June 18th, 2013 permalink
June 15: Even on warm nights, young ducklings need the warmth of their mothers to supplement their ability to generate heat. The Brood16 ducklings were found tucked under mom in a protected location where breezes couldn’t reach them at three days old. Abandoned ducklings at this age sometimes survive, but keeping their body temperature in the normal range might take a toll on the calories they need to grow at their usual break-neck rate.
If a duckling finds it’s too warm under mom, they step out for fresh air for a while (left) then crawl back under her. With six babies, one is almost always squirming for some reason. Note the hen is standing (top) rather than lying on her stomach. If they can, they lie down and tuck the kids under their wings on both sides of them to be more comfortable. It depends upon the number of chicks. They might be required to stand all night long with their wings extended down to the ground. Bet they are stiff by dawn.
June 16: By the fourth night, the hen was moving her brood to new territory in shoreline grasses. It gave me an opportunity to get this family portrait (right) but two of her charges have been lost in their first 96 hours. Large fish and turtles may have taken their toll during daylight swims although a raccoon might have found the family along the shore at night. She brought the brood to the public area of the pond near Main Street to roost on the embankment last night. There is no weeds there for cover, but it’s probably safer since mom can spot predators (and pesky humans) before they can reach the kids.
June 17th, 2013 permalink
Born on May 18, 2012, this is one of Confidia‘s colorful ducklings in Brood4. Her tasteful necklace, strong eyestripe, and stout brown body have been unique in the pond since her adult feathers grew in last August. She was a beautiful bird when the 2013 mating season began in March, but she’s had a tough time since. First, her eggs were stolen from the nest then last week she injured her right foot.
Instead of bonding with a specific drake this season, she traveled with three other ducks (another hen and two males), probably all siblings. The group hasn’t protected her from drakes interested in fathering her brood. She most likely hit something like a branch or stumbled on a rock when she was fleeing drakes. Two of her toes appear damaged. She holds her foot off of the ground when she can, but she’s able to put some weight on it. It should heal in time. I expect she’ll nest again. That will give her 28 days to recover. She hasn’t been named but probably needs to be since I’ve’ mentioned her several times now.
June 15th, 2013 permalink
Be sure to pack a couple of pieces of bread in your pocket when you visit the Brighton millpond. There’s an adult muskrat with a serious addiction to the stuff who will be happy to accept your donations. While most muskrats are quick to flee, this one comes running when he sees people feeding turtles from the boardwalk between the cemetery and Stillwater Grill. He swims from lily pad to lily pad hoping to find pieces of bread floating on the surface of the water.
June 13th, 2013 permalink
Canada Geese are very protective of their young, much more so than the ducks. Both parents stay with their goslings until they are fully grown and then accompany them on their first migratory flight southward in late autumn.
Ganders keep a comfortable distance from other geese as they escort their family group around the pond. If two family groups get too close, one family group will retreat in order to keep the peace. If both males feel they are entitled to the same space, arguments erupt. Most often, it’s a honking match, but it can escalate into a brawl if neither male backs away. The bout shown here was a serious one. Each gander bit into the chest of the other and held on.
It began as a shoving match, but devolved into a major fight with each male pounding the other with his wings. Nearby geese, goslings, and ducks got out of the way but were agitated as the flap fest continued. Geese have wingspans approaching six feet so the scuffle stirred the air and filled it with slapping sounds. If the encounter had happened in the water, it would have been even more dramatic with violent splashing.
After about a minute, one of the birds decided he’d had enough. He ran away with the victor in hot pursuit for fifty feet. It was over as quickly as it ignited. No one was seriously injured, but another dominance hierarchy was established within the flock.
June 8th, 2013 permalink
After two weeks with The Buda Bunch, Dumpling has left the party and hooked up with two Mallard drakes, both smaller than her. The back of her head and upper neck are wounded from mating stress from Buda’s tribe so this move might be an effort for her to stay away from the large domestic species. At least for a while. I suspect she’ll winter with the other domestics near Main Street. She can’t fly back and forth to the north end of the pond with the wild ones.
I’d be surprised if she nests this summer. I don’t believe she’s six months old yet, the typical maturation age to begin breeding. If my guestimate is correct, she’s less than three months old and will grow much larger than her current boyfriends as the months go by.
June 7th, 2013 permalink
There are more than 4,000 species of Crane Flies (Family: Tipulidae) in the United States and I don’t have the energy to identify the species of this one, but it’s a beauty. From toe tip to toe tip, it’s about 4″ in diameter.
I found it resting on a wall for the night. Its colors range from gold to cinnamon. The close up, above, clearly shows its halteres, modified back wings that act like gyroscopes to help the insect balance in flight.
Crane flies don’t bite humans but many think they are giant mosquitoes. In some areas of the country, they are considered pests, but they aren’t plentiful here except some species along the Great Lakes. When certain species of Mayflies hatch, swarms can be so thick it’s like a blizzard, thousands fly around street lights, and it’s difficult to breathe without inhaling them.
June 7th, 2013 permalink
As if our winters weren’t long enough, Nature likes to toss “snow” at us again in mid-spring. The cottonwood trees transport their seeds on tuffs of fuzz that float through the air on calm days. The fluff accumulates against walls and the edges of sidewalks looking like powdery snow.
The season is short and a day of rain turns the fluff to matted wads so no one is bothered except folks with filters on ventilation systems, ponds or pools that get clogged with the fibers.
June 7th, 2013 permalink
The ducks, geese, and swan all do it. They attempt to look bigger when challenged. Duck puff up their feathers and nesting females will inflate their bodies if you approach. The millpond’s resident swan raises his wings off of his back to appear three times larger as he chases geese off of his territory. In this photo, the four goslings of this Canada goose horned in on the swan’s duck chow ration so the swan took a poke at one of them. Daddy goose wasn’t amused and extended his wings to show King Arthur he was big and strong so he’d better watch his step. All three of these species hiss like snakes if provoked, but geese are the easiest to threaten. It’s almost always bluff. If you take a step toward them, they quickly retreat.
June 7th, 2013 permalink
At the corner of North East and East St. Paul Streets stands a 12′ ball of pink in the yard of a home. The tiny five petal flowers cover the shrub. I don’t know its name, but it’s well worth a drive-by if you live in the area.
It may be my imagination, but it seems like everything has bloomed in abundance this year. The winter was cold and long, but the lowest temperatures weren’t extreme. Perhaps that avoided typical damage to buds which lessens the bloom although some areas experienced a late frost that played havoc with trees that were leafing out when it hit.
June 6th, 2013 permalink
Macro photography isn’t easy with my Canon G9, but this large dragonfly posed long enough to get presentable results. Click the top image to see all of him.
There are 114 dragonfly species in Michigan. I don’t have the skill to identify this chap beyond knowing he’s in the Libellula genus and called a Skimmer. Beyond that, I couldn’t be more ignorant. From a design standpoint, look at the lacy structure in a clear portion of its wing at my camera’s maximum resolution (right). The “struts” are beautiful.
June 5th, 2013 permalink
June 3: If you aren’t bored with all of the duckling photographs I’ve posted, here’s one to fill your desktop. It’s a close up of a half dozen Brood7 chicks as they rummage for a nighttime snack along the millpond shore near the Imagination Station. When you click this photo, it will take longer than usual to download the image. It’s 600k and will fill desktops up to 1920×1200 pixels.
I hope you’re not overdosing on ducklings yet. There are many more weeks of cute balls of fuzz to come. Only thirteen broods have hatched. Last year there were 28! Many more cutie pies are being incubated for your pleasure, but I’ll try to throw in vile and shocking images of awful things that happen at the pond when I can.
June 2nd, 2013 permalink
I like to closely crop images to the point where the original subject matter isn’t important so viewers can wallow in color and patterns. The Siberian Iris in St. Paul’s Episcopal Church’s yard (right) are the original subject for these images.
The two images below are prepped to exactly fit the requirement for Facebook’s “Cover Image,” 851 by 315 pixels. You’re welcome to use either (or grab the top one which isn’t correctly cropped but will still work) to use on your own Facebook page. The second photo is another iris at the church and is less bombastic if you don’t want to assault your friends with over-the-top color. Me? I’m not sure which one I’ll settle on. Both scream “summer” to me even though they were photographed in spring.
June 2nd, 2013 permalink
I look forward to Kousa Dogwood blooming each year. This show stopper is in a courtyard at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church and has just come into flower this week. It’s commonly called, “Chinese Dogwood,” due to its Asian origins. Unlike North American native trees, this cultivar blooms later, well after the small trees leaf out. The blooms are on vertical stems about 3″ above the dark green leaves. The 4 creamy white objects around each flower cluster are sepals, not petals, and usually last for several weeks. Some are injured this year from our last frosts. Wikipedia says the fall berries are edible. I’ve never seen any. Maybe the birds pilfer the trees before the humans can.
June 1st, 2013 permalink
I disparaged the Grande Dame of the Brighton millpond in a post yesterday. This is my public apology to her. I suggested her lack of mothering instincts and fascination with her suitors had kept her from her nest sitting duties. Since she hadn’t returned to the nest after 48 hours, I felt it safe to pay it a visit under the pine tree to see the rubble she left.
To my surprise only one egg was there. Originally, there were 13 and then only 11. That means either a vandal or predator stole the rest. Since no broken shells were in the vicinity, I suspect some damned forager or organic foodie decided to sample her culinary creations and dash her hopes for a family in 2013. At least this time, it wasn’t SweetPea’s fault for abandoning a nest. I hope she’ll accept my apology and be willing to accept duck chow from me in the future once she heals from the public humiliation I have unrightfully brought upon her.
May 31st, 2013 permalink
Oh, SweetPea, I thought you were on a roll. Your current nest was close to the pond and close to the drakes. I thought you’d sit on the eggs for a full 28 days. It looks like you’ve lost interest. Again. Darn it.
SweetPea was doing well until two days ago. Then she started to spend more time with the boys following her millpond baths. Maybe she isn’t laying fertile eggs, but I think it’s more a matter of her not having the mothering instincts needed to stick to the task when the Dam Tribe drakes endlessly charm and amuse her and “gentlemen callers” from The Buda Bunch find her fascinating.
May 31st, 2013 permalink
Following an evening thunderstorm the Brood5 hen and attending drake became playground managers for her own 11 ducklings and the quartet belonging to Brood2. Wild Mallard hens aren’t usually this cordial with each other, but these two hens are farm stock and unexcitable. After the play-date, each hen lead their chicks to separate places along the shore to roost for the night.
May 30th, 2013 permalink
As explained many times, ducklings follow other ducklings even if they aren’t part of the same brood. The 12-day-old abandoned ducklings from Brood3 acquired an admirer of their carefree lifestyle today. I’m not sure where he originated, but he appears to be a bit larger (see top photo) so he’s probably the sole remaining chick from Brood1. I haven’t had time to confirm that yet (if it’s even possible).
They all look healthy and are reaching the size where they are less vulnerable to predation. Each year, we have a few abandoned chicks at the millpond. They often survive. It helps when they have compadres to cuddle on cold nights and share the search for food sources.
May 30th, 2013 permalink
You think it’s easy raising six scampering babies in an urban pond? A mom’s got to remain vigilant and be proactive to help them survive. For no discernable reason, the Brood6 hen provoked a shoving match with a sitting hen who was minding her own business. Perhaps she thought the sitter was going to nip at her 8-day-old ducklings when they waddled up to the nest.
Chest-to-chest with the sitter, the aggressor shoved until the eggs were exposed. The sitter convinced her to leave with a nip on the neck. Then she rearranged her seven eggs and returned to her incubating duty.
Meanwhile, Brood6′s attending drake watched as a muskrat dined near the ducklings to make sure he behaved himself. Muskrats show no interest in ducklings. Their diet is 95% vegetarian with an occasional worm or bug thrown in for variety.
May 30th, 2013 permalink
The weather pattern this year is no pattern at all. We had winter again last week. Now it’s mid-summer in the 80s. Fluctuations are typical in the northern tier of states yet this year it’s beyond the usual norms. So be it.
I love it when the sky paints the millpond ripples in soft colors. Last night, she selected dove grays and vibrant pinks with a dash of subtle gold for her palette. She’s quite an artist but many take her works for granted. She’s always intriguing and beautiful as you can see in her biographical portrait (right).
May 29th, 2013 permalink
Canada geese are lousy traffic cops (above). While the Mallard hen of Brood7 wasn’t looking, most of her ducklings were sent in the wrong direction but they quickly found mom again after this picture was taken.
Geese and ducks at the Brighton millpond get along well most of the time. Geese have the upper hand (wing?) due to their size, but they don’t bother the ducks or their ducklings very much unless food is involved. The geese usually get the spoils unless the ducks can out maneuver them with their superior agility and speed. In the normal course of their activities, ducks try to keep a neck length away from geese to avoid pokes and jabs.
Brood7 hatched with 14 ducklings. Only 12 remain as of this date. About half of the brood will eventually be lost to turtles and other wildlife that need a meal. The hen still manages to exercise some control over the troops, but sometimes they all want to lead the parade at the same time (below).
May 28th, 2013 permalink
Eastern Cottontail Rabbits can produce 3-9 bunnies in each of their 3-4 litters a year. The females (called does just like deer) can become pregnant again on the day a litter is born. You’d think the Brighton millpond would be up to its cattails in bunnies. It’s not. Predation keeps them in check — dogs, cats, hawks, owls, raccoons, opossums, and even the Great Blue Heron that visits the pond nightly.
Bunnies begin to leave their nest when they are only four ounces at two weeks old. They don’t receive much protection from their moms so they are easy pickings. This year, I’ve only seen three. This one scoots from shrub to shrub near the Stillwater Grill which is in Rabbit #1′s territory. I haven’t seen the parent this spring and thought it might have died. Rabbits have short lives, about 3 years. Maybe she’s too busy churning out the next batch of bunnies to say hello to me.
While cottontails anger gardeners in our suburban community with its expansive landscaping, the state actually has a “Rabbitat” program to boost populations on state controlled game lands and timbered areas. Besides being a hunter’s favorite small game, rabbits are an important prey species for our state’s larger mammals and birds of prey.
May 27th, 2013 permalink
No animal at the Brighton millpond is more fascinating and hated than the large snapping turtles that become active once the waters warm. They’re now cruising the waters searching for things to eat. They will take their toll of ducklings, adult ducks, goslings, and more. They are prehistoric in their appearance and easy to attract along the boardwalk south of the Stillwater Grill. Bring bits of bread. They also beg for it there in the late afternoon.