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.

Tragedy for Blonde Bombshell #2

July 7th, 2015     8 comments     permalink

This is a sad post with unsettling photos. You may want to pass it by. It’s especially tragic because I had a part in making the outcome worse than it should have been. For the past five days, I’ve attempted to capture Blonde Bombshell #2, a domestic duck with Saxony ancestry. On July 1, I discovered her right leg had monofilament fishing line knotted around it. Each night, I’ve gone to the pond after the crowds have left for the day hoping I could lure her close enough with duck chow to nab her. She remained just out of reach.

Franny's foot is still hobbled by fishing line on her legOn Sunday evening, I noticed her foot was beginning to show signs the knotted line had tightened so last night, before venturing to the pond, I contacted Michigan Duck Rescue and Sanctuary to see if Matt and Theresa Lyson, founders, would be able to meet me late in the evening after the ducks had settled down for the night. Prior to that, Bombshell is in the water taking her two ducklings to natural food sources on the pond.

Before their arrival, Bombshell was spotted on the pond embankment with her ducklings. The Hysen family, visiting relatives from their Tennessee home, were observing the ducks with me. Jim, the dad, was able to nab the duck while I distracted her with duck chow pellets. What we found was disconcerting.

Jim holds the domestic hen firmly after capture Jim was charged to hold the hen until Matt and Theresa arrived amid prime mosquito time at the pond

As Jim held her (above left), I found her foot ice cold. She no longer had circulation below the tightly wound fishing line. Even with the aid of a pocket knife, I was unable to dig the line out of the groove it had created in her leg (below) so Jim was charged with holding her firmly until the Lysons arrived. It was probably the longest 15 minutes of his life since mosquitoes were sampling his blood and he couldn’t swat them.

I attempted to remove the fishing line but was only partially successful

Matt and Theresa arrived with tweezers and other tools to remove the line. He’s had numerous encounters with  carelessly discarded fishing line entangling ducks in the past. This one is surely one of his worst. The skin from more than half of her foot sloughed off as we worked (below right), the result of all circulation being cut off.

The skin on the sole of her right foot sloughed off The skin on the top of the foot was in worst shape due to the lack of circulation

The Lysons will provide expert care at the Sanctuary
They intended to take her home, clean the extensive wound and apply wound dressings. The next step is unknown. The injury is extensive enough she will probably lose her lower leg and foot although ducks have the fortitude to surprise  us. Had I called them just a day earlier, it might have been saved so I feel especially bad about this.

Before they left, they decided Bombshell would be less stressed if her two ducklings were captured and taken with her. With one deft swoop of his net, Matt caught both. Hatched on June 11, they are old enough to survive on their own, but they have maintained a close relationship with their mother so the companionship for all three of the birds will reduce the trauma somewhat.

Bombshell rests comfortably in Theresa's arms after the line was removed. Bombshell's two ducklings were captured so they could join their mother in the crate on their journey back to the Sanctuary

Little did the Hysen family know what their evening held in store for them. Jim had prior experience catching ducks when he was about the age of his sons and his skills rescued the duck. His two sons, Logan and Chase, held flashlights as we worked so they had an experience in wildlife stewardship they will never forget. Their mother, Kellie, documented the encounter with her camera so they boys will have a full record of their involvement.

This rescue could have had a happier outcome had acted sooner, but at least this hen will survive. The care she will receive for the rest of her life will be exemplary at the Sanctuary. Her ducklings will stay with their mom until they can fly in another couple of months. Maybe they will find their way back to the millpond at some future date.

If you go fishing, please be sure to discard fishing lines and hooks properly so waterfowl won’t encounter them as Bombshell has done.

Blonde Bombshell still hobbled

July 3rd, 2015     0 comments     permalink

You can see the fishing line on the hen's leg in this photo

She keeps a constant eye on her ducklings on the embankment never venturing far themI tried a second night to capture Blonde Bombshell #2 and will keep trying until I can remove the fishing line strangling her right leg.

She comes close to me when lured with duck chow but is so protective of her two ducklings huddled on the embankment below the sidewalk that she doesn’t venture far from the pond’s edge. If I lunge for her, I might injure her or end up in the drink.

Eventually she will come close enough and her leg is getting adequate blood flow to not be endangered.

When drakes come to court her, she attacks

She’s an aggressive protector of her young. When males come to close to her ducklings or to court her, she is quick to fly off the handle and attacks them (above). The easiest way I could pin her down would be if a drake did it for me. If done on land, I could interrupt their romantic encounter, toss the drake aside, and snip the fishing line. It will only take a minute but the Saxony hen won’t be cooperative even though she’ll be released in a jiffy.

If approached, she swim out of reach with her chicks

Monofilament dangers

July 2nd, 2015     0 comments     permalink

The almost invisible fishing line is knotted on her right leg

It happens every year. At least three ducks have encounters with fishing gear and sometimes they die. In this case, Blonde Bombshell #2 is not in danger of death but she could potentially lose her right foot if the fishing line constricting her leg tightens. She’s been a successful mother on the millpond since at least 2012.

Blonde Bombshell #2 has become entangled with monofilament fishing lineShe was spotted limping near the central part of the pond last night in the company of her two remaining ducklings. She started with ten on June 11. Upon close inspection, she was dragging about four feet of monofilament fishing line behind her and it was knotted on her leg.

Russ and Matt, two gentlemen walking the millpond trail, were encouraged to join in the capture of the domestic duck. (That’ll teach them to come to Brighton for a relaxing dinner. Ha!) The three of us dodged, lunged, cajoled, and attempted to toss Matt’s hoodie over the elusive bird. The futile effort was halted just short of me calling the EMTs to transport my oxygen-starved lungs to the nearest hospital. Thanks for lending a hand, guys!

Her foot looks dark in this photo but the circulation appears adequate to sustain itI had a second opportunity to nab the urban-pond-savvy-hen who is used to avoiding park visitors later in the evening. She brought her two babes to Main Street to roost. That effort, too, wasn’t successful though she allowed me to approach her. That surprised me. She forgot I was the big meany who was out to get her less than two hours before. Ducks do have memories and can easily recognize friends and foe.

She’s not in any danger of losing a foot as of this night. The photo at right makes her foot look dark, but blood is coursing through it; I assure you. In the days ahead, I’ll make other attempts to remove the painful line. I’m not fond of capturing ducks and have only done it a handful of times in the past six years. There’s always a risk of increasing injuries and, when it involves wild species, it can only be done in life threatening situations. If ducks could realize the intent is to help instead of harm them, it would make the task much easier.

If you ever see strands of fishing line discarded near ponds and lakes, please pick it up and get it to a trash can. Ducks and geese are talented in becoming entangled in it.

A more successful blonde

June 13th, 2015     0 comments     permalink

Ten day-old ducklings comprise Brood 21 with Blonde Bombshell #2 at the helm

The shoreline on the bay north of Brighton’s city hall is crowded with geese and a few duck families. I noticed a blonde hen with her wings down guarding ducklings near the Brood 4 tribe of 15. I assumed it was Brood 20 with its two ducklings. A family of Canada geese decided to occupy that exact spot and ousted both of the broods while I was standing there (below).

A goose family ousted Brood21's roost and sent them into the millpond

The gander took a poke at the ducklings and convinced the hen to move her brood into the pondOut popped 10 tiny birds from under the blonde (top). This is a new batch of ducklings brought to you by Blonde Bombshell #2, a hen who has hatched several clutches in past years. She hasn’t been very successful in getting them to adulthood but we can all hope for the best now that she’s a more seasoned mom.

In past years, there were three blonde hens on the pond. I’ve only seen two this year. I received a report two blondes were frequenting the yard of a residence near the pond. I’ve assumed they are the same birds. All three look alike but their bill markings are slightly different. They are of domestic stock. I’ve never gotten a definitive answer of what breed they are. I think they’re Saxony ducks. That breed has bronze-ish color patches on their wings instead of blue ones like the Mallards.

The youngsters stick close to mom Blonde Bombshell #2 is a seasoned hen at the Brighton millpond

Happy first month day (almost)

June 14th, 2013     0 comments     permalink

The hen watches Brood2 as they play on the sidewalk at the north end of the pond

It doesn’t sound like a huge accomplishment, but surviving the first month is a big deal for ducklings. Brood2 hatched on May 16th so they are just shy of a month old now but 50% of them aren’t alive to celebrate with their nest mates. They aren’t as large as they appear in this photograph because it was taken at duck’s eye level, but they are a little less than half the size of mom. You can see their juvenile tail feathers are beginning to grow and their wings becoming bigger. It’s hard to believe that in about six more weeks, they will be as tall as mom and just beginning to fly. Adult coloration is still a long way off, but I don’t think any of them will be blonde like their mom.

Sort the ducklings, it’s time to roost

June 11th, 2013     0 comments     permalink

At the end of the play date, the hens sort the kids to go home

Ducks are patient most of the time. When the family groups depart to find a safe place to roost, the moms of ducklings older than a couple of weeks, let the kids sort themselves out. Above, the mom of four waits for the straggler to hop over the fallen tree before she begins to move her brood to their resting place.

The mom on the left has a new challenge. Can you guess what it is? See the next post.

Once the kids gather with their siblings, they are ready to leave

Brood2 loses half of the ducklings in 15 days

May 31st, 2013     0 comments     permalink

The Brood2 hen does her best, but has lost half of her youngsters

She dines with the kids when she brings them to say helloHeavy loses in the first two weeks of life is not unusual for ducklings. Brood2 has lost 50%. I still haven’t positively identified the hen, but I think she’s Blonde Bombshell #2 from 2012. That duck lost four of four last year. The survivors are frisky and healthy. Hope they thrive until adulthood in a couple of months.

She’s a Saxony, a farm breed, and doesn’t have great parenting skills, but she does her best. I still don’t fully understand her lineage. She looks like a full blooded Saxony, but her mom appears to be a full blooded Buff Orpington. We didn’t have a Saxony drake on the pond until Rusty arrived this past month so how she can look like a pure Saxony is beyond my understanding.

The cold facts

May 26th, 2013     1 comment     permalink

Notice the notch out of this hen's bill. It's Nacho!

Before the cold weather set in, Brood1 has four ducklingsMay 25: Aw, darn it. The frigid nights have taken a major toll on ducklings. Within the past few days, the survival rate has gone from 91% down to 83%. It’s actually higher since that figure doesn’t include the two youngsters that joined the abandoned Brood3 pair for two short days. I still haven’t found the brood for those two stragglers.

Only one of Brood1's ducklings has survivedSaturday evening, a Mallard hen with only one duckling was swimming near Main Street. I thought it was an unidentified brood to add to my list. When I took a closer look at the photos at home, I discovered it was Nacho, the duck with a bill injury (top and right, May 25). In examining earlier photos (left taken on May 21), I realized Nacho was the mother of Brood1. She has now lost 4 of her 5 offspring a crushing 20% survival rate in the 10 days since they’ve hatched.

Brood2 has done better but still has lost 4 or its 8 ducklings in their first 8 days of life.

Camo for Ducks

May 16th, 2013     0 comments     permalink

Ducklings are patterns to make their true outline difficult for predators to spot

With the water partially shaded by the elevated boardwalk, you can see how the ducklings are difficult to see in both bright light and shadowAlmost all ducklings look alike. Some have unique markings, but most look like these tykes with the typical pattern for wild Mallards. Within a few weeks, however, these offspring of the Saxony hen may look more like she does. Ducklings go through three entire changes in feathers within their first few months. They start with duckling down, soft fuzz. Then they develop juvenile feathers after 4-6 weeks. Finally, they develop their first adult plumage by fall.

Their dotted down is like the spotted fur on white-tailed fawns. It helps break up their shape so predators can’t see their outline well. Their light colored bellies confuses hungry fish below them, two. As you can see here, the ducklings blend in with the pond ripples.

Blonde hen parades eight ducklings and then …

May 16th, 2013     1 comment     permalink

A blonde Saxony hen parades her eight ducklings through water lilies at the Brighton millpond

As mentioned in a previous post, each hen has her own parenting style. Note how this one allows her ducklings a freer range of movement than the mom of Brood1 (above). That might be because she’s a farm breed, a Saxony and (maybe) Buff Orpington hybrid. Mothering skills of farm ducks have been partially lost as the breeds are created to be meat or egg laying specialists. This duck may be “Blonde Bombshell #2” from 2012 who had little success raising ducklings last year. When I have time, I’ll compare photos to make a positive identification.

Nervous, the hen quacks repeatedly and then one of her ducklings vanishes with a splash

Allowing ducklings a wide range of movement is dangerous because it makes them easier targets for predators. As I was telling park visitors about this hen bringing her eight duckling to this location on their first day of life, we saw a splash out of the corner of our eyes and then there were only seven chicks left. The eighth was probably swallowed by a bass but none of us saw it happen. The first two weeks of life for ducklings are the most precarious.

2013Brood2: A Nervous Hen

May 16th, 2013     1 comment     permalink

Note the upright feathers on this hen

You can tell this mom is nervous as she allows her day old ducklings to forage in the water lilies at the Brighton millpond. Note how the feathers on the top of her head and along the back of her neck are raised because she has her guard up as she watches for anything that might indicate danger. Even though she was alert, she lost one chick within minutes of when this photograph was taken.

2013 Brood 2

May 16th, 2013     0 comments     permalink

Hen , Blonde Saxony Hen
Drake(s) Unknown
DOB (estimate) May 15
Pond Location Northern half of the pond
1st Meeting Behind car wash
Duckling Count 8 verified, May 15. One was eaten by a fish as I watched on the same day.

See all posts about Brood 2 together on one page: 2013Brood2

Roller Coaster: Living with loss

July 22nd, 2012     5 comments     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.

Blonde Bombshell #2 comes for dinner

July 3rd, 2012     0 comments     permalink

While it’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve been close enough to her to count ducklings, I’ve seen Blonde Bombshell #2 swimming with the kids at dusk on several occasions. She brought them to see me up close this past weekend. She’s lost two of her original four. The remaining pair look to be in great shape and she’s a wary mother. Before she began nesting, she’d almost run up to say hello to me. Now she’s more reserved, skittish. That’s good! She’s keeping her brood’s safety in mind all of the time.

She has signs of mating stress. The back of her neck and head have lost some feathers recently. She also waddles with a slight limp, She has all of her toes so it wasn’t a turtle encounter. The babes are three weeks old now and well on their way to adulthood. In 5-6 weeks, they’ll be ready to fly. Their grandmother is nesting again so I doubt they’ve had a chance to meet her.

Blonde Bombshell #2 publicly debuts her babies

June 19th, 2012     1 comment     permalink

After four days of trying to find Blonde Bombshell #2 after first spotting her with babies on June 14, she decided it was time to let park visitors meet her quadruplets. She brought them onshore behind the Fire Station last evening. Three of them look like her bonded Mallard drake partner (who has fled at least for a while) and one is gray, a typical color for her Buff Orpington heritage. It might be a while before she can introduce them to grandma since Confidia (Brood 4) has left her remaining six ducklings in the shaky care of her two drake suitors. Although she might have been snatched by a predator, it’s more likely she is nesting again and will remain hidden for up to four weeks.

Bombshell’s presentation of the kids was not without incident. The five abandoned ducklings that are six weeks older than her newborns came too close and she confronted them (above left) and tussled with one. After he submitted (right), she continued her attack so he fought back and grabbed her wing (above right). It ended in a stalemate, but the older ducklings got the message and stayed away from the youngsters. That’s a good sign. It means Bombshell is able to defend her ducklings so they have a better chance at surviving the first critical weeks of life.

Revelations at dusk

June 14th, 2012     2 comments     permalink

First the bad news: An out-of-reach white feathered body floating at the north end of the millpond had ripples around it (above left) as turtles that occasionally popped up their heads (above right) dined on it beneath the surface. It’s one of the cygnets. Born on about May 6th, it had a short life.

On a happier note, Blonde Bombshell #2 appeared on the opposite shore with her wings lowered, a sure sign she was keeping new ducklings warm (above left). Moments later, she entered the water with dark dots following her and headed into water lilies (above right). The images are terrible because of the fading light, but it confirms she’s alive and well. I’m sure I’ll meet the kids soon and be able to confirm their numbers. It looked like there were 4-5. She’s 2012Brood11.

On the near shore behind underbrush too thick to obtain an accurate count, another hen had about 4 newborns scooting around. It was almost impossible to photograph this group but at least these shots are good enough to identify the mom when I see the family in better light soon. This is 2012Brood12.

Meanwhile, the swans with their only remaining cygnet were surrounded by dense water plants, lilies on one side and cattails on the other. Both parents were feverishly ripping out plants and stacking them up, not eating them. Perhaps they were constructing a makeshift “fort” to protect their offspring from turtles. I’ve never seen them do that before (below).

2012 Brood 11

June 12th, 2012     0 comments     permalink

Hen Blonde Bombshell #2, I think
Drake(s) Unknown, but probably her bonded mallard drake
DOB (estimate) June 12
Pond Location Far shore, north end near laundrimat
1st Meeting Seen from across the pond on shore with wings lowered at dusk,
couldn’t verify count looked like 4-5
Duckling Count

June 13: Blonde Bombshell #2 has been missing for several weeks and there are few ducks as light as she is. Duck seen across the pond was a light tan so I assume it’s her.

Posts including this brood:

06/12/12 :: Revelations at Dusk

Duck Genealogy

March 21st, 2012     0 comments     permalink

I began taking more than a passing interest in the millpond ducks when I started wearing my camera around my neck on my millpond walks. Before that, I never thought about them; they were “just ducks” that hung around. In fact, I assumed they were transient, arriving and departing the pond in a random fashion.

After almost three years of photographing them, I’ve discovered most of my thoughts about ducks were entirely wrong. They have individual histories, personalities, family ties, and dynamic social heirarchies, not to mention their harsh lives in an urban environment.

This young hen (top) is surely a member of last year’s Welcoming Committee although she doesn’t have unique markings to prove it. She’s a little more wary now that she’s paired up with a drake for the breeding season, but I suspect she’ll be bringing her ducklings to my feet sometime this summer to reenact her behaviors from last year. I’ve wondered if ducks can be identified by patterns on their bills once they reach adulthood. Having a way to identify individual ducks would be great. I’m grateful Duck 65 continues to wear her jewelry.

Hanging out with her brothers, the duck I named “Blonde Bombshell #2(right) is easy to identify. She’s currently hanging out with two drakes that are probably her two brothers. They look different than they did last fall, but their gray heads tell me they are the same ducks. They also feel very comfortable around humans as Thomas discovered during his winter visits. Note the gray heads on the ducks that were almost bill-to-nose with him in these pictures. I’m surprised this bombshell hasn’t paired up. She’s eight months old and mature enough to breed. Perhaps the brothers protect her from advances by the pond hooligans.

Mrs. PomPom has taken to her nest! Yesterday was the first day (right) so she might have hatchlings in 28 days. I’m not too hopeful. She’s a domestic bird dumped in the pond last July and hasn’t had an easy go of it, but at least her tight leg band is gone. While she’s adjusted to her life in the Buda Bunch, most domestic ducks aren’t great nesters or mothers and she’s picked a highly visible nesting site that will be disturbed by children visiting the park. Nesting might give her head wounds time to heal. They look gory right now but she seems healthy enough to survive them.

Spring flowers are a month early. These daffodils are blooming in the pleasant Roger Fendt Jr. Memorial Garden beside Brighton’s City Hall (below). Will they be blanketed in snow before they finish? We sometimes get heavy snows (a foot deep!) in April, but rains seem more likely this year. No promises; it’s Michigan.

Pond Pin-Up: Blonde Bombshell #2

January 21st, 2012     2 comments     permalink

You’ve seen this beauty many times. She’s the blonde starlet born in September. Standing below the boardwalk at the north end of the millpond at night, the beads of water on her feathers and the rough surface of the ice surround her with sparkle.  Like yesterday’s pin-up, Valiant, she has a wispy feather stuck to her bill. I’m anticipating she’ll raise equally gorgeous ducklings this next summer unless she’s swept off her webbed feet by one of the pond’s mongrels. :-)

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