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.

Calamity moves to north end

November 24th, 2015     0 comments     permalink

Calamity hangs out with her retinue at the north end of the millpond

Calamity (on left) has taken her retinue to the north end of the millpond. I doubt she’ll stay there through winter, but she’s of the fickle sort and might surprise me. The nature of her relationships is still a mystery. The Mallard drake (top) has been added to the party this year, but the ducks on the right and bottom have been faithful to her for about two years. The one on the right was Calamity’s mother’s main squeeze until she died in 2014. The one at the bottom is the only duck on the millpond with a charcoal gray head. I think he’s Calamity’s brother.

All three of the drakes follow her wherever she takes them. Sometimes it appears one of the boys is leading the quartet, but if Calamity squawks and heads in another direction, the drakes quickly alter their course to catch up with her.

Calamity is looking good

October 13th, 2015     0 comments     permalink

Calamity twice in one photo

I sandwiches two images of Calamity together above. After raising four ducklings (Brood 17), Calamity and her two drake companions have moved to the south end of the millpond where the handouts keep them fat and sassy. At first glance, you might confuse her with Franny, another domestic hen, but her white neck band and broken right toe easily identifies her. Her heritage has always been slightly mysterious. I know her mother was the late Confidia, a Buff Orpington duck, but her dad might have been one of several drakes. She looks like she has some Rouen genes like Franny, but her neck band isn’t typical of that breed. She has some other breeds thrown into her DNA.

Calamity introduces her quartet to the flock

July 22nd, 2015     0 comments     permalink

The brood stayed close to mom as they were introduced to the rest of the flock

Calamity’s four surviving ducklings (8 hatched May 27 as Brood 17) were introduced to the rest of the flock last evening by their attentive mother. For the first two months, she kept them at the north end of the pond. Now that they are almost full sized, it’s time for them to learn the ropes of living with adult ducks. They are a handsome quartet that will be stouter than the wild ducks on the pond eventually; an advantage in the pecking order.

Calamity is the offspring of Confidia who died last year. She was a very productive (23 ducklings in 2013) domestic hen — Buff Orpington, I think — and a favorite of mine because she was a highly skilled mother. Calamity’s nestings for the past two years were unsuccessful. Now that she’s raised ducklings to adulthood, she will probably improve her success rate in years to come. The kids all have dark heads and prominent dark stripes between their bills and eyes. The sexes of the foursome is still a guess, but it looks like two and two to me.

Calamity's four ducklings were brought to the south end of the millpond last evening

Nice to find Calamity safe

June 28th, 2015     0 comments     permalink

Calamity floats with her four chicks, Brood 17

I got word this week two ducks were flattened beyond recognition on Grand River Avenue near the headwaters of the millpond. That’s the paddling grounds of Calamity so I made it a point to look for her. I couldn’t find her and thought she might have been killed by a passing car.

Last night, my mood elevated when I spotted her floating with her four ducklings at the north end. She started with eight ducklings on May 27th (2015 Brood 17) but hasn’t lost any more since their early days. That’s encouraging since this is her first successful experience raising a family. Maybe she will become one of the pond’s most productive hens like her mother, Confidia, who departed this world last spring.

Happy Campers: The millpond opens

March 17th, 2015     0 comments     permalink

By March 14, 50 yards of open water was found

It doesn’t take many warm days for the Brighton millpond to begin clearing ice. The water flowing under it, coupled with sunshine from above, opens the area near the dam and north end culvert first.

The north end of the millpond only had a 4' circle of open water on March 8thOn March 8, only a 4′ circle of open water existed at the north end of the pond (right). The only reason it was that big was because of Colleen. She had taken it upon herself to break up the ice that formed nightly on it. Now she can take the next ten months off. In less than a week, the bathtub-sized pool took on Olympic proportions (top). Within another 24 hours, an additional 50 yards opened up giving the swans new areas to graze. The south end of the pond remains ice covered and slushy except near the dam. It will open gradually as the days warm and the sun shines.

Calamity tries to seduce her beau now that there is room to swimThe pond residents are already acting as if it’s spring since they don’t own calendars to tell them anything different. It’s anthropomorphic to suggest the wildlife is “happy” but they are certainly more active since they have room to roam. Instead of holding their breath while swimming under the ice, muskrats paddle along the surface tending to their endless chores (below).

Hens like Calamity (left) do their best to inform selected males the nesting season is fast approaching. The drakes aren’t as enthusiastic as they will be in another month, but some mating and courting behaviors are already in play. If you see heads bobbing or drakes chasing drakes away from their hens on your next visit, you’ll know they aren’t playing. It’s serious business as they plan families and stake nesting territories.

Muskrats are overjoyed to have be able to swim on the surface of their pond instead of under the ice

The north and south of it

January 31st, 2015     0 comments     permalink

The southern flock has enjoyed the straw scattered near the dam this winter

January 24: A strange winter, indeed. The alleged “coldest week of the year” has just passed and it was warmer than usual. No one is complaining including the Brighton millpond ducks. As usual, there are two sub-flocks wintering on the pond — the earthbound domestics are near Main Street where they can get their vittles from the generous public (above).

The southern ranks thin at twilight down to ten white ducks: the nine Pekins and one Mandarin; and a mish-mash of other domestic breeds: four Rouens plus one Cayuga, Saxony, and Indian Runner. If you find more there when you visit after dark, they are slackers, ducks that decide not to fly to roosts unknown. Sometimes there are six, sometimes more. How ducks make decisions is a mystery.

The northern flock is smaller than usual. Calamity is the matron there now


The nighttime ducks at the northern end of the millpond are quite a bit different in character. Only about five of them are earthbound domestics too big to fly. Calamity is in her first year as reigning matriarch of this rag tag crew. Her mother, Confidia, died last spring. She and her unnamed brother along with a couple of others are most likely hybrid Mallard-Buff Orpingtons, but their exact lineage is unknown. You can spot the drakes with domestic genes. They have gray/tan chests instead of russet ones found on the loitering Mallards who might be drawn to Calamity’s charms. An occasional Mallard hen or two will also be in attendance and more will start arriving to appraise the stud muffins as mates as spring warm their engines. I’ve seen a minimum of nine ducks at the north end after dark on some nights, but the troop usually numbers 15-30 party-goers.

Two years ago, there were 60-80 ducks at the north end year ’round. That changed in the fall of 2013. The snow in the above photo might provide a clue why. Those are canine tracks in the upper right quadrant. They could be from a neighborhood dog, coyote or fox. I’ve suspected a predator was causing northern end ducks to find safer waddling grounds. There are plenty of nearby locations where water flows all winter. Only ducks incapable of flight like Calamity and her clan are marooned at the millpond.

Quick quacks

December 22nd, 2014     2 comments     permalink

I’m starting “quick quacks,” random observations at the Brighton millpond that will be posted together. They’ll tell you things that aren’t significant enough to warrant an entire post all of their own. Frankly, life at the pond is dull lately. Maybe this will keep the blog rolling through the winter months when not much is happening except the waterfowl enduring the cold weather. Here goes:

Marold was a mess last night

Marold (above) was a mess last night. He was covered with dirt. I got a report the day before that he was being attacked by other ducks, but I didn’t find him any worse for wear that evening. Last night, I found him near the millpond dam, alone and filthy. A couple of ducks were near him and may have attacked before my arrival, but he might have just taken a dust bath. There’s loose dirt under the pine tree there. Bird bathe in dirt to dislodge parasites like feather lice but I’ve never seen any on him and he’s usually meticulous in his preening.

I had a chat with a park visitor and a half hour later, Marold was swimming sparkling clean again. With the advent of this blog, millpond ducks may have realized doing odd things encourages me to photograph them. I’ll keep my eye on him to see if this was a publicity stunt or a sign he’s not feeling well.

Calamity (right) still travels with her brother, a large duck of mixed domestic ancestry

Calamity (on right, above) hasn’t had an easy life at the millpond since hatching on May 18, 2012. She still hangs out with her brother (on left, above) who’s unnamed but easy to identify by the slice in the webbing on his right foot. They are children of Confidia, a prolific hen who disappeared following a mishap last spring. As third year ducks, they are in prime fiddle for raising families next spring.

Vegas is a beautiful duck at the north end of the millpond

Vegas disappeared for most of last summer but has returned to the north end of the pond. I think he’s mostly Buff Orpington with some Saxony tossed in. While not the most colorful on the pond, the birds from this genetic line are what I feel are ideal ducks. They are larger than Mallards with a full, stout physique. They look substantial yet very calm. The females are a clean red-brown like Confidia while the drakes have charcoal gray heads with taupe and dove grays backs giving them a frosted appearance. Last year, about ten birds with this heritage roamed the north end. This year, only Vegas is currently there.

Calamity continues her misfortunes

September 1st, 2014     0 comments     permalink

Calamity and her main squeeze lollygagging at the north end of the millpond

Cavorting and quacking in joy at being back in the swing of thingsAugust 26: Calamity returned to her social life at the north end of the Brighton millpond sans children. Sigh. I only saw the quartet of ducklings once on August 18 and hunted for them every evening thereafter, but finally found Calamity alone with her main squeeze (above) last Tuesday.

Noisy and animated, she cavorted seeming happy to be free following more than a month of parental responsibilities. Perhaps she missed drinking with Mr. Right at parking lot puddles (bottom).

The following night, the pair joined the other birds at the southern end of the millpondIt’s not unusual for domestic ducks to lose all of their first brood of ducklings but something else is going on at the north end of the pond this year. Virtually no ducks are there or anywhere in the northern half of the pond. Many of the productive hens in past years are also missing. They have either been killed or have fled. There must be more predators in the sky or water.

Even Calamity and her beau quckly moved to the southern end of the millpond two days after she resumed her social life. They had been steady occupants of the northern region for more than two years but appear to have abandoned it now.

Both birds are a mix of Mallard and domestic stock, probably Buff Orpington with some Rouen thrown in.

She was happy being back where she could drink at parking lot puddles

Calamity succeeds!

August 22nd, 2014     2 comments     permalink

Calamity first nest was unsuccessful but she arrived with a quartet of ducklings on August 18

After a year of mishaps, Calamity arrived with at least four day-old ducklings at the north end of the Brighton millpond on August 18 (Brood 25), her first successful nesting. Born in late 2012, her eggs were stolen the next year. She broke a toe shortly afterward. This spring, she nested in May but abandoned her nest due to a predator or apathy. Then a drake named Smith landed at Howell Nature Center’s Wildlife Rehabilitation Program after he was severely injured when he was struck by a car. It happened while he was convincing Calamity he was her best choice for a summer romance.

I was unable to photograph Calamity’s brood last Monday evening. They remained in the shoreline weeds. When I see them again, I’ll post the photos. I hope the entire quartet is still thriving, but first-time moms aren’t always successful. Calamity deserves some luck.

2014 Brood 25

August 22nd, 2014     0 comments     permalink

Hen “Calamity,” a Buff Orpington/Mallard Mix
Drake(s) None nearby
DOB (estimate) August 18
Pond Location Near Laundromat
1st Meeting Near Laundromat in late evening
Duckling Count 4 verified, August 18, but more may have been in the shoreline weeds

See all posts about Brood 25 together on one page: 2014Brood25

Meet Calamity

May 25th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

Calamity was found near her nest on May 22

Calamity was born on May 18, 2012, the daughter of one of the pond’s more prolific hens, Confidia, who disappeared following severe mating stress this month and is presumed dead. She’s named for her disastrous season in the summer of 2013. She laid eight eggs in a sure-to-be vandalized location behind a park bench. The eggs were taken by someone who knew duck eggs are great for cooking. Then she broke a toe which has become permanently disfigured.

I found Calamity's nest with seven eggs. I added the eighth to it.I believe she was the object of Smith’s desire when he was struck by the car this week. She has constructed a nest on the opposite side of Grand River this year. It’s a safer location for her since she can fly, but Smith cannot. I discovered her nest of seven eggs in a landscaped alcove at an office building. I found an eighth egg in another alcove and added it to her nest although it might not be hers. Hens can’t count.

calamity_9089_300Whether she will give these eggs adequate attention is questionable. After finding her sitting one day, I’ve found her spending evenings with her three drake buddies (2 are brothers) instead of tending the nest. She may still be in egg laying mode and will eventually begin sitting for the 28 day incubation period. She’s a domestic duck of mixed ancestry (Buff Orpington and Rouen, I think) so may not have acquired a strong urge to mother. We’ll see in the weeks to come.

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