October 17th, 2012 permalink
I’m pretty observant, but one of the reasons I make frequent trips to the Brighton millpond is that I almost always find surprises. This weekend, I discovered this large drake hovering around me. He didn’t look familiar until I noticed his foot. I’ll be damned.
This is one of Confidia‘s six ducklings from Brood 4 born just five months ago on May 18th. Look at how he’s changed! Only two months ago he was an ordinary medium dark brown and average looking fellow in his juvenile plumage. Now he’s Hollywood handsome, super-sized, and finely muscled. He’s flawless except for the evidence of his early encounter with a snapping turtle: the two mangled toes on his right foot. Oh well, if he’s asked to star in a future film, he can wear socks.
He’s probably a mix of Buff Orpington (mom) and Mallard (one of his two dads) and was fortunate to get all of the best genes from each species. I’ve named him Romeo.
September 27th, 2012 permalink
Confidia is a trooper raising ducklings. I’ve photographed her broods for three years. They are always beautiful birds with unique markings. This close up (right) shows a quartet of them so you can see their individual markings. This is Brood 24 (above), her second of the summer. She’s the bird in back and although she looks smaller than her offspring, she’s the same size as they are now. It started with 10 ducklings. Four of them were quickly lost to turtles (probably), but since then, the remaining six have prospered due to her protective nature. She’s still mothering even though the kids are 11 weeks old. They’ll start flying soon (if they haven’t already). The flights will be short. They’re partially farm breeds so their stout bodies are too large for migrating. It’s likely they will be year ’round residents of the millpond like her previous broods.
September 22nd, 2012 permalink
It appears Brood 27 has the record for being the youngest ducks on the Brighton millpond’s 2012 breeding season. They were born on July 24th. The two ducklings comprising Brood 28, born five days later, were quickly lost. Perhaps the extremely warm spring changed the entire pattern for hatching. In 2011, the last brood hatched on September 1st.
The dark hen continues to be very protective of her three remaining offspring (above, right). That’s unlike her behavior with her earlier brood hatched on May 2nd (left). Now that the ducklings are more than half grown, I’m convinced the only drake on the pond with spotted feet is their father. One duckling is beginning to look a little like him. You know him well.
September 3rd, 2012 permalink
I look for Brood 27 every time I’m at the millpond, but the hen takes them to places unknown to me. I go days without spotting them. They’re near the fire station on the days I find them.
Mom’s doing a great job of protecting her remaining three ducklings. Two have distinctive white patches on their chests and large black blotches on their feet (right). The blotches make me believe the infamous MooseTracks is their father. Spotted feet is a trait of Ancona ducks and he’s the only Ancona in the pond. The hen’s two spring suitors had bright orange feet with no spots on them.
Since Brood 28 ducklings vanished, Brood 27 (July 24) is the youngest at the pond. The chances of another brood being born diminishes day by day. In 2011, the last brood hatched on September 1st to Confidia, the pond’s most prolific hen. Since she’s still caring for her six 7-week-old ducklings now, she won’t hatch another batch this summer.
August 28th, 2012 permalink
I took this picture on August 15 but couldn’t figure out which brood it was. After looking through lots of pictures, I believe its what’s left of Brood 17. My original post of this family was June 24th and I didn’t have a clear portrait of the hen. This hen’s bill looks like she dipped it in an ink well. These ducklings are the size of two month old youngsters so I’m pretty sure of the identification. Sadly, this mom started with nine so her troupe is only one-third its original size.
August 28th, 2012 permalink
It’s difficult recognizing which ducklings go with which hens these days. You can expect a few dull posts as I sort out things. All season I’ve attempted to get a grip on the survival rate of ducklings at the Brighton millpond. This will help me do it.
These two hens appear to share mothering duties occasionally. I’ll find the two ducklings remaining (of five) in Brood 20 (left) bedding down for the night with the one remaining duckling (of two) from Brood 21 (below right). One of the moms stays near them, but the other will be elsewhere hobnobbing with buddies. The two broods were hatched four days apart (July 3 and 7).
The hens must have been friends prior to nesting. They get along better than most hens (below left) and allow their young to intermingle. Hens usually gather their ducklings together and keep them at some distance from other ducks to avoid conflicts with other family groups.
August 20th, 2012 permalink
Urban ducks have all sorts of things with which to contend. When humans and their dogs aren’t chasing them, they still have to keep an eye out for predators in their semi-wild ponds. In addition, they are faced with litter thrown into the water or blown in during storms.
This handsome duckling from Brood 4 has a ring on its lower bill. No, it’s not a wedding ring. It’s more likely a metal auto part or industrial stamping. You cannot see it from above (lower left). How and when she acquired this accouterment is unknown. I’ve been aware of it for a week.
She’s not in distress and eats well. I’ve known this duck and her five surviving siblings (two at her right, above) since their mom, Confidia brought them to the millpond. I’ve felt the ring with my fingertips. It seems solidly in place. I hope removing it is a simple task after the complex one of catching her. If the ring was there while the duckling was growing, it might require surgery at a wildlife rehabilitation center. Stay tuned.
August 16th, 2012 permalink
Confidia brings her seven ducklings (Brood 24) out of the water to pose for me. Clicking on the picture will bring up a larger one that’s 754k, larger than most click-thrus on the blog. I wanted you to see how distinctive each of the ducklings are. Each one of them will be easy to recognize as they grow up. The same is true with the young of the dark hen (below) from Brood 27. Instead of just a bib, one of them has a white collar that wraps completely around his neck and wisps of white behind his eyes.
It won’t be as easy to report on the Brood 26 ducklings (below) because they will blend in with most of the other ducklings born this summer.
One of the chief duties of hens is to escort their young to places in the pond where they can find nutritious food. During a rain storm, the mom found lots of tiny plants were dislodged from the edge of the pond and had her babies grab it as it floated toward the dam (above). She also took them to a plant at the edge which was catching duckweed in the stronger than usual current as it floated by (below right).
August 7th, 2012 permalink
A few clutches of ducklings might hatch before the 2012 Brighton Millpond Fertility Tournament wraps up for the year, but it’s doubtful another duck will rival Confidia for enthusiasm. Her first brood was born May 18 and contained 13 (six survived to adulthood) while her current brood of ten, almost a month old now, has seven survivors (above). Her total of 23 ducklings hatched is the record for the year. The surviving 13 comprises more than 12% of the total born this year by 26 hens.
After a few days of mingling separately with the greater flock (see August 6), her first brood has reassembled. They’ve decided they like the companionship of their siblings better than joining new partnerships. All six are in the photo (above right) but one is lost in the shadows, upper right. Interestingly, Confidia’s two broods have a similar color mix that probably signals they have the same father(s): first brood had one yellow, six grays, and six mallard-colored ducklings; the second brood has one yellow, three grays, and three mallards. The pond is more colorful these days due to her efforts.
August 6th, 2012 permalink
Brood 27 has been elusive. I hadn’t seen them for nine days. They reappeared near the fire station where their hen was having the tykes feast on the ample crop of duckweed trapped between the lily pads. All three of the remaining four ducklings are growing well and have variations of their mom’s white bib. One is more than a bib; it’s a wide collar around its neck. This hen abandoned her first brood of the season (born May 2nd) when they were two weeks old. Let’s hope she doesn’t do the same with this clutch.
August 6th, 2012 permalink
I’m probably imagining it, but the look in the above duck’s eye tells me it’s thinking, “What have I gotten myself into?” Brood 4 was born on May 18th at the north end of the pond. Six of the original 13 have survived. These pictures were taken on August 2nd, their first day to break their familial bonds and begin to mingle with the rest of the flock at the Main Street end of the pond. You probably remember your first day at a new school or organization. These ducks are experiencing the same thing. They are uncomfortable and aren’t sure how they fit in.
At eleven weeks old, they are all large, stout ducks of at least partial domestic stock and may be incapable of flight except for short sprints. I think they will do well in the long run, but right now they have to figure out where they can roost at night, which ducks to avoid, and which ducks are likely companions. Confidia’s brood from last year remained at the pond all winter. I imagine these will be year-round residents as well.
August 4th, 2012 permalink
On July 30th, I announced the hatching of Brood 28 at the Brighton millpond. Just two ducklings arrived on the scene and their mother has distinctive wide white eyebrows that are easy to spot on the pond.
She was a careful protector of the babies even though she was surrounded by Canada geese and adult ducks. The next day, she moved the brood to the Main Street area with all of the other ducks sut stayed close (three photos below) and remained vigilant in her duties of threatening every duck coming close to the little ones (right). In the end, however, it wasn’t enough.
In just two days, she only had one duckling (left). The next day, it was gone, too. Now she’s back mingling with the other adult ducks (top) and it’s probably too late in the season to anticipate another attempt at nesting.
Nothing is known about what took the lives of her ducklings or most of the other ones lost this year. Snapping turtles are the usual suspects but ducklings in their first two weeks are small enough to be eaten by many critters that fly over, swim in or walk the shorelines looking for their next meal. No matter how diligent the hens, their chicks can vanish in a blink.
July 30th, 2012 permalink
I know. I know. You’re tired of seeing cute little baby ducklings, but this year I’m doing my best to record all of the births so I have a full record of births for one full year. I probably won’t do this again next year.
Brood 28 has only 2 ducklings and I think they were born July 29th although they may have been born the day before. Their mom had them mixed in with Canada Geese and the farm ducks on the bay north of the City Hall. That’s unusual in that she wasn’t concerned about being near large birds that might harm them. She picked a few fights to keep the big birds away from her young, but seemed quite comfortable being surrounded by them. She’s probably a hen with lots of experience raising babies.
Note her side eyebrow and the bump on the back of her head. It’s different than the other hens which will make it easy for me to spot her in the future. Yee Haa!
July 30th, 2012 permalink
||Bright white eyebrow, wider than most. Unique head/feathers shape.
||Near City Hall
||Saw babies near bay north of City Hall next to brushes
||2 verified July 29
July 29: Mom was in plain sight among Canada Geese and farm ducks north of City Hall, usual place for newborns which are usually more hidden.
Posts including this brood:
07/30/12 :: Brood 28: Just a pair
08/04/12 :: Too soon alone again
July 29th, 2012 permalink
The next night, there is no evidence of the previous night’s turmoil described in the earlier post. The hen is calm, away from the crowd, while her brood (26 in the 2012 Fertility Tournament) is relaxed and ready to sleep through the night on the embankment near the Brighton gazebo. Hens often stand on the sidewalk above their young to watch over them (left). Even on relatively warm nights, ducklings cuddle together to stay warm when they are very young (center), and the hen helps preserve their body heat by lowering and spreading her wings around them like a blanket. There are seven surviving ducklings in this clutch. One of them can barely be seen in the middle of the downy mass in the center photo.
July 29th, 2012 permalink
Hell hath no fury like a mother hen when protecting her ducklings. Ducks around her soon learn to keep their distance because they don’t want to get bitten or have feathers plucked from their bodies. Above, a 2-3 month old duckling (left) is unaware he is near babies until the hen charges him and bites his flank as her own duckling scurries to get out of the way.
Later, a hen with four ducklings comes into the territory of the same hen (Brood 26) and the two have a prolonged battle for that particular space. What begins with biting each other’s necks (above left) as Brood 26 watch soon escalates into a wild bout with wings flapping and feathers flying in all directions (below left).
It ends when the invading hen flees (below) to escape the furious biting and Brood 26′s hen does a victory dance (above right).
July 28th, 2012 permalink
We have about four dark colored ducks on the Brighton millpond with white bibs. I don’t know what species they are. If someone knows, please leave a comment. This hen is the mom of Brood 19, only one duckling and shouldn’t be confused with the other successful one who is now raising four newborns in her second clutch. They might be sisters because they look so much alike.
This duckling — celebrating being a month old — will have a white bib like its mom. It will be more prominent than Triumph’s, the duckling currently adjusting to life with adult ducks.
I need to create a page showing the typical growth pattern of ducklings from day 1 until they’re full fledged adults at about four months old. If I didn’t keep track of it by birth dates, I couldn’t tell how to judge the age of the little guys. There must be something online stating the characteristics for each week, but I haven’t looked for it. I have enough pictures now to assemble a collage of how they look each week and just need to take the time to create it.
July 27th, 2012 permalink
Even with careful searching I was unable to get an accurate count of the ducklings in Brood 27 until last night. There are four of them (above), all black with golden chest spots. The hen prefers to take them into the water after sunset. I’d seen her white bib moving across the pond on two previous nights, but it was too dark to see babies traveling beside her.
Confidia, the hen for Brood 24 (right), doesn’t use stealth as one of her methods for keeping her ducklings safe anymore. The cover of darkness was important for the first couple of weeks. She’d move them to new locations then and finally take the little ones deep into the shoreline weeds at bedtime. Now she can be seen in daylight as she takes the kids to locations where they gobble up duckweed and small invertebrates to grow big and strong. The survivors of Brood 4, her first clutch this year, are proof she knows what she’s doing due to their size and healthy appearance.
July 25th, 2012 permalink
If she didn’t have that bright white bib, I never would have seen this hen as the sun was setting. She was along the edge of the pond near the Brighton Fire Station. I didn’t get too close so I couldn’t count ducklings. I saw a couple of tiny tails under her. In a day or two, she’ll have them swimming beside her and they’ll be easy to count. This is Brood 27 since the first hatching of the year on April 29th.
This duck is also the mother of Brood 2. She hatched her first brood of four on May 2nd. She abandoned the two remaining chicks two weeks later. They joined the ducklings from Brood 1 who were also abandoned,. Only one of her young survived while four of Brood 1 are now twelve weeks old and on their own.
July 24th, 2012 permalink
||The dark hen with a white bib, mother of Brood 2
||Near fire station
||Saw babies under her before dark, couldn’t count them
||No count yet
July 24: Saw the hen and some babies under her near dusk but didn’t have time to count them. Went back after dark and couldn’t encourage the hen to rise. Her first brood this spring had four ducklings and only one has survived.
Posts including this brood:
07/25/12 :: The white bib gave her away
07/27/12 :: Ducklings in the dark
July 22nd, 2012 permalink
It’s difficult to fathom Nature’s mechanisms for duck reproduction, if there are any. Perhaps the only goal is to churn out as many ducklings as possible and then let the chips fall where they may. The chips are falling so fast right now, I can’t keep up.
Blonde Bombshell #2 (above left) has now lost all four of her ducklings. The reasons unknown. The drake who bonded with her all spring is also absent. She remains at the north end of the millpond and is in a campaign to be accepted by two broods of ducks there, Broods 4 and 5. She needs their protection. As it stands now, she stays near them but they still chase her away. Her plumage is significantly changing with the molt, too. She now has many dark feathers. Pictures will soon be posted along with a further explanation of her efforts to gain acceptance by the ducklings.
The most stunning loss came to Valiant (aka Blonde Bombshell #1). The eight ducklings she hatched July 17th have vanished within four days. I think they’re dead, but she may have simply forgotten where she left them. She arrived near Main Street without ducklings on July 21st (right) and spent time calling for them and also continued to exhibit aggressive behaviors toward other ducks of a mom guarding babies. Clutches of ducklings rarely die en masse; they are usually picked off one by one by turtles and other predators at the rate of one, maybe two, per day. That’s the reason I wonder if she’s misplaced them. How could that happen? Hens are pursued by drakes whether they have ducklings or not. Hens with young often take flight to avoid them. Usually, they’re able to return to their ducklings within a couple of minutes, but I can imagine the harassment by drakes lasting much longer in some cases and Valiant is a timid duck. Time will tell.
One of the “teenage” ducklings (left) has become separated or tossed out by the hen. For a few days, it called for its mom, but I don’t hear it anymore. I’m still attempting to figure out what has happened to it. Sometimes the count of ducklings in families points to it hanging out with other families, but I’m not sure. It doesn’t have any notable unique markings so I can only judge behavior of the ducks in figuring this out; not easy.
Last of all, the littlest duck, Frick, has lost the last of five ducklings. I wonder if it was stolen by a park visitor. She’s so friendly, it could have happened if they fed her.
July 21st, 2012 permalink
Brood 26 appeared on the Brighton millpond embankment on July 20th after dark. It’s been quite a week for hatchings. So far, we’ve had 26 ducklings join the other hundred-plus born this season.
Their mom is very relaxed and allows park visitors to come close without getting stressed. I sense she’s a veteran hen since she’s well groomed and calm (below). I offered her duck chow and she was ravenous! She hopped up on the sidewalk to snarf it down. I’ve noticed hens with newly hatched babies are usually famished. I imagine they don’t get a chance to eat much as their eggs hatch and they have a troupe of newborns to tend.
She’s protective of the little ones. While I was watching, she vigorous chased away adult ducks who got within 6 feet of them.
A couple of the ducklings are a bit lighter in color than the rest. We’ll have a better indication of their adult plumage once their juvenile feathers grow in. Features like neckbands don’t seem to show up until then.