Memorial Service

June 27th, 2016     1 comment     permalink

I spoke with Doug’s brother last evening by telephone.  He believes he and one of his daughters will be in Brighton on Friday, July 1st.

Doug’s brother made the gift of life on his behalf.  He spoke of having Doug’s remains cremated and conducting a memorial service for him at the Millpond.  We’re checking with city officials.



Sad Day

June 24th, 2016     4 comments     permalink

I am very saddened to report to this blog’s many readers Doug Peterson passed away June 24, 2016, at about 6:00 PM while undergoing emergency surgery at St. Joseph’s Mercy Hospital in Ann Arbor.  Doug’s brother has been notified and will arrive in Brighton within the next couple of days.

We’ve all lost a dear friend.

Don Arbic


Hoover is a lapmunk

June 17th, 2016     0 comments     permalink

Hoover, the Chipmunk

Hoover, the ChipmunkEarlier, I reported Hoover, the chipmunk, was well trained in taking peanuts from park visitors then transporting them back to his burrow. It’s now well beyond a simple transaction between humans and a rodent.

He’s learned to jump into laps and climb pant legs to accept peanuts in the shell. He’s picky. Already shelled peanuts will only be accepted if no peanuts in the shell are offered. Handing this creature his preferred food stuffs can become an expensive endeavor since he dashes to his burrow and returns within 30 second to get his cheeks filled again. I think he’d do this from dawn to dusk if given the chance.

Hoover, the ChipmunkSince several park visitors have learned how entertaining this fellow can be, I can’t imagine how he’s packing his bounty into this burrow. Chipmunk burrows can be 30 feet long with lots of side chambers for food storage. His mansion must be the Graceland of burrows, but I hope he’s decorated it better than Elvis did.

Normally, chipmunks don’t start seriously amassing their winter stores until autumn when you hear them rattling on to announce to the neighbors to stay off their territories. Hoover will surely be lounging on his deck as a wealthy resident of the park by then.

Hoover, the Chipmunk

Of course encouraging this behavior violates every rule in wildlife stewardship. A chipmunk can inflict a nasty bite if cornered or provoked. I worry about him getting hurt or killed by being too friendly, too. But I gotta say, as a photographer, it’s great to have a model who works for peanuts at about $2 a pound and doesn’t ask for cab fare home.

Eureka is younger and more timid than Hoover

Hold peanuts in one hand and your camera in the other. You’ll get photos like these close ups as long as you don’t run out of peanuts. Once that happens, Hoover will bid you farewell.

Hoover, the Chipmunk Hoover, the Chipmunk

Hoover (above), named after the vacuum cleaner, has bragged to his neighbors about his ability to charm/con humans out of peanuts. They’ve also seen him in action and are beginning to acquire his skills.

Eureka, the Chipmunk Eureka, the Chipmunk

Eureka, above, and another nearby chipmunk named Dyson, are slowly learning his techniques. Hoover isn’t pleased.

A model working for peanuts

If one of his two neighbors horns in on what he considers his territory, he chases them away. Those critters sneak back when Hoover isn’t watching to get a share of the bounty but it’s obvious Hoover is the dominant chipmunk. You’ll find these three and more near the southern dock behind LaMarsa Restaurant and Hungry Howie’s.

Eureka, the Chipmunk Eureka, the chipmunk, horns into Hoover's territory and learns his begging technigues

I admit there are too many portraits of these critters in this post. Come to the pond and try to resist taking too many shots of these fellows.

Mating stress in drakes

June 17th, 2016     0 comments     permalink

This Mallard drake has been attacked by rival males

Everyone visiting the Brighton millpond at this time of year finds Mallard hens standing in parking lots or on grass a short distance from the pond. It’s a way for them to avoid the advances of drakes that can be very insistent.

Open wounds will heal with timeDrakes also attack rival drakes. This male was found alone at the north end of the pond yesterday. He has bloody open wounds on his head and his demeanor tells me he’s been savaged by other drakes. Sometimes the weaker birds will be killed. Most of the time, the wounded birds will hide in vegetation or leave the pond entirely until they heal. Most wildlife doesn’t want to appear vulnerable to predators or rivals.

I’ve also seen drakes attack injured ducks. It’s a way to reduce the number of rivals or prove one’s dominance. Buttless Bob is perpetually attacked by other males. Apparently his lack of tail feathers signals to the other boys that he is weaker. He does fight back. Still, every year during the mating season, he gets pecked by males until his head is bloodied.

2016 Brood 17

June 17th, 2016     0 comments     permalink

The hen looks a lot like the hen of Brood 14

This has been a busy week of hatchings although the broods have been smaller than usual. I found 2016 Brood 17 on the embankment near the Imagination Station after dark last night. At first, I thought it was Brood 14. There were only 5 ducklings found with the hen but Brood 14 had 7 on June 12 so the loss of two chicks within 4 days isn’t unusual.

2016 Brood 17 was born within the past 24 hours and is comprised of 5 ducklingsEven though the mom resembles the hen in Brood 14, the ducklings are obviously first day birds. Can you imagine how quickly they have to learn to find their own food, flee danger, and follow the orders of their mom? It all begins on their first day of life when they leave the nest and never return to it.

These tykes are sticking close to their mother. It’s the most success method to survive the first few days of life when they can fit in the mouths of gulls, turtles, fish, hawks, owls, and even bullfrogs. By staying closely packed with mom, predators are more likely to view them being a larger animal than they are individually.

Late spring millpond evenings

June 16th, 2016     0 comments     permalink

The Brighton millpond on a late spring evening

We wait six months for spring evenings like several we’ve had this past week. Except for one hot and muggy one, they all have a slight chill that demands a jacket after dark. That’s fine with most people because it also means it’s too brisk for mosquitoes.

Razzle is looking for his girlfriendRazzle (right) and his three amigos are enjoying the weather but have been slightly confused this week. Their favorite female cannot be found. The four drakes have been at the sides of two hens throughout winter and spring. Both have vanished. Zoot might be nesting but I fear Franny has died since she’s been absent for two months now.

Zoot may be in the clutches of a duck rustler. I met a woman who was obviously self-medicated who told me she was a licensed wildlife rehabber. She was attempting to catch ducks who had limps so she could take them to Howell Nature Center. She said one in her possession was having surgery the next day for a broken leg.

I checked with Howell Nature Center. They are the only wildlife rehabilitation facility in Livingston County and have the only licensed wildlife rehabber on their staff. The woman I met at the millpond was lying to me about her license and no ducks from the millpond have arrived at HNC this spring.

This isn’t unusual. Each year, someone takes it upon themselves to “rescue” waterfowl that don’t need rescuing. I explained to the imposter the ducks she was worried about were being monitored. Michigan Duck Rescue is generous with their knowledge and NONE of these birds required medical intervention.

Ducks are resilient. Leg injuries usually heal with time or are permanent conditions that cannot be medically helped. Capturing migrating waterfowl like Mallards or even Canada geese is rarely recommended. It is unlawful for individuals to take it upon themselves to care for them. They have 48 hours to get them to a licensed wildlife rehabber or risk sizable fines for harboring wild animals. Most veterinarians are not licensed to provide medical services to wildlife. So please leave the millpond wildlife alone unless they have life-threatening injuries caused by predators or vehicles. If you have further questions, you may find answers at the Michigan Department of Natural Resources website.


2016 Brood 16

June 16th, 2016     0 comments     permalink

2016 Brood 16 has three ducklings

2016 Brood16 found behind the fire station Wednesday eveningWhile I can never be sure about such things, I think 2016 Brood 16 is the same hen who hatched 9 ducklings way back in 2013. She may have had brood each year between then and now. I didn’t poke around in the blog to find out. What’s distinctive about her is her very bright eyebrows and her location in the northern half of the pond.

It hasn’t been a productive year for ducks this summer. It’s my opinion that some hens have been killed by predator while they were on their nests and some others may have been illegally taken. By this time last summer, we had 22 broods hatching at total of 164 ducklings at the pond. This year only 16 broods have hatched a mere 88 ducklings. 2015 was an exceptional year, but still that’s a huge difference.

2016 Brood 15: Monumental!

June 14th, 2016     2 comments     permalink

The missing foot signals this is Blonde Bombshell #2

Blonde Bombshell #2 had a tragic accident in July, 2015. Her right leg became entangled with monofilament fishing line that cut off the circulation. By the time the Hysen family helped catch her, the flesh was falling off her foot.

Michigan Duck Rescue and Sanctuary  was contacted to see if they had room for this domestic duck. BB#2  was caught along with her two surviving ducklings. We didn’t want to separate the trio.

I got periodic reports about her and asked about her in April of this year. Her two youngsters were still at the Sanctuary, but she had vanished. She was a good flyer so it was assumed she had gone to a nearby pond.

One robust, healthy chick survivesInstead, I got a report from a Brighton homeowner they had a blonde duck returned to their property this spring as she had for the past five years. They said she was now missing part of her leg and foot. Bingo! It had to be BB#2. She arrived with ducklings in tow Sunday evening. They were too far away to photograph in the fading light. It appeared she had three ducklings.

She came closer Monday night with one duckling, 2016 Brood 15. She has some difficulty walking but manages. She’s a good swimmer and flyer so she could live several more years. She was transported 20 miles to the Sanctuary but found her way back to the Brighton millpond to nest again this year by using magnetic fields, solar as well as star navigation, landmarks, and I’m sure a touch of magic to get where she wanted to be.

Brood updates

June 14th, 2016     0 comments     permalink

2016brood1-2-_3699_240As previously mentioned, Dot, the hen for 2016 Brood 1 who only has 2 of her original 14 ducklings, has taken on the responsibility of motherhood for the six remaining ducklings from the abandoned 2016 Brood 2. In addition, two other ducklings have joined the party. They are younger and smaller than others so they are younger but I don’t have a clue about their heritage. You can see the newbies in the back of the pack as they paddle to their nighttime roost (right).

2016 Brood 10 has been reduce to only three youngsters. They hatched a month ago and their hen has kept them near the northern end of the pond. I assume that’s because she doesn’t want to deal with overtures from the Mallard drakes wanting her to nest again.

Brood 10 has be reduced to only 3 ducklings

Damsels of both genders?

June 14th, 2016     0 comments     permalink

Damselflies appearing to be seeking companionship on Monday nightSummer temperatures bring out insects at the millpond. Most are innocuous but there’s a 30 minute period after sunset when female mosquitoes send brigades out looking for blood.

If you lean against a boardwalk railing in the evening, you’ll see damselflies hanging out. Perhaps this couple is contemplating a late night soiree. Seems redundant to talk about female damselflies and downright strange to discuss male damselflies. Guess it doesn’t matter. I can’t tell females from males anyway. For all I know, these two might be entirely different species.

Damselflies fold their wings over their backs when at rest. Dragonflies’ wings are perpendicular to their bodies when they perch.

2016 Brood 14

June 12th, 2016     0 comments     permalink

2016 Brood 14 has 7 ducklings

2016 Brood 16 was discovered perched on a boulder below the Brighton millpond dam. Some park visitors were concerned the seven 2-day-old ducklings would drown in the rushing water surrounding them. Not a chance. Those little guys are already great swimmers and climbers. They almost hydroplane as they scoot along the surface of the water. You’re welcome to download the top photo and use it as your Cover Image on Facebook. This one is saved at Facebook’s preferred size.

The Mallard hen had the kids on a boulder below the falls With rushing water all around them, the ducklings were in their element

Mom had taken her brood below the falls to avoid the drakes. They are already after her to mate so their prodigy will be added to summer tally of ducklings. So far this year, 82 have hatched and 50% have survived. We’ll get at least another 80 before the season winds down in August if this year follows the norm.

Mom waddled the group along the embankment The ducklings all look like full-blood Mallard


Dot adds another duckling to her brood

June 11th, 2016     4 comments     permalink

Dots band of merry ducklings has grown to tenDot, the hen for 2016 Brood 1, has been taking her two remaining ducklings to the Main Street area to roost for the night. The seven ducklings from 2016 Brood 2 have befriended Dot and her kids so they all travel together. That increases their chances for survival.

Friday night, I noticed the nine ducklings in this combo were joined by a new one. It’s a little smaller than the others so I think it’s younger and is probably the survivor of the two that had been alone for the past 10 days (left).

Meanwhile, Onyx has lost the ninth of her ten ducklings. Last year, she lost all of her ducklings by the fifth day, if I remember correctly. This year, she still has one on its ninth day. She seems attentive so there’s hope her little one will survive to adulthood (below).

2016 Brood 12: Onyx only has one duckling left

A bounty of muskbrats!

June 10th, 2016     0 comments     permalink

I’ve read muskrats can have up to four litters with up to nine kits per litter. That’s 360 muskrats per family and there are an estimated ten muskrat families on the Brighton millpond. That’s a total of adding 3,600 new muskrats on the pond each year. We don’t see anywhere near those extreme numbers. If we get more than a dozen kits reaching adulthood each year, I’d be surprised. Predators, medical conditions, and speeding cars surely take their toll.

With its tail behind it, this muskrat looks like a fuzzy potbelly pig

Over the past six years, I’ve seen no more than two dozen muskrat kits, about three per year. I’m sure many more are born at the pond, but I think parents keep them in burrows until they are big enough to forage by themselves and they grow to adult sized beings quickly.

We’ve had an embarrassment of riches this spring. I’ve already seen at least six of the little fuzz balls in the water and on shore. The one shown here was grazing on grass behind Brighton’s fire station #31 on Thursday. You may see three other kits eating vegetation while floating just north of the Tridge. They are from the same litter living in a burrow along the cemetery’s shore.

A baby muskrat catches me photographing it Muskrats of all ages graze on grass near the millpond

I couldn’t get close to this kit. He bolted into the water. The click-thru images aren’t large or detailed. Maybe the next time I see him, he’ll be more cooperative.

Inches from the shore, when danger threatens, muskrat kits dark into the water

Confirmed: Lunker Pike

June 9th, 2016     0 comments     permalink

Northern Pike, June 8, 2016 caught by Clifton at the Brighton millpondFor years, I’ve been told there are large Northern Pike in the Brighton millpond, but I’ve never seen one. This year, I’ve gotten reports of fishermen catching 20, 30, 36 inchers, and an almost-landed one as thick as your thigh. The fishermen are all frequent fishers at the pond and would never exaggerate their catches. Well, maybe not. :-)

Free Fishing Derby for Kids at the Brighton Millpond, June 11, 2016Clifton changed all of that yesterday by photographing his catch before throwing it back. He didn’t weigh or measure it and there’s nothing in the photo to confirm it’s size, but it’s definitely a lunker! Any fisherman would be thrilled to land one of these guys. Come to the millpond and try your luck.

The perfect opportunity is Saturday, June 11, 2016, if you have children. The Brighton Optimists Club are holding their annual Free Fishing Derby for Kids with prizes and pizza for children 6-16 years of age. Children must be supervised by an adult. Registration begins at 7:30am at the millpond’s Gazebo. It’s strictly catch-and-release and lots of FREE fun for the kids as well as the adults. Official rules are here.

She’s not alone

June 9th, 2016     0 comments     permalink

A raccoon was found near a trash bin on May 28This fine raccoon is the first one spotted this season, but I can tell she’s not the only one. Take a moment to see if you can discover the clue before reading on.

Did you note her enlarged breast? That’s a clear sign she’s nursing little ones. I didn’t find them on this night but will soon hear them rustling in the discarded cups and ice cream bowls in the trash bins. Raccoons grow quickly so they appreciate the pizza and sugary treats thrown away by park visitors. They tour the bins each night and scatter wrappers and gooey napkins around the garbage cans while they dig for snacks.

A well-trained chipmunk

June 8th, 2016     0 comments     permalink

Few things are more fun to watch than a chipmunk filling his cheeks with peanuts

A chipmunk along the millpond trail has been trained by park visitors to fill his cheeks with peanuts in the shell and take them to his winter stockpile in his burrow under a large cottonwood tree. He’ll have a pantry full of goodies to get him through winter.

You can buy peanuts in the shell at Brighton’s Pet Supplies Plus for about $2.50/pound. A pound will give you an hour’s entertainment giving the rodent food to store. You’ll love every minute of it. He’ll take the nuts right out of your hand but there’s some risk of him biting you so I don’t advise it.* Just set the nuts on the ground in front of you.

He’ll come and stuff his cheeks (above) then run to his burrow. Unless he checks his email and Facebook account, he’ll be back at your feet within 30 seconds to accept more food for his larder. While he’ll accept bread and duck chow (below), they aren’t good food choices for him. Bread is empty calories and duck chow pellets will become gooey messes when stored in his moist burrow.

* There’s a very remote chance he could transmit rabies to you through a bite. Normally, chipmunks aren’t a rabies host. Small mammals bitten by larger rabid animals rarely survive the encounters to then bite a human. Still, you can never be too careful when around a wild animal no matter how cute it is.

The chipmunk will also fill his cheeks with duck chow but it becomes a gooey mess when it gets wet so it won't make it to winter

You’ll find him near the southern dock in the central part of the pond. No appointment is necessary. His name is Hoover. Chipmunks rarely survive being transplanted to new environments so don’t even think of taking him home with you.

The millpond’s two water lilies

June 8th, 2016     0 comments     permalink

Bullhead Water Lilies at the Brighton millpond

The days are long enough and the water warm enough to encourage the water lilies to bloom. There are areas in the Brighton millpond where the water lilies are thick.

Seedpods of the Bullhead Water Lilies

Bullhead Water Lilies at the Brighton millpondWe have two species on the millpond. The most abundant is the Bullhead Water Lily (aka: Nuphar lutea). The bright yellow orbs appear to be petals, but they are actually sepals, the shields surrounding a multiple of tiny flowers inside them. Once the flowers are pollinated and die, large seedpods form (above). I’ve seen Canada geese and muskrats munch on the flowers so they must be tasty although I’m not sure if they are edible for humans.

The other water lilies are white and look more like lotus, Nymphaea odorata Aiton (below, right). They aren’t as prevalent as the Bullheads but are more popular with park visitors.

Bullhead and White (r) Water Lilies

2016 Brood 13: Woodies!

June 8th, 2016     0 comments     permalink

Wood Ducks visit the Brighton millpond often, but I’ve never seen them with their young in my seven years observing them. I saw a hen and three very young ducklings at the north end of the pond Tuesday evening. It wasn’t until I got closer I realized they were Wood Ducks. Two LDS elders serving on a mission in Brighton told me they had seen four ducklings with the hen on Monday. Because of their size, I’m guessing the youngsters hatched three days ago.

2016 Brood 13 has a trio of Wood Duck ducklings at the north end of the millpond

In 2015, a Wood Duck nested in a tree near the gazebo, but the family wasn’t seen on the pond. A predator may have discovered the nest before the hatch date. Unlike the Mallards and other dabbling ducks in residence who nest on or near the ground, Wood Ducks nest in hollow trees and nest boxes built by humans. They prefer secluded woodland ponds and are usually very skittish. It’s surprising to find them raising a family in the middle of our city and quite a tribute to the environmental quality of the pond.

Buda: Banished duck king

June 2nd, 2016     1 comment     permalink

Buda roosts alone at the north end of the pond

Buda has been dethroned as an alpha-duck on the Brighton millpond. Pollux who took top honors and now it appears to be the Dixie/Darth tag team. They are chasing the new arrivals (George & Martha) out of the pond daily.

Buda has also separated from his long-time buddy Dexter who is wooing one of the pond’s ravishing hens. So Buda sits alone at the north end of the pond, but he still seeks female companionship. He swims down to where Franny once nested and looks for Calamity and Shine to no avail. Those domestic hens are currently missing. They may be on distant nests so I don’t consider them lost to the ages yet.

Buda's posture isn't looking too chipper lately

You can see Buda isn't preening his feathers wellBuda looks bedraggled these days. I took these shots on a rainy day. That may be why his feathers are soiled. Note how he isn’t preening himself well. Maybe he’s not feeling chipper or a touch of arthritis makes it painful to reach his tail feathers (left). Those aren’t plunked feathers around him (above). They are withered flowers from an Autumn Olive tree above him. He’s one of the oldest domestic ducks on the pond and has survived far beyond expectations. He’s been at the pond longer than I have, 7+ years.

Is it a “plunk” or a “thunk”?

June 2nd, 2016     1 comment     permalink

A Green Frog advertises for a mate singing in the shallows of the millpond

I heard the Green Frog before I saw it surrounded by duckweed and the fascinating rhizome of a water lily that looks like it emerged out of a prehistoric bog.

Find the Northern Green Frog in the above picture. I won’t give you any clues because I think you won’t have any trouble doing it after scanning the image for a few seconds. But this image illustrates how well they blend in with their environment. Like the other frog I posted this week, this one isn’t part of the Fringo! game since I couldn’t get close enough to him to photograph his unique characteristics. I’m sure I’ll find frogs for Fringo! soon. I’m hearing lots of them at dusk.

A Common Grackle

June 2nd, 2016     0 comments     permalink

A Common Grackle perches on a dead branch at the Brighton millpond

Wikipedia tells me we have three species of grackles in Michigan (scroll down to Icterids): Common, Boat-Tailed, and Great-Tailed. But says Boat- and Great-Taileds aren’t anywhere near our state.

I feel (almost) certain I’ve seen Boat-Tailed Grackles in Brighton and other Michigan locales, but Common Grackles are surely the most abundant in our region and at the millpond.

The iridescence is the most recognizable trait of these blackbirds but coming in at a close second is their sleek, streamlined shape. They look like polished black marble sculpture when they stand still which isn’t often.

Turtles are waiting for you

June 1st, 2016     0 comments     permalink

Snapping and Painted Turtles abound in the millpond near Brighton's Village Cemetery.

“Holy Cow!” is the usual reaction when park visitors see one of the large millpond turtles for the first time. There are Common Snapping Turtles with shells about 18″ long from head to tail as well as many younger, smaller ones.

Midland Painted Turtles are the frequent companions of the large snapper. They stay close by to grab the shredded food scraps the large turtles generate when they rip apart carrion they find in the pond.

Now is the best time of year to see oodles of turtles. The boardwalk between the Brighton Village Cemetery and Stillwater Grill is the primary location to watch them. They amass is the swallows of the bay on the east side of the boardwalk where the water heats up because of the black silt. Bring a couple of slices of bread to toss to the turtles. It’s not great food for them, but I doubt you want to bring a pocket full of ground beef or a dead muskrat.

Lost of a partner

June 1st, 2016     4 comments     permalink

A robin has nested on top of a porch light near the millpond

A robin has nested on top of a porch light near the millpond. When I’ve walked by, her mate can usually be spotted with an insect or worm in its mouth waiting for me to move on so it could deliver the meal to his beloved without disclosing the location of its nest (although I’m already aware of it). On Tuesday, I didn’t see the male waiting to deliver the goods, but then I spotted its lifeless body in the gravel.

It probably mistook a reflection of the sky in a large window as the real thing, and slammed into it. Its mate will probably be able to raise her brood alone, but she’ll be very busy once the eggs hatch.

The nesting robin's mate slammed into a window and died on Monday

The shrinking broods

June 1st, 2016     0 comments     permalink

2016 Brood 1 is reduced to only a pair of ducklings

It always happens much to the chagrin of park visitors. The broods of ducklings diminish in size from day to day. Of course the millpond couldn’t sustain every ducklings hatched but that doesn’t reduce the sadness when someone sees 14 ducklings in Brood 1 and then discovers only two remain alive after three weeks (above). Dot (below left), the mom for Brood 1, is Onyx’s sister but Onyx isn’t doing much better with her troop. They hatched last Friday with 10 in the clutch but three days later, there were only four remaining (below right).

Dot is Onyx's sister and the Brood #1 hen On Memorial Day, Onyx had 4 or her original 10

Last summer, Dot didn’t nest which isn’t unusual for a first year duck. Onyx nested in 2015 but lost all of her ducklings in about five days’ time.

Onyx took her quartet to locations where they could find nutritious food

Onyx appears to be a more attentive mother this year and kept her ducklings in view although not always close. By Tuesday evening, she had lost another one so she’s down to three as I write this.

Onyx with her 4 duckings on Monday evening

One of the pond’s fishermen told me he caught and released a 6-7 pound bass on Tuesday in the area where Onyx takes her offspring to find food. It’s possible that largemouth has been eating very well this week.

By Tuesday evening, Onyx only had three ducklings remaining

I didn’t get an accurate count of Brood 10 when they hatched. It seemed the Mallard had 8 on the evening I first saw her. Now she has five and trusts me enough to fall asleep as I photographed her Tuesday evening (below). Then again, trust may have nothing to do with it. Maybe her little darlings wore her out during the day.

2016 Brood 10 began with about 8 and now has 5 ducklings

Brood 2 only has 8 of the original 12, but they have done well considering their mom abandoned them. Two Mallard drakes roost near them sometimes (below) which might give them an extra moment’s notice should a predator come calling.

2016 Brood 2 began with 12 but is now 8 ducklings

I’ve updated the numbers in this year’s Fertility Tournament if you want to see where we stand now.

No barns. Swallows anyway.

May 30th, 2016     0 comments     permalink

Few birds are as aerodynamically beautiful as the swallows

Barn Swallows have peach-colored chestsBarn Swallows nest under all of the elevated boardwalks at the Brighton millpond. As you walk on them, you can hear the nestlings chirping to remind their parents they are hungry.

Unlike the pond’s muskrats, Barn Swallows know how to kick back and watch the world go by. They will perch on wires (right) or branches above the water (below). I doubt they need the rest. Their flying seems effortless as they swoop and turn catching insects on-the-wing for their nestlings at 30 miles an hour. That doesn’t sound very fast, but just try to photograph them and you’ll be impressed with their agility.

The swallows wait for insects to fly by before taking to the air again to catch them

Even with iridescent blue backs, the birds are almost invisible when perched on branches above the pondWhen night is falling, the birds make another frantic sweep over the pond to capture flying insects to take back to their nests. You can expect to see several dozen of the adult birds collecting bedtime snacks.

On their last insect search before dark, Barn Swallows bring home food for their nestlingsEach time an adult returns, you’ll hear the chirping below you escalate as siblings try to convince their parent they are the hungriest.

Once fledglings take their first flights, siblings might perch shoulder-to-shoulder on a branch above the pond. A parent will fly to them with bugs in its mouth, drop them into a begging gullet then fly off again to catch another meal for a kid without ever landing. If you spot 1-5 tiny birds perched together, stand patiently. There’s a good chance a swallow will swoop in to feed a fledgeling.

More spring flowers at the millpond

May 30th, 2016     0 comments     permalink

A Dogwood tree stands beside the Imagination Station near the millpond

Garden baskets and planters are filled with annuals on the patio of the Wooden Spoon restaurantOne of only two Dogwood trees bloomed in mid-May but the flowers have faded.

Baskets filled with summer flowers hang on lamp posts throughout the downtown area, and many of the businesses have planters at their doors on on their patios like these dahlias at the Wooden Spoon restaurant.

A garden lamp back-lights a hosta in front of the Keehn Funeral Home on Main Street, a stone’s throw from the Brighton millpond.

A light in the garden of Keehn Funeral Home back-lights a hosta plant

Mooing good vibrations

May 29th, 2016     0 comments     permalink

Ready for mating, this bullfrog moos to attract females

Life is confusing. “Male Bullfrogs” sounds redundant, but there’s no such thing as Cowfrogs. They are female bullfrogs even though there are no female bulls in mammalian circles. That is unless some bulls are doing that Hollywood thing to get their own reality television series.

Male bullfrogs are advertising their suitability as mates now to the females by mooing at the millpond. Mere moos might not be enough. The girls must evaluate the robust nature of the moos since the boys place their throats in the water to the moos sound larger and travel farther. You can see the vibrations this gentlefrog’s moos generate (below).

Sound waves travel farther in water The frog enhances his moos with vibrations from his throat and abdomen

Sadly, this bullfrog cannot participate in this year’s Fringo! game. I couldn’t get a view of him from the officially sanctioned right front three-quarter view. Maybe I’ll meet him on the sidewalk on some humid night in the weeks to come to snap his portrait from the prescribed angle.

2016 Brood 12

May 29th, 2016     1 comment     permalink

Onyx is roosting with her youngsters on the cement embankment near Main Street

Some fellow duck watchers and I have been anxiously awaiting the hatching of Onyx’s dozen eggs because we knew where she nested so we could monitor from day to day. Ten of the twelve eggs hatched on Friday morning. The other two are apparently not viable.

One of the primary jobs of hens is to take her brood to nutritious food sourcesShe is a second year hen, the daughter of either Dazzle or his son Razzle, the two Cayuga ducks who are currently wooing Zoot. In her first year as an adult, Onyx hatched 6-7 ducklings (I never got a chance to accurately count them) and was down to only one within five days. The last one vanished thereafter. That’s not terribly surprising for an inexperienced hen.

Onyx has lost one of her ten within the first full day of her brood exploring the pond. As you can see in these photos, she isn’t careful. She allows the kids to separate instead of keeping them shoulder-to-shoulder which makes them look like one large animal. When they separate, they look like swallowable appetizers to large fish, owls, hawks, turtles, and gulls. The hen with the first brood of this year, Dot, is Onyx’s sister. She hatched 14 but is now down to only a trio of 3 week olds near the central part of the pond.

While vulnerable, all of the ducklings look very healthy

  • Douglas Peterson
    Brighton, Michigan

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    You'll find information about the resident ducks, birds, and critters residing at the Brighton millpond. I slip in my art and poetry, but my photography of wildlife and plants is the primary focus.

    Douglas Alden Peterson
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