October 26th, 2015 permalink
Ducks have buddies. The millpond currently has two pair of white Pekins who are always together — Castor and Pollux who were dumped at the pond last fall, and Jiminy and Captain D. Hookt who arrive in 2013 and 2014 respectively. If they are on land, it’s easy to identify them. The Captain has damaged webbing on his right foot so you’ll know the one with him is Jiminy. Pollux has an eye infection on his left side so you’ll know the bird with him is Castor. Florence, the little white Mandarin, is usually close behind because she’s still infatuated with Pollux though he shows little interest in her.
There are two other Pekins on the pond (Dixie and Buda) but their buddies are Rouen ducks (Dexter and Darth) that look like giant Mallards.
September 1st, 2015 permalink
It’s one thing when a five year old chases ducks and quite another when 20-somethings do it. Sunday night a band of five young adults decides it would be fun to chase the ducks after they left the bar. Captain D. Hookt is now permanently injured because of their five minute frolic. Shortly after they left, the duck came up to me with a smear of blood on its bill and a slice in its webbing that will never heal.
In the past, the only way I could readily identify him was a tiny notch out of the webbing beside his outer toe on his right foot. Now, it will be much easier to differentiate him from the other Pekins on the pond, but it’s too bad there’s no way to convince people that chasing ducks isn’t merely a playful experience. It’s can be traumatic.
October 30th, 2014 permalink
The ducks living near Main Street paddle north in autumn to feast on berries that drop from the trees. You can see them bobbing for berries in the shallows with their tails in the air. Part of their bounty are the wild grapes that grow on vines twining through the branches, but they may be able to digest berries from Virginia Creeper vines as well. They’re toxic to humans but plentiful in the millpond park.
If you see a trio of white ducks swimming in the pond, it’s almost always Jemima, Jiminy, and Captain D. Hookt. Lately, the Captain has become very protective of Jemima’s virtue and won’t let Fred and Duke (SweetPea’s former suitors) get anywhere near her. He hasn’t been as successful keeping Lewis and Clark away so you might see the two newly abandoned white ducks following along.
October 19th, 2014 permalink
After their thuggish introduction to the millpond, the behavior of Lewis and Clark has settled down a bit. Jiminy and Captain D. Hookt are allowing the new birds to pal around with them as they court the lovely and available Jemima. But they are still on probation. Above, Captain D. Hookt (center) escorts the young upstarts away from Jemima (top left) with Jiminy backing him up. Florence (lower left) watcheso, but whether the Mandarin comprehends the courting rituals of Pekins is a mystery.
Jemima leads her two drakes on excursions around the pond to find foods to eat. Lewis and Clark trail behind the trio (below). They are sometimes allowed to fraternize with Jemima. It depends upon the moods of the established gents. At night, the five Pekins tend to roost together peacefully and Florence is usually nearby.
Joyce Schuelke, owner of Brighton’s Wildernest store, ordered a trio of ducks doing high kicks (right) from one of her suppliers. They reminded her of the original millpond triad. Someone will surely purchase it for their home to be reminded daily of the threesome. They haven’t learned to dance yet but cheerfully greet park visitors near Main Street.
July 30th, 2014 permalink
It was bound to happen, Jemima being a Pekin. She’s built a fresh nest and been laying eggs while no one was watching. On July 24, she’s began her incubating duties while Jiminy and Captain D. Hookt stand guard nearby. I won’t divulge the location of the nest to protect her eggs, but I have little hope she will bring tiny Pekins into the world. Her first nest of the year in the cemetery contained 17 eggs she diligently watched, but none hatched. I assume the same will happen with this clutch which is in a less secure location. How many eggs are there? I haven’t counted. She carefully covers them when she comes to the pond to bathe and eat. I haven’t disturbed them.
May 9th, 2014 permalink
There’s safety in numbers
Sticking around other birds helps each duck increase its chance of survival due to predation; the more birds, the more eyes watching for danger. The Mandarin was found resting on the edge of Jemima’s nest last night (below). The two hens were 20′ away from the drakes, Jiminy and the Captain.
Since the three Mandarin ducks arrived at the Brighton millpond in December, they favored the Pekin residents. Now that only one remains at the pond, it floats between The Buda Bunch at their summer home beside City Hall, and the Jemima/Jiminy/Captain D. Hookt trio. Ducks tend to stay with similar sized ducks so it’s curious the smallest bird in the pond (1.5 pounds) would have huge buddies (9-12 pounds). Perhaps she was raised with Pekins. She’s not only comfortable around the birds six times her size, she holds her own in disputes. She’s a white feathered dragon when big birds get too close to her (below).
May 2nd, 2014 permalink
I paid a visit to Jemima and her two beaus in the rain. She was quite busy test driving nests when I arrived. She arranged its bed of dried grasses and then sat down in it for a couple of minutes while she wiggled around.
Then she waddled over to her two drakes to jabber about it. I couldn’t comprehend their discussion since I don’t speak fluent Duck.
Following the quackfest, the trio waddled off in another direction. Maybe they had some other ideas of where their nest should be before Jemima begins producing eggs.
We haven’t had a successful Pekin duck nest since 2010 when SweetPea hatched four ducklings. All of them have died. Pekins aren’t great mothers. They were bred to be on farms where eggs are gathered for market or incubators instead of hatched. Jemima, however, seems like a particularly bright and energetic bird. Maybe she’ll succeed.
Meanwhile, her drakes are running off occasionally to have encounters with other hens. Below, Captain D. Hookt returns following a short but what must have been a satisfying experience with SweetPea considering the spring in his step. He was able to figure out how to go around the fence separating him from the other two who were inside the Old Village Cemetery.
April 12th, 2014 permalink
Jemima, Captain D. Hookt, and Jiminy (respectively, above) are still fast friends and can almost always be seen together near Main Street. The Captain was dumped as a scrawny lad on September 8, 2013. The other two arrived as a pair on August 15 last year, much to the disgust of MooseTracks, the pond’s late feathered sheriff. The two drakes follow Jemima where she leads them, but Jiminy has a bit of trouble keeping up with her. During the winter months, he’s convinced many a park visitor that he’s in desperate need of being fed. Since most folks give him bread, he’s packed on a few pounds. It’s all settled in his hind quarters (right).
His waddling makes his rear end sway back and forth in a wide arc that is rather humorous to see as he walks away from you. But it has a serious dimension, too. None of the domestic duck breeds are developed for longevity. The quicker they can grow and be slaughtered for market, the more profit there is for the farmer.
As a Pekin, Jiminy was bred to be butchered within 45-50 days at “market weight,” about 6-7 pounds. He’s almost a year old now and tips the scale at 9-10 pounds. He’ll gain more weight in what could be his 8-12 year life span. Old, heavy Pekins can develop mobility problems and reach a point where they can no longer stand. Hopefully, he won’t have that fate or become so ponderous he cannot escape the danger of predators or humans with evil intent.
Captain D. Hookt isn’t far behind in the big behind department. He’s almost as large as Jiminy. The only way to easily tell them apart is to look for Jiminy’s curlier feathers above his tail.
Now that the ducks amble on sidewalks instead of white snow, I’ve noticed some ducks’ webbing is lighter edged. It might be a winter adaptation so less blood is delivered there or could be mild frostbite. Severe frostbite would turn the edge black so I’m prone to believe it’s an species adaptation.
The photo taken October 6 (above, left) with the hook still embedded in his foot doesn’t show the lighter edge. The photo taken on March 28 clearly shows it (left).
His other foot (right) proves it’s not from his injury. Some other ducks have similar feet but many don’t. I’ll do some research on this.
January 21st, 2014 permalink
You’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.
November 25th, 2013 permalink
We like to think of the Brighton millpond as a bit of wilderness in the middle of the city, but it’s really an “urban pond.” It’s large enough to have wildfowl and critters in the less visited areas, but its main attraction are the domestic ducks that have been abandoned by owners who find ducks are demanding pets after losing their duckling cuteness in a matter of weeks.
Three of the newest dumped ducks are (l to r) Jiminy, Jemima, and Capt. D. Hookt (above). After their abandonment confusion, each has adjusted well to urban pond life. Whether they are Pekins or Aylesbury ducks is still undetermined. Both farm breeds have much in common.
If they’re hungry, these three unlicensed panhandlers are relentless in their pursuit of food from humans. As you can see by their girths, they are all accomplished in their profession.
Jiminy is the largest and can be easily identified by his curly tail feathers (above left). Capt. D. Hookt is almost as large (right) but the shiest of the trio as they roam around the pond together. He has only one curly tail feather so far but will probably grow more by next spring. Look for the dark dot at the base of his right leg (top photo). That’s the permanent tattoo he earned from his encounter with the fishhook in October.
The smallest of the trio is Jemima, but she’s the most successful beggar. She does it in good cheer so the public doesn’t resent her insistent requests. Farm ducks aren’t usually good at foraging for food on their own.
Pekins and Aylesbury ducks are good at producing eggs, but lousy sitters/mothers. The last white duck to raise millpond ducklings was SweetPea (aka: HussyHen) in 2010 but none thrived. Breed to fatten quickly, the white farm ducks have achieved that dubious goal. White bread is loaded with carbohydrates but not enough protein/vitamins for optimum bird health. Duck chow is a better option. It’s made with whole corn, wheat, and soybeans. The Wildernest store across from the millpond sells it at a price lower than bread ($.50/pound, $1.30/3-pounds) to encourage park visitors to keep our city’s feathered residents healthy.
November 3rd, 2013 permalink
Captain Hookt’s fishhook injury has completely healed. Only a tiny tattoo can be seen where his center toe meets his right leg. You can barely see it in this image if you click it. He’s forgiven me for his 20 minutes of captivity while the hook was removed. Duck chow repaired our relationship. He arrived at the pond with the small tear in the webbing beside his outer right claw. It’s a good thing. It’s the primary way to identify him.
November 3rd, 2013 permalink
Not all of the ducks made an effort to wear masks on Halloween. The three newbies near Main Street probably weren’t informed of millpond traditions with enough time to create their own.
No worries. They all looked sparkly as they began to roost for the night after a hard day of amusing rain-soaked park visitors. Jemima (top and right) had obviously spent a good part of her day tending her feathers. They were properly oiled and combed so the raindrops beaded to catch the light from my flash.
Captain D. Hookt was the first to get serious about calling it a day (above, left) while Jiminy tried his best to stay awake to greet the human revelers emerging from the downtown bars, but nodded off while still standing at attention (right). This trio is still not well accepted by The Dam Tribe, but they are very comfortable with the public and will gladly greet you on visits to the pond.
October 24th, 2013 permalink
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.
Consequently, 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
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.
L to R: Captain D. Hookt, Jiminy, and Jemima. Jiminy calls the shots for this trio.
October 20th, 2013 permalink
While Captain D. Hookt is stretching (left), it’s a good time to introduce two newly named ducks. I asked blog readers for suggestions and Brighton resident, Pat Komjathy, a devoted millpond visitor, felt the hen should honor Jemima Puddle-Duck, the title character in one of Beatrix Potter’s beloved tales (Free Book Online \ Read Aloud). Jemima was an Aylesbury duck, but Pekins look much like them. I’m not sure which species the new ducks are. Pekins, I think. When Pat’s children were tykes, it was one of their favorite stories and they called the millpond’s resident white ducks puddle-ducks on park visits.
She suggested the drake who arrived with Jemima be called Jiminy (Center, above. Note curly tail feather). While he isn’t a cricket, he acted like one hiding in the dark below the dam. MooseTracks, named by Pat’s daughter Sarah in 2006, kept both ducks down there when they first arrived, but then he allowed Jemima to come topside. He wasn’t so kind to Jiminy. He chases him down there each time he attempted to join the resident flock. MooseTrack finally relented. Jemima and Jiminy were reunited after his two weeks in solitary.
All three of these white birds have become fast friends and stay close to Main Street. They gladly relieve visitors of treats offered. Their size and vigorous begging may frighten timid children as they clamor for first dibs, but they’re harmless. They will allow gentle petting while they eat if approached slowly.
October 15th, 2013 permalink
Ducks and geese aren’t lollygagging near Main Street waiting for handouts from the public these days. A contingent of them is just north of the cemetery waiting for the berries to drop into the water. The shoreline has a variety of wild grapes, Virginia creeper, and hazelnuts overhanging. The waterfowl tip up in the shallow water to pick them off the pond’s bottom. Captain D. Hookt is up there with his two Pekin buddies (far left) which poses a minor problem. One of his buddies has been limping and I’ve wanted to get a closer look at his leg, but maybe the floating/soaking is good therapy for him. Hookt’s fishhook injury has healed.
October 7th, 2013 permalink
The Pekin survived the surgery and has forgiven me for his 20 minutes of human poking and prodding. To commemorate this life event, he’s been named Captain DeHookt. Within 24 hours, probably less if I had been around, he was ready to accept a handful of duck chow as my formal apology.
Since his September 9th arrival, he’s become fast friends with the two Pekins who were dumped earlier, August 15th. The trio floats near Main Street but has ventured north of the cemetery to dive for Virginia Creeper berries, wild grapes, and hazelnuts dropping into the shallows from shoreline plants. Watching a dozen ducks with their butts in the air paddling like hell to propel their buoyant bodies to the bottom of the pond is a hoot to watch every autumn.
It isn’t easy to visually tell these three newcomers apart. Domestic species are bred for uniform size and growth to simplify farm production. These three may all be from the same gene stock, hatchery or farm supply store. The two drakes are equally large while the other (a female?) is slightly smaller. On land, check their right feet. Captain’s webbing has a tiny tear near the claw of his outer toe (left, green arrow).
Behaviorally, they are quite different. The Captain will be the last of the three to arrive if you have food. He’s the most tentative. The female (above, right) is a hyperkinetic beggar while the other drake is calm/stodgy and let’s her go first. She plows Mallards out of her way with chest bumps and watches the moves you make to see if they might involve food. She’s almost insatiable, stands on her tiptoes, and jumps upward to get first dibs. She’s harmless but may frighten small children with her forcefulness. Below, left to right, is the Captain, the female, and the drake stretching over her. The latter two need names. I’m open to suggestions as long as they aren’t too cute and I think the names ought to reflect they are a pair.
October 7th, 2013 permalink
The white Pekin with the embedded fishhook kept to himself for three days. After he returned to the flock, he was still wary because injured ducks realize how vulnerable they are. By October 1, he reduced his guard enough to be catchable. It was time to take action.
My makeshift doctoring tools included a cardboard box, antiseptic , blanket, old towel, and surgical tools — a needle-nosed pliers, wire cutters, and a hemostat I had inherited from my late father, a family practitioner. Earlier, I had researched methods to remove fishhooks from flesh online, and received duck-related instructions from Louise, a licensed wildlife rehabber at the Wildside Rehabilitation Center in Eaton Rapids, MI.
Chef Tammy, one of the terrific food mavens at the Wooden Spoon, raises ducks and geese on her own pond. She agreed to join me in an impromptu late night hook removal mission on October 2 after her long day in the restaurant, bless her heart.
While I gathered my portable clinic from my van, I provided duck chow to Tammy (left) so she could befriend the ducks that hadn’t met her before. I thought that might relax the birds so our patient would be easier to catch when I returned. When I got back with the equipment, Tammy had already nabbed the 10-pound bird and had it in a hammerlock. She related our patient was a drake. She’s earned a new title, but I can’t decide if she’s Nurse Chef Tammy or Chef Nurse Tammy.
I had hoped the barbed point of the hook had punctured the skin so I could simply snip off the barb and back the rest of the hook out. We weren’t so lucky. It took time to determine the path the hook had taken inside the foot (below, left).
Since the point was deep, our only option was to back the hook out with its barb intact. Tammy is an accomplished duck wrestler. She kept the bird calm and stationary wrapped in a large bath towel while I wiggled the hook to back it out.
Within a minute or two, the hook was removed (below, center). If I inflicted any tissue damage in the process, it wasn’t evident. In the six days it had been embedded, the wound had toughed up the surrounding flesh. I doubt our feathered patient had more than a few seconds of pain or discomfort. We couldn’t even tell if there was any bleeding during the procedure. We bathed the foot in a 50-50 mix of water and hydrogen peroxide for a couple of minutes. It didn’t fizz much, but it cleaned the dirt and rust from the hook out of the wound with a little gentle scrubbing (below, right).
After the duck had time to settle down, Tammy placed it beside the pond (below, left). Before she could completely unwrap the towel, the bird freed itself and headed toward the water. It stopped for a brief wing flapping to shake off the encounter and refluff its feathers. Then it plunged in heading toward his buddies to tell them what those mean humans did to him (below, right).
How the drake managed to embed the hook in the TOP of his foot is a mystery. The hook, part of an old cork-centered lure called a “popper,” looks like it had been submerged for a number of years (right). Maybe it was snagged on vegetation and the duck paddled its foot forward at the right angle to stab itself.
This was my second experience in serious duck doctoring. I’m happy to report the mission was a success and the patient survived thanks to Tammy.
September 27th, 2013 permalink
Sadly, the white Pekin duck that arrived at the Brighton millpond on September 9th has found a discarded fishhook. It’s embedded in the top of its right foot. I’ve attempted to capture the farm duck to see if it can easily be removed or will require veterinary intervention, but like most newly injured birds, it’s very skittish and stays by itself away from people most of the time.
It has difficulty walking and swims tilted, but within a few days, it will probably return to its friendly nature when care can be administered.
September 9th, 2013 permalink
Another well meaning but ignorant owner has dumped their pet duck (an Easter present?) into the Brighton millpond. The owner might have thought he was doing it a favor, but it’s no different than abandoning a cat or dog on city streets. Farm ducks belong on farms. They can’t fend for themselves and 50% meet violent deaths within their first year in a wild flock. This is the eleventh domestic duck to be dumped at the millpond since five weeks after Easter.
It looks to be a young, healthy Pekin hen, but there is evidence of mating injuries. Bloodied feathers and a large bald spot at the base of its neck are fresh. It may have happened soon after its Sunday arrival, but it’s possible the wounds precipitated a quick relocation to the millpond because of conflicts with other ducks in its original location.
Until they determine how they fit within their new flock, ducks are often stressed. This one, however, appears relaxed around the other residents. Perhaps it’s from a large flock. I’ll keep you posted as it adjusts to millpond life. Have a suggestion for her name? Leave it in a comment.