Winter’s self-sorting of ducks

November 18th, 2014     1 comment     permalink

About 60 ducks roost at the north end of the millpond now

Lewis and Clark, Castor and Pollux, and Jiminy and the Captain are joined by Florence for a late night swimAs winter arrives, the ducks wintering at the millpond change their territories. Their choices are much different than they are in the summer. The Buda Bunch that summers in the bay near City Hall joins the Dam Tribe near Main Street.

Most of the wild Mallards roost nightly at the north end but didn’t go there often during the summer. I found almost 60 of them there last night. Most of these ducks will make daily trips to the south end to get handouts from the public during daylight hours.

Mrs PomPom still hangs out with her two ducklings that are now three months old Castor or Pollux isn't quite sure where he fits in within the wintering ducks

Buddy (lower right) chases Rusty and Dazzle away from Mrs PomPom

The domestic ducks congregate near Main Street. They can’t fly so they can’t go to the north end at twilight. As their swimming area shrinks, they are forced to get along with each other but that’s not much of a problem. Domestic ducks a happy with whatever life throws at them. Certain ducks develop rivalries for mates during the winter, but it never reaches serious combat.

Currently, Buddy subtly chases other drakes away from Mrs PomPom — he can be seen giving Rusty and Dazzle the bums’ rush at right. Captain D. Hookt has developed a particular dislike for Fred when he gets too close to Jemima. That’s not a problem right now, however. Jemima is missing!

We currently have 12 Pekins on the pond

Hmmm. She could have been stolen or died, but I suspect she’s nesting under some bush. The new males had been mating with her for the past few weeks. Domestic ducks, unlike wild ones, will nest year ’round if they have a hankering. Her eggs will freeze but that’s par for the course. Three dozen ducks are roosting near Main Street now. The total winter duck population is about 100. All of the migrating birds have left.

Ice is already forming

November 18th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

Floating branches may now be locked into the pond ice until the spring thaw

Swiss cheese patterns on the Brighton millpondLast year’s last winter and our cool summer set us up for an early winter arrival. No one except those loving winter sports and hunting is happy about it, but we must grit our teeth and endure.

Almost half of the Brighton millpond has a thin coating of ice on it already. Light snow fell yesterday. It made patterns on the ice more apparent last night. Portions of the pond looked like large slices of Swiss cheese.

Swiss cheese patterns on the Brighton millpond

Look who’s back

November 17th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

This might be Moxie or a new Mandarin hen

The Mandarin hen threatened the much larger Pekin behind her in this shotIf it’s not Moxie, it may be the other Mandarin hen that visited the Brighton millpond. She’s as feisty as Moxie. She threatened Buddy, the Pekin behind her, just before this picture was taken (right). Moxie stood her ground against ducks six times her size last winter.

Sunday was her first night back at the pond. Maybe we can figure out which of the two Mandarin visitors she is in the days to come.

Locally grown autumn bounty

November 16th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

Decorative "Indian Corn" graced the roadside stand in downtown Brighton this fall

Howell, Michigan’s Bentley Lake Farms (Facebook Page) operates several roadside stands in summer and fall. One of them is across the street from the Brighton millpond on Main Street. It’s open 24/7 and purchases are made on a honor basis with a lock box. It’s great to have the opportunity to buy locally grown produce directly from farmers. Their crops cycle through an assortment of vegetables picked at their peak. These photos were taken toward the end of the growing season in September. I saved them to post as Thanksgiving approached thinking some readers might like to have a fresh Facebook Cover Image (created to Facebook’s specifications) or Desktop Pattern (1920×1200 pixels 1MB) of decorative Indian corn (above).

Squash was one of the vegetables offered Decorative pumpkins, a colorful fall treat

Several kinds of squash and decorative pumpkins were grown at Bentley Lake Farms and offered for sale at their stands. They also offered delicious sweet corn I enjoyed on several occasions not to mention their onions, potatoes, peppers, and eggplant. Yum! Just to play, I added summer colors to a photo of a basket full of tiny pumpkins (below).

A basket full of decorative pumpkins Bringing summer colors to autumn pumpkins

Amber waves

November 16th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

Rhythmic patterns in ornamental grasses beside the Brighton millpond

As chlorophyll stops production in fall, the ornamental grasses turn golden at the millpondOrnamental grasses have been planted near the millpond by the Brighton Garden Club. During summer, some reached six feet tall. Jemima found one clump provided cover for one of her nests. Cool weather ended their growing season. Leaves lost their color but I found the golden tangle rhythmic. Sadly, to keep downtown well manicured, the ornamental grasses have been trimmed back to the ground which removes potential shelter and a wind break for ducks during expected winter storms.

The millpond’s most colorful triad

November 15th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

Dazzle is still handsome as he approaches the end of his third year at the pond

As he approaches the end of his third year at the millpond, Dazzle (above) is still a showstopper with his iridescent plumage, but he’s got competition from his six offspring this fall.  None of his kids are quite as colorful though since their mom was a mallard instead of another Cayuga.

Rusty, Dazzle and Franny are the millpond's most colorful triad and are always togetherOnly one of Dazzle’s ducklings might be mistaken for him, but you have to look closely. Four of the six have some white on their chests. The fifth one is all black but has a yellow bill instead of a black one. The sixth one is the closest match for him because its all black but doesn’t have nearly the same colorful sheen.

The easiest way to find Dazzle instead of atttempting to pick him out from the seven black ducks on the millpond is to look at who the ducks are hanging out with. Dazzle is almost always with Rusty (above, left) and the two drakes main squeeze, Franny, the dark brown hen with the partially broken bill. If you don’t see the trio, listen for them. Franny is loud and has an incessant, deep raspy quack unlike any of the other ducks. It’s assumed the other hen that arrived with her in the summer of 2012, Stella, was consumed by a coyote in April of this year.

Road Trip: A carp culture note

November 15th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

Carp wait for a handout at the edge of the pond next to the nature center at Kensington Metro Park

The Brighton millpond’s carp have all but vanished now that the water has cooled. About a dozen of Kensington Metro Park’s lunker carp, on the other hand, were waiting for a handout at the shore of the pond next to the nature center (above). Carp are never seen loitering for a handout at the millpond. They are more wary. Brighton fishermen have probably caught each of them at least once so they think of humans as a foe instead of a food source.

Road Trip: Turkeys with all the trimmings

November 14th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

The turkeys are in prime condition for winter now.

A quartet of male American turkeys forages near the Farm Center at Kensington Metro ParkHunting isn’t allowed in Kensington Metro Park so these fine specimens will celebrate Thanksgiving foraging for nuts, bugs, and berries in the woods instead of being the main course. They are in prime condition for the winter ahead.

All four of these birds are males. They are identified by the “beards” hanging from their chests. Most of their dark feathers have a bronze hue and are iridescent flashing greens, blues and golds as light from the overcast sky strikes them. Their wing feathers are brightly patterned with white. The trees near the Kensington Farm Center is a good location to search for these majestic birds at this time of year.

Road Trip: Kensington Sandhill Cranes

November 14th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

A sandhill crane photoshopped

Sandhill Cranes have become much more common in our region. I attribute it to Global Cooling. :-)

I actually have no idea why their population has increased, but I’m glad it has. Seeing the birds in flight is a treat and hearing their trumpeting is a wonderful addition to any outdoor activity even when the birds are out of sight. Kensington Metro Park near Brighton has a sizable population and many family groups of the birds can be seen within the city limits of Brighton.

Against the dried autumn leaves, the birds look frosted gray. Some of their feathers are rust colored that might be from the iron in our water. The image at the top of this post shows the deep red forehead on the birds. The image was blurry so I enhanced it with Photoshop filters. The bird has a dried leaf in its bill.

The sandhills will be leaving this region this month but will return in early spring before most of the other migrants come back from their winter quarters.

Sandhill cranes stand about 4 feet tall The cranes stroll through the grass looking for things to eat

Meet Ranger, a Red-Tailed Hawk

November 13th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

Red-Tailed Hawks are beautiful and plentiful in our region of Michigan

Ranger is perched on a low fence and watches his handler get ready to call himDuring Wednesday’s road trip, we met Ranger, a rehabilitated Red-Tailed Hawk from Howell Nature Center that currently resides at Kensington Metro Park’s Nature Center. He’s three years old and been at the park for a year.

He’s currently being trained to come to his handler upon verbal command. The trainer, one of the park’s nature interpreter staff, places Ranger on a fence, holds up a dead mouse and calls for the bird to fly to his hand to be fed, a distance of 6-10 feet at this stage in his training. He’s tethered at all times so he cannot flee. Because of a head injury that led to his rehabilitation, he is permanently disabled and cannot be returned to the wild.

Ranger is fed daily at about 4pm. If you’re lucky, you might be there on a day he’s in training so you can see the process involved. It’s not a scheduled demonstration, just a casual happening when the staff has time to give the bird their full attention.

This photo clearly shows why the species is named red-tailed Ranger flies to his handler's hand when called ... sometimes.

If won’t be Ranger, but other red-tailed hawks sometimes visit the Brighton millpond to hunt ducks or ducklings. I haven’t witnessed a kill myself but have heard of it happening on occasion. There are many redtails in the area. Millpond ducks must keep watch for predators from above year ’round as well as be wary of the large snapping turtles during the summer months.

Road Trip: Kensington Duck Migrants

November 13th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

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Unidentified duck. A female Redhead Duck?Ducks are on the move journeying south for the winter. In Kent Lake at Kensington Metro Park, 7 miles from Brighton, a raft of ducks sheltered in a bay beside Island Road. Most of them were American Coots that look like undersized bowling balls with heads and feet. They are related to Rails and Gallinules rather than ducks.

Mixed in with the coots were at least four species of ducks which I’ve identified once in two of these images with either an M or F after their letter signaling male or female: Ruddy (R), Redhead (Rh), Bufflehead (B), and Canvasback (C). There may be more species in these shots. If you’re great at duck identification, leave a comment telling all of us what they are. The small shot to the right may be a female Canvasback, but I can’t be sure.

raft1_8750_280 raft2_8749_290

Here are a couple of simple duck identification files you might want to keep for future reference. They are far from complete. They are just for beginners. More definitive sources are in guide books and online if you search: Duck Species Poster and Washington State’s Duck ID Guide (PDF)

Living with ducks

November 12th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

Brighton millpond's one-legged duckling was pals with Angelena

Angelena touches the heart at Michigan Duck RescueGrace Hopper, the millpond’s one-legged duckling (2014 Brood 23), is currently a resident at Michigan Duck Rescue and Sanctuary in Salem Township, Michigan (above, right). She quickly befriended another duckling named Angelena who was born with a deformed bill (left and above) who arrived at the facility undernourished.

Angelena quickly became a favorite of the sanctuary’s founder, Matt Lysen, who kept her inside with Grace during the night but took the two birds outside each day so they could enjoy the fresh air and sunshine. Sadly, Angelena didn’t thrive and died this past week. Matt is heartbroken he couldn’t save the young bird. You can read his efforts if you have a Facebook membership HERE.

Steve with one of his call ducksOn the other side of the pond — no, not the Brighton millpond, the larger one also known as the Atlantic Ocean — a gentleman by the name of Steve in Bristol, England, raises Call Ducks (right). He posted a detailed comment on this blog explaining how he prepared to raise pet ducks. If you are considering bringing ducks into your life, his post illustrates the impact ducks can have as well as the accommodations needed to give them a good life. His efforts are probably over-the-top by most duck owner’s standards, but he’s created a wonderful inn for his treasured guests complete with a heated pool where they can swim with koi. Visit his YouTube channel to how much he enjoys the feathered members of his family.

Both of these gentlemen have ducks in their lives, and I’m certain both would state they are a welcome addition. Both would also point out that living with ducks is not for the casual pet owner. They require diligent care beyond what most people realize. Hence the need for the Sanctuary where cast off birds can lead a protected life.

Late autumn gulls at the millpond

November 12th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

Late afternoon light brings out the wing textures on this gullLate afternoon light brings out the color and texture of this Ring-Billed Gull as it skims the Brighton millpond, one of my better images of this year (right). Click it to see it larger. It’s worth it.

Gulls are plentiful at the millpond. Still. What signals it’s time to leave for the winter is a mystery. Surely, it has to do with food resources, but whether it’s the dwindling offerings of park visitors or natural pond reductions is uncertain.

One would think the pickings at larger bodies of water would offer them greater variety and quantities yet they remain a strong presence during the daylight hours. They fly to roosts unknown at twilight. Only injured birds stick around after dark. There are none of them this year.

A ring-billed gull soars above the millpond A gull judges his prospects for food from the park visitors

A young gull submits to an older gull dominanceThe young gulls are still flecked with taupe feathers like all of those shown here. Perhaps it’s only the young birds that linger. Full fledged adults may know more nutritious foods await along the Great Lake coasts or rivers emptying into them.

Young gulls aren’t directed by their parents to wintering grounds like the offspring of Canada geese. They are thrown into the world with little other than their wits to figure it all out. Well, their wits have served them well over the millennia. Gulls are very successful species that have profited by their relationship to humans, a two-legged species that finds their ever-presence near water not particularly heartwarming.

A gull dives for a piece of bread tossed to it Scanning for things to eat, a gull glides above the pond

A gull lifts off after grabbing a floating tidbit on the Brighton millpond

Final homage to milkweed, 2014

November 12th, 2014     5 comments     permalink

The end of the cycle of 2014's milkweed

I’ve said all I can say about milkweed this year, but still had this well lit image I wanted to share. It wasn’t the plants’ best year, but as you can see by the number of seeds generated by this cluster of pods, the species can rest knowing Monarchs and other critters will have food and shelter in the summer of 2015. In the greater scope of things, that’s all that matters.

The party’s over

November 12th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

Fallen leaves tangle with water plants still growing in the Brighton millpond

Think of the growing season as a 7-month long party. Now, all of the guests have gone and this is the morning after. That’s how I view the rafts of fallen leaves moored on plants still growing in the Brighton millpond. There are signs everyone had a good time — a few vivid leaves — in the confetti of debris; Nature’s discarded cocktail napkins, ticket stubs, candy wrappers, and cracker crumbs.

Marold is a millpond favorite

November 11th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

Marold is a fastidious preener

After being timid for a couple of months following being abandoned at the Brighton millpond, Marold has found humans are his lifeline. Pekins aren’t great foragers so he’s very willing to accept the food offered by visitors to the park. Maybe too willing. He’s a big duck and has a serious limp which is certainly exacerbated by his ravenous appetite and bulk.

I’ve previous described him as “lumbering.” It might be his eventual downfall. Pekins sometimes become so large their legs can no longer support the weight. In a park situation, however, there is no way to control his diet which will continue to include the empty calories in the bread and French fries he’s offered.

Beautiful and big, Marold has become a favorite bird at the Brighton millpondIf you see a big duck waddling toward you using every bit of energy to swing his rear end from side to side, that’s probably Marold. Once he realizes you have food, he’ll be at your knees making sure he gets more than his share. He’s the perfect duck to introduce to small children. Hand feed Marold with one hand while your children gently pet his back. He’ll tolerate it as long as you keep his mouth busy.

Marold is a consumate preener. His feathers are immaculate. He spends hours each day caring for them. He’s a loner so preening is the way he fills his day. He hasn’t joined any of the sub-flocks of Pekins at the pond. He prefers standing on shore combing his feathers rather than jabbering with other ducks or swimming. Most ducks smoothly glide through the water. Not Marold. Either his leg injury prevents the proper strokes or he wasn’t given proper instruction when he was a duckling growing up as a land-bound Easter present.

Honoring our local veterans

November 11th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

Brighton's Garden Club planted mums at Brighton's Veteran's Memorial

The eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, Veterans Day honors all of those who have served our country in the US armed forces. The Brighton Garden Club set the stage at Brighton’s Veterans’ Memorial by planting large mounds of deep red mums beside it. I met one of its members as she worked days before the event and she told me bulbs have also been planted to encircle the memorial next spring. The club plants and maintains most of the public gardens within the city even though few of them have signs acknowledging their craftsmenship.

Lit like a jewel at night, Brighton's Veterans Memorial White mums grace the entrance to Brighton's Veterans Memorial beside the millpond

Mums at Brighton's Veterans MemorialFor those seeking color during these gray days, I’ve prepared the image at right as a 1920×1200 desktop pattern you can download by clicking on the thumbnail (right). Every time you view it, you can think of the men and women who serve and have served our country. All of them have been willing to give their lives to protect our freedom if they were asked.

We owe them our gratitude, but we also owe them our diligence in providing continued services after they return from their service either by voting for officials who vow to protect them or volunteering to provide them with our own time and talents.

A mound of rich red mums, one of three dozen at Brighton's Veterans Memorial in Michigan

St. Paul’s ivy

November 10th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

Microclimates have influences how quickly the ivy leaves changed colorOctober 24: The northern facade of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church faces Brighton’s old village cemetery. You have to step around a green plastic garbage bin to discover the ivy growing there. The afternoon light on an overcast day softened the shadows and brought out the warm colors on what was left of the vines.

Microclimates at different heights on the wall influence the progression of fall color. High on the wall, all of the leaves had already fallen. Midway, dark reds painted the remaining ones. Nearer the ground, where the days warmth was stored within the stones, the leaves hadn’t reached their peak color.

Leaves only an inch in diameter march along the brick wall

Bright red stems are like spikes guarding the berries hugging the brickThe red stems stay in place when the leaves fall. During the warm months of summer, those stems keep the leaves from baking against the brick. Air can circulate between the leaves and wall to provide cool shade for the growing berries. Once the leaves fall, the stems appear like a vertical bed of nails. Maybe they discourage birds from eating the berries until they are fully ripe.

There’s something satisfying seeing the vines traversing the grid of bricks. It melds what humans have built with what nature insists should occupy the same spaces.

Stems, berries and a lone leaf make for an interesting compositionI like the interplay of vines, berries and stems with the lone leaf in the photo to the right. It signals the end of the growing season but one leaf refuses to let go.

Fragile leaves are a stark contrast with the round stones

Below the wall, large stones fill raised beds. The fragility of the leaves resting on them contrast nicely with the smooth gray stones; warm colors against medium grays. The soft shadows bring out the gentle ripples within each leaf.

Soft light washes over the leaves on the ground below the ivy

Muskrat preppers

November 10th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

Not amused by me disturbing his after dark tasks, this muskrat glared at me.

There’s been an uptick in muskrat activity at one of the Brighton millpond’s many burrows this past week. Between four and six muskrats (I can’t keep track with their movements in the dark) in one family (or commune) were all busy after dark. It was as if they decided to throw a work party to accomplish a burrow remodel before the winter weather made it more difficult. The fellow, above, seemed miffed I was photographing his group. He glared at me with a mouth full of dried leaves and reeds.

Another muskrat rested briefly on a log before returning to his foraging A young muskrat headed out from the burrow with serious intent

One of the furred workers hopped up on a floating log to take a break (above left). The water in this area of the millpond is less than a foot deep. As a result, the water warms during sunlit days and small aquatic plants are still actively growing. You can see many varieties of plants still green and algae covers the log.

A lily pad stopped in mid-growth by the cold water has turned pale before it could reach the surface. My camera’s flash illuminated it under the wake of a passing muskrat (below right).

All of the muskrats were well furred for the coming winter My flash lit a still submerged lily pad as it grew to reach the surface

Another well-focused skrat rushed back to the burrow with a full mouth of orange underbrush (below). He might be the one in charge of decor.

I don't know where this chap found orange leaves. They don't look familiar to me.

I inadvertently frightened one of the work crew. He made a big splash then headed for the bottom of the pond to escape danger. Then he popped out of the water like a breaching whale at the far limit of my camera’s flash (below).

A muskrat pops up from a deep dive in the Brighton millpond

Last of the milkweed critters

November 9th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

Before wind disturbs them, the seeds are perfectly aligned in their milkweed pods

Dried and open, the milkweed seeds are ready to flyOctober 22: Colder nights and a frost or two have wiped out the majority of the bugs populating the Milkweed pods at the north end of the Brighton millpond. Unlike past years, I didn’t see an adult Milkweed Bug or a Milkweed Beetle. There were plenty of young ones but predators must have gobbled them before they could reach adulthood.

Most pods have dried and popped open. Winds have carried some of the seeds away, but there are still many with seeds tucked in orderly rows waiting for wind to rouse them. Some pods missed the right moment. The floss became matted together during downpours so it can’t ever transport seeds no matter how strong the winds become.

AS the seeds set sail, small bugs still remain on the podsThe fate of bugs still clinging to pods is uncertain. Maybe they burrow into the ground to withstand winter or are transformed into tasty freeze-dried bugcicles birds consume mid-winter. Nothing goes to waste in nature.

The pods shown at right had a healthy insect community in mid-October. I haven’t checked them recently to see if they are still alive. A close up of the same pods at maximum resolution of my camera, below, shows the thriving community.

A spider waits for a meal

A spider waits for a meal

Close up of the predator on the milkweed podsPods less advanced are slowly revealing their bounty of seeds (above), and they have a sentry on duty. Do you see it?

An inch-long spider with a feeble web strung between the pods (left) hides in the shadows below them. He looks like he’s been a successful hunter this year, but his choices have surely dwindled with the lower temperatures.

Meet Castor and Pollux

November 6th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

The new ducks mingle with the wild and domestic ducks as if they have been around for a while

The new ducks have no identifying features other than who they chum around withWe have two more dumped ducks at the Brighton millpond. That makes eight for the year. I’m not sure when their former owner discarded them. I thought they were Lewis and Clark, the pair abandoned in early October. Last evening I confirmed that they were not. Lewis and Clark were in one place and these two in another. Like most dumped ducks, they are Pekin drakes that were probably purchased at Easter this past year. Their owner wanted to ditch them before winter weather arrived instead of providing care for them. Sigh.

Unlike most domestics tossed into a new environment, these two are already acclimated to the rest of the flock. That makes me think they’ve been around for a while and I just hadn’t noticed them as newbies.

Castor and Pollux are large Pekin drakes and well taken care of before they were dumpedI’ve named them Castor and Pollux, twin brothers in Greek and Roman mythology. They are mingling with the Buda Bunch in City Hall Bay, but Buda and Buddy aren’t letting them get too close to the ever alluring Mrs PomPom.

With four new drakes added to the pond within the past 30 days, Jemima is becoming seriously stressed. She has fresh neck wounds. Captain D. Hookt, one of her primary suitors along with Jiminy, has become adept at shooing Fred and Duke away from her, but he cannot control Lewis and Clark. When the new pair discover Jemima is available, she will have her two original suitors plus four more drakes to deal with. A ratio of 1 drake for 3-10 hens is what is recommended for a duck flock. These four newcomers may need to be dispatched.

Hail the kale or cabbage!

November 5th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

Ornamental cabbage or kale graces containers in front of the Brighton Bar and Grill on Main Street

With the growing season wrapping up, ornamental cabbages and kale are appearing in the planters along Brighton’s Main Street. These grace containers at the entrance of Brighton Bar and Grill along with a few straw flowers to add some color. The big, showy plants can withstand mild frosts and bring color to the late fall landscape as it becomes monotone. They won’t endure our winter weather but they are beautiful for a while. I’m not sure whether these are kale or cabbage. I’ve read both are edible but when cooked they turn an unappetizing gray. Tis better to just enjoy them as eye candy.

Some duck updates

November 4th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

The Mallard hen with the partially broken bill is doing fine and has a boyfriendPark visitors often feel the need to rescue ducks when they notice injuries. Most of the time, it’s unwise (and maybe illegal) to do so. At the current time, there is no standard method to report injured waterfowl, but were working on it.

For the time being, this blog is one place you can check to see if the injured bird is identified and whether the injury requires wildlife rehab intervention.

Last spring, one of the Mallard hens broke off a portion of her lower bill (left). Her tongue hangs out of her mouth much of the time. There is little to be done for her and she is able to eat and remains of normal weight and shows no signs of adverse health. While bill prosthetics are sometimes made for birds, we do not have a specialist in this region and the cost would be exorbitant.

A young drake sports a triangle patch on his chestGrace, the duckling with only one leg now in the care of Michigan Duck Rescue and Sanctuary, is doing well with her new pal, Angelena. Still at the millpond are her three surviving siblings. One of them has an unusual triangular patch on his chest (right). Perhaps he was injured or just has a feather growing anomaly. His first set of adult feathers is now almost completely grown in at three months old.

The mother of this family is Five Toes (below left) who is one of the profilic troopers at the millpond. She has been seen casually dating another of the park’s celebriducks, Dumpling (below right). Since breeding doesn’t take place for another five months for the pond’s wild birds, this may just be a pairing of convenience.

Dumpling, however, is a domestic Pekin, a breed so selectively bred that their mating cycle is out of whack with wild bird cycles. He may have other ideas. Five Toes will let him know he’s just being a silly young drake until next March when she’ll decide raising another family is a good idea. Meanwhile, Lewis and Clark have turned their ardor toward Jemima and are actively mating. Since all three are Pekins, she might surprise us by nesting and laying eggs at anytime though there is little hope any eggs will hatch.

5Toes has been dating Dumpling, but it's not serious yet

Stitiching a tree together again

November 4th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

The six images before being mergedOctober 20: Photoshop has a feature called “Photo Merge,” without much help from the user beyond designating the images to be merged, the program compares pixels within the images and determines how they fit together. Because rarely do the images have the exact same color cast, Photoshop also is able to adjust each image to the colors match. I rarely use this feature but had to when I wanted to photograph this tree for two reasons: 1) it was close to dark so I had to stand close enough to the tree so my flash would illuminate it, and 2) if I had been able to stand farther back, the parking signs (the 3 poles shown below) would have blocked the lower left portion of the tree.

So I took six photos of the tree to make sure I got all of it with some overlap within each of the images. They are shown in their original 4000×3000 states, above right. Then I hit the button to merge them.

The merged images still in their own layers

The finished imageWithin about a minute, Photoshop presented me with the file as shown above. The six images are still separate, one image per layer with a layer mask defining the portion of each image that is used in the final composite. Black is masked out and white is what shows in the layer masks. You can see how Photoshop had to distort the images to fit the tree together. It’s amazing, really.

At left is the finished, cropped result lightened a bit and rotated a little so the tree stands upright. I had to fake areas in the four corners of the image, but that will be our little secret, okay?

Below is a close up of one area of this beautiful tree that stands beside the Brighton City Hall. It’s a beautiful addition to their grounds and the ducks like the shade it brings in the hot summer months.

A close up of maple

White meets its match

November 3rd, 2014     3 comments     permalink

Bright white, the tall bird blends with the sky on a late October day

A Great Egret hunts in a small pond in Brighton, MichiganOctober 28: Great Egrets aren’t seen often at the Brighton millpond, but they stop by from time to time to hunt. This one was found in late afternoon a half mile away in a small pond teaming with tiny fish and frogs. The pond is currently covered by fallen weeping willow leaves that encircle it.

Sunlight illuminates a distant hillside awash in autumn color. It’s a fitting counterpoint to the bird’s bright white plumage. Soon, the egrets will move southward for the winter. Brighton is at the northern edge of its northern travels.

Speckled with fallen willow leaves, the small pond teams with small fish and frogs

Making a splash Halloween night

November 2nd, 2014     0 comments     permalink

A pumpkin float at the crest of the Brighton millpond dam

November 1: In my parents generation, teenagers got their jollies at Halloween tipping over outhouses in their small village in the Corn Belt. Since outhouses are extinct in today’s upscale Brighton, teenagers find other ways to inflict mischief. Trying to drown pumpkins is one of them. Had they been better students in school, they might have learned pumpkins float. But their hands-on experimentation in the dead of night will serve them well in their careers as minor vandals.

This year’s festivities ended with the baptism of this whopper that arrived at the dam where it will bobble until city workers fish it out. Too bad the pumpkin didn’t come to rest on a millpond shore where muskrats could enjoy it. In 2012, I reported the Adventures of a dead pumpkin that mysteriously “swam” upstream then ended up in the bellies of the beasts.

The water lily bistro

November 1st, 2014     0 comments     permalink

A muskrat nibbles on what's left of water lilies as the sun sets behind it on an overcast day

Silvery light from the setting sun on an overcast day silhouettes a lone muskrat as it dines on what’s left of the water lilies. The muskrats devour the pads and stems so, by the time, the pond freezes, there will be few lilypads left.  Like other animals that endure the winter, I imagine muskrats pack on as much fat as they can before the pond freezes over. The combination of body fat and a thick coat must keep them comfortable as they continue to forage all winter. I’ve never found one curled up and shivering.

Autumn Color #3

November 1st, 2014     0 comments     permalink

Oak leaves the color and sheen of oxblood shoe polish when I was growing up

Red and green are complementary colors — direct opposities — on the color wheel so it’s a bit unusual when you see them side by side in nature other than red berries with green leaves. Some of the oaks display these colors together briefly (above). The color and sheen of these oaks leaves reminds me of polishing the oxblood shoes I had while growing up.

Vines twine through the boardwalk railingsUntil cold nights cause them to drop, Virginia Creeper puts on quite a show of deep reds. At right, the share the railing with lemony bittersweet vines. For our sake, it’s good these two vining plants don’t grow year around here. If they did, this railing would disappear beneath a tangle of vines within a couple of years. Both species are ruthless invasives.

Left, a leaf that might be a Catalpa, loses its chlorophyll from its edges first and then its capillary action dries them from the outer edge toward their central vein. The red leaf from a small ornamental tree near the imagination station reveals its red color evenly throughout its later life.

A large lead, catalpa perhaps, grows on a sapling that will surely be mowed down next spring Several trees near the Imagination Station flashed red before the wind came