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

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.

Dexter in full feather

January 28th, 2014     2 comments     permalink

Dexter rises out of the water to shake of dropletsDexter is the Duke of the Buda Bunch. He’s another big, lumbering Rouen. The easiest way to tell the two drakes apart is the small white collar on Dex’s neck. Duke doesn’t have one on his darker neck and chest.

I don’t pay much attention to Dexter because he is calm and remains in the background. That is until I took this shot of him in full drake drag. Wow. His feathers are in perfect shape and the color is as good as it gets for this spring’s mating season.

Help! I’m swimming and I can’t get out.

January 19th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

Dexter is a Rouen duck with a white necklace in frontDexter is a big lumbering Rouen drake, a member of the Buda Bunch at the Brighton millpond (left). All of the domestic ducks have a bit of difficulty getting out of the water when slippery ice covers the edge.

Without hands to grab things, they use what they’ve got and add flailing wings for balance and visual effect. Their half-inch toe claws would appear to provide them with traction, but they act more like skate blades instead of digging into the ice unless it’s on the slushy side.

Toe claws don't seem to help ducks much on the iced edge of the pondRusty is no help (right). He merely glances over his shoulder as Dex attempts to paddle and splash his way up. Ducks start by attempting to plant their feet on the ice but they typically accomplish the task by getting their bellies onto the ice then kicking the water to propel their bodies forward.

When they’re unsuccessful in one location, they usually retreat, try to look like they aren’t embarrassed by their failure, and then move to another spot to try again. I’ve never seen one fail more than three times. They stick with the task until they succeed. Ducks don’t give up on things they want to accomplish.

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.

Sleeping during an autumn paddle

October 15th, 2013     0 comments     permalink

The boys in the Buda Bunch toured the Main Street area yesterday, only Buddy kept his eyes open during the venture

The boys (l to r: Buddy, Dexter, Beauregard) in The Buda Bunch took an evening paddle through the Main Street portion of the Brighton millpond last evening. Buda and Mrs PomPom haven’t been hanging out with the trio lately. I’m not sure what that’s about, but they may be foraging the autumn crop of berries surrounding the shore. One thing I’ve noticed only this past week is that ducks nap while paddling. In this photograph, both Dexter and Beauregard have their eyes shut while Buddy leads them around and keeps track of where they are swimming. I saw this happen with other ducks this week. Maybe they are tired by the time I reach the pond in the evening but there are too many park visitors for them to come ashore to rest.

The reflections of the autumn trees create wonderful patterns in the water as sun illuminates them just before the end of the day. Below is a portion of the top photo that stands up well in its own right. If you’d like it as a Facebook Cover Image, here it is sized how Facebook likes it and “flopped” so the best part of it isn’t hidden under your Profile Image.

A portion of the above photo as a colorful autumn pattern

The Rouen Drakes: Duke, Dexter, and Duncan

March 31st, 2013     1 comment     permalink

There are three prominent Rouen (pronounced “roan”) drakes at the Brighton millpond and a few more mix with the wild Mallards that aren’t readily identifiable. The Rouen breed was developed in (and named after) the town of Rouen, France. They are three times the size of wild Mallards, boat-like in shape, flavorful, and extremely calm. They mature slowly so aren’t  raised for meat or eggs as often as Pekins.

Dexter shown here with alpha drake, Buda, has a prominent white collar in front Duke has not white collar and looks like he's been dipped in coffee. Duncan has a faint white color in front.

Dexter (left) is a member in good standing of The Buda Bunch. He sometimes chases other drakes away from Mrs. PomPom to protect her virtue, but otherwise just lives his life in the shadow of Buda, the group’s alpha drake. His identifying trait is his bright white neckband above his chest. Duke (center) has been MooseTracks’ sidekick for years in The Dam Tribe and helps keep other males away from SweetPea if his mood suits the moment. His body is brownish and he has no white collar. Duncan doesn’t usually hang out with the other farm ducks, but since he’s enamored with Madeline now, he’s seen near Main Street more often now. He has a white collar but it looks like it was drawn on with chalk because it’s sketchy rather than solid like Dexter’s.

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 ...

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.

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.

Crimes of Pond Passion?

March 16th, 2012     2 comments     permalink

One of the two surviving Indian Runners has been courting the lovely, but fickle, SweetPea for a couple of months while he tries to become an accepted member of her Dam Tribe. Her trio of drakes tolerate his presence most of the time, but aggressively chase away his brother who was his loyal companion before the mating season began. The 3-duck jury is still out; sometimes they threaten him but often ignore his amorous encounters with SweetPea. Maybe they turn a blind eye to her casual flings knowing she’ll never reject their own.

There are other moments when, for no apparent reason, one of the drakes decides to brutally attack him. He’s usually not actively pursuing SweetPea’s attention at those times. Perhaps they sense his vulnerability or irrational rutting instincts flood their brains. If one drake attacks, the others join in. In this recorded encounter (top and right), two drakes held his head under water for a couple of minutes. He struggled, gulped air, and finally found the strength to break away this time.

Following the attack, his fawn-and-white brother watched as he flapped his wings (below) to toss off the tension. Later that night, all of the ducks involved returned to SweetPea and bedded down as if nothing happened. Maybe these frequent near-drownings are merely dominance displays and the occasional murders are simply accidents. We can’t read a duck’s mind. The murders might be First Degree, Crimes of Passion by enraged rivals, or simply Duckslaughter where there’s no intention at all. The millpond retains many mysteries.

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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