Paddling home from a berry run

October 30th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

Jemima, Jiminy, and Captain D. Hookt return home following a berry run

The ducks living near Main Street paddle north in autumn to feast on berries that drop from the trees. You can see them bobbing for berries in the shallows with their tails in the air. Part of their bounty are the wild grapes that grow on vines twining through the branches, but they may be able to digest berries from Virginia Creeper vines as well. They’re toxic to humans but plentiful in the millpond park.

If you see a trio of white ducks swimming in the pond, it’s almost always Jemima, Jiminy, and Captain D. Hookt. Lately, the Captain has become very protective of Jemima’s virtue and won’t let Fred and Duke (SweetPea’s former suitors) get anywhere near her. He hasn’t been as successful keeping Lewis and Clark away so you might see the two newly abandoned white ducks following along.

Pre-November blues

October 30th, 2014     1 comment     permalink

Blue beyond the October clouds brighten the evening sky

T. S. Elliott thought, “April is the cruelest month.” He didn’t live in Michigan. November takes the cake here. It’s our grayest month. Cold weather sets in and the clouds become low, opaque, and linger for days on end bringing rains along with them like unexpected house guests who refuse to leave.

So its time to appreciate any sky that still contains bright blues and blue blooms that have survived cold nights in St. Paul’s Episcopal Church’s new garden.

Blue flowers dot the new garden at St. Paul's Episcopal Church

Colors of Autumn #2

October 30th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

Lemon and lime leaves become more interesting if places within a kaleidoscope A mandala of lemon and lime leaves

I’m not sure why I create them, but photos of leaves in autumn usually compel me to make kaleidoscope patterns from them. I suppose it makes them more orderly and more interesting for me to look at. I tend not to post them on the blog since I think I’m the only one who finds them interesting. But here are three all bunched together. I’ve posted only a cropped version of the kaleidoscope (above) so I could present it large enough to view details when it opens in a new window.

A lone mulberry branch becomes a whirl when repeated

A lone branch on a sapling mulberry tree (above) takes on a completely different personality when presented as a repeat pattern due to the soft shadows on the yellow leaves. See it HERE.

Wild rose vines with a few hips

Wild rose leaves look ancient as they age. They fade, become spotted, and oxidize in the same way poorly preserved photos in family albums do. This photo was used to create two entirely different kaleidoscopic patterns HERE and HERE.

Colors of Autumn #1

October 30th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

Reds with yellows on a tree beside city hall

Pulled back, the same leaves along with many of their fellowsThere’s not much to say that hasn’t been said about autumn color so I’ll just place images in the next few posts that have been taken within the past two weeks. More than half of the leaves have fallen now and Halloween night will be cold with a killing frost which will bring down most of the rest of them.

I didn’t punch up the color in the top image, but my camera did. Canon cameras seem to make certain reds “bloom” as shown in this image. Pulled back, the same leaves are shown on the full branch and I reduced the saturation of the colors to be more accurate.

The random scattering of leaves on the sidewalk grid always reminds me of music. This song is light, frolicking.

Salmon colored with yellow spots, this leaf is countered by the flecks of color in the sidewalkThe pattern of leaves fallen onto the grid of the sidewalk reminds me of music. While it’s always a random pattern, it seems to have rhythm with a few colorful surprises.

The leaves range from vivid reds to pale salmon with yellow dappling (right) that contrasts with the dark flecks of colorful stones embedded in the concrete.

The Old Town Hall in autumn

October 29th, 2014     1 comment     permalink

Track lights inside blend with reflections of the sky in the windows of Brighton's Old Town Hall

The blue railing adds another architectural element to the imageDuring my 40 years in Brighton, the Old Town Hall has gone through many phases. It was the public library then post office then the local newspaper’s home. Now it’s CoBACH Center, the City of Brighton’s Arts, Culture, and History Center. It’s too small for major events but serves as a gathering place for small theatre productions and exhibitions.

Outside its arched windows, a row of Burning Bush shrubs blaze red each autumn. Here are two shots, one with the blue railing at the Dam adding cool tones to counterbalance the warmth of the bricks and shrubs and provide an extra architectural element. It’s probably overkill. I’m good at that. :-)

Mighty clouds of potential

October 28th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

The flower head of goldenrod is loaded with seeds

Finches and other birds eat the seeds when othe rresources dwindleOnce color leaves the tall stalks of Goldenrod, I doubt most people give them a second glance. The fertilized seeds mature in dried clumps of dull flowers to be eaten by birds or blown by the wind. Of the hundreds or thousands grown during the summer season, most won’t germinate.

Goldenrod is an invasive plant but there isn’t much of it at the Brighton millpond. Other invaders like Purple Loosestrife, Buckthorn, Autumn Olive, and Honeysuckle are the major millpond villains. No invader has become so aggressive it claims large swaths of shoreline and driving out native species entirely. Bittersweet and Virginia Creeper vines probably do the most damage.

A close up shows a housefly spending the night on goldenrod
Goldenrod is an invader that has some value as a food crop for songbirds. Finches and other small birds perch atop the stalks swaying in light breezes throughout the fall as they eat the seeds.

In several previous posts, I’ve identified insects spending summer nights on plants. The image at right, taken in early October, shows a housefly in residence on a crisp night. As one of the late blooming plants in the northern tier, goldenrod draws many nectar seeking insects in the fall. Those nectar seekers attract predatory species looking for a quick meal, too.On October 20, the yellow flowers were still blooming on goldenrod

Murder on Main Street

October 28th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

House Centepede with their 30 legs aren't welcome guests inside homes, but they devour a lot of pests and ought to be sent on their way instead of killed

Grab your party hat. It’s time to celebrate! While most people are horrified when they see a 30-legged House Centepede scurry across their living room floor, they ought to cheer him on. They might want to move the creature outside, but the more house centipedes we have on the planet, the better.

Every species of plant loses its chlorophyll in its own patternThey eat roaches and other nasty insects nobody likes. Just be glad they don’t grow to the size of Pit Bulls. I wouldn’t want to meet one of those on a night walk.

Scutigera coleoptrata is harmless to humans most of the time. They are venomous but can’t usually puncture our human hides. They are voracious predators and seeing this one (above) take out a housefly on an ornamental shrub along Main Street was sweet. Hope he devours more before winter arrives.

A Yellow Jacket waits to be warmed in the morning to take flight againI was drawn to this particular shrub not for the bugs but for the combination of bright yellow foliage and red berries. In photographing them, I found the centipede and another ill-tempered thug spending the night on a leaf, a lethargic Yellow Jacket.

It wasn’t until I took the first shot (below) that I noticed this brightly striped demon sandwiched between leaves above the berries. I didn’t disturb his leaf but it was probably cold enough, he couldn’t fly. It pays to avoid running your hand through foliage at night. Many overnight guests hide there to avoid hungry night stalkers.

Red berries on a short shrub on Brighton's Main Street

First dibs on upstream goodies

October 28th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

A large carp feeds neara the headwaters of the Brighton millpond

Carp can sometimes be seen searching for food in the swallow water directly in front of the culvert that brings water into the millpond. This 10-12 pound fish was spotted well after dark this week as it vacuumed the bottom of the pond. Its scale gold metalic scales catch the light from my flash. The blueish haze around its body is the flash interacting with the layer of slime on the fish. Body slimes are important for survival of most fish species for many reasons.

Protecting abandoned domestic ducks

October 26th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

(l to r) Rusty, Franny, and Dazzle on a late September cruise of the Brighton millpond

Rusty, Franny, and Dazzle (above) are a triad of domestic ducks abandoned at the Brighton millpond. Dazzle arrived in 2012 and the other two in 2013. This past week, another domestic duck with a long history of millpond residence, SweetPea, was removed from the pond due to mating stress caused by two newly abandoned domestic drakes that arrived two week ago. Matt Lyson, owner of Michigan Duck Rescue and Sanctuary in Salem Township, stated on the nonprofit organization’s Facebook page:

This is where Sweet Pea spent the last eight years of her life before finding HOME!

She, like all of the other domestics that have been dumped there, and at ALL of the other convenient “dumping ” sites around the country, survive on whatever people happen to feed them, if they even ever eat a good meal at all. Sure, they can eat some of what nature provides, but they were not raised for that daily diet.

These are big, hearty birds that need a nutritional diet of proteins and supplements. When they eat things such as bread, crackers, potato chips and other garbage (all of which have NO nutritional value whatsoever for these beautiful creatures), they often ‘slug’ threw life sickly and compromised. The only good that comes from junk food is that their bellies feel full and they don’t really feel the pang of hunger, it just masks the emptiness they would otherwise feel, by NO fault of their own.

You can read the rest at the Michigan Duck Rescue and Sanctuary’s Facebook Page. Better yet, visit MichiganDuckRescue.com and make a tax deductible contribution. While many of us duck watchers will miss one of the pond’s best know “celebriducks,” we feel SweetPea will receive the care and protection she needs in her later life at the Sanctuary.

Duck leg injuries are common

October 24th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

A cut on a Mallard hen's left leg is probably the result of a miscalculated landingThis Mallard hen presented with a limp and gash on one of her left toes October 8. Had I been able to get close enough to her, I would have sprayed her with a wound dressing, but it probably wasn’t needed anyway. Ducks are incredibly resilient when it comes to leg injuries. It’s a good thing, too. They have lots of them. Some are caused by turtles during their hungry summer season, but most are from landing injuries, I think.

For a few days, the hen limped but can't be found now because the wound has healedThey run into the edge of the sidewalk beside the pond when they miscalculate its height or slam into tree branches or other obstacles during mating chases. Ducks aren’t particularly graceful fliers. They have to work much harder at keeping aloft than gulls do, for example. Their wings are short and wide, built for agility instead of easy, gliding flight so they often come down hard. It’s not quite ass-over-teacup, but they will take a couple of bounces.

I assume this hen healed well. I’ve lost track of her once her limping decreased.

Swimming with the big ducks

October 24th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

The white one is sired by a Pekin, the dark one by a Rouen

It’s astonishing how quickly ducklings grow. Mrs PomPom’s surviving pair are almost as large (but not as filled out) as the other ducks in the Buda Bunch now at less than two months old (above). They hatched on September 2.

The 8 week old duckling are in the foreground, mom is at the top sleepingAt left, they nap (foreground) with the rest of Buda’s sub-flock along the edge of the pond surrounded by fallen autumn leaves. Buda probably fathered the white one and Dexter, the only Rouen in the group, is probably the dark one’s dad. But it’s possible the ducklings were sired by other domestic ducks. Duke, the Dam Tribe’s Rouen, and Jiminy, one of Jemima’s significant others made frequent conjugal visits to PomPom all summer.

Ducklings have growth spurts like human children. For the first month, their wings remain totally undeveloped as they can gain body size and weight. Now that their bodies and bones are almost fully developed, their wings are growing. They have half of their first set of adult feathers now. When I visited them last evening, it took me a moment to realize they were the same ducklings I had seen the day before. The are noticeably larger and their plumage has grown.

Their personalities are decidedly different as well. The white one is a typical Pekin, curious and friendly. The dark one is calmer and stand-offish like the other Rouens on the pond.

Duck Wrangling: SweetPea is rescued

October 22nd, 2014     2 comments     permalink

SweetPea was severely injured by the new drakes dumped at the millpond

On Monday evening, I found SweetPea bloodied up (above and left). While I didn’t see it happen, I’m confident it’s the work of Lewis and/or Clark mating with her. Those two Pekin drakes were dumped at the millpond to alleviate the problem of them beating up females in their owner’s pond so he foisted his problem onto our ducks. Thanks a bunch.

SweetPea cruises the millpond on her final evening at the millpondThis illustrates a problem faced in all parks with all species that give humans trouble. Raccoons, squirrels, and other critters live trapped in attics and garages then deposited in parks. People think this is a great solution but they don’t realize that they are dumping animals into the territories of other animals and the results are usually catastrophic for them. They are on unfamiliar turf with belligerent residents screeching “Get off my lawn!,” don’t know where to find food, and may be surprised by predators. I liken it to someone dropping off a toddler at a mall and expecting things to turn out well. The solution is to keep the wildlife you have in your habitat but discover ways to discourage them from entering your cherished spaces. The alternative is killing them outright if it’s legal.

Matt Lyson, calms SweetPea moments after her capture

Matt Lyson, Michigan Duck Rescue, examines SweetPea's woundsMatt and Theresa Lyson from the Michigan Duck Rescue and Sanctuary were asked to rescue SweetPea from continued mating stress. She’s been a target of drakes for years but became more vulnerable after Gramps, Afroduck, and MooseTracks (all members of her Dam Tribe) died. They arrived Tuesday afternoon and within a short time, cornered and netted SweetPea. She wasn’t a bit happy about this indignity but quickly settled down in Matt’s arms and fell asleep in the carrier for the trip back to the Sanctuary.

Meanwhile, her suitors, Fred and Duke, were trying to figure out what had happened to their main squeeze (right).

Fred and Duke (flapping) will miss SweetPea's companionshipThe Lysons have made caring for unwanted and injured domestic waterfowl their life’s work and have recently qualified for 501(c)3 status so tax deductible contributions can be accepted. They will treat SweetPea’s wounds and lavish attention on her at their own expense. She’ll soon find her care and protection from horny drakes to her liking. While there is a tentative plan to her return to the millpond, it will only happen if we can balance the ratio of drakes to hens to lessen mating stress.

If Lewis and Clark continue to be thugs, they will be dispatched.

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