May 14th, 2013 permalink
The above image of pink honeysuckle buds ready to bloom is a good example of why I like to photograph plants at night. All distracting background elements disappear so you can see the structure of the plant itself. Honeysuckles are considered garbage plants, weeds in this region, but they fill the air with a sweet scent while they bloom and provide birds and small animals good shoreline cover.
A small ornamental tree is covered in pink powder puffs and deep red leaves now (below). It hasn’t thrived in its location without showing much growth year after year. I don’t know its species, but it’s no doubt a “double” hybrid created at a nursery rather than being a native Michigan tree.
April 30th, 2013 permalink
While it’s probably futile based upon her past history, I decided to try my hand at sprucing up SweetPea’s Spartan nesting site. Not only does she make poor choices in where to build her nests, she also has limited talents in duckorating not to mention her lack of a credit card to accessorize it.
The goal of this duckorating project was to minimize interference from human passersby on a limited budget (mine). A charming Home Depot associate named Greg made several suggestions for the design conscious duck. I settled on a fashionable wire fence in glamorous black with fleurs-de-lis which are always in style. It set me back $7.97. SweetPea believes in recycling so I used two yard signs already on location to shield the south and west views. Sorta. Then I surrounded the nest on three sides with the elegant fence leaving adequate room for the pond’s Grande Dame to turn around when the mood suits her (right). Visually, the environment was still a bit stark. So I found dried oak leaves to give the place a more casual, lived-in look (top). Done!
The question is: will the veteran hen find my efforts attractive enough to sit in it for 28 days. She lounged on the lawn with her boyfriends showing no interest in the nest for a couple of hours Monday night. Perhaps she’s found it too messy. Before reduckorating, I found two of her 13 eggs broken and smelly. That’s not a good sign. It also means her typical diet of bread and Doritos from park visitors hasn’t provided enough nutrients to make her eggs strong enough to support her ample body. Last year’s success rate was zero with 43 eggs laid and none hatching because she abandoned each of her five nests. It’s a long shot, but if she hatches just one duckling, I’ll know my duckorating efforts played a part.
April 30th, 2013 permalink
It’s not easy being the smallest duck at the millpond. Especially when you were hand-raised and dumped by your previous owner who didn’t feed you well in your formative weeks. Frick arrived in early September, 2011 and has had an eventful life at the pond as regular readers of this blog know. On April 15th, another milestone in her life happened. I found her under a pine tree with a drooping left wing and her bonded partner (above). She might have had an encounter with a predator since she’s also missing tail feathers, but I think mating stress is probably the cause.
A worker in downtown (Who will remain anonymous for now but I thank her!) rescued Frick on April 18th while she was being attacked by six male ducks. She was disheveled (above right) so the worker placed her in a heated storeroom for the night. The following evening, I found her hiding under a shrub near the Imagination Station but in better shape than the night before (left). Then I didn’t see her for a few days.
I’m happy to report tiny Frick has found a nook in downtown where she can rest with her beau and avoid those pesky drakes (below). Sheryl, whose establishment will remain nameless so Frick isn’t disturbed, has reluctantly accepted having a bonded pair of Mallards as sentries for a while. Frick hasn’t built a nest there so she might be amassing eggs nearby or perhaps she’s decided having ducklings to care for is more than her injured wing can take right now. Her wing still droops, but she is able to move it around. That’s a good sign.
April 28th, 2013 permalink
I’ve already talked about duck mating this spring. I’m bringing it up again because a group of adults were aghast as they watched four drakes mating with one female yesterday. They were sure one of the drakes (Dazzle) was attempting to kill the hen as he held her head underwater for an extended period. I didn’t record that incident because I was more interested in talking to the park visitors watching it. But I photographed a similar event on April 16 involving Mrs PomPom (above) and seven drakes.
Mating is often a team sport at the millpond. Three drakes from the Dam Tribe swam to the Buda Bunch’s territory for an encounter with Mrs PomPom. While agitated by their arrival, Buda, who is larger than all of them, offered no protection from the rogues. In fact, he participated and also allowed Dexter and Buddy, members of his sub-flock, to join in. That’s especially interesting because Buda has pushed Buddy aside ever since the breeding season began to keep him away from both of the hens in his group. Angel is the other hen and has taken some of the heat off of Mrs PomPom who almost died from mating stress last year.
It appears, when ducks mate, the social order is totally abandoned for the duration of the event. It’s like white-tailed bucks during the rut where the males respond instinctually rather than sensibly. This encounter involved seven males but I’ve photographed up to eight in the past. Online sources say up to a dozen males might be involved. From what I’ve seen, any male spotting mating rushes to the scene to become involved either as a participant or spectator.
April 28th, 2013 permalink
Yesterday’s mid-60 temperatures provided enough warmth for buds on the millpond trees to snap open. There’s no turning back now. Spring is here. We hope. Last year, the trees buds opened much earlier and then were damaged by a killing frost that seriously affected Michigan’s fruit crops. We hope that doesn’t happen again. This spring is beginning as the second coldest on record and that might be a good thing. The late start kept fruit trees from budding too early.
Above, each bud on the Box Elder trees contains an extraordinary amount of organic matter. The trees are everywhere and considered a “junk tree” in this region. Shoreline willows are scrubby (below) but their catkins are fuzzy like the more attractive pussy willows everyone loves to see. On the far shore, you can see how the Weeping Willows are now covered with a green blush as its buds have opened and the leaves begin to expand. Also on that far shore, a white plastic car awaits a summer fisherman. Those chairs multiply at night like rabbits. I’m sure of it.
April 28th, 2013 permalink
Friends from Metro Detroit came for their first visit to the Brighton millpond on Saturday. I made it a point to introduce them to Madeline. We walked to where I had fed her the night before, but only her two suitors were there. I explained she was probably sitting on her nest. After they left, I searched for her and, sadly, found her remains at the base of a shoreline tree. They were clearly visible from the Stillwater boardwalk and from that perch, I knew they were hers because her swollen ankle was the only thing not mangled (top). I went down to the shore to take more detailed photographs but have purposely not posted it large because it’s gruesome. Click the photo (above left) if you wish.
She could have died from infection in the injured leg and then was eaten by a predator. More likely, a predator lunged and her injured leg prevented her from making a quick getaway. I’ve seen a raccoon in the area in recent weeks, and there are opossoms and reports of a coyote nearby. Perhaps it’s fitting that she spent her last days near the Old Village Cemetery (right). It’s a quiet place with mature trees. She was a really wonderful addition to the millpond’s natural community. I’ll miss our frequent interactions which always made me smile.
April 27th, 2013 permalink
The Brighton millpond ducks that interact with the public long enough learn how to deal with the chasing and other forms of harassment they get, but the Grande Dame of the pond is a master at it. She’s lead me on more wild goose (duck?) chases than any other duck in the pond.
For the past couple of weeks, SweetPea lead her steadfast retinue of four male suitors, the entire Dam Tribe, to a bay in the pond where the roots of trees are submerged (above). I was certain she was scouting a location for her first nest of the season. Last year, she nested in February so she’s running terribly late … for her. She’s on a unique schedule that doesn’t correspond with reality.
Last night, I found her suitors alone so I knew she had scooted away to a nest. The boys were near Main Street instead of the bay where I thought she’d be. Hmmm. It didn’t take me long to find the nest because SweetPea came flying out of it when I got near! Darned if she hasn’t laid a dozen eggs in one of the raised flower beds three feet from Main Street (below). They are right in plain sight where thousands of people will walk by them during her 28 days of sitting. It ain’t gonna happen. She’ll probably never spend any time incubating them because she’ll be constantly interrupted by passersby. Oh, SweetPea.
April 26th, 2013 permalink
I’ve only got a tiny space in my brain to store the ducks at the Brighton millpond so I give them names that relate to physical characteristics or personality (yes, they have them) traits. Nacho has a notch at the front of her bill. It looks like a recent wound. Maybe she hit a tree branch or other obstacle while fleeing from a predator or an unwanted advance from a drake in heat.
Without being too technical, duck bills are made of beta-keratin which is stiffer than alpha-keratin, the substance in human fingernails and hair. Feathers are also made of beta-keratin. Wounds on bills usually heal unless they are severe and require treatment. Bills, however, don’t grow in the same way fingernails grow so Nacho’s bill might remain notched. It doesn’t seem to hamper her eating so I’d judge this as a minor wound.
April 24th, 2013 permalink
April 20: Most of the ducks on the millpond have paired up and are either already nesting or thinking about it. This pair perched on the same partially submerged branch for three nights in a row as the sun set. Maybe they like to watch the sky darken as the city lights come on and paints dancing reflections on the pond’s surface. The hen might be laying an egg a day and then spends her evenings resting with her beau. When she starts to incubate the clutch, the pair won’t spend much time together. The male might hang around for a few days, but he’ll usually wander off and won’t participate in guarding the nest or raising his offspring.
April 24th, 2013 permalink
March 29: This attractive hen waddled up to me behind the fire station like we were old friends. I didn’t recognize her or her drake, but she was happy to have a few pellets of duck chow. Both of these birds looks like they are in prime condition for nesting and display the typical plumage of Mallards during the mating season. It is only a matter of days before she disappears to a nest hidden in shrubbery near the millpond. I’ve named her Nacho. Can you see why? The answer will appear in a future post.
April 24th, 2013 permalink
A large web site, several small projects, and a trip to the oral surgeon to have a tooth extracted interfered with my usual daily posting for more than three weeks. It’s the longest hiatus I’ve taken since starting this blog in 2009. Frankly, it’s not easy figuring out how to catch up. While my walks at the Brighton millpond haven’t been as frequent during this period due to what is probably the worst Michigan spring on record, I’ve still taken hundreds of photographs. If I start where I left off, the sequencing will be proper, but I’ll never catch up. So I’m planning to post recent events interspersed with “old news.” I’ll include dates so you realize when I’m presenting past history. In the future, I might change the post dates so it will be more understandable to future readers.
March 31st, 2013 permalink
I’m happy to report the Easter Bunny met with me two days before the holiday while he was grazing in the grass behind The Wooden Spoon restaurant. He seemed kind of rushed, uneasy. Perhaps he wasn’t as far along in planning his Easter morning basket delivery scheduling as he hoped to be. Whatever the cause, he looked healthy and ready to hop along the bunny trail bringing chocolate replicas of himself to children.
March 21st, 2013 permalink
Even though the water is just above freezing at the Brighton millpond, some plant life still grows on the bottom. I’ve see King Arthur tail-up throughout the winter as he grabs them and brings them to the surface. Last year, just a week after the ice cleared, I photographed a muskrat swimming to his burrow with a mouthful of very green plants. Still, I think the King has tired of the pond fare. For the past week, he’s been climbing the pond embankment to join the ducks when I feed them. Once he arrives, the ducks give him plenty of space so he doesn’t nip at them (above).
Mute swans can be very aggressive especially when protecting their young. King Arthur puts his energy into chasing Canada geese instead of people. He won’t let them nest at the north end of the pond. He warns me with a hiss if I get too close photographing his cygnets. I don’t push boundaries, and other park visitors give him their respect, too. There may not be any cygnets this summer. Arthur’s mate vanished last fall.
He recognizes me and many other regulars in the park. As with the ducks, I move slowly when I’m around him so he trusts me. I never approach him; I let him decide if he wants to come close. Wildfowl view moving toward them as an aggressive act especially in a public park where some people chase them. They are more likely to approach you if you stand still and make no quick movements. On this day, Arthur tried to teach me a dance step which involved a clockwise spin on the right foot (right). Since he only pantomimes instructions (being a mute swan), I couldn’t learn the footwork. I’m sure it’s a ballet move from Swan Lake.
March 20th, 2013 permalink
Muskrats are like people. They like pretzels, too! A few days ago, I posted photos of a pushy muskrat from the north end of the Brighton millpond. I mentioned another muskrat in that feature that lives at the south end near Main Street. This is him.
His typical routine is to come to the Main Street area where all of the people congregate around dusk from his burrow north of the Tridge. Lately, however, his food resources are scarce enough that he shows up during broad daylight. He’s become habituated to humans and isn’t as skittish as most muskrats. He realizes that most of them are harmless and might bring him bread, popcorn, or in this case, pretzels. None of these foods are particularly good for him, but like humans, he likes them.
He’s a two-fisted eater. His well-clawed fingers wrap around this food as he gnaws one end of it. During the summer, he’s happiest eating nutritious green plants, but during winter months, he chomps on roots and even twigs. Nine-five percent of his diet is vegetarian, but he tosses in an occasional insect, worm or other small creature. If you’re coming to the pond, you might want to bring a carrot or other vegetable so, if you make his acquaintance, you’ll be able to become his BFF until the treats you bring him are gone. But please don’t leave mounds of table scraps at the pond. They’ll eventually rot and attract less savory characters.
March 15th, 2013 permalink
On December 31st, 2009, I posted two images of failed treats as my way of sending the year out with a tushie kick. The melted cone caught the eyes of a collective of five French and Chinese visual and performing artists called second kiss:
We are a young french artist collective and we are organizing a performance event in september. We contact you about your picture “conemelt”, we really like.
The perfomance event will be called “truculence vanille”, truculence means excessive and highly coloured, and we add vanille to make the title lighter and girlier, those two words represent very well the spirit of our events and your picture too !
Would you autorize us to use it to make a poster announcing the event ?
I’m flattered by their request and just received their poster today (right). I’m not sure whether “boring” means “dull” or “drilling.” Maybe it means both! Google translates “truculence” as “earthiness” from French to English. Our English definition of “defiant aggressiveness” is quite different. Whatever second kiss’ meaning, I’m pleased to make this minor contribution to their international creative efforts three years after the ice cream was probably licked off of the Brighton millpond sidewalk by raccoons and opossums.
January 15th, 2013 permalink
“Eye shine” is a major problem when photographing wildlife at night. Sometimes, I retouch eyes so they aren’t so distracting. In these shots, Rabbit #2 looks demonic or like he’s internally illuminated. A furry nightlight! During the thaw, I found him beyond the edge of his usual territory (north of the Fire Station) snooping under the leaf litter for green things to eat. It’s not a problem this winter. Grass is still slightly green in most areas instead of its characteristic dried tan.
Since the millpond trail brings plenty of humans through his territory, he’s not particularly disturbed by our presence. Yet, as a prey species, he’s hardwired to never let his guard down entirely. As I moved closer, he evaluated his escape strategies and finally bolted to seek the safety of an evergreen tree on his own turf.
January 12th, 2013 permalink
The toss of a piece of bread must not have confused the Mallard drake. He probably saw it leave the park visitor’s hand and then lost it in mid-air. Maybe he got bumped by another duck and was temporarily distracted.
He swam around the pond for several minutes carrying the bread. None of the other ducks grabbed it which surprised several of us as we watched.
Unfortunately, none of us were watching so we missed what finally happened to it. It may have been consumed or dropped into the pond to become food for the carp.
January 8th, 2013 permalink
An affable chap appeared near the millpond trail in Brighton and he looked like he had come to exercise to lose some of his winter weight. I think he came to town looking for work. I found him near the entrance to the Rainbow Auto Wash on Grand River. He’d like it there. I see the guys tossing a football when there are no cars to power wash the undercarriages to get rid of the salt used on our streets. Not sure he’d like the salty back spray through. But it would surely help him lose weight in a hurry!
January 6th, 2013 permalink
The winter food sources are slim so ducks are quick to gather for handouts at the north end of the millpond. I use this method of amassing them so I can count how many are there at night. I take the photo home to see it enlarged and paint a dot on each duck. Every tenth dot, I add a second color just so I don’t lose count along the way (right).
Just for fun, take a guess how many there are in this picture before clicking the headlline of this post to see the correct number in a comment.
January 6th, 2013 permalink
January 1: Here are two more sets of animal tracks in the beautiful snow. I was happy to see the shoreline tracks above. They are in Rabbit #1′s territory and I haven’t seen him in several weeks. It’s good to know he got out to enjoy the clear skies of the first day of the year.
A muskrat a little further north strolled out onto the millpond, emptied his bladder then quickly headed in another direction drawing that characteristic wavy line with his tail as he left (below).
January 2nd, 2013 permalink
Viewing only the soft reflections mirroring the lights and buildings along Grand River Avenue (above) is far more beautiful than seeing the whole picture (right). As the temperatures sink little by little, more of the northern end of the Brighton millpond is becoming bound by ice. Within the past 24 hours, 50 yards have been lost. No new snow has fallen to ruin its glossy finish.
The ducks prefer the north end because there is more open water there, but the flock is now restricted to the small area where water enters the pond after it flows under the five lane thoroughfare.
December 26th, 2012 permalink
Brighton began to clear out at 5pm on Christmas Eve. Some restaurants on Main Street remained open until 10pm but the shops were dark. Below are some peeks through windows and around downtown to give you the flavor of our small town still dressed for the Holidays even though the shoppers are gone.
Birds will remain hungry until the Wildernest store reopens December 26th. The snow on the millpond is painted with festive reds and greens:
The Old Village Townhall stands beside the millpond dam and hears the Christmas music all day long while the Yum Yum Tree won’t be creating any sundaes for another day:
Twinkling lights flash in a burning bush and tiny lights turn the snow into their vivid colors in front of the Lion’s Den, a meeting place for the local Optimist Club:
The manikins at the Ready Boutique are already dressed to party on New Year’s Eve, but a few cuddly plush animals didn’t find buddies by Christmas at the Sassafras gift shop: