of one of the millpond’s favorite young hunks, Parfait, while the ducks still had ice to skate on. The lad is now 11 months old, distinctively marked, and well muscled.

Ducks are ready to mate after they pass the six month marker and Parfait is very happy to oblige. He’s been courting a young starlet with the look of a commoner and they seem quite gigglily when they are together.

They appear to be shacking up near City Hall where a nest in the yews could surely be found if someone searched for it. I’ve seen the pair spending time there.

Parfait has been seen puppy-dogging a hen near Brighton's City HallParfait is an A-List duck because he’s easily spotted no matter where he roams. His patchwork of browns and whites can be identified from across the pond. He delights in being photographed as he and his main squeeze paddle near Main Street during prime park visiting hours.

Unlike his Earthbound father, MooseTracks, Parfait is a fine aviator. His mother, Babs. although part domstic, also flies. He might lose this ability if he bulks up as he ages or consumes too much bread offered by well meaning park visitors.

Details around the edges

April 11th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

Compositionally, this is a bust yet it's still and arresting image

These shots are reflections in the millpond near the dam, a common subject on this blog that needs no further explanation.

The photography police will get me for these. See, there are extensive laws in photography. If we break them, the photography police raise their eyebrows and tut-tut us behind our backs. Some of the rules cover focus and grain. These two images pass muster on those, but they fail the composition guidelines. We’re supposed to think in thirds; the focus point in any image is a third from the top or bottom and a third from the left or right edges.

All of the action in the top image jogs around the edges and leaves that big chunk of empty blue where the focal point is supposed to be. I could get excommunicated for that. The bottom image is even more lawless. I think it’s a felony to split an image in half unless it is accompanied by proper written justification published in a peer reviewed professional journal. I don’t have time to write papers but I think the crowded details on the left balances the smooth postcard blue on the right.

Even though the image is split in half the tiny details rescue it

I hope I’m not sent to photographic jail for these sins. I hear it’s filled with top-of-the-line digital cameras with high speed lenses made by the finest manufacturers, all without batteries. That’s punishment far exceeding the crimes of the inmates.

Babs is lollygagging

April 10th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

Babs wades on the flooded sidewalk at the Brighton millpond

If Babs, one of the millpond’s Swede Sisters,  is an indicator, the ducklings will be late this year. Two years ago, she hatched her first brood on April 29, last year it was May 18. She could still meet last year’s delivery date if she’s clutching eggs now (laying one a day until the whole clutch is formed), but she has nested near the fire station in past years while she’s still loitering near Main Street this year.

Babs has selected a dashing drke for her first clutch of the seasonShe’s picked a dashing drake with his slicked back iridescent green and blue feathers but they’ve been rather secretive about their relationship compared to her blatant flaunting of previous years. Maybe she’s gained some sense of propriety. In the past two years, she’s abandoned her first broods to fly off with some sweet quacking drake to nest again. Perhaps her extended courtship this year signals she seeks a more stable lifestyle and won’t tolerate frivolous flings with roving males who find her brown eyes and raven feathers so alluring. Parfait was the result of her romp with MooseTracks last year, not that she cared much for the chap or his siblings.

Swimming in color

April 10th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

A bonded pair of Canada geese float in the Brighton millpond

The closer you get to the surface of water, the more brilliant are the reflections upon it. Imagine what waterfowl see at their eye level as they leisurely paddle around ponds each day. Our retinas would be overwhelmed if our streets, paths, and parking lots were as reflective as water. Yet it would be rather refreshing to read an obituary someday that states, “He died peacefully surrounded by family and friends following an extensive battle with color.”

Honking to protect their territory in their portion of the Brighton millpond

Belly of the beast

April 10th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

Like a hand-knotted rug, the feathers on the chest of a goose protect it well from water and cold

Canada geese are as common as dandelions and get even less respect in our region. Open a window anywhere within our county in spring, and you’ll hear their honking. Visit any shoreline and you’ll be dodging their droppings. Still, they have merit as doting parents, beautiful beings, and (I hear) delicious main courses. Here, you see the chest of a member of the millpond’s flock. It’s intricately feathered to protect it from water and weather. Droplets of pond water bead and catch beams of sunlight as this bird hissed at me as I moved close to photograph it.

A close up at almost the full resolution possible from my camera

Painted in reflections, winter is swept away

April 10th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

The increased flow over the dam smooths the surface so reflections become elongated ribbons of captured light

Water leaves the millpond at a good clip as the deep earth thaws. It’s been gradual this year and flooding has been avoided. Thick sheets of smooth ripples tumble over the dam painted in elongated reflections. Hundreds of times I’ve photographed this scene from both sides of the dam, and the images are always unique. The light changes from day to day; season to season. From the east side, cool colors dominate when a clear blue sky is the backdrop. From the west, warm colors fill the frame thanks to the sunlit aging brick facade of the Old Town Hall.

Reflections of the sunlight facade of the Old Town Hall twine with the blue of the railings surrounding the dam

Mango’s Mangled

April 9th, 2014     2 comments     permalink

After a date with the drakes, Mango preens at the Brighton millpond

Mango has  been the object of affection by the millpond drakes

Mango's beauty is temporarily dissheveled but her neck feathers will grow backThe Mallard drakes are being rough on the domestic hybrid, Mango, the young hen I just mentioned was gorgeous. She now looks like she got a punk haircut from a toddler who discovered mommy’s scissors.

Don’t worry. While she sits for 28 days on her inevitable nest, her feathers will regrow, and she’ll be an avian pin-up again. Her set of white flight feathers tells me she’s got to be MooseTracks’ daughter and Parfait’s wayward sister.

Miro’s millpond scribbles

April 9th, 2014     1 comment     permalink

Reflections of the millpond's fence balusters scribble on the water

Ubu Roi VI (M475):  Joan Miro 1966 lithograph

Ubu Roi VI (M475): Joan Miro, 1966 lithograph

Sunshine and blue skies. Open water. Spring! Even those who have passed on are sending their good wishes. Joan Miró (1893-1983) scribbled his blessings on the millpond yesterday with the assistance of reflections of fence balusters near Main Street.

He’ll be scribbling at his continuing exhibition until the pond freezes again next winter. Let’s not think about that now. We’ve moved on from the vulgar foibles of winter’s bluster. The millpond gallery is filled with color and light and hopes for new life!

Art movements come and go yet it’s comforting to know Miró is still with us and able to delight our eyes even though he’s still dead at 121 years young.

Is this a sign?

April 9th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

Maybe it's a sign of spring

April 6: “Pink at night / Sailors delight,” but what about a sunset filled with gold? What does that signify? We’re hoping it portends Spring staying with us for a while. She can be an insufferable tease.

A whole lotta honking

April 8th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

Loud and argumentative, the Canada geese establish their nesting locations

The Canada geese are bonded and ready to nestingMost of the Canada geese have returned to the millpond and are arguing over where they should nest. The males chase and attack each other in loud confrontations.

Many park visitors are frightened by the geese because of their honking and hissing, but it’s all bravado unless they have goslings present. If they hiss at you, take a gentle step toward them. You’ll discover how timid they actually are.

Last of the ice

April 8th, 2014     2 comments     permalink

The last of the millpond ice doesn't look like ice at all

After months of waiting for it to leave, the last millpond ice doesn’t look like ice at all especially near twilight. It could be a pocked slab of volcanic lava with oak leaves caught in the small ponds of standing water. It has an interesting texture. I just don’t want to see it again for a long time.

Easter: Buy chocolate instead of ducklings

April 7th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

Last summer, the Brighton millpond became the dumping ground for 17 unwanted domestic ducks. Most were surely purchased as cute little Easter ducklings. Ducklings become full grown in a couple of months and may live 8-15 years. Unless you can commit yourself to their continued care and protection or plan to grill them at a Father’s Day barbeque, buy chocolate or toys instead.

No more Easter ducklings and bunnies!

Farmers don’t want your human imprinted cast offs and public parks are no place for defenseless domestic ducks. It’s against the law and reprehensible to abandon unwanted pets without providing for their continued care and protection. Please distribute this image as far and wide as you can. Thank you.

A thunk on the doorwall

April 7th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

The panting stopped. I thought he was dead.

I warmed him up in my hand and he woke upSunday morning was interrupted by that awful sound of a bird slamming into the glass doorwall. It happens about once a year. A White-Breasted Nuthatch lay motionless on the leaf litter of my balcony. He was panting as his mate or foraging partner strutted around him looking to see what had happened. Birds show concern for their colleagues, at least for a couple of minutes. Then the partner started looking for food in the leaf litter, the heartless bastard.

The panting stopped by the time I got my shoes on and prepared a cracker box to retrieve the bird. The standard procedure for helping a bird that’s collided with glass is to place a box over it to reduce its stress and protect it from predators. In cold weather, it’s good to warm them while they recover, if they recover. It all depends upon how they impact the glass. Often they break their necks and die immediately if they hit head on.

Still dazed, I took him insideI warmed him in my hands and he woke up. Good! He wasn’t dead! But he was dazed and seemed to like the warmth of my hand so I brought him inside and we stood at the doorwall for a while. Then he hopped down to a piece of rigid insulation I keep against the doorwall during winter to reduce heat loss. As he stared out, his buddy appeared on the outside of the glass to check up on him. Maybe I was wrong about him being heartless.

His mate or buddy came back to check up on himThe visitor didn’t stay long and the bird was still not acting normal so I let him perch where he wanted.

He liked hanging upside down on the doorwall frame to stare at me. That’s when I took the shot I posted yesterday as a teaser. He wasn’t stressed by being around a human at this stage, a clear signal he had not fully recovered.

It probably cost me a dollar in heat lost. I kept the doorwall open so he could keep contact with the outside world. He chirped a few times but no answering call came from his foraging group which included a couple of chickadees and tufted titmice along with his buddy.

He preferred staring at me upsidedown

We stared at each other for a while and his behavior improved. He made short flights around the room so I decided it was time to return him to the wild knowing he was going to be alright.

We had a standoff for a whileThat turned out to be a task. I should have followed directions and kept him in a dark box. It would have been easy to take the box outside, open it up, and he’d be on his way. Instead, I had a wild bird in my living room that decided to play hide and seek with me.

I always thought that birds are drawn to the light. Nope. This fellow scurried under a dark cabinet where dust bunnies live. He stayed there for 15 minutes. Nuthatches are cavity nesters. Maybe that’s why he sought dark corners. I guess I should thank him. He came out covered in cobwebs so he did some feather dusting while he hid.

Then he flew 20 feet and slammed into the doorwall screen. Luckily, the screen is cloth so it wasn’t a hard impact. It acted like a trampoline and bounced him back. He lay motionless on the carpet for a minute and I was overcome with regret that I didn’t keep him in a box. Now I was sure he was dead. When humans intervene with nature, the results are often like this. Damn.

I'm not going out there. It's cold!

But I was wrong again. He woke up and immediately dashed under a table. Now I was intent on getting him outside before I killed him in some way. While he rested on the carpet right in front of the doorwall, I tiptoed around him and slid the screen open. He had a four foot wide gateway to freedom. He took a few steps toward it and looked up at me as if he was saying, “I’m not going out there. It’s crazy cold out there!” and then he made a beeline under my computer desk.

After another lap about the room, I was able to corner him. He tried to bite my fingers when I held him and that was  a good sign he was fully awake and ready to face the world again. We went out the still-open doorwall after BTUs had continued to rip money out of my wallet in energy loss and we said our good-byes. Ever so grateful that I had saved his life, he presented me with a gift before his departure (below).

Before he left, he presented me with a gift, bless his heart

Between a rock and a wet place

April 7th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

The hen appears a bit dazed when I arrived

The hen rested on the boulder where the drakes couldn't bother herApril 6: Mallards are puddle ducks. They spend the majority of their lives leisurely swimming around still water seeking floating vegetation to eat. They are rarely seen near the Brighton millpond dam although occasionally a couple will venture to the base of it to grab morsels caught in the eddies there.

Out of character, a Mallard hen perched on a boulder near the base of the falls. Evan, a fellow park visitor, told me wo Mallard drakes had forced her into a space between two boulders where rushing water made it difficult for her to escape. Finally, she slipped between boulders in a rush of water and climbed onto a large boulder to rest surrounded by cascades protecting her from the drakes that waited for her up top (right).

The hen was swept off of her perch by a splash and struggled to swim back to it

Finding a lower perch, she did a victory flap of her wingsThe hen stood stone-still on the boulder for about 20 minutes as water splashed against her. It was obvious she was recovering from the ordeal.

An unexpected gush of water slammed into her and she fell into the rapids. She struggled to swim against the current, but the water carried her into the culvert under Main Street. For a moment, she appeared doomed to a 450-foot ride in the dark tunnel to South Ore Creek.

As the Mallard hen rested, she watch the cascade of water rushing from the millpondDucks have surprising strength and fortitude. She mustered her energy, fought the swift current, and swam/flew through the swirling water to return to the base of the falls and a lower perch.

The drakes spotted her there. One flew down for a forced mating with the exhausted bird. Nothing stops drakes if they decide it’s time to mate. If you spend 30 minutes at the pond during the next two months, you’ll see how ruthless they can be.

When she was sure the drakes had gone, she left her retreat and reentered the millpondThe hen then hopped to her original perch and rested or several minutes. She scanned the area to make sure the drakes were gone.

Confident she wouldn’t be attacked again, she flew to the top of the dam, scanned the area for drakes a second time, and swam off to find a place where she could roost for the night without contact with the drakes.