February 4th, 2013 permalink
We’re used to Alberta Clippers rushing in and warm, humid air from the Gulf of Mexico chasing them away. This year, however, the shifts seem relentless and bitter. Sunday’s high was 21 and the low only 1 degree above zero; well below our normal temps. A week ago, we had the other extreme with temperatures in the mid-fifties.
The millpond waterfowl are stressed now. They have less open water and reduced natural food resources, but for the most part, they endure it. One duck, however, is having a difficult time. I’m naming him “Tux” today because his marking are like a disheveled tuxedo. I’ve known him since he hatched on July 24th, one of four ducklings in Brood 27, the last brood with survivors during the 2012 season. His mom is a Mallard/Black Swedish hybrid, and his dad is surely MooseTracks. Tux has dad’s black spotted feet and the black/white markings characteristic of dad’s Ancona ancestry. Tux is calm and friendly, traits of both the Swedish and Ancona breeds. He has become more friendly since winter arrived. He’ll walk right up to my boots and politely beg for food (top).
About 4o ducks came up to me while I was standing in Corky’s Car Clinic parking lot on Sunday. They were overjoyed to see someone bring them some food so they were willing to climb the snowy bank and waddle toward me (above, right). Tux was one of them. I noticed his posture was different. He wasn’t holding his wings tight against his sides and seemed lethargic. He came to my feet and promptly laid down. Ducks often lay on their bellies so they can pull their legs and feet into their feathers to keep them warm. What was different was he didn’t bother to stand up and look at me like he usually does. I reached down and petted him and he didn’t try flinch (above right). That’s highly unusual. Another duck came up to him and bit his cheek and shook him. It was either his mother or a sibling, but I can’t identify it from the picture (left). It’s obvious he’s low in the pecking order so he was happy to accept my handful of duck chow.
Most of the ducks left abruptly fearing something I didn’t notice. They have hair triggers. If one gets frightened, most will take flight with it. Tux, Willaby, and a few other ducks stayed behind. That gave me a chance to feed Tux and Willaby more than I usually do. They liked eating without competing for food. When Tux was ready to leave, I got a couple of pictures of him walking (right and below). His wings almost dragged on the ground. That’s not normal. Is he been injured? Is his pecking order keeping him from food sources? Is he sick? I’ll keep checking on him and hope other members of the duck brigade do, too. Because he’s domestic stock and only six months old, he may not have the fat reserves ducks need to stay warm or maybe he’s just having a bad day. Wish ducks could talk.
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 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 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.
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