Buda: Banished duck king

June 2nd, 2016     1 comment     permalink

Buda roosts alone at the north end of the pond

Buda has been dethroned as an alpha-duck on the Brighton millpond. Pollux who took top honors and now it appears to be the Dixie/Darth tag team. They are chasing the new arrivals (George & Martha) out of the pond daily.

Buda has also separated from his long-time buddy Dexter who is wooing one of the pond’s ravishing hens. So Buda sits alone at the north end of the pond, but he still seeks female companionship. He swims down to where Franny once nested and looks for Calamity and Shine to no avail. Those domestic hens are currently missing. They may be on distant nests so I don’t consider them lost to the ages yet.

Buda's posture isn't looking too chipper lately

You can see Buda isn't preening his feathers wellBuda looks bedraggled these days. I took these shots on a rainy day. That may be why his feathers are soiled. Note how he isn’t preening himself well. Maybe he’s not feeling chipper or a touch of arthritis makes it painful to reach his tail feathers (left). Those aren’t plunked feathers around him (above). They are withered flowers from an Autumn Olive tree above him. He’s one of the oldest domestic ducks on the pond and has survived far beyond expectations. He’s been at the pond longer than I have, 7+ years.

Buda is looking guilty

May 1st, 2015     0 comments     permalink

After being away for several days, Buda looked like he wasn't proud of his conduct

Buda has the thickest neck on the millpondI thought I had the grim task of announcing Buda’s death this week. He disappeared a few days ago and left Dexter, his Rouen sidekick, alone. This was highly unusual behavior for him. I checked the territories of the domestic hens on the pond and Buda wasn’t courting any of them.

I was so happy to find him with Dexter (lower right) last evening, I didn’t ask him where he had been. He had a rather guilty look about him though so I suspect he found a receptive hen who found him temporarily charming on the private west side of the pond where I’m not able to see what he was doing.

For several years, the Buda Bunch has spent their summers in the bay north of Brighton’s city hall. The five ducks (Buda, Mrs PomPom, Dexter, Buddy, and Beauregard) were inseparable. Buddy and Beauregard vanished last fall so the Bunch was reduced to a triad. With the rescue of Mrs PomPom in mid-April, Buda has been relieved of his supervisory responsibilities since Dexter is quite capable of taking care of himself. He’s one of three Rouen drakes on the millpond, the only one with a white neckband. Will the duo add a female to their team in the next few weeks? There aren’t many available hens on the pond so it will require some sweet quacking to rebuild the Bunch to its original glory. I thought PomPom’s 2014 offspring (Dixie and Darth) were shoe-ins to join the Bunch, but they seem quite happy exploring the riches of the pond on their own.

Buda takes good care of his feathers Dexter is Buda's sidekick. He's a Rouen drake.

Meet Dixie and Darth

December 28th, 2014     2 comments     permalink

Darth is in front, Dixie in back

The kids aren't excited by their new namesThe two surviving ducklings from Mrs PomPom’s first successful clutch (2014 Brood 26) since she was abandoned at the pond in July, 2011 have been named. As you can see, the birds weren’t amused by my choices (right), but they don’t read my blog anyway.

Dixie is the white one who obviously has a Pekin dad (probably Buda). Darth is the dark dark who was probably sired by Duke, a member of the Dam Tribe. He may be Dexter‘s child, PomPom’s Rouen pal, but his coloration is closer to Duke’s — very dark with no white neck ring. Duke had several “dates” with the accommodating white crested PomPom.

Below, the Buda Bunch (l to r: Buda, Dexter, Buddy, PomPom) cruises the pond with Dixie and Darth leading the parade. The two youngsters will be four months old on January 2. They still aren’t fully grown when compared with the adults, but they are on their way to being large, robust members of the millpond community. Dixie was thought to be a female, but these photos hint we have another male added to the pond — notice the tail feather beginning to curl. Sigh.

The Buda Bunch with Dixie and Darth leading the tribe

The daily FlapFest

December 17th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

A female Mallard flapping her wings

Ducks paddle like mad to raise themselves out of the water a little so they have enough clearance to flap their wings. They do this at the end of a bath or when they climb ashore. It’s done to shake the water off.

Sometimes they flap their wings as a stretch or yawn, a way to exercise their idle muscles. I’m convinced it’s also a way to dissipate adrenalin. They’ll flee into the water from land when something frightens them. A quick movement or an approaching dog can trigger it. When the danger passes, most of the ducks will wing flap. After aggressive behavior or mating, the birds also flap their wings. Like humans brushing the dirt off after a fall, it appears to be a way to regain their composure.

A Mallard drake flaps and shows his beautiful blue speculum feathers on a grungy day

During peak flap, it’s a good time to admire their wings at full extension. Here are shots of a Mallard hen (top) and drake along with a composite of Rusty (below on left) and Buda at full flap. No, they weren’t dancing. I sandwiched two images together. Buda is an alpha male too proud to be seen dancing, and Franny would be upset if Rusty danced with anyone but her.

Rusty and Buda at peak wing flap in a composite image

Swimming with the big ducks

October 24th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

The white one is sired by a Pekin, the dark one by a Rouen

It’s astonishing how quickly ducklings grow. Mrs PomPom’s surviving pair are almost as large (but not as filled out) as the other ducks in the Buda Bunch now at less than two months old (above). They hatched on September 2.

The 8 week old duckling are in the foreground, mom is at the top sleepingAt left, they nap (foreground) with the rest of Buda’s sub-flock along the edge of the pond surrounded by fallen autumn leaves. Buda probably fathered the white one and Dexter, the only Rouen in the group, is probably the dark one’s dad. But it’s possible the ducklings were sired by other domestic ducks. Duke, the Dam Tribe’s Rouen, and Jiminy, one of Jemima’s significant others made frequent conjugal visits to PomPom all summer.

Ducklings have growth spurts like human children. For the first month, their wings remain totally undeveloped as they can gain body size and weight. Now that their bodies and bones are almost fully developed, their wings are growing. They have half of their first set of adult feathers now. When I visited them last evening, it took me a moment to realize they were the same ducklings I had seen the day before. The are noticeably larger and their plumage has grown.

Their personalities are decidedly different as well. The white one is a typical Pekin, curious and friendly. The dark one is calmer and stand-offish like the other Rouens on the pond.

A twilight excursion

September 17th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

Buda leads the boys home after a mating run at the Brighton millpond

September 9: Buda leads Beauregard and Buddy back to their home base in the bay beside Brighton’s city hall. Reflections of the sun at twilight paint their path as they paddle the short distance. Since Mrs PomPom offers them no amusement while she tends her ducklings, the boys felt the need to visit the always charming and accommodating SweetPea. She accepts (although unwillingly) all gentlemen callers at her primary residence under the pine tree beside the millpond dam.

Buda’s ghosts and SweetPea’s absence

May 9th, 2014     1 comment     permalink

An anomaly of digital photography in long exposures

One of the anomalies of digital photography is the ghosting in longer exposures. They show up the most in low light shots like these. The flash can be set for “1st Curtain” or “2nd Curtain” which means the light triggers at the beginning or end of the exposure. In both of these shots, my camera was set for the second so Buda leaves a puff of smoke behind him as he jumps into the water (above) but he follows his own ghost, below, because he’s moving slower.

Buda was making his nightly run to mate with the lovely and talented SweetPea. For the past several nights, he hasn’t been able to find her since she’s nesting, but that doesn’t stop him from trying. Buddy, Jiminy, and Captain D. Hookt also arrive to quench their passions but leave squelched instead. The elusive lass is resting comfortably upon her hidden nest healing from wounds inflicted by these unrepentant brutes. Did I just heard her quack a giggle as Buda returns home unfulfilled?

Wish there was a good way to isolate the wake and the reflections on it in this shot. It has a beautiful quality that can be appreciated if you click the image to see it larger.

The camera's flash is set for "2nd Curtain" so the strongest image follows the ghosts

Fluffed instead of roughed up

January 21st, 2014     0 comments     permalink

Mrs PomPom is taking good care of her feathersYou’ve read about Mrs PomPom (left) having a rough summer, but she’s thoroughly enjoying the winter months. She’s actively flirting with most of the domestic drakes near the millpnod planning for a summer of nests. The drakes don’t pay much attention to her advances at this time of year, but in a couple of months she’ll have more attention than she wants.

Buda (below right) is still laying claim to her charms, but he allows other ducks in his Bunch to be near her. It’s a different story when Dumpling comes around. He’s usually chased away. Jiminy and Captain D. Hookt don’t attempt to get close to her since they are still considered outsiders by the two established domestic duck clans. I may not matter when breeding begins. We have several newly arrived hens available to amuse them.

Mrs PomPom is nicely feathered out after a rough summer Buda is looking terrific this winter

Mrs PomPom: Gracious Holiday Hostess

November 21st, 2013     0 comments     permalink

All preened and ready for the Holiday Glow festivities

Mrs PomPom has grown her crest for Holiday entertainingAfter a harrowing summer of too much attention from the drakes and several nest failures, Mrs PomPom has spent the last couple of months regrowing her assymetrical crest, that poofy topknot of feathers. She’s the only crested duck on the pond since the tragic death of the beloved AfroDuck in July, 2011.

She and Buda are still an item but Beauregard, Dexter, and Buddy remain available if whim overtakes her. With so many newly dumped domestic drakes paddling in the pond this year, she might find one sweeping her off her webbed feet as courting begins mid-winter.

Slightly off-center, Mrs PomPom like the casual, wind-blown styleIn the meantime, she’s busy with mingling with the wintering ducks. There are about 90 this year. Most spend their days near Main Street, but a couple of dozen prefer the north end of the pond to avoid crowds.

If you visit the pond during your Holiday excursions to downtown Brighton, she’ll be there to wish you a merry and a happy. As a sophisticated Holiday hostess, she’ll also accept any edible tidbit you might offer her. While mindful of her weight during the flurry of Holiday parties, she is too much of a lady to offend her guests by appearing ungracious.

Buddy: Commander of the Famished Flotilla

October 28th, 2013     6 comments     permalink

With his bill tip in the water but his nostrils above, Buddy presses on

Buddy leads the Buda Bunch to dinnerThe domestic ducks are happy to see anyone with food visit the pond on crisp days. They’ve been bred to loaf around barnyards and wait for farmers to bring them their vittles instead of foraging like the wild birds. Featherless humans can’t tolerate the chill in the air like the ducks can so there are less park visitors as cold weather settles in.

Buddy has been taking on some of the alpha duck responsibilities for The Buda Bunch lately. In these shots, Buddy is a duck on the mission of filling his insatiable appetite. Buda seems detached, jaded with duck life even though he’s still the acknowledged CEO by the other four members of his subflock. He’s been through the transitions from summer to winter several times and takes it all in stride.

Buddy cocks his head to see if this blogger's got the goods

Buddy has a habit of cocking his head to look at things (above and below). He’s a right-eyed drake. I’ve never seen him use his left eye in the same way. His bill cuts into his pudgy cheek in such a manner that he has a perpetual smile even when Buda restricts his access to Mrs PomPom during the mating season.

Buddy is a right-eyed drake

Millpond ducks as economic indicators

October 24th, 2013     0 comments     permalink

The three most recently dumped ducks stay together

The number of white ducks at the Brighton millpond has doubled this summer. There are now eight.

I received a wonderful book about domestic ducks and geese from a friend recently, and it has me rethinking breed identifications I’ve made over the years. Farmers and hatcheries control the breeding of domestic ducks so bloodlines rarely remain “pure.” Hatcheries might want to produce a bird that lays more eggs, reaches market weight faster, or exaggerates a particular physical attribute.

Dumpling is neurotic, irrational, but sweetConsequently, I’m less confident identifying the species of any millpond farm ducks. The three white newcomers (l to r above: Captain Hookt, Jiminy, and Jemima) have facial profiles that look more like Aylesburys than Pekins but don’t have the breed’s characteristic pinkish bills. Compare their profiles to Dumpling’s. He has a smaller stature and more slender profile (right) more typical of Pekins.

Buda and Buddy have Pekin profiles similar to Dumpling’s, but SweetPea‘s profile looks nothing like any of the other white ducks. She looks more like a goose, but ducks and geese cannot interbreed so it’s a mystery from whence she came.

From a farmer’s point of view, Pekin ducks are nearly perfect for production farms. They grow to market weight of about 6-8 pounds within 40-50 days, have white skin and feathers so they look good in the butcher shop even if pluckers miss a few pinfeathers, and they are hearty, docile and calm.

Desi chases the three newcomers away from SweetPea and the rest of the Dam Tribe

Desi chases the three newcomers away from SweetPea

Before Pekins became the industry standard (95% of the meat duck market), farmers weren’t driven by scientific data. They obtained livestock offered by local breeders or neighbors for eons. The bloodlines of many farm breeds (birds and mammals) were more diverse, but many of these “heirloom” breeds are as endangered as polar bears now due to market forces.

In a tangential way, the assortment of domestic ducks abandoned at the millpond reflects economic trends, too. Most are probably the result of impulse purchases of ducklings less than a week old. How can anyone resist a tiny ball of fuzz that does its own “barking” (incessant peeping) to buy me, buy me, buy me for less than a Mocha Latte at Starbucks? But those tiny peepers become demanding quackers within a couple of full moons that cost money to house and feed.

It’s no coincident that more ducks have been dumped at the millpond this year than usual when you consider the Michigan economy is in the pits. Something has to give when family budgets tighten. It’s also reasonable that the majority of dumped ducks are males. They can’t earn their keep laying eggs and families can’t bring themselves to eat their pets so the millpond becomes their escape plan even though it’s against the law to abandon any animal without providing for its care.

Jiminy appears to be the alpha duck for the new trio

L to R: Captain D. Hookt, Jiminy, and Jemima. Jiminy calls the shots for this trio.

Buda moves the bunch

October 20th, 2013     0 comments     permalink

The Buda Bunch has moved to the Imagination Station

Mrs PomPom's nest has been abandonedThe Buda Bunch (top l-r: Buddy, Buda, Dexter, Mrs PomPom, Beauregard) has left their summer residence in the bay north of Brighton’s City Hall and bivouacked on the embankment near the Imagination Station. It happens every year. I assume it’s because the floating vegetation in the bay ceases growing when the water begins to cool. They are forced to interact more with the public to get their share of the vittles visitors bring.

Coincidently, Mrs PomPom left three eggs in her nest (right) on October 6. What happened to the other 13? Ducks roll eggs out of the nest when they realize they aren’t viable. They don’t predators attracted to the rotting aromas. One by one, eggs vanished. I think this is her fifth nest since arriving at the millpond two years ago. She’s yet to raise a duckling. Many breeds of farm ducks have lost their mothering abilities as a result of domestication. There’s a positive note: sitting on her nest has given her time to regrow her crest, the poof on her head. It was plucked severely by drakes during the mating season. Her bill has developed dark patches since she arrived. This is a normal aging process. SweetPea’s bill has turned dark gray in her years many years at the pond.

Mrs PomPom failed to have an entry in the annual Fertility Tournament, but she achieved a bit of fame this year. She laid the most eggs in one nest (16!) and was the last duck to nest in 2013 (mid-September). SweetPea laid more (at least 44 duds) and, being the Paris Hilton of the pond, might throw together a fifth nest before the pond freezes. She relishes media attention and plays me like a fiddle.

The annual millpond violence

April 28th, 2013     2 comments     permalink

Mrs PomPom, one of two hens in the Buda Bunch

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.

Three drakes from the Dam Tribe visited the Buda Bunch to mate with Mrs PomPomMating 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.

While Buda was agitated by the encounter, he stood by allowing it to happenEach of the drakes grabbed her pom pon while mating

Mating Rituals at the Millpond

April 24th, 2013     2 comments     permalink

SweetPea was left bloodied following her encounter with Buddy on March 28th

As Buddy approached, SweetPea's suitors attempted to protect her but they weren't strong enough to fend him offThe idea that ducks are just cute, comical birds is shattered during spring when park visitors witness particularly brutal matings. It happens daily. About 30% of all duck matings are forced. Before breeding starts, hens bond with drakes to gain protection from the advances of marauding males. Their bonded partners are often helpless, however, when groups of “rogue males” arrive. In a curious twist, bonded partners sometimes join in the frenzy. I’ve witnessed up to eight drakes attacking a hen with the encounter lasting up to ten minutes.

On March 28th, Buddy, a large Pekin male from The Buda Bunch, paid a visit to The Dam Tribe seeking the affections of SweetPea. Even with her retinue of four drakes nearby, she couldn’t fight off the ruthless advances (above right). She was left bloodied by his bites (above). The brutality of mating must have an evolutionary purpose but it seems counterproductive. The only explanation I can imagine is that hens that survive these encounters must be strong and healthy. The weak ones don’t survive. Last summer two millpond Mallard hens died from mating stress which is very common in the species.

A hen bows and clucks at drakes she finds attractive

But not all courting behaviors are vicious. Some is cute. Hens bob their heads and cluck at drakes they find attractive (left). Males often seem as if these shows of affection aren’t noticed, but once a pair bonds, the males follow the hens like puppy dogs. If given food, the males will usually stand guard while the female eats. That’s surely an evolutionary adaptation to guarantee the hen is well nourished to produce healthy offspring.

I bring mating stress up today because we’ve had at least four injured hens this year already. While I can’t be sure this is the cause of their injuries, it appears most likely. I’ll be reporting about them in the days ahead.

Tempers flare between millpond friends

March 30th, 2013     0 comments     permalink

Duke chases off Buddy now even though they were friends only days ago

All’s fair in love and war? If you visit the millpond now, you’d think it’s home for a bunch of very belligerent ducks. Ducks that were friends only days ago are now vying for the same limited number of females as the breeding season has begun in earnest. That’s one of the problems we have since most of the farm ducks dumped by previous owners are males. Owners prefer to keep females because they can provide them with eggs. Here, Dexter chases away Buddy as Buda watches. They are all members of The Buda Bunch and spend the rest of the year together but Buda and Duke have decided that Buddy better find hens elsewhere while they dote over Angel and Mrs PomPom.

Angel: The 2013 millpond heartthrob

March 12th, 2013     2 comments     permalink

I can identify many millpond ducks by their markings or behaviors, but I’m unsure of this hen’s history. Plumage can change with each molt. She may be Valiant since she hasn’t been seen for months or she might be Blonde Bombshell #2. Until I have time to review photos to determine her heritage, I shall call her Angel.

This is Angel's first breeding season and the drakes find her very attractive

Within the past few weeks, she’s started to remain with the domestic ducks near Main Street. She’s sizing up the drakes as possible mates hoping one will surrender to her charms. Since Buda seems smitten with Mrs PomPom, he’s allowing the other three drakes in his group to pursue Angel’s affection. Dexter and Buddy admire her beauty (below left). Later, Dexter and Beauregard escort the young damsel around the pond (below right) while Buda watches.

Dexter (green head) and Buddy share a moment with  AngelBuda is apparently allowing Dexter and Beauregard to court the starlet

Most hens are actively courting drakes by bobbing their heads and clucking now. Angel hasn’t singled out her special choice yet but will probably select another large domestic since ducks tend to gravitate toward others of the same size. Beauregard and Buddy certainly find her actions alluring (below left). Angel (below right) is a hybrid mix of two domestic breeds, Buff Orpington and Pekin.

Beauregard and Buddy (white) are captivated by her head bobbing and cluckingShe's a hybrid Buff Orpington and Pekin mix born last summer

MooseTracks, a member of the Dam Tribe, is rarely demonstrative but also shows interest in Angel. I have a hunch, by mid-summer, Angel will be a member of the Buda Bunch because of the attention she’s getting from all of the drakes in that sub-flock (below center and right).

While still aloof, even MooseTracks appears interested in Angel's charms The drakes in the Buda Bunch follow Angel around the pond most of the time Beauregard is more attentive than I've ever seen him with a hen. Might be love ...

Bathing: Preening is the finale

February 27th, 2013     1 comment     permalink

Last year, I posted the three Bath Time rituals of ducks. Here’s another example of preening, the last bathing step.

Buda is Brighton’s largest millpond duck. He’s a Pekin and spends lots of time cleaning and smoothing his feathers each day as all ducks do. In addition to cleaning and fluffing their feathers to provide insulation against the cold, ducks use the serrated edges on their bills to interlock the barbules along each feather. This is essential for their wings to paddle air as they fly. Read more about feathers and their structure at Wikipedia.

Buda does it just to stay warm and beautiful. Pekin ducks can’t fly. The breed was developed for egg productions and to be served for dinner so their bodies are much too large to become airborne.

Almost white-on-white

February 5th, 2013     0 comments     permalink

Mrs PomPom is a White Crested Duck and Buda is a Pekin

After an inch of snow fell, the domestic ducks near Main Street were quite content to settle down for a nap on the cold concrete. Against the white background, you can see how the ducks aren’t pure white. They have a pale yellow tint. Also note how they fluff their feathers to trap air which provides extra insulation. All of these ducks look thinner in the summer months just because of the position their plumage. That’s true of most birds. Mrs PomPom and Buda are the subjects in the top photo, SweetPea is the ravishing snowbird in the lower one.

I’m frequently asked, “What do the ducks do in the winter?” The answer is shown here: They sit and wait for spring to arrive. They really have no choice. The domestic ducks cannot fly so they can’t migrate to warmer climates. On the coldest nights when the entire pond freezes over, they spend their time curled up with their legs and feet hidden in their feathers. If there is any open water, they still enjoy swimming no matter what the temperature. Their layer of fat must act like a wetsuit.

They also walk around looking for things to nibble and park visitors feed them enough to survive though the rations they bring aren’t always good for them. SweetPea has been at the Brighton millpond for 6-7 years. She’s surely eaten more bread than ducks should during her career as a park duck.

SweetPea is the only white duck with a dark bill on the mill pond.

Buddy is Buda’s buddy

February 1st, 2013     4 comments     permalink

Buddy and Buda (right) chat while standing on black ice

I named Buda’s best buddy Buddy. Seemed like a good name for him. As you can see in this image of them standing on black ice, Buddy defers to Buda and doesn’t challenge his alpha male position in the Buda Bunch. During the courtship season, Buddy will leave the bunch to “date” hens in other groups, but the rest of the year he just watches was Buda does and tags along behind. He seems very content in his secondary role.

Main Street’s Winter Ducks

January 17th, 2013     0 comments     permalink

At least 75% of the ducks that summer at the Brighton millpond flew south in late fall, but 70-80 ducks have remained for the winter. Forty percent of them are domestic (farm breeds) or domestic/wild hybrids. Most domestics can’t fly or can’t sustain flight long enough to migrate. The others are wild Mallards that had no motivation to leave since visitors feed them and they have enough body fat to endure the cold.

You can count on seeing this group of ducks in the evenings near Main Street during the winter months

During daylight, almost all of the millpond’s wintering ducks go to the southern end of the pond to cajole food from park visitors. As night falls, most fly the half-mile to the pond’s north end (near Grand River). There’s more open water there with better protection from predators and humans. Those staying near Main Street day and night are domestic ducks that cannot fly. They include The Dam Tribe, The Buda Bunch, and few others for a total of 14. Some nights there are more overnight guests, but rarely do the 14 regulars stray from the area during winter months.

Joyce Schuelke, owner of the Wildernest store, recently wrote about this winter “night crew” on her site’s blog. You can learn more about them there.

Buda: The biggest duck in the puddle

January 7th, 2013     0 comments     permalink

Buda (far right foreground) spends the winter near Main Street with the other farm ducks.

Buda always appears to have a smile on his face and lumbers while he walksBuda calls the shots at the Brighton millpond but doesn’t exercise his power in evil ways. He’s the biggest duck in the whole pond (top, right foreground) and the other ducks respond by giving him space to do as he pleases. Pekin ducks can reach 12 ponds. He’s probably 9 or 10 but I’m not going to bring a scale to the pond to find out.

Other than being a bit pushy during mating season, he’s just a big, lumbering duck who sidles up to humans who have food. As the alpha male of the Buda Bunch, his four duck entourage spends summers beside City Hall. During the winter, he barges into the territory of the Dam Tribe. After a few turf scuffles, life settles down and the two groups learn to enjoy each other’s company until the ice vanishes and he takes his buddies back to their preferred haunt.

Fred’s cold

December 31st, 2012     1 comment     permalink

Fred didn't have his usual spunk for several days

The white and fawn Indian Runner duck sleepingShortly after Desi was lethargic, Fred spent several days under the weather and didn’t preen himself well. A bird person more knowledgeable than me named Pat took a look at him and decided he was probably cold. He was molting and might also be suffering from a virus. He’d stay by the edge of the pond with his bill tucked under his wing while standing on one leg (top and right), both can be signs he’s conserving body heat. While Desi was busy hobnobbing with SweetPea and Buda, Fred preferred resting (below).

I’m not a trained duck diagnostician, just an amateur observer. I’d say the millpond’s ducks are a healthy lot. In the past three years, I’ve only seen a couple showing signs of illness. Yet I realize wild animals are skilled in looking strong even while they are in weakened states so predators don’t single them out.

fred_4204_600

For a few days, Fred would still hop out of the pond to greet me, but he’d stand almost motionless and not interested in watching me (below). Fortunately, it was a short term problem and he’s energetic again. He pops out of the pond and runs up to see if I might have any duck chow to share with him. He’s rarely disappointed.

Drama at the dam

March 20th, 2012     4 comments     permalink

Who needs Hollywood when dramatic adventures are brought to you in 3D and Surround Sound at the Brighton millpond! Pardon my dwelling on the brutal mating habits of ducks, but they are in high gear now and quite fascinating. Here’s last evening’s dramatic event:

The large male Pekin dominated by Buda cut loose from his 5-duck flock to swim at a fast clip from the bay near Brighton’s City Hall to the millpond dam. He had made the trip several times before and knew exactly where he was going. Without acknowledging the Dam Tribe’s three drakes upon his arrival, he cornered SweetPea for a unannounced conjugal visit. She wasn’t happy to see him. The drakes in her immediate circle did nothing except quack to stop his amorous advances (both photos below).

The two Indian Runners (Desi and Fred) joined the attack. One has been SweetPea’s prime suitor since mid-January. He didn’t seem concerned the Pekin was usurping his budding relationship.

The Dam Tribe males just watched while voicing some agitation. None jumped in to defend the only female in their millpond family. SweetPea struggled but was easily overpowered by the trio.

Moving into deeper water near the crest of the dam, the Pekin mounted her and one of the Indian Runners climbed on top of him in the frenzy of the moment. The other four drakes hovered but, as usual, offered no assistance as she was held under water by the hefty Pekin.

As this drama unfolded, the ducks weren’t aware they were drifting toward the falls. Suddenly SweetPea, the Pekin, and an Indian Runner were hurled over the edge the rapids and boulders!

This unexpected jolt freed SweetPea from the Pekin’s clutches and she bounced back up into the millpond. The Pekin was swept into the rushing waters (below). Like most Pekins, this one cannot fly. Its wings can’t raise its large body into the air. You wouldn’t believe that, however, if you saw how he managed to get enough lift from his small wings to charge back up the falls using his webbed feet to slap the water.

It wasn’t graceful, but it was effective. Once back in the millpond, two of the Dam Tribe drakes regained their senses and chased the brute back toward City Hall as SweetPea dusted herself off with a couple of wing flaps of her own. Curiously, the Indian Runners, who were quite happy to help the Pekin attack SweetPea only moments before, changed sides and helped MooseTracks vanquish the intruder.

This action-packed drama happened within two minutes. The photos aren’t terrific, but they illustrate how the event unfolded. During the next few months, encounters like this will take place many times each day at the Brighton millpond as drakes vie for chances to father the ducklings to be born this spring and summer.

Christmas Eve: Dining with Friends

December 26th, 2011     4 comments     permalink

Christmas Eve at the Brighton Millpond

Hosting a Christmas Eve dinner party can be a headache. I like to keep it simple, just a casual affair with about 50 of my closest friends. They arrived on time as light snow fell. They were reserved in their greetings although a few shouted to tell stragglers to paddle faster. The Indian Runners looked especially spiffy in their fawn and white attire (top).

There was a bit of confusion as the guests took their places. I had to remind a few of them not to step on the other guests (above, right). Some of the more polite ones were taken aback by this crude behavior.

When the first course was passed, some eager mouths gaped as pellets sailed through the air (above, left), but my guests can’t seem to grasp the concept of gravity at all and the chow landed at their webbed feet. Soon, the guests relaxed as they realized there was enough food for everyone. They politely shared the bounty (above, right) as carols played in the loud speakers and twinkling lights waved gently in the breeze above us. Foraging on holidays is such a bother, I’m sure they all enjoyed themselves. Me? I was thrilled. There were no pots and pans to scrub.

Meet the Buda Bunch

November 2nd, 2011     14 comments     permalink

Besides The Dam Tribe, there are two other sub-flocks of large ducks at the Brighton millpond. The Buda Bunch (above) is one of them. The largest duck in the pond is part of this group and its reluctant leader. He isn’t protective like Gramps was with the Dam Tribe. I’ve spelled his name differently because I mean no disrespect to the true Buddha who lived some 2,500 years ago.

Buda (lower left, photo at right) is a peace loving Pekin, a domestic breed that’s white with bright orange feet and bills. He’s easy to spot. Look for the white duck with the thickest neck. He was dumped by his previous owner many years ago. I think he was one of three white ducklings I discovered about a month after Easter, but I can’t remember the year. Pekins were bred in China eons ago to be predominantly “meat ducks,” large, placid, and unable to fly due to their heavy weight. All of the Pekins at the millpond meet those criteria. Their nesting/mothering instincts have been mostly lost along the way.

Buda has four members in his retinue. They include another Pekin dumped along with him years ago (Buddy), and two large hybrid: a Pekin-Campbell mix (Beauregard), I think, and a Rouen that looks like a giant Mallard (Dexter). Mrs. PomPom is the only hen and has a distinct personality (for a duck which isn’t saying a whole lot). The two Fawn and White Indian Runners seemed to be probationary members of the Buda Bunch because they hung out with them some of the time, but they have since joined the Dam Tribe.

The Buda Bunch tends to summer near the Imagination Station at night although they aren’t consistent. Sometimes they are near Main Street. Their location is probably based upon their hankering for handouts.

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