January 29th, 2016 permalink
Franny is just as loud as she’s always been. I usually hear her before I see her on my visits to the millpond. She and her three suitors, are currently residents aat the orth end of the pond.
Duke, her Rouen drake friend, has a noticeable limp. I haven’t seen anything on that foot to cause it. He’s at least seven years old so it’s likely arthritis. He’s often the last of the suitors to catch up with Franny when decides it’s time to move to another part of their severely restricted open water.
The team of suitors, Dazzle and his son Razzle, are both younger than Duke and accommodate Franny’s decisions whatever they are. They are usually near her so, when you find the two black ducks covered in gorgeous green and blue feathers, you’ll probably find Franny within six feet of them.
It’s a myth ducks mate for life. They normally bond with a partner for 1-5 months during the mating season. This quartet is exceptional since they have stayed together year around for two years now. There are some other long term relationships at the millpond but it’s often siblings or parent with children.
November 16th, 2015 permalink
Rarely do I visit the pond without someone asking me about these two ducks. Dazzle arrived at the pond in January, 2012. In 2014, he fathered at least six ducklings. One of them is Razzle who has become his dad’s sidekick. It’s impossible for me to tell father and son apart unless they are on dry land. Razzle’s legs have a hint of dark orange on his legs while his dad’s are almost solid black. The two can normally be seen trailing behind Franny, the apple of their eyes. They share her affections with Duke, a Rouen drake that looks like an oversized Mallard. Duke is one of the oldest domestic ducks on the pond, at least 7 years old. He walked with a slight limp which is probably from arthritis.
October 23rd, 2015 permalink
Most of the drakes on the pond pay little attention to the hens now that the breeding season is long past. That isn’t true of domestics. Here, Dazzle and his son, Razzle (left), still pal around with Franny (behind them). Duke, the third drake smitten with Franny, is not far away most of the time, but he’s an older duck with (what I assume is) arthritis. He has a limp these days.
Dazzle and Razzle are almost identical but Razzle’s feet and legs have a slightly orange cast to them while his dad’s are solid black.
July 12th, 2015 permalink
I was first introduced to 2014 Brood 22 last July when the eight ducklings were already at least six weeks old. At the time, I thought they were probably related to one of the “Swede Sisters” because four of the six black ducklings had white on their chests. Once they grew their green/blue/purple adult feathers last summer, it became obvious they were fathered by our resident Cayuga drake, the ever popular Dazzle.
This spring, I noticed two drakes with white “bibs” but they had bronze flanks so I wondered where they came from. They seemed to be bonding with two of Dazzle’s offspring. Now that they have lost their mating plumage, I realize the “Bronze Brothers” weren’t bonding with the girls; they were protecting their sisters. The white bibs on the two drakes (above left) are identical to those on the Bronze Brothers. This begs the question: Where did their bronze mating plumage come from? It must be some genetic quirk when Mallards and Cayugas mate. I don’t know of any other bronze-sided duck in the vicinity.
The top photo shows four of Dazzle’s six ducklings. Where are the other two you ask? Razzle is a carbon copy of his dad and his constant sidekick as he seeks the affection of Franny, the pond’s only Rouen hen. She is currently honeymooning with the father/son combo and Duke in the pond’s northern reaches. She’s presumably amassing a second clutch of eggs. If her nest eludes marauding raccoons and skunks, perhaps she’ll redeem herself from her abysmal parenting of Brood 22.
Dazzle’s sixth is Onyx who lost her entire first brood in May. I’m happy to report she is currently sitting on a fresh batch of eggs. Her nesting location won’t be disclosed to prevent one of Brighton’s talented chefs from whipping her rich eggs into an omelet or scrumptious meringue dessert.
July 2nd, 2015 permalink
Franny’s family is spending their daylight hours behind the fire station on Grand River Avenue. There’s a grassy shoreline there they have found to their liking. The grass stays cool in the shade of a large mulberry tree and the birds can sup on the fruit when the mood strikes them.
The above photo is a good one to compare the two Cayuga ducks, Dazzle, and his son, Razzle. Along with Duke, they are Franny’s constant companions and suitors. Razzle (left, above) is Dazzle’s son born last summer but he’s already become larger than his dad. The two are difficult to tell apart. Dazzle has a scruffier bill (think of shoes needing polish) and has solid black legs and feet. Razzle’s extremities have a slight dark-orange hue mixed with the black. Both are stunning examples of the domestic Cayuga breed. That’s interesting since Razzle’s mom was a full-blood Mallard yet he has no traits from her lineage.
Franny’s two ducklings, above, are doing fine. One is a bit more adventurous and thereby a little larger. Both have some small orangish blotches on their feet that might indicate neither of the Cayugas are their fathers. Cayuga ducks have almost solid black legs and feet. The markings on the kids will change in the weeks to come. We will see if they have any of the Cayuga’s glorious iridescence on their juvenile feathers.
May 7th, 2015 permalink
Millpond duck identification is more complex this year. People used to ask me, “Who is the black (or green) duck,” and I knew exactly which duck they were talking about. It was Dazzle (above). If they saw him in sunlight, he was iridescent green. At other times, he looked like an all-black duck.
If they ask the same question now, I can’t answer it. Dazzle’s six black offspring (two others were spitting images of their mother, a Mallard) have grown into fine adults but I still haven’t determined how to tell them apart. If they would line up and stand still for a few minutes, I could do it. Fat chance of that happening.
I’ve definitely identified three of his youngsters. One is an all-black drake who tags along with his father (right). They look almost identical though the kid has less black on his bill. I think dad is teaching him the fine art of courting with Franny as the object of his affection. The lad is learning through observation. Franny has four seasoned professional wooers who aren’t interested in more competition, but they let him watch.
Two of Daz’s youngsters are definitely females. One is all black (below) while another has white markings on her upper chest (above left).
That leaves three others on Team Dazzle. Last fall, two of those were all black with rather large white patches on their chests. When they developed adult mating plumage, I think they became “the Bronze Boys” who have flanks of an unusual color. Dazzle mated with a full-blood Mallard last summer. Could mixing Cayuga stock with Mallard produce bronze colorations? I suppose. Neither of these two have feather markings typical of Mallards, but they have characteristic green heads.
Ducks often continue to associate with siblings into adulthood so it makes sense they are seen with Dazzle’s girls (above right). But I’ve seen what appears to be mating behaviors with these two pairs. Are incentual relationships permitted in duckdom?
The Bronze Boys look more like they are a mix of Mallards and other domestic breeds. We have no domestics on the pond with the reddish hues on these guys, but their mom could fly.
There are plenty of nearby ponds where she could have had brief, but productive, encounters with sweet talking drakes. Mallards are capable of mating with more than 50 species of ducks.
The all-black hen might have a very interesting assortment of ducklings this summer. She is currently nesting in a downtown planter. Employees at an undisclosed local establishment have named her Onyx.
Assuming her eggs aren’t disturbed and she succeeds in bringing Dazzle’s grandducklings into the world, they will surely be reported here. Don’t get your hopes up too high, however. First year domestic birds are often not successful especially at urban ponds. City nests may be vandalized or predators seeking leftover pizza might stumble upon them.
January 2nd, 2015 permalink
I caught up with two of Dazzle‘s six 2014 offspring (2014 Brood 22) on Christmas Eve, a hen and drake as they searched for things to eat on the millpond lawn. Except for the white spots on the chest of this female (left) and three of her nestmates, the young birds look like full blood Cayuga ducks like their father. It’s hard to believe their mother is a wild Mallard. Maybe she ordered the half dozen Cayugas through mail order.
December 6th, 2014 permalink
While civilized humans are currently doing everything possible to blend genders into a slurry, ducks aren’t as foolish. Boys not only will be boys, but they dress to prove it. Almost overnight, the Mallard drakes shed their nondescript eclipse plumage for their courting attire. It’s excited the hens, but the drakes act as if nothing’s happened. They won’t turn on their charm for a couple of months. Early birds might get the worm, but the eons have taught the boys revving up the hens too early would freeze offspring in their shells.
The domestic ducks mating instincts have been addled by selective breeding. The Pekins have already been observed mating. Dazzle isn’t bobbing his head at the girls yet, but he’s dressed for success. At night, he’s virtually invisible except for the reflection of his iridescent feathers as he rises from the water to shake his wings (above right) and leisurely paddles searching for morsels to eat (below).
November 15th, 2014 permalink
As he approaches the end of his third year at the millpond, Dazzle (above) is still a showstopper with his iridescent plumage, but he’s got competition from his six offspring this fall. None of his kids are quite as colorful though since their mom was a mallard instead of another Cayuga.
Only one of Dazzle’s ducklings might be mistaken for him, but you have to look closely. Four of the six have some white on their chests. The fifth one is all black but has a yellow bill instead of a black one. The sixth one is the closest match for him because its all black but doesn’t have nearly the same colorful sheen.
The easiest way to find Dazzle instead of atttempting to pick him out from the seven black ducks on the millpond is to look at who the ducks are hanging out with. Dazzle is almost always with Rusty (above, left) and the two drakes main squeeze, Franny, the dark brown hen with the partially broken bill. If you don’t see the trio, listen for them. Franny is loud and has an incessant, deep raspy quack unlike any of the other ducks. It’s assumed the other hen that arrived with her in the summer of 2012, Stella, was consumed by a coyote in April of this year.
October 26th, 2014 permalink
Rusty, Franny, and Dazzle (above) are a triad of domestic ducks abandoned at the Brighton millpond. Dazzle arrived in 2012 and the other two in 2013. This past week, another domestic duck with a long history of millpond residence, SweetPea, was removed from the pond due to mating stress caused by two newly abandoned domestic drakes that arrived two week ago. Matt Lyson, owner of Michigan Duck Rescue and Sanctuary in Salem Township, stated on the nonprofit organization’s Facebook page:
This is where Sweet Pea spent the last eight years of her life before finding HOME!
She, like all of the other domestics that have been dumped there, and at ALL of the other convenient “dumping ” sites around the country, survive on whatever people happen to feed them, if they even ever eat a good meal at all. Sure, they can eat some of what nature provides, but they were not raised for that daily diet.
These are big, hearty birds that need a nutritional diet of proteins and supplements. When they eat things such as bread, crackers, potato chips and other garbage (all of which have NO nutritional value whatsoever for these beautiful creatures), they often ‘slug’ threw life sickly and compromised. The only good that comes from junk food is that their bellies feel full and they don’t really feel the pang of hunger, it just masks the emptiness they would otherwise feel, by NO fault of their own.
You can read the rest at the Michigan Duck Rescue and Sanctuary’s Facebook Page. Better yet, visit MichiganDuckRescue.com and make a tax deductible contribution. While many of us duck watchers will miss one of the pond’s best know “celebriducks,” we feel SweetPea will receive the care and protection she needs in her later life at the Sanctuary.
July 24th, 2014 permalink
I suppose it was inevitable. Dazzle has been chasing hens throughout the mating season and a few of the drakes haven’t been especially thrilled by his conduct. Today, he was limping and has a wound on his left leg. He probably ran into the cement edge of the pond or another obstacle fleeing one of the boys. It’s a superficial wound, but he’s obviously favoring the leg. I treated it with a wound dressing sprayed from a few feet away that should protect it from infection. I’m sure he’ll make a speedy recovering. He’ll still have time to delight several females before the summer is over.
The wound before treatment (left), and after being sprayed with Scarlet Oil, a disinfectant (right).
April 30th, 2014 permalink
After weeks away, Dazzle returned to the Brighton millpond on April 27 looking dapper in full breeding plumage, but his scruffy bill needs a bit of shoe polish. The hen who was his main squeeze is not with him.
He spent three months away last summer likely involved in a romance. I didn’t question him. He’s done his share of wooing our pond’s hens, too, but no little dazzlers have hatched since his January 2012 arrival.
February 23rd, 2014 permalink
After two carefree springs filled with reckless abandon, Dazzle has settled down to a more reasoned approach to pair bonding. Since December, the pond’s only Cayuga drake has wooed the same Mallard hen.
He must be attracted to her bright orange bill tip or the single dark eyestripe, but we’ll never know what triggers his ardor. They stand together at the northern end dreaming of the mating season. Once she begins sitting on eggs generated by their passion, Dazzle will find waiting 28 days for the hatch of little dazzlers monotonous. He’ll seek the affection of other hens who have time to party.
December 7th, 2013 permalink
The mating season for ducks doesn’t start until the end of March but that doesn’t stop hens and drakes from considering their options. Think of it in this way: It’s 9:30 on a Friday night at the Millpond Tavern where the locals gather in their flashiest attire to play pool. (Get it? The game; the water. Stick with me.) The crowd casually interacts as everyone has their first cocktail. Dazzle sees a well fed young hen who takes good care of herself and sports irresistible bright orange billstick. (Lipstick. Play along.)
The dapper drake avoids being intrusive (top), but he wants to let this eligible maiden know he’s interested. He stays close without appearing like a stalker and follows her even though she pays little attention to him (right).
He paddles off to swim with the boys and discuss important matters, but he returns again and again to admire her beautifully preened feathers. She knows he’s interested but doesn’t want him to think she’s loose with her affections. By 10:00pm, they sidle up to each other while they listen to the mutterings of the flock (left). The crowd at the Millpond Tavern fills their night with swimming, preening, grabbing a bite to eat if it floats by, and settling down for brief naps.
Occasionally, the potential couple glances at each other without showing too effusive interest. The night is still young and there are many factors to consider before romance begins.
Stop the clock. The night’s over at 10:10pm. The Millpond Tavern closes early in December and January. There will be no swimming off into the dark. No awkward breakfast dabbling at dawn. It’s flirting season, nothing more. You think human’s invented Valentine’s Day? By then, heads will bob and bonded pairs will roost together to gaze at the moon. You’ll hear about it here, of course.
December 5th, 2013 permalink
A warm night allowed me to spend a couple of hours watching/photographing ducks at the north end of the Brighton millpond last night. The new external flash lets me capture things that used to be out of range.
Dazzle is almost invisible in low light conditions (top) but really shines in quick flashes from my camera. As I stood on the boardwalk above the pond, he swam below convinced I would eventually toss him tidbits. He earned them as he swam surrounded in Tinkerbell’s fairy dust worthy of a Disney film (left and right). His iridescent blue wings grabbed the flash of my camera. From any other angle, the blues on his back aren’t nearly as colorful.
Below, reflections from the boardwalk railings appear as undulating stripes in the water beside him. The image has a nice mysterious feel to it.
Stay tuned. More images of this friendly Cayuga drake are forthcoming. He’s a cooperative model and each photograph I take rewards me with sparkling results.
October 29th, 2013 permalink
Dazzle waddled up to show me his Halloween costume. I told him it wasn’t scary, but he looked really nice, well preened, and colorful. I suggested shoe polish could take care of those scuff marks on his otherwise black bill. He asked me what shoes were.
June 19th, 2013 permalink
I had just posted a story about Dazzle and then discovered him being ruffed up by a group of feathered thugs the next night. Two drakes held his head under water and several others swam around them cheering the brutes. Arguments between males at this time of year are usually about mating rights or territory. Males pounce to prove their dominance so they have first dibs on females or places to feed or roost. It mirrors the pecking order most birds establish with food resources. Watch your bird feeder and you’ll see some birds stand back until others are finished eating.
Whatever the cause, Dazzle eventually broke free, bathed, and then hopped out of the pond to groom himself. In the water and then again on shore, he flapped his wings a couple of times. It seems that’s the method for ducks to dissipate adrenalin rushes. Because of the backlighting, I had to massage these images in Photoshop to pull out the color. It’s slightly overdone, but Dazzle isn’t much duller in real life if you see him in sunlight.
June 18th, 2013 permalink
During his first summer at the Brighton millpond (2012), Dazzle felt it was his responsibility to woo every female duck whether she found him charming or not, but he’s an older, wiser drake now. He began this mating season with several brief, unsatisfying relationships, but in May he found Miss Right, a common Mallard of questionable ancestry. He’s been so faithful to her he’s paying scant attention to his human friends. We’re rather put off by him favoring her. We’re feeling a bit used. All winter he thought we were wonderful and was quite willing to sup with us if we brought duck chow. Now we’re often dismissed with only a glance if Miss Right bobs her head or moves a wing.
As you can see here, when he lost contact with her, Dazzle is frazzled. First, he runs to see if she at their special resting place on the lawn (top). His unsuccessful search leads him to quack toward the pond and breathlessly wait for her response. Nothing. He spent the evening swimming, preening, and looking for things to eat around lily pads until Miss Right returned to roost with him for the night. Maybe she needed time alone to lay an egg in a hidden spot. His human friends might forgive his inattention if they are rewarded with a clutch of iridescent ducklings by summer’s end.
May 21st, 2013 permalink
Dazzle sure does. Park visitors ask me: “Where’s the black duck?” and “Where’s the green duck?” I know they are referring to the same one. If they met him in bright sun, he shimmers in iridescent green, but on cloudy days, he’s an inky black but still stands out from the crowd. He was dumped at the pond in January, 2012, and spent last spring mating with every hen he could sweep off her webbed feet at the millpond. Then he flew away. I suspect he was charming hens in other ponds. He returned in autumn.
This year, he’s a little different. He hooks up with hens but not for long. He’s still a cad at heart. For the past few days (at least), he’s been following this attractive hen around. They lounge on the millpond lawn together and go on frequent swimming dates. Will we have some tiny iridescent black ducklings added to the pond this year? Even though he gave it his all last year, none arrived.
February 24th, 2013 permalink
The ducks at the north end of the Brighton millpond put on quite a show in the winter because they are hungrier than the Main Street ducks. Too bad more people don’t go up near the laundromat to see it. Once they get to know you are a food source, and you call them, they come charging up the shoreline slope to grab a snack.
As 30 to 60 ducks assemble, Wallaby flies over the top of the scrubby willows and lands about 10 feet away (right). Dazzle comes to the front and stands by your feet once he knows you. He’s developed a new behavior this winter: he actually stands on the toe of my boot (above). I think he realizes it gives him an advantage as I reach down with a hand full of duck chow. Tux also positions himself directly in front near my shoes if more aggressive ducks don’t push him aside. He’s low in the pecking order so he avoids confrontation.
Both Dazzle and Tux are of domestic stock and their behavior shows it. They aren’t as wary as the wild Mallards. Dazzle arrived at the pond as an adult and was probably hand-raised so he’s at ease with humans. Tux was born at the pond yet he still exhibits the same pet-like trait which makes him fun to be around. He isn’t holding his wings tight to his body again, but he’s definitely not lethargic lately. Many of the ducks flew back to open water last night, but Tux can’t fly so he waddled the whole distance through 2″ of fluffy snow. It was comical watching him stumble over tiny mounds until he reached the water.
December 20th, 2012 permalink
December 18: Visitors often want to know more about “The Black Duck” on the Brighton millpond. That usually means they haven’t seen him in bright sunlight when his plumage reflects vibrant greens, blues and purples. He’s a stunning Cayuga duck that arrived at the pond in January of 2012, dumped there by his previous owner. He was initially so wary of humans I bet a young friend named Tyler a pound of duck chow that he couldn’t get him to climb up into his lap like he was doing with other ducks he was feeding. I lost. Within ten minutes, Tyler was cradling Dazzle as he ate. Since then, Dazzle has become very social with park visitors but he’s still low in the pecking order with the wild duck population and doesn’t pal around with any of them.
December 5th, 2012 permalink
November 26: During summer months, the Dam Tribe stays near the Main Street dam and the Buda Bunch is out of their sight in the bay north of Brighton’s City Hall. Males from Buda’s group visit the Dam Tribe’s territory to foist their affections on the hapless SweetPea, but that’s a story for another time.
This changes as winter approaches. The wild waterfowl moves to the pond’s north end lured by open water and better food stocks, but the farm ducks can’t fly to join them. Instead, the Buda Bunch barges into the Dam Tribe’s stomping grounds to winter with them. This changes the dynamics and there’s a period of confusion as the ducks compete for their places in the pecking order.
Then there are the stragglers. Dazzle, the black duck that shines bright green in sunlight, isn’t affiliated with any buddies or subflocks. He’s low on the totem pole as evident when Buda’s wingduck (a feathered “wingman”) nods his way (top). Dazzle pulls back expecting he’ll be bitten. In that same image, note how another drake in Buda’s group nips a Buff duck that doesn’t know he’s in charge now. Even Mrs PomPom gets frequent pokes from members of her own group (Dexter in this case) as Dam Tribe rivals surround her (above right).
October 21st, 2012 permalink
I haven’t mentioned Dazzle in months. After he recklessly pursued the affections of Blonde Bombshell #2 in spring and had his way with several untended hens, he vanished in early June. I thought he might have worn himself out and died. Surprisingly, no ducklings hatched with his distinctive features.
He reappeared a month ago to my delight. I suspect he vacationed at another pond to find more willing (and unwilling) partners. He’s a young cad.
Since his return, he continues to be intimidated by resident ducks, and I haven’t seen him join any sub-flock. Perhaps he likes being a loner. Even though he’s friendly with humans, he watches his tail end to make sure other ducks aren’t about to bite his backside. Perhaps they’re jealous of his stunning iridescent greens, blues, and purples.
March 31st, 2012 permalink
Unlike many of the ducks dumped at the pond, Dazzle (below) hasn’t been a wallflower. He’s nimble and dodges the jabs from the other ducks well. He hasn’t bonded with any of the local hens so he’s seeking the affections of hens paired with other drakes. While not a particularly admirable trait, it’s not unusual in duck society.
The white Pekin who was severely wounded by a snapping turtle last summer has set up camp near the Stillwater Grill with his buddy, a Campbell drake who’s been a long time pal. They’ve been joined by a Buff Orpington hen of unknown lineage. The nature of this trio’s relationship is unknow, but I think the Campbell and the Buff are an item while the Pekin is like a friend who rents a spare bedroom.
Dazzle paid their hen a visit and, contrary to my earlier observations that drakes are lackadaisical about defending their hens, these two did everything they could to keep Dazzle at bay. Note how they tried to stay between their hen and the lad (above right) while inflicting painful jabs and wing bites (above left and below).
At one point, the Pekin lifted the hen’s head with his bill (below). I’m not sure if it was intentional or just something that happened in the heat of the scrimage. Even though Dazzle was smaller than the two drakes, he was persistent but was eventually chased back into the pond.
Following the harrowing disruption to their domestic tranquility, the Pekin stood tall with his eyes toward the pond to be sure the handsome rogue wasn’t coming back to seek more favors from the shaken hen.
Pekins are usually placid, gentle ducks. Their size gives them unearned status in the flock of scrappy wild mallards. Occasionally, however, their adrenalin kicks in when young whippersnappers challenge their peace-seeking lives. Perhaps chivalery is not dead at the Brighton millpond.
March 5th, 2012 permalink
The first dumped duck in 2012 is this exquisite Cayuga drake. Someone told me about seeing an all-black duck in mid-January, but I didn’t see him until this past weekend. I can’t understand why the previous owner abandoned him. He’s truly beautiful with his iridescent green coloring. He seems to have quickly been accepted by the wild mallards. Cayugas are listed as a “threatened” breed by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy. They are named after Cayuga Lake in the Finger Lakes region of New York where they were first bred. They are considered tasty, friendly, and rarely stray from their home territory.
The Black Dahlia was a long-time millpond resident who disappeared last summer while honeymooning with a drake half her size in the north end of the pond. It is suspected she was killed by a raccoon or fox while nesting, but we’ll never know for sure. She had a tough life at the pond including losing both of her ducklings in two separate nestings in 2010 and 2011.
Shortly after his arrival, this duck acquired the name of Dazzle which was suggested by blog reader, Nanina, from Pennsylvania.