Franny: Belle of the winter ball

March 12th, 2015     0 comments     permalink

As Dazzle, Rusty, and Franny settle down for the night, Fred (left) stares at her hoping to win her heart

As spring approaches, the domestic drakes at the millpond are beginning to think of romance. It’s still at the fantasy stage, but they are sidling up to the always charming and vociferous Franny, the only surviving Rouen hen on the pond.

Dumpling finds Franny a suitable partner and often tries to catch her on short scampersDumpling hasn’t figured out how to win hearts yet. Rather than bobbing heads and staying in close proximity, he flat-out chases Franny trying to tackle her. The other night (left) was comical as Franny slid on the glazed surface of the snow with Dumpling in hot pursuit. She eluded him this night then clucking her annoyance to her bonded partners since they did nothing to protect her. Neither of the drakes have a chivalrous feather on their body.

Fred is quick to join Franny when she foragesSince SweetPea departed to spend her dotage enchanting drakes at Michigan Duck Rescue (She’s fine and has a new retinue of drakes wooing her, BTW.), Fred (right) has been at loose ends. He’s started noticing Franny has potential as the mother of his ducklings. For the past month, he’s been ingratiating himself to her well-established boyfriends, Dazzle and Rusty, and has slowly turned the triad into a quad; Franny and three suitors.

Dazzle and Rusty are oblivious to his intentions. Fred has a history of usurping the affections of hens. He elbowed past SweetPea’s beaus to win her heart two years ago. Now he’s employing the same nefarious tactics with Franny’s docile princes. It will all transpire within the next month. Hens will be sitting on eggs come April, and Franny will be among them. She lost two clutches last summer to raccoons. Maybe she’ll do better this year. If the tykes are thin with tan and white patches, you’ll know who’s their daddy. It probably won’t be Dumpling. He’s good at the chase but so timid other males usually push him aside.

Eating ice

February 8th, 2015     0 comments     permalink

Dumpling nibbles on the edge of the pond ice Rusty eating ice at the edge of the Brighton millpond

January 31: The domestic ducks were seen eating the thin ice at the edge of their tiny bit of open water near the Brighton dam. Were they doing it just because it was there and they needed something to do? Did they like the crunching sound? Were there small, tasty bits of nutrients in it? Several ducks were doing it. Dumpling (left) and Rusty demonstrate it here.

Midnight waddlers and fliers

December 18th, 2014     2 comments     permalink

The ducks climb the hill at the north end. Parfait is in the center front.

Dumpling is part of the northern gang. He's the white duck.The ducks at the north end of the pond are a lively group, especially at night. Even though they know me, I  have to cajole them by shaking the food jar to convince them to leave their pond activities. Once a few take the risk, the others join the parade up the 6′ tall embankment beside Grand River Avenue. [Duck Trivia: They are very good climbers. Descending is another matter since their center of gravity is forward. Many ducks fly back to the pond instead of trudge down after their snack.]

There isn't a lot of food tossed to them . Nothing is wasted.

The ducks aren’t relaxed when they get too far away from the pond. Thirty feet is “far” in their estimation. As long as they do things together as a flock, they are willing to take the chance there might be danger lurking in the night on shore.

Dumpling stands out from the crowd since he’s the only white duck at the north end now. He pals around with the Buff Orpington ducks (they are similar in size to him) when he’s not flirting with the blonde hen. Multi-colored Parfait is easy to spot in the swarm of ducks.

The ducks return to the millpond after our soiree

The birds fly back to the millpond to spend the night.When the food is gone, one of the ducks makes a move. Unless he’s incognito, there isn’t a “lead duck” making important flock decisions.  Some duck, any duck, decides it’s time to leave the party and they all move out (above).

The fliers hesitate on the embankment wondering if it’s safe to take to the air and navigate between the dried vegetation. Unlike the waddlers, the fliers don’t do it as a group. Bonded partners and buddies will fly down together. It’s a chance to see the color and patterns in their wings, always a minor thrill for me to watch.

A Mallard male makes the 30-foot flight back to the pond

Since it’s such a short flight, the birds merely jump up and spread their wings for a few flaps then they spread their feathers as wide as they can to grab as much air as they can to reduce their landing speed.

A Mallard drake at full extension as he takes the short flight back to the millpond

leaving_4631_250As they leave, they never say thank you, the ungrateful louts. But I get even — I take pictures of their butts as they leave and post them on the Internet.

Note the lower mandible of the drakeI snapped this shot (right) from below a Mallard drake as he made the flight. It illustrates how they fold their legs and hug them to their bodies to reduce drag.

I also noticed how much smaller his lower mandible is compared to his upper. You can also see the serrations along the edges of the bill. They help him grab vegetation and syphon floating microscopic food from the surface of the pond. The “nail” on the points of both the upper and lower bills give their fingernail-like bills extra strength. They help ducks poke through leaf litter and shoreline dirt looking for small plants, bugs and worms.

Dumpling is an expatriot

December 4th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

Dumpling chases another drake away from his beloved

Dumpling has forsaken leisure living near Main Street where park visitors lavish attention on ducks with an assortment of vittles. While the pond was still free of ice, he paddled to the northern boundary. Once the ice locks him in, he won’t be able to return to Main Street unless he waddles his way back on the slippery surface.

Dumpling and his significant otherInfatuation has blurred his reason, the sad fate of so many males. A blonde hen has been his on-again-off-again partner for several months now and coaxed him to trade future nights of bliss for daily nutrition. Dumpling, never an academic, failed to realize the apple of his eye can fly and he can’t. She’ll spend her daylight hours at the southern end of the pond leaving him to fend for himself while she sups on the offerings of the human wait staff.

Dumpling may have a secondary reason for spending his winter at the northern extreme. He’s the smallest Pekin on the pond and has never fared well with the larger Pekins. Last summer he was a tiny tyrant at the north end. He kept the six much larger Welsh Harlequins and Rouens that were dumped in September from entering the pond for two weeks until Smith, the powerful Rouen drake, taught him who was in charge. Now that all six of those birds are gone from death and injuries, Dumpling can rule the roost again. He’s bigger than any of the wild birds wintering there. He can play King-of-the-Hill until one of them calls his bluff (top).

Some duck updates

November 4th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

The Mallard hen with the partially broken bill is doing fine and has a boyfriendPark visitors often feel the need to rescue ducks when they notice injuries. Most of the time, it’s unwise (and maybe illegal) to do so. At the current time, there is no standard method to report injured waterfowl, but were working on it.

For the time being, this blog is one place you can check to see if the injured bird is identified and whether the injury requires wildlife rehab intervention.

Last spring, one of the Mallard hens broke off a portion of her lower bill (left). Her tongue hangs out of her mouth much of the time. There is little to be done for her and she is able to eat and remains of normal weight and shows no signs of adverse health. While bill prosthetics are sometimes made for birds, we do not have a specialist in this region and the cost would be exorbitant.

A young drake sports a triangle patch on his chestGrace, the duckling with only one leg now in the care of Michigan Duck Rescue and Sanctuary, is doing well with her new pal, Angelena. Still at the millpond are her three surviving siblings. One of them has an unusual triangular patch on his chest (right). Perhaps he was injured or just has a feather growing anomaly. His first set of adult feathers is now almost completely grown in at three months old.

The mother of this family is Five Toes (below left) who is one of the profilic troopers at the millpond. She has been seen casually dating another of the park’s celebriducks, Dumpling (below right). Since breeding doesn’t take place for another five months for the pond’s wild birds, this may just be a pairing of convenience.

Dumpling, however, is a domestic Pekin, a breed so selectively bred that their mating cycle is out of whack with wild bird cycles. He may have other ideas. Five Toes will let him know he’s just being a silly young drake until next March when she’ll decide raising another family is a good idea. Meanwhile, Lewis and Clark have turned their ardor toward Jemima and are actively mating. Since all three are Pekins, she might surprise us by nesting and laying eggs at anytime though there is little hope any eggs will hatch.

5Toes has been dating Dumpling, but it's not serious yet

Dumpling: Smallest Pekin, Unmatched Protector

May 11th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

Once toppled, Dumpling lets Rusty know he's in charge

Dumpling immediately attacks Rusty as he positions BacallYou’re going to see more posts about Dumpling protecting Bacall’s virtue. She’s a favorite target of roving drakes who find her (and most other hens) irresistible, the Kim Kardashian of the millpond. Rusty, quite an attentive and well bonded male, has left his duties keeping drakes away from Franny to sample Bacall’s charms before returning to his regularly scheduled assignment.

Dumpling, however, isn’t pleased the endless stream of drakes attempting to interfere with their happy honeymoon. As the rogue grabs Bacall’s neck, Dumpling makes sure they don’t enjoy their encounter. He bites them and is a powerful shover. That usually manages to topple the pair before they become successfully engaged. Then he escorts the drake back to the shore to give him the heave-ho. He and Bacall quack at each other to reduce their adrenalin rush before returning to their peaceful foraging until the next intent suitor interrupts their bonded bliss. Drakes will continue to pay visits until the mating season begins to wind down in late June.

Dumpling inflicts several bites on Rusty as he tries to mount Bacall Dumpling wraps his neck around Rusty's and powerfully shoves him away from Bacall

Bonded life agrees with Bacall

April 19th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

Dumpling watches every move his love makes

Quiet and poised, Bacall is a happy, satisfied mate with DumplingFrom her abandonment with Bogie by previous owners last May, Bacall has rattled on and on. As I’ve mentioned before, her constant yammering may have caused the two to be dumped at the pond due to neighborhood complaints. Now that she and Dumpling are honeymooning in the central area of the millpond, she’s dead quiet.

Dumpling and Bacall viewed the chow I gave them as if it was a precious thingOf course all of her needs are being met by the charming and solicitous drake who has courted her since last summer. His chances improved once Bogie became dinner for a local predator. Now she leads, he follows; ever the gentleman. If he wore a coat, he’d gallantly fling it over puddles in her path. They float side by side along the shoreline finding things to eat as they trade intimate glances. She might already being laying eggs in some hidden nest. Bet I find it once she starts sitting on them. The cruise the shoreline in well bonded blissDumpling will stay nearby for a few days at least. Then I suspect another hen will catch his eye and reward his courtly manners.

Drakes aren’t known to remain faithful for the 28 days it takes to hatch eggs. They rarely help mom raise her brood. In fact, he or another drake will try to persuade her to leave the little darlings to fend for themselves so she can find bliss bringing his prodigies into the world. Yeah. Drakes are pigs.

Heroic efforts by the smallest Pekin on the pond

April 2nd, 2014     0 comments     permalink

Beauregard held Bacall under water as he mated with her

Dumpling arrived at the millpond on May 6th of last year. Likely an abandoned Easter present, he was a timid bird so slight in build I was sure he was a female Pekin. He hid from the other ducks along shore for 18 days until he ventured to City Hall to attempt entry into The Buda Bunch. It didn’t go well. He was quickly beaten up by the four drakes in the Bunch so he swam as far away as he dared without leaving the pond and joined the docile swarm of birds at the north end on June 8th.

Dumpling attacked Beauregard until he was forced to leave Bacall alone Dumpling wouldn't let Beauregard alone as he attacked Bacall Smaller than Beauregard, Dumpling became upset when Beau came to mate with Bacall

During the summer, he hooked up with Bogie and Bacall, two other dumped newcomers in May. The trio became inseparable. By the time  the troop of six birds (the Silver Appleyards clan) arrived in mid-September, Dumpling became the north end’s Alpha Male even though he was the smallest domestic duck in the territory. The six new ducks spent their first two weeks in the Laundromat’s parking lot because Dumpling wouldn’t allow them near shore. The suddenly the table turned. I found the six bathing in the water and Dumpling became a second stringer. I think the largest, more mature drake challenged Dumpling’s authority and won.

After Beauregard left, Bacall and Stella bathed to wash off the adrenalin rush Wing flapping shakes off excess water but it also dissipates adrenalin

A ruffled Dumpling flaps his wings in victory after Beauregard leftTo this day, Dumpling remains slight though fully grown. He’s regained his feisty attitude but is too small to be an effective protector of his bonded partner, the lovely and loud Bacall. Bacall’s charms are well sampled by the domestic birds residing at the south end now that the breeding season is at fever pitch. These photos show an after dark tryst between Beauregard and Bacall. Through his encounter, Dumpling badgered him to leave with pokes and bites. Being a seasoned home wrecker, Beauregard ignored the pest until his ardor was satisfied. Bacall joined Stella for a vigorous bath following her encounter while Dumpling wing-flapped a message to the flock that he was the winner though he had little to do with Beauregard’s departure.

No hen is safe from advances by wayward drakes intent on expressing their (usually unwanted) love. Even heroically proportioned male can’t defend their partner’s honor when distracted or approached by a band of two or more thug drakes seeking hanky panky. They usually are quickly dispatched by the marauders or join the party once the water begins to splash.

Dumpling is an eager lad

January 29th, 2014     1 comment     permalink

Swimming cheek-to-cheek, Dumpling and Bacall date near the millpond

While it appears Dumpling is still infatuated with the lovely, yet noisy, Bacall (above), he keeps his options open by reminding the always flirtatious Mrs PomPom he hasn’t made any rock-solid commitments for this spring’s nesting season (below).

Buddy informs Dumpling he'd better watch his step with Mrs PomPomBuddy, however, sends a clear message via a nip on the neck that Mrs PomPom’s virtue is cherished by the Buda Bunch. Dumpling has not obtained permission to make goo-goo eyes at her. Dumpling has come a long way since cowering in the cemetery after he was dumped in early May (when I thought he was a she because he was so slight).

Fluffed instead of roughed up

January 21st, 2014     0 comments     permalink

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

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

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

Clairly buddies, but not Clairs

November 30th, 2013     0 comments     permalink

I thought there are five Rouen Clair ducks on the Brighton millpond plus several hybrids mixed with other species. It turns out they aren’t Clairs. They are all Rouens instead. One of the them stays at the north end, one of the six dumped dumped ducks left at the pond on September 16th.

The other four stout birds swim near Main Street. They’re easiest to identify by the company they keep: Bogie and Bacall (left) hang out with Dumpling, the smallest of the white Pekin ducks; Stella and Franny (right) are buddies with Rusty, the only Saxony duck on the pond.

Bogie (below) and Bacall, two Rouen Clair ducks on the Brighton millpond Rusty with his buddies, Stella (on right) being followed by Stanley

Bacall is a noisy hen with an incessantly loud, grating (and amusing) quack. Her previous owner’s neighbors probably complained which lead the pair to be brought to the millpond. Bacall has a sedate white necklace that belies her boisterous personality. She’s the only Rouen with white wing tips making her easy to spot.

The other three can be identified by their behaviors. Bogie and Franny, are like guys who hide behind newspapers with their morning coffee. Other than occasional “Yes, dears,” they let their better halves do the talking. Stella isn’t as vocal as Bacall, but she reminds Franny and Rusty she’s a hen who will not be ignored through head bobs and clucking.

Millpond ducks as economic indicators

October 24th, 2013     0 comments     permalink

The three most recently dumped ducks stay together

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

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

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

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

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

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

Desi chases the three newcomers away from SweetPea

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

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

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

Jiminy appears to be the alpha duck for the new trio

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

Pond Politics: Dumpling meets his match

September 23rd, 2013     0 comments     permalink

When six new ducks arrived at the north end of the millpond on September 16th, the dynamics of the subflock changed. Dumpling’s placid realm was invaded and he wasn’t amused. He gathered his courage and forced the new ducks to cower in the laundromat parking lot. Each time they moved toward the pond, he’d charge up the bank flapping his wings to scare the bejeebbers out of them. Still stressed in an unfamiliar environment, they fled even though the two drakes in the new group were larger than him.

That changed overnight on September 21st. I don’t know what transpired, but suddenly, the new ducks were wading in the water and Dumpling was obeying their every command. One of the new drakes must have come to his senses and challenged the smaller tyrant. These two pictures tell the story:

Dumpling is separated from the larger drake by an innocent bystander duck

Note how Dumpling is on the perimeter instead of the center of the actionOctober 21st: The red dots are the alliance of Dumpling, Bogie and Bacall. The green dots are the new ducks and the blue dot is their Alpha Drake, a very large Rouen. The purple dots are innocent bystanding ducks.

Note how Dumpling is on the perimeter while the ducks nibble duck chow from the sidewalk. He places himself as far away from the Alpha Drake as he can and even uses an innocent bystanding duck as a shield (top).

See? Humans and ducks understand Might Makes Right and many other interpersonal dynamics. Maybe we could elect a few ducks to Congress and get better results than having all legislators be our own species. At least the legislative process would be more fun to watch. Of course there’s that little matter of housebreaking the birds, but I’m not sure all of our current members have achieved that either.

Pond Politics: Dumpling builds alliance

September 23rd, 2013     0 comments     permalink

Humans evolved from ducks, not great apes. Here’s proof: When Dumpling arrived at the pond circa May 6th, he was a timid soul. So timid, in fact, I thought he was a hen and that seemed reinforced by his slight build. He hid in dark corners of the underbrush for a couple of weeks before he ventured to the shore near Brighton’s City Hall where he encountered the Buda Bunch. As the New Duck in Town, he nervously skirted the edges of Buda’s territory grabbing duck chow when he could but he only lasted two weeks there. Buda and the boys beat him up pretty badly. Next, he paddled to the north end of the millpond.

Bacall, Dumpling, and Bogie trot along together most of the time now

At the time, the north end had about 30 ducks and a slew of ducklings. Bogie and Bacall arrived there before he did but were passive ducks so Dumpling was large enough to defend himself in this subflock. Slowly, Dumpling began to shoehorn himself between the two brown ducks and vie for the lovely (but noisy) Bacall (on left, both photos). Bogie (on right) didn’t seem to care or was too passive to challenge the nervous lad. By the end of August, I noticed the trio had formed a tight alliance with the high-strung/neurotic Dumpling running the show.

Bacall is a loud complainer, but never does anything to change her life Dumpling is neurotic, irrational, but pussy cat sweet Bogie goes along to get along, a very placid drake

As fall approached, most of the ducks moved to the Main Street area of the pond for the treats park visitors offered them there. Dumpling, however, hasn’t budged. He knows where Buda and his brutish buddies live, and he’s been there and done that. He’s happy remaining where life is easy or was until six new ducks rocked his world. See the next post.

Landlubbers: Bogie, Bacall and Dumpling

July 20th, 2013     2 comments     permalink

Bogie, Bacall, and Dumpling on a rainy night

It’s been a while since I’ve reported on three of the dumped ducks; (l-r) Bogie, Bacall, and Dumpling. All reside at the pond’s north end with the slew of wild mallards and wild/domestic hybrids. Since their arrivals after Easter, I’ve rarely seen them swimming. They wade at the shore but show no interest in foraging in the water like their wild kin. Maybe berries dropping from shoreline trees or some delicious water plant will lure them to become more aquatic in the months ahead.

Bacall, brown with white-tipped flight feathers, is probably the noisiest hen in the pond. She can quack incessantly at an annoying decibel level. She and Bogie rarely separate and are amusing to be around, the millpond’s comedy team. Dumpling is still very timid duck. She barges in for duck chow, but usually does it as a grab-and-run before another duck nips her in the rump. Her main problem is my perception of her.

The telltale tail feathers - Dumpling is a maleTelltale Tail Feathers
Ever since Dumpling arrived as a young, frightened duck with a slight build, I’ve thought of her as a hen. Just yesterday, however, I noticed she’s grown curly feathers above her tail. You know what that means? She’s a he! The question of the day: does he need a name change?

I expected these three birds to settle in at the south end of the pond with the other farm ducks, but we might be seeing the foundation of a new domestic sub-flock that stays north year ’round. We won’t know until winter comes. The other domestics stay near Main Street for winter handouts. The wild birds fly the half-mile southward to participate and fly north at dusk, but the domestics can’t fly and won’t waddle that far on the ice. There is adequate food at the north end and enough duck feeders on wintery days that no duck will suffer from hunger pangs so this trio might tough it out. None of them seems aggressive enough to deal with the dominant males of the two other domestic sub-flocks so this might be their solution.

Dumpling’s relocated again

June 8th, 2013     0 comments     permalink

Dumpling has hooked up with two Mallard drakes for a quieter life. Maybe.

She's been badly beaten up by drakes in the Buda BunchAfter two weeks with The Buda Bunch, Dumpling has left the party and hooked up with two Mallard drakes, both smaller than her. The back of her head and upper neck are wounded from mating stress from Buda’s tribe so this move might be an effort for her to stay away from the large domestic species. At least for a while. I suspect she’ll winter with the other domestics near Main Street. She can’t fly back and forth to the north end of the pond with the wild ones.

I’d be surprised if she nests this summer. I don’t believe she’s six months old yet, the typical maturation age to begin breeding. If my guestimate is correct, she’s less than three months old and will grow much larger than her current boyfriends as the months go by.

Waterfowl wallflower

May 24th, 2013     0 comments     permalink

Dumpling stands back to assess the situation

Cold, wet weather kept all of the sane visitors out of Brighton’s millpond park on Thursday night so when I arrived, I was warmly greeted. I found a newcomer mingling with the Buda Bunch near city hall.

Probably raised in a backyard, she's interacting with geese for the first timeDumpling has given up her solitary existence near the Stillwater Grill. Thursday was her first night with the Buda Bunch so it’s hard to tell if she’ll find them friends or foes. I saw Buda forcefully offer his amorous services to her but she dodged his advances.

Clearly, she’s an outsider. It’s evident in the top photo where she’s standing back watching the ducks and geese nibble on duck chow I gave them. She was also evaluating the Canada geese. Since she was probably raised in a backyard, there’s a good chance she never saw a goose before being dumped at the pond. In her eyes, they are bigger and stronger than her. She’s not used to their bullying tactics or incessant hissing. She’ll eventually learn to deal with them like the other ducks.

It took several weeks for Mrs PomPom to be accepted into the Buda Bunch after she arrived at the pond in July, 2011. I imagine Dumpling will experience the same treatment. I’d rather see her join the Dam Tribe instead. They need another female since SweetPea is the object of affection for four drakes. That’s more than the old girl can handle.

Dumpling has meandered a little, Rusty tried

May 19th, 2013     0 comments     permalink

Dumpling has moved to a new location but not attempted to interact with other ducks yet

Dumpling is remaining near the Stillwater Grill but was presumably forced to move out of her small territory by the presence of other ducks and geese families. Even though she remains alone, she seems to be managing. I’ve watched her forage along the shore and swim around a little. She’s still roosting on the fallen tree at night. The wound above her left eye (above) is healing well.

Rusty remains a parking lot attendant. I convinced him to follow me with the promise of some extra duck chow at the end of his journey. We almost made it. Along the way, I coaxed him with a few nibbles. When he saw the huge pond before him, the feathers on the top of his head raised and he spun around and waddled back to the parking lot. Silly duck. Eventually, I’ll cajole him into making the transition to a life in the pond where he can seek some company.

Dumped duck report

May 15th, 2013     0 comments     permalink

Rusty has tried his hand at being a parking attendant

Rusty's feathers aren't being preened well yetRusty is illusive. One night I’ll see him and then next night I won’t. A couple of days ago, he was testing out a new career as a parking lot attendant, but it’s not giving him much time to keep his feathers preened (left). Apparently he’s not paid until the end of the week. He was glad to accept my offer of free duck chow and snarfed it down. He wasn’t there the next night. I don’t think the job worked out.

Dumpling is still hiding in the underbrushDumpling appears to be a home body. She moved from her original location but has remained in the second spot for a week now near Stillwater Grill. I’ve tried to toss her duck chow through the brambles, but it scatters as it hits plant stems. She has a wound above her left eye. It might be from mating, but I think it’s more likely she poked herself on a low branch. At night, she roosts on a fallen tree branch above the water. That’s a good location. She can see predators before they reach her. The hungry raccoon forages nearby.

Meet Rusty: Another dumped duck

May 10th, 2013     2 comments     permalink

Meet Rusty, a new duck at the Brighton millpond

He was probably dropped off at the pond with Dumpling, but I didn’t see him for his first few days. Late Wednesday night, I found Dumpling with a drake in a dark section of the pond. I was happy to see that! I thought her companion was a resident Buff Orpington that would protect her during her orientation period.

Dumpling is hiding in a remote location on the shoreline of the Brighton millpondOn Thursday, I visited the pond before dark and discovered this handsome drake (above) in the same area. I know he’s a new resident because of his coloration. He’s most likely the drake I had seen the night before. He surely has Saxony ancestry, but I can’t find an online picture of a Saxony with an auburn head. He’s probably a special hybrid created by one of the major hatcheries, maybe a mix of Saxony and Khaki Campbell? I’ve named him Rusty since he’s the only duck on the pond with a russet colored head. I hope he fares well but he’s currently on the nightly foraging path of the raccoon so he’d better stay alert! Dumpling wasn’t with him last evening. She moved upstream 200 yards and hid in shoreline vegetation (right).

Duck Updates

May 8th, 2013     3 comments     permalink

Dumpling is still alone but staying safe

Once I start posting about specific ducks, people start contacting me to find out how they are doing so I thought I’d provide a quick summary of ducks recently mentioned. Dumpling (above) remains in Stillwater Bay. Her first night was spent near a bonded pair of mallards, but since then she’s been going it alone usually perched on a submerged log in the pond to avoid predators. The drakes haven’t ravished her yet.

The parking lot duck is being steadfastI discovered the hen nesting in the parking lot (left) is being carefully tended by the fine wait staff at Sushi Zen and they’ve named her Quackz. A delightful waitress told me Quackz’s bonded drake is almost always in attendance, and the hen has been there about three weeks. If they happen to be around when the ducklings hatch, she plans to notify me. I’ve love to help escort the family to the millpond which includes a waddle across Grand River Avenue’s five lanes of constant traffic.

There is no injury to the bill of the  duck hit by the SUV last WednesdayThe Black Swedish duck that was hit by a car is perfectly fine. The drake that was also hit has a slight limp. Dustin, a millpond regular, helped me feed her so I could get good close up shots to see if she has any noticeable injuries (right). I’m happy to report her bill is fine even though it was bloody on the night she was hit. Maybe she bit her tongue in the accident. She eats very well and that’s also a good sign.

There are no wounds from being hit by the SUV on the hen's body eitherFrick is staying away from the pond entirely and is hiding out along Mill Pond Lane to avoid the drakes. She can move her injured wing now so there’s some hope she can fly again. Her bonded partner is usually nearby but he seems to be straying more frequently lately.

Abe and Annabelle, two ducks with injured feet haven’t been seen in a couple of weeks. Tux is also absent. I’m not worried about any of them because the ducks dispersed within just a couple of days weeks ago and all of these disappeared at the same time. I think they are in unvisited nooks at the millpond or have journeyed to nearby ponds. They will all come back eventually. Maybe with ducklings in tow. Willaby vanished at the same time, but Wanda reported a sighting of him a few days ago so he’s A-okay.

A new girl in town

May 6th, 2013     5 comments     permalink

A new duck arrived at the Brighton millpond this weekend. I've named her Dumpling.

I’ve had many interesting coincidences lately. One of them is that I met a charming couple from Salem Township. Both of them come from farming backgrounds and they had ducks in their formative years. We talked about the farm ducks at the millpond and why “pet” ducks are often dumped at the Brighton millpond. Two nights later, I discovered a new duck on the pond, a Pekin. She was cowering in a corner of Stillwater Bay.

Dumpling cowered in a corner when I tried to approach herPekin ducks grow very fast. Within 40 days, they reach about 7 pounds and are ready for slaughter on production farms. Unfortunately, they are also sold as cute little ducklings at Easter. I bet my socks this new arrival was an impulsive Easter present to amuse someone’s kid(s). Easter was 36 days ago and this duck weighs in at 6-7 pounds. The problem is that cute little ducklings grow up and impulsive buyers fail to realize that ducks take lots of care and generate lots of poop. The solution? “Hey, kids. Let’s take Donald to the Brighton millpond where he can find friends and live a good life.” It’s a great myth to tell your children.

The reality is hand-raised ducks dumped into a pond with wild ducks have a life expectancy of less than one year while wild ducks and those kept on farms live 8-12. We had two dumped waterfowl on the pond last year (one survived; I haven’t seen the other one this year). In 2011, we had eight. Only four survived. It’s a thoughtless act to release a domestic, hand-raised duck into the wild. It’s like putting your child on a bus with a one-way ticket to downtown Detroit with no money in their pocket. I could rant on, but I’ve done it many times before.

Shaking off her nervousness, Dumpling stood on a lawn where she could watch for danger in her new environmentI’ve named this new duck Dumpling and will report its life. I think it’s a female. She’s beautiful, but the wild drakes were already eyeing her last night. It’s mating season and I expect she will be brutalized. She was dumped near where Madeline was killed by a raccoon that forages in the area each night. It’s another dumped, hand-raised resident of the pond that arrived last summer. Dumpling was too terrified by her new environment for me to get close to her last night, but within a day or so she’ll discover people will throw food to her. It’s a good thing. Most domestics aren’t skilled at foraging for themselves. With luck, she’ll be accepted by one of the two subflocks of domestics. Without luck she may live a short and miserable life.

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