Lost in plain sight

July 31st, 2015     0 comments     permalink

This poor little duckling from Brood 27 (hatched July 19) appears to be all alone in the big, dark pond peeping it’s heart out searching for its mother. This image proves some ducklings aren’t very bright.

A two week old duckling frantically searches for its mom at the Brighton millpond

His mom was less than 40 feet away. The tyke intentionally left his five siblings and mom heading for lily pads. Once it paddled 20 feet away, it started frantically peeping and searching even though mom was watching him. If ducks could do it, I’m sure the hen was rolling her eyes at the conduct of this clueless lad. The youngster was in no danger, but I thank him for allowing me to create a photo that implies that. His mom finally retrieved him from his misguided adventure.

If you would like a desktop image of this duckling facing the world alone, you may download the 1920×1200 image (604k) or click the above photo to enjoy a more reasonably sized one.

Bugs share a meal

July 31st, 2015     0 comments     permalink

Two Red Plant Bugs are feasting on another insect

I’ve been looking below lights in the evenings lately. This is the height of the insect season. I haven’t spotted anything large and dramatic, but wee critters abound in the warm, humid nights. This pair of what I believe are Red Plant Bugs appear to be draining the fluids from their unfortunate catch that’s too small for me to identify.

A lone ring-billed gull

July 31st, 2015     0 comments     permalink

A lone gull roosted with the waterfowl this week

Like ducks, Ring-Billed Gulls travel in groups. Yet one juvenile bird was found roosting with the waterfowl near city hall this week. It was either chose to separate from its brethren or was physically unable to keep up with them. I see no injuries on its body and it was alert enough to avoid me getting close to it. Gulls will eat anything including foreign objects. Time will tell if this one has ingested something that endangers its life like a fish hook or pull tab from a soda can.

Plunder at Franny’s nest

July 31st, 2015     0 comments     permalink

Most of her 18 eggs remained in the nest but candling indicated most were not viable

Vermin attacked Franny’s nest on Wednesday. I found 3 eggs broken two feet from the nest with their contents gone. I suspect the culprit was a skunk. Raccoons or canines would probably do more damage. Franny was not in attendance and no feathers were found indicating she was harmed.

Three eggs were moved two feet from the nest and their contents consumedHer absence gave me a chance to candle the remaining eggs. Many appeared infertile. Light from my flashlight revealed no vein development and none showed movement. Three showed large air sacks which I can’t interpret.

I searched for Franny near the fire station where Duke, Dazzle, and Razzle have been loitering. No sign of the quartet there nor were they at the south end with the rest of the flock. This signals the end of Franny’s nesting season, but more ducklings should hatch before autumn arrives though I haven’t found any active nests.

A night of bullhead fishing and surgery

July 28th, 2015     0 comments     permalink

It's a bullhead but the species is unknown

Proudly holding up his slippery catchThree gentlemen who came to catch lunker carp after sunset had to settle for reeling in a few millpond bullheads. Bullheads in the pond rarely exceed a pound and 10″ in length, but they put up a good fight not to mention occasionally getting even with their captors by jabbing them with sharp barbs near their fins while they are being unhooked.

Occasionally, someone will pull in a whopper up to 14″. The state record isn’t much bigger coming in at less than 4 pounds and 17″ long.

The treble hook was embedded in the cartilage of the mouth

On this night, the trio pulled in a slippery challenge. The bullhead had a treble hook from a previous fishermen embedded in its lip. To improve the fish’s quality of life, the men preformed impromptu surgery to remove the hook that had been there for quite some time. It took several minutes for the anglers-turned-surgeons to remove the gear and return the fish to the water. It swam away with vigor and had stories to tell its buddies about life near Main Street above the lily pads where humans roam.

It's not easy to hold a slippery fish during surgery A little blood was lost but the fish will be more comfortable now
Pliers were used to wiggle the treble hook out of the fish's lip The hook had been in the fish for quite some time

Which bullhead species was it? I’m not sure. Brown Bullhead, Black Bullhead, and Yellow Bullhead are the primary species found in Michigan. The State of Wisconsin has published a nice PDF with illustrations of all three bullhead species. Since the Brown Bullhead is the most common one, I’ll settle for that identification until someone more knowledgeable than me posts a comment correcting me.

The millpond fishermen scoff at the thought of taking bullheads home to eat, but the State of Michigan says they are delicious.

Chives on Main Street

July 27th, 2015     0 comments     permalink

Chives grow in the raised beds beside Main Street in Brighton, Michigan

The Brighton Garden Club maintains the raised flower beds between the sidewalk and Main Street at the millpond. This year, stands of chives are in full bloom in them and look especially yummy after dark when illuminated by the lights beside them pointing up to the flags. Close up, the flower heads look like bouquets of tiny tulips.

Up close, the flower clusters look like tiny tulips

Mallard hen likes 75% of her ducklings

July 27th, 2015     0 comments     permalink

The Brood 24 hen seems to be punishing one of her ducklings

I didn’t realize the head of one Brood 24 duckling was buried into the rump of its mother until I got home and saw the photo on my monitor. Perhaps it was being punished for some childish behavior. :-)

Assorted insects and arachnids

July 26th, 2015     0 comments     permalink

A roving spiderIf life was longer, I’d devote a few years to studying insects. I’m drawn to the their diversity and fascinated by them from a structural point of view. Now is the time when warm nights bring more of them out so I can photograph them. They are presented here with only limited descriptions because I don’t have time to specifically identify them. Maybe those with more knowledge than I have will leave a comment and help us all more about them.

Let’s start with a fine specimen of spider. The one above is known as a “Grass Spider” or “Funnel Weaver” (Agelenopsis spp.). I’ve known these since I was a wee lad. We had hoards of them in our old garage windows. They make thick webs with a funnel where the spider waits for his dinner to arrive. I believe this one is a male. They roam at night during summer looking for love.

A crane fly

A crane flyThere are a bazillion species of flies. They are classified into three major groups based upon the structure of their antennae. The ones that look like giant mosquitoes are Crane Flies (nematocera) that have multi-segmented antennae like this fellow. He’s about 5″ long from the tips of his outstretched legs, fore and aft. All flies only have one set of wings. The other set morphed into halteres over the eons. They are those nubs you see below the wings. They are like tiny gyroscopes that help stabilize the flies in flight.

Notice the crane fly's injuriesThis one has a few injuries that are noteworthy. It’s lost the tip of its left wing and one of its six legs which is apparently a common occurrence. Its back right leg appears to have a bend in it (right) and it’s right wing has a fold scare. It’s not easy being an insect as you can tell from these photos.

Another crane fly on glassThough they look like mosquitoes, none of the crane flies bite so there’s no need for you to fear them. The insect to the left is another species that seems to be wearing two-toned furry slippers. It’s much smaller than the other one, maybe two inches.

Below is a mug shot of a moth mimicking a dried leaf. You can see the length of its antennae in the top photo. Note how it wraps those long antennae under its wings when at rest to enhance the illusion it’s an unappetizing leaf instead of a juicy morsel for a bird.

A moth that looks like a leaf

There are two tiny dots on its thorax that look like eyes (below). I don’t think they are, but perhaps they scare away predators who don’t like to be stared at. As summer rolls on, I will probably post several more insects if they are willing to be photographed.

A moth that looks like a leaf

July nestings

July 26th, 2015     0 comments     permalink

I suspect there are still several wild ducks nesting though I know of only one active Mallard nest right now. They are hard to find. We usually have a ducklings hatch into August and sometimes later. Domestic ducks don’t follow the same calendars as Mallards and two birds have been actively sitting on eggs.

First the bad news: Onyx, the Cayuga duck who hatched and lost all of her ducklings during her first nesting, tried again in the same planter behind Main Street stores. Apparently, those nine eggs have been stolen by a human. If a predator had taken them, fragments of shells would be left behind. None were found. It’s too bad. I was looking forward to seeing if she had gained any parenting skills following the failures in June. It’s too late for her to try again this year.

Franny has laid 18 eggs in an undisclosed location

Franny, on the other hand, began sitting again this past week! She’s amassed 18 eggs in a location that won’t be identified until they hatch or the nest is destroyed by predators or humans. Her first clutch of 14 eggs resulted in only two ducklings reaching the six week mark. They are doing fine learning how to be part of the flock as I write this.

Who’s smarter? Ducks or geese.

July 26th, 2015     2 comments     permalink

A Canada goose sizes me up at the Brighton millpond

If they weren’t so numerous, we would appreciate them more than we do. Canada geese are certainly the most attentive parents on the pond. Unlike ducks that leave all of the parental responsibilities on hens, both parents stay with goslings to teach them to fly and then lead them to their wintering grounds before they bid adieu. Throughout their time with their offspring, they are fierce protectors when other waterfowl come around. People tell me they have been attacked by geese but I doubt they are this species. I’ve never seen a person attacked in all of my hours at the pond, but geese hiss often to show their displeasure if you get too close. It’s all bluff.

Sculpturally, Canada geese are magnificent achievements in evolution. Even though they are large, heavy birds (up to 18 pounds), they are able to fly long distances due to their conformation and wingspans of up to six feet.

Blue neon lights are reflected in the eyes of this Canada goose I’m not convinced geese are very intelligent beyond their successful set of instinctual behaviors. They all seem to have the same personality so I give them very little attention. Ducks are more interesting. It’s my opinion ducks are smarter, can problem solve, and certainly have individual personalities from shy to fearless.

Ducks jabber to each other more than geese do. It seems, if their brains are engaged in any activity, they mutter to each other, but I’m not convinced it transmits meaningful information beyond “Danger,” “Heads up!,” “Where are you?,” “I am agitated” or “Here I am.”  Geese, on the other hand, seem to have a broader range of vocalizations from loud calls to soft “purring” to their immediate family members. Can they transmit specific information in their honks? I’m not convinced.

Below is a close up of a Canada goose’s taupe flank with beads of water after it hopped out of the pond. If you would like it as a desktop pattern (1920×1200 – 840k), you are welcome to grab it here or click the image to see a more reasonably sized version that’s 1300 pixels wide.

The flank of a Canada goose with water droplets from the Brighton millpond

How did you spend your childhood?

July 24th, 2015     0 comments     permalink

Another turtle bite

July 24th, 2015     0 comments     permalink

The Canada goose's toe and foot have complete mobility

On July 18, Joyce from the Wildernest store received notice from a park visitor a Canada Goose had a bloodied foot after it was attacked by a muskrat. I told her I would attempt to find it so I could apply a wound dressing to the injury. It took me five days to locate it on the millpond. Often, injured birds hide while they heal. They know they are more vulnerable to predation and other birds, members of their own flock, sometimes attack weaklings to reduce their competition.

The webbing between two toes is essentially gone and there is a healing wound on its toeThe wound is more likely from a turtle than a muskrat. I can’t imagine a 4-pound rodent doing this much damage to a goose. Muskrats and waterfowl get along fairly well unless the mammal gets cornered and lashes out. I’ve seen a muskrat bloody the bill of a mute swan seven times its size with one swipe of its claw-covered paw, but muskrats are almost totally vegetarians and just want to be left alone to seek food.

Even without wound dressing, you can see this wound is almost healed. Waterfowl have an amazing ability to heal and veterinarians have told me they rarely need to rescued with foot/leg injuries unless bones are broken.

The webbing between the toes will not regenerate. There appears to be no infection. The only long-term effect will be less propulsion as it paddles. I saw it put its full weight on the foot last night so it’s well on its way to recovering.

This moth appreciates your insults

July 24th, 2015     0 comments     permalink

This moth looks like bird droppingsGo ahead. When you find one of these moths, you are welcome to greet it with, “Moth, you look like shit.”

It’ll thank you.

Camouflaged to look like bird droppings, this 1″ long moth rests with its head upward to look as unappetizing as it can so birds won’t devour it during the day. It’s actually a Beautiful Wood Nymph (Eudryas grata) and is one of three similar species common throughout North American east of Texas all the up into Nova Scotia. Note how it also folds its antennae under its wings so as not to scuttle its illusion. Its back also has a glossy, globby, gooey appearance to enhance its deception. Ewwwwwwww.


Sweet Treat: Sorbet is back!

July 24th, 2015     0 comments     permalink

Sorbet stands near Onyx on one of her breaks from nesting

Earlier this month, Blonde Bombshell #2 (BB#2) and her two ducklings were removed from the Brighton millpond when the circulation to her right leg and foot was cut off due to her encounter with monofilament fishing line. She and her chicks are now at the Michigan Duck Rescue and Sanctuary in Salem Township. While she will survive, my latest report from the Sanctuary is she is in the process of losing her leg.

Last summer, she hatched 10 ducklings on May 26. Only one reached adulthood. Its was christened Sorbet because its father was Parfait a domestic/wild hybrid. Both ducks were given dessert names because the late MooseTracks, named after the ice cream, sired Parfait.

Sorbet has a distinctive white collar and some white on her wingsSorbet (right) had been absent from the millpond about two months but reappeared in July. I believe she’s a female (no curly tail feathers like her dad) but no little ones arrived with her. It’s possible she raised an early spring family on a nearby pond then came back to the millpond to be with the her flock. She spend last winter at the millpond and will probably do so again this year.

She can be identified by the distinctive white collar on the back of her neck along with some white on her flanks. Since BB#2 will not be returning, it’s nice to know the bloodline will endure though Sorbet isn’t as blonde as her mother nor as colorful as her dad.

This week Sorbet roosted near Onyx (top left) who came to bathe before returning to her nesting duties. I noticed Onyx spent several hours away from her nine eggs last night. While it was warm enough for them to survive without her incubating them, it may be sign she’s tired of sitting. It’s her first year for raising families. Since this is her second nesting of the season, she may miss the companionship she finds at the pond and the eggs may not hatch.

Calamity introduces her quartet to the flock

July 22nd, 2015     0 comments     permalink

The brood stayed close to mom as they were introduced to the rest of the flock

Calamity’s four surviving ducklings (8 hatched May 27 as Brood 17) were introduced to the rest of the flock last evening by their attentive mother. For the first two months, she kept them at the north end of the pond. Now that they are almost full sized, it’s time for them to learn the ropes of living with adult ducks. They are a handsome quartet that will be stouter than the wild ducks on the pond eventually; an advantage in the pecking order.

Calamity is the offspring of Confidia who died last year. She was a very productive (23 ducklings in 2013) domestic hen — Buff Orpington, I think — and a favorite of mine because she was a highly skilled mother. Calamity’s nestings for the past two years were unsuccessful. Now that she’s raised ducklings to adulthood, she will probably improve her success rate in years to come. The kids all have dark heads and prominent dark stripes between their bills and eyes. The sexes of the foursome is still a guess, but it looks like two and two to me.

Calamity's four ducklings were brought to the south end of the millpond last evening

Living well with a disability

July 22nd, 2015     0 comments     permalink

This Mallard drake was discovered last year with a withered foot, the cause is unknown. He’s doing quite well! I hadn’t seen him for a few months but noticed him near Main Street this past week again. There has been no improvement in his mobility, but as you can see, he is of normal weight and is taking good care of his feathers.

This duck has survived well for at least a year with his withered footI point this out because park visitors sometimes go to great lengths to capture ducks like this fellow to transport them to Howell Nature Center’s Wildlife Rehabilitation Program. It’s well meaning, but the fact is the bird might be injured during its capture and all the program can do is house the bird for the rest of its life.

Since he can fly and swim like the other ducks, I personally don’t feel he needs care for what might be a long life. He’s able to flee danger, forage on his own, and by leaving him at the pond, he can remain with his flock mates. Ducks are social and often establish long term relationships with their peers.

More ducklings arrive

July 22nd, 2015     0 comments     permalink

The Brood 27 hen gathered her ducklings together for a cool evening

The Brood 27 hen gathered her ducklings together for a cool eveningThis is a banner year for ducklings at the Brighton millpond. We’ve already had more hatchings than any other year I’ve documented yet I think the adult population of ducks is less than previous years. We’ve also lost several of the most productive domestic and wild Mallard hens.

While some hens have had tragic losses, three hens have been wildly successful at keeping most of their chicks alive until adulthood. I think there are less predators — gulls and turtles — taking their toll.

The hen is quick to move her brood away from other ducks, a good signI found Brood 27 last evening with six ducklings. They are estimated to be two days old. I don’t recognize the hen but she is highly protective of her tykes and finally roosted with all of the kids under her near the Imagination Station last evening.

A major killer of ducklings in their early life is cold nighttime temperatures. The small birds don’t have enough body mass to generate enough heat, but as long as their mom huddles them beneath her, they will be fine. Last night was cool, around 60 degrees, so the youngsters require mom’s warmth. When farm raised, the recommended temperature for ducklings is 90 degrees for the first couple of weeks so a wild hen has quite a job to do. Her youngsters also spend time in water that’s much cooler than heated farm pools.

All six chicks appear healthy and active

The orphans are thriving

July 21st, 2015     0 comments     permalink

The larger duckling in the background is a bit quicker than his sibling so he gets more calories in his diet

Franny’s forgotten ducklings (2015 Brood 22) are doing well. Seems they grow a few ounces daily and mingle with the Main Street ducks as they are fed by the public. Anytime they are on land, however, they are pestered by the adult ducks who poke and bite them relentlessly. They squawk in momentary pain, and a minute later, they are bit again because they haven’t internalized the pecking order of the flock yet so they violate the rules right and left. Within a short time, they will figure it all out.

Hatched on June 14, they’re in their fifth week and some of their juvenile feathers are growing in. They have the same body conformation of Zoot who is two weeks older. They might rival or excede him in size when grown since Franny is a stout Rouen hen while Zoot’s (alleged) hen is the diminutive Sugar Raye. The larger one has a white throat that extends to his chin while the other only has a small white bib on its chest but distinctive orange spots on both of this feet. They haven’t been named yet.

One of the ducklings has a small white bib The other orphaned duckling has a white patch extending up to his chin

This bud’s for you

July 20th, 2015     0 comments     permalink

A muskrat transports a Bullhead Water Lily to his burrow

I happened to catch this muskrat transporting a Bullhead Water Lily (aka Spatterdock or Cow Lily) home to his burrow last night. The blooms must be packed with flavor or nutrients. I’ve seen ducks, geese, and muskrats munching on them. Then again, maybe it’s just a present for his Mrs who might suspect him of working too late or is exhausted nursing a hungry litter of up to nine pups. When my father would see a man carrying a bouquet out of a shop, he’d remark with a twinkle, “Either someone has been very, very good <pause> or very, very bad.”

An strange, but happy, anniversary

July 20th, 2015     0 comments     permalink

Injured more than a year ago, this Mallard hen continues to thriveI discovered this Mallard hen with a broken bill almost a year ago on July 27, 2014. I posted her photo along with those of another bloodied duck, a Pekin named Clementine, who survived what we believe was a brutal coyote attack.

Without extensive prosthetic correction and constant care for the rest of her life, I never expected this Mallard to survive. Survive she has! While her tongue still hangs out, she appears of average weight so she’s eating well. She’s also preening her feathers, a sign that shows her injured bill doesn’t prevent her from typical duck behaviors..

Both Clementine’s and this Mallard’s recovery and continued good health is evidence of the extraordinary resilience of ducks.

Onyx: A fine brooder

July 19th, 2015     0 comments     permalink

Onyx took a short break from nesting to bathe

Onyx returns to the pond a couple of times a daySome domestic ducks drop eggs in the grass and waddle away while others are dedicated to nesting. Onyx is hard wired to be a responsible hen even though the jury is still out if she can raise the ducklings she hatches. All of them from her first clutch in May were lost within their first days. But it was her very first brood so maybe she learned some parental lessons from the experience.

I caught her taking a short break from sitting last evening. She was bathing and preening at the millpond. Within a half hour, she shook off the excess water and diligently flew back to her nest to continue incubating her nine eggs. She still has a couple of weeks to go.

Before heading back to her nest, she shook off the excess water

Perfection at Imperfections

July 19th, 2015     0 comments     permalink

Queen Anne's Lace quietly running riot

Flecks of color can be seen through the long stems of Queen Anne's LaceOur summer has been a boon for the niche behind Imperfections, Brighton’s new emporium for handmade chocolates. Cool nights and frequent rains have provided perfect conditions for the untended garden. Everything there volunteered to grow and nothing has twarted Queen Anne’s Lace from reaching for sunlight. Dots of color from thistles and other flowering plants peak through the jungle of stems.

Seeing this exuberant garden reminds me of a couplet from a mid-50’s song, “Lazy Afternoon,” originally sung by Kaye Ballard but made popular by Barbra Streisand decades later. The Brighton niche has no daisies, however:

And I know a place that’s quiet,
‘cept for daisies running riot

The city of Brighton still has untended spaces that rival the millpond for vigorous growth of wild plants. Most residents pay no attention to them which is probably a good thing. The small, fragile patches would be destroyed by foot traffic and human activity.

Untended and flourishing in Brighton, Michigan

Colorfilled air

July 18th, 2015     2 comments     permalink

Color filled the sky at sunset looking northward on the Brighton millpond

High temperatures and humidity are not part of our DNA in the northern tier of states. Southerners are used to it lasting for months but we might have a couple of weeks where a thick air slams us. One of those days was yesterday. With it came great thunderheads that bypassed us. The saving grace of such days are colorful sunsets if storm clouds don’t ruin the view.

Looking south from the Tridge gives me a chance to point out a few notable things. The cell tower on the far right is home to an osprey family that has nested there for about five years. Lucky souls have seen a parent fish for dinner at the millpond for their hatchlings, but I haven’t been one of them. The gazebo is beyond the left edge of this image and a portion of the city’s Veteran’s Memorial can be seen there.

Beyond the small bridge on the left the millpond dam can be found beside the Old Village Townhall. Shops on the opposite side of Main Street have an ideal view of the pond though it’s partically blocked on this busy Friday evening as out-of-towners come to dine. The Wildernest store is one of them. That’s where I procure duck chow and hear the latest gossip about the happenings at the millpond.

Looking south from Brighton's millpond Tridge just after the sun descended below the horizon

Five white ducks are in this photo and even though they are merely dots, I can tell you exactly who they are by their locations. Castor and Pollux are the two Pekins on the left, Captain D. Hookt and Jiminy are the pair entertaining park visitors on the right. Between them, Buda roams with his buddy, Dexter. Unless they are disturbed for any number of reasons, ducks tend to roost in the same spots each night.

Parfait’s empty relationship

July 16th, 2015     2 comments     permalink

His bonded partner still has not nested

No other drake has Parfait's dashing attireParfait has been bonded to the same Mallard hen for the entire summer but she has not nested. I think she understands he’s a cad at heart who has been cheating on her all summer. Zoot is probably only one of the ducklings he’s fathered on his frequent “Honey, I’m working late at the office” evenings.

Why they stay together is beyond me, but each night they roost together and life goes on. If he was human, we’d be reading about his clandestine affairs in the scandal sheets but he can get away with it at the Brighton millpond where drake dalliances are the order of the day. At least 30% of all romantic encounters are outside of the bounds of committed partnerships, more like 50% in our crowded urban pond if the ducks were truthfully answering the survey questions.

Where’d all of the Mallard drakes go?

July 16th, 2015     0 comments     permalink

Every year, someone asks me where all the millpond’s male ducks have gone. They can’t find ducks with green heads by August. The males are still there, but their testosterone levels have dropped along with their mating plumage. They grow new feathers that look quite a bit like the females for a period of about five months. It’s called their “Eclipse” phase.

A Mallard drake in its breeding attire A Mallard drake molting into its eclipse plumage

By late fall, their breeding plumage will return so they will look sharp as the hens begin to evaluate them as potential bonded partners for next spring. Above, the drake on the left is a typical Mallard ready to bond with one of the hens. He has light gray flanks, an iridescent green head, and a russet chest.

The bird on the right is shedding his breeding attire and looks rather shabby as he takes on a more mottled look. In a few weeks, his head will only have a hint of green on some of the feathers and most of his body will be brown. By winter, however, he’ll be dashing again. The millpond flock still has a few drakes who sport mating plumage and others who are in full eclipse mode.

Some males ignore the hens entirely by this time of year, but others are still actively seeking hens who are ready to produce a second or delayed first batch of eggs. Just this week, I rescued a hen who was being savagely attacked by more than a dozen drakes who wanted to father her next brood so the mating season may be winding down but many of the boys haven’t read the memo.

Zoot: A great big baby

July 13th, 2015     0 comments     permalink

Zoot (left) is 50% than his siblings and mom (far right)

Even though Zoot has been with Sugar Raye’s brood since I first found them when they were day-old ducklings, I’m not convinced he’s her child. He’s at least 50% larger than Sugar Raye (far right) at six weeks old. My guess is that he was fathered by Parfait, but that doesn’t account for his size since Parfait is on the small side. MooseTracks, his late grandfather, was a large duck. Once he’s an adult, I have a hunch he will become a pond favorite due to his unique coloration and disposition. He’s very active, calm, and tolerant of people.

Now what?

July 13th, 2015     0 comments     permalink

Franny’s two abandoned ducklings (Brood #22) had a memorable night yesterday. They were able to hop up from the millpond’s embankment up onto the sidewalk to be with the adult ducks. Ducklings have to be about a month old before they are strong and large enough to make the leap.

For the past couple of weeks, they were tall enough to see the other ducks cavorting on the sidewalk but they were stuck below the action (and food). Once the larger of the two successfully hopped up, it only took a few minutes before the other one joined him since he didn’t want to be left alone. True is: they’ve probably been able to hop up for several days but they just didn’t know they could do it.

Franny's ducklings made the leap to the sidewalk last night to be with the adult ducksSidewalk life, however, didn’t turn out to be as exciting as they imagined. Several adult ducks took pokes at them and Maybelline bit one with such ferocity when it got near her own ducklings that it waddled away quacking. The pair ended up standing motionless next to each other wondering, “Now what?” How were they going to learn the rules of the flock (left). Within an hour, they returned to their more familiar territory on the embankment.

Updates on the 2014 Dazzlettes

July 12th, 2015     1 comment     permalink

I was first introduced to 2014 Brood 22 last July when the eight ducklings were already at least six weeks old. At the time, I thought they were probably related to one of the “Swede Sisters” because four of the six black ducklings had white on their chests. Once they grew their green/blue/purple adult feathers last summer, it became obvious they were fathered by our resident Cayuga drake, the ever popular Dazzle.

Four of Dazzle's kids spend most of their time together now that breeding has slowed down at the millpond

This spring, I noticed two drakes with white “bibs” but they had bronze flanks so I wondered where they came from. They seemed to be bonding with two of Dazzle’s offspring. Now that they have lost their mating plumage, I realize the “Bronze Brothers” weren’t bonding with the girls; they were protecting their sisters. The white bibs on the two drakes (above left) are identical to those on the Bronze Brothers. This begs the question: Where did their bronze mating plumage come from? It must be some genetic quirk when Mallards and Cayugas mate. I don’t know of any other bronze-sided duck in the vicinity.

The top photo shows four of Dazzle’s six ducklings. Where are the other two you ask? Razzle is a carbon copy of his dad and his constant sidekick as he seeks the affection of Franny, the pond’s only Rouen hen. She is currently honeymooning with the father/son combo and Duke in the pond’s northern reaches. She’s presumably amassing a second clutch of eggs. If her nest eludes marauding raccoons and skunks, perhaps she’ll redeem herself from her abysmal parenting of Brood 22.

Onyx has decided she's going to attempt mothering againDazzle’s sixth is Onyx who lost her entire first brood in May. I’m happy to report she is currently sitting on a fresh batch of eggs. Her nesting location won’t be disclosed to prevent one of Brighton’s talented chefs from whipping her rich eggs into an omelet or scrumptious meringue dessert.