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.

Franny still amuses the boys

January 29th, 2016     6 comments     permalink

Duke (foreground), Dazzle, and Razzle are still infatuated with the lovely (and noisy) Franny

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 has a limp but still cuts a dashing figure standing on the millpond iceDuke, 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.

Dazzle and Razzle take a moment away from their sweetheart to float in peace and quietThe 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.

Franny misses the boys

August 15th, 2015     0 comments     permalink

Franny is thrilled to see me arrive with vittles

As a domestic Rouen hen with at least three faithful suitors, Franny has lead an amusing life for more than a year. Fred and Rusty vanished this summer via death or theft, but Dazzle, Razzle, and Duke have endured Franny’s nesting duties and remained close until this past week. They returned to the flock near Main Street leaving Franny alone to face the last few days of nesting.

Her meal is followed by a drink of parking lot waterShe greets my visits with more excitement now that the boys aren’t around to keep her company. As soon as she hears my voice, she usually bounds out of the nest and starts squawking. She’ll eat 3-6 big handfuls of food daily. Last night, she followed her meal by swilling rainwater from a puddle beside the storm sewer in a parking lot (right). That can’t be healthy but urban ducks do such things.

She waddled around looking for her boyfriends after eating

Then she started squawking loudly while dashing around looking for the boys. Off she ran for about 1/8 of a mile squawking as she waddled hoping one of her once-faithful admirers would respond. None of them did. So she went to the pond’s edge, squawked some more and bathed. First she tossed water over her head to wet her back (below).

Tossing water over her head before a short bath revived her

Preening a little, she gets ready to take a short swim and then return to her nestThen she plunged in for a full scrub and perched on a rock for a brief preening session of her disheveled feathers that look particularly shabby lately since she is molting. Instead of waddling, she paddled back, emerged from the pond, and returned to her nest.

The whole recess was 25 minutes away from her six remaining eggs. I hope her devotion to her nest is rewarded with a half dozen ducklings this next week.

Franny endures tacky home decorating

August 10th, 2015     1 comment     permalink

Franny endures some tacky decor at her nestHow this large flour sack and yeast container arrived on Franny’s doorstep is a mystery. We haven’t had any strong winds within the past day so I suspect some well meaning park visitor or merchant placed it beside her nest thinking it would help conceal her. Being the accommodating hen that she is, she endured the addition to her front yard. My career in design couldn’t tolerate it. I removed the tacky decor that lacked curb appeal and might attract predators.

Franny began sitting on 18 eggs the week of July 20th so she’s in her final stretch. Only 6 eggs remain beneath her, but I’m hoping she hatches a few of them to bring some hybrid Rouen ducklings to the pond in the third week of August.

Franny returns to the nest

August 6th, 2015     0 comments     permalink

Franny has proved she's a "broody" hen with her tenacious sitting

I was wrong … again. Franny returned to her nest, discarded the three pilfered eggs and is sitting once again. Her three suitors are staying a safe distance away from her but are ready to escort her to the pond a couple of times a day so she can freshen up and stretch her legs.

After a dainty repast I offered her one night this week, she and I returned to the nest and I helped her count the remaining eggs (below). We both came up with seven though there are at least two at a lower level in the nest that weren’t included because I think they aren’t viable. Having started with 18, it’s a mystery where many of them have gone. Hens will move eggs out of their nests when they realize they aren’t viable so I assume she’s done that. No shells are in the immediate vicinity. Will any of these eggs hatch? Franny is more confident than I am. She has a couple more weeks to go. Stay tuned.

Franny counts her eggs for me. She announced there are seven still in the nest

Plunder at Franny’s nest

July 31st, 2015     0 comments     permalink

Most of her 18 eggs remained in the nest but candling indicated most were not viable

Vermin attacked Franny’s nest on Wednesday. I found 3 eggs broken two feet from the nest with their contents gone. I suspect the culprit was a skunk. Raccoons or canines would probably do more damage. Franny was not in attendance and no feathers were found indicating she was harmed.

Three eggs were moved two feet from the nest and their contents consumedHer absence gave me a chance to candle the remaining eggs. Many appeared infertile. Light from my flashlight revealed no vein development and none showed movement. Three showed large air sacks which I can’t interpret.

I searched for Franny near the fire station where Duke, Dazzle, and Razzle have been loitering. No sign of the quartet there nor were they at the south end with the rest of the flock. This signals the end of Franny’s nesting season, but more ducklings should hatch before autumn arrives though I haven’t found any active nests.

July nestings

July 26th, 2015     1 comment     permalink

I suspect there are still several wild ducks nesting though I know of only one active Mallard nest right now. They are hard to find. We usually have a ducklings hatch into August and sometimes later. Domestic ducks don’t follow the same calendars as Mallards and two birds have been actively sitting on eggs.

First the bad news: Onyx, the Cayuga duck who hatched and lost all of her ducklings during her first nesting, tried again in the same planter behind Main Street stores. Apparently, those nine eggs have been stolen by a human. If a predator had taken them, fragments of shells would be left behind. None were found. It’s too bad. I was looking forward to seeing if she had gained any parenting skills following the failures in June. It’s too late for her to try again this year.

Franny has laid 18 eggs in an undisclosed location

Franny, on the other hand, began sitting again this past week! She’s amassed 18 eggs in a location that won’t be identified until they hatch or the nest is destroyed by predators or humans. Her first clutch of 14 eggs resulted in only two ducklings reaching the six week mark. They are doing fine learning how to be part of the flock as I write this.

Updates on the 2014 Dazzlettes

July 12th, 2015     1 comment     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.

Four of Dazzle's kids spend most of their time together now that breeding has slowed down at the millpond

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.

Onyx has decided she's going to attempt mothering againDazzle’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.

Franny is a lollygagger

July 3rd, 2015     0 comments     permalink

Franny loiters with her boyfriends

Franny's two tykes are winging itLast evening, Franny was found on the lawn with her three faithful boyfriends and her two ducklings were no where to be found. No peeps were coming from shore and Franny showed no stress regarding their whereabouts.

At dusk, the quartet of adult ducks journeyed to their night roost near the Imagination Station where, wonder of wonders, the two ducklings rejoined the family. Yea! When they peeped for mom, she responded with concern but didn’t join them below the sidewalk. She was quite happy to be up top with the drakes in her life.

The babes are just shy of three weeks old. They can probably make it on their own since they’ve passed the vulnerable two week milestone. They look healthy so they are good at making their own food choices. Hope they stay away from French fries and Doritos since I doubt mom will insist they eat their veggies.

Comparing Dazzle with Razzle

July 2nd, 2015     0 comments     permalink

Razzle, on left, is a bit larger than his dad, Dazzle

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 kids are thriving though one of them is a bit smaller

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.

Franny won’t make the cut

June 30th, 2015     2 comments     permalink

The kids stay close to mom when they can

It is with regret I announce Franny is out of the running for Mother of the Year at the Brighton millpond. Even though her two surviving ducklings are doing alright, she has little to do with their well being. They are often left alone while she jabbers with her three suitors or entertains visiting domestic drakes who stop by for a quickie. Castor is shown (below left) on one of his frequent unwelcome dates with her. Her squabbling doesn’t dissuade his advances.

Castor pays an unwanted visit to Franny while her suitors express their dissatisfaction A family portrait of Franny with the family minus Duke who was busy elsewhere at this moment

Dazzle and his son, Razzle, have been steadfast companions for the Rouen hen (above right) and often lead the entire family to roosting locations at twilight (top and below left). Yet both of the Cayuga ducks take pokes at the ducklings when they can get away with it (below right). Drakes are like that. They would much prefer ducklings vanish so the hens will have more time to amuse them.

Dazzle and Razzle lead the way to the family's roosting spot Razzle takes a poke at one of the youngsters

Franny moves the ducklings

June 18th, 2015     0 comments     permalink

Running from the drakes, the ducklings scurry after Franny

Franny above, babies below. No one is happy.It was late by the time I got to the pond last night to confirm what Ashley discovered in the afternoon. Franny wasn’t near the parking lot where she had been for the past three days with the ducklings. I heard no peeping coming from the shore either. Her retinue of males were gone, too, so that surely meant she had decided to move the entire family to another location in the pond.

I drove to the pond’s south end hoping to spot Franny where she spent last winter. As soon as I arrived, I heard her frantically squawking near the Tridge. No other duck has the raspy quack like Franny’s. While up on the sidewalk being chased by drakes, her babies were 10″ below her on the pond’s embankment vying for her attention with incessant peeping. Dazzle, Razzle, and Duke (her suitors) watched as she dodged rogue males. Drakes in rut found her irresistible in the pouring rain though she was disheveled and stressed being forced by the boys to leave her chicks untended.

The kids watch as mom bathesFranny eventually returned to her youngsters and bathed to disperse the adrenalin rush from the pack of boys chasing her. The kids looked like they needed a nap after their long journey to the south end and enduring a hectic evening watching mating rituals.

Franny has lost 80% of her brood in less than four days. People ask if ducks grieve. Maybe for an hour but it’s in the form of agitation instead of sorrow. They’re too busy tending surviving chicks, assessing dangers, and finding food.

Poor Franny …

June 17th, 2015     1 comment     permalink

Franny with her nine surviving ducklings on June 14Every day brings more tragedy to Franny’s brood. I had plans to write about her seven remaining ducklings tonight but got word from Ashley that she only has two left. Here’s the story with as much detail as I have:

June 14: I found Franny with what I believe were 11 ducklings under shrubs near her nest. She hatched what I think were 13 eggs in the early morning hours so she lost two on the first day.

June 15: I received word from a duck watcher that there was an incident in the parking lot where one duckling died and another had an injured leg. A Good Samaritan tracked down a duck rehabber in the Lansing area (Howell Nature Center was closed and at capacity) who agreed to accept the injured bird and she drove it there at her own expense. Franny had nine remaining ducklings. This is the day all of the photos on this page were taken. NOte the orange and black-splotchy feet on some of them. Parfait is probably their father. It’s a trait of Ancona ducks like Parfait’s dad, MooseTracks.

The blotchy feet might mean they are Parfait's children Notice the feet on these youngsters

June 16: I arrived about 30 minutes after a team of fire fighters attempted to retrieve two of Franny’s chick from a storm drain that has a direct link to the pond. The ducklings could not be found. I stuck around listening for their peeping in the millpond that night. Nothing. Franny had seven ducklings under her when I left.

June 17: Ashley reports only two ducklings with Franny and one dead on the lawn. Nothing is known about the other four. Sigh.

One has exceptional markingsFranny nested on a landscaped island in the middle of a parking lot. She did this to avoid the raccoon that ransacked two attempts at nesting in 2014. She didn’t move her family away from the nesting site following their hatching which was probably a big mistake. Young ducks need the nutrients they can find near the shore or in lawns — tiny bugs, green stuff and floating duckweed. These little ones have been searching for food on cedar chips and hot asphalt instead. They’ve also been drinking water in parking lot puddles that’s probably laced with oil and gasoline. I’m sure that’s contributed to the death of several.

It’s her first brood. She’s inexperienced as well as being a domestic duck that has had some of her innate mothering skills bred out of her. She doesn’t know how to lead them to good food sources and keep them grouped together. Note how free ranging they are in this photo:

Franny allowed her ducklings to roam too far from her

Successful hens keep their kids in tight clutches so they don’t wander and expose themselves to predation. See the duckling in the top right corner? She’s done as best she could and I hope her remaining two thrive, but if they are lost, I’m sure she’ll nest again this summer. Her suitors stay close by and will see to that.

Franny’s a mom … finally

June 15th, 2015     3 comments     permalink

Franny had 14 eggs and one was left in the next unhatched

In 2014, Franny attempted to nest twice but both clutches of eggs were destroyed by a marauding raccoon. This year, she nested away from the pond near a dumpster behind La Marsa restaurant. That concerned me because raccoons visit the trash bins and dumpsters near the Brighton millpond. Domestic ducks aren’t great at protecting themselves from predators. Franny was dumped at the millpond in August, 2013 with another Rouen hen who was consumed by a coyote in the winter of 2014.

On each of my pond visits during the past month, I’ve made it a point to check on her and provide her with a couple of handfuls of duck chow. She usually would come off the nest to eat it so I could check the eggs. I knew her 14 eggs would hatch this week so when I found her nest empty except for one unbroken one Sunday night, I wasn’t surprised, but I was a bit disappointed that I didn’t find her still sitting there with a few tiny heads poking out underneath her. I thought she had already taken the tykes to the pond and I wouldn’t get a chance to see them on their first day.

Franny presents her hatchlings to me I think there are 11 hatchlings

Dazzle, Razzle, and Duke (her suitors) were in the parking lot about 50 feet from her nest. I walked to them to give them some duck chow. As soon as I rattled the container, I heard a squawk behind me. No other duck squawks like Franny. She was under a shrub with the babies. After she snarfed down two handfuls of food she presented the kids to me.

The chicks are less than a day old

I still can’t tell you how many there are. The maximum could be 13 since she had 14 eggs but one didn’t hatch, but I can only see 11 in these photos. The way they huddle together, the fuzzballs blend into one another and I didn’t want to disturb them any more than I already was doing. Within a day or two, mom will have the troupe in the water and it will be easy to count the ones that are left though it may be less than seen last night.

Most ducklings are dark like Dazzle A couple of them have unusual facial markings

Most are very dark so there’s a good chance their father is Dazzle or his son, Razzle. A couple of them have unusual patterns on their heads (above right) so Parfait may have paid a visit and rendered his services. None of them look like Rusty or Fred, but their traits may reveal themselves as the youngsters begin to grow.

One of the chicks waddled over to me and Franny didn't seem concerned for its safety

One of the little guys waddled over to me and Franny didn’t seem a bit stressed by me being so close to it. I’m not sure that’s a good sign. I’d prefer she guard them with all her might so predators and people can’t come close. Little birds like these are very fragile. Their internal organs aren’t protected by ribs so one wrong squeeze by a child can be fatal within 24 hours.

A few of the young have unique markings so they can  be easily identified as they grow up, something I always appreciate since ducks refuse to wear name tags. At least one of them appears to be gray with a light colored chest (below right). The darkest ones all have white chests now but they might lose those chest markings and become solid black like Dazzle as they grow.

Franny has a jumble of fuzzballs under her At least one of them is gray with a white chest

Rouen hens are rated as “good” mothers so it will be interesting to see how successful Franny is raising her first family. I think she’ll have at least three suitors following along with the kids but drakes aren’t protective of ducklings, but they will alert the entire family when danger comes near. By Monday evening, you might find Franny and her newborns searching for insects and vegetation along the shore or in the water near Stillwater Grill. She may decide to take them elsewhere, but she seems to be content in this area of the pond because there are less rogue drakes with whom she must contend.

The weather is warm but they still seek mom's comfort

The Millpond’s Fran Club

May 21st, 2015     2 comments     permalink

"The Fran Club" waits for Franny to take a break from nestingFranny wasn’t with her suitors on Wednesday so I knew she was nesting somewhere nearby. Her beaus will stay near for at least a few days. Then they might decide to seek the companionship of other hens who aren’t nesting.

The “Fran Club” has four members: Rusty, Dazzle, Fred, and Duke. Another drake would dearly love to join them. He’s Dazzle’s son from last summer (foreground, right). He’s kept at a distance by Duke and Rusty but will eventually be granted full membership. What makes them decide interlopers can be allowed into the inner circle? Maybe they just tire of chasing them away.

Franny has found a shady spot for her nest

She's laid 15 eggs!Franny’s nest was easy to find. Perhaps too easy. I hope a predator or human doesn’t disturb it. She’s laid 15 eggs! One doesn’t show in the photo but it’s there. Last summer, she attempted nesting twice. Both nests were plundered by raccoons. They were right along the shore where raccoons stroll while this one isn’t on the bandits’ nightly rounds so there is hope. The ducklings could be a wild assortment since they can be fathered individually by the suitors. Check back about June 18. You might see pictures of them.

The park’s resident rabbit is comfortable around the Fran Club ducks so she often joins them when duck chow is served. I’ve sandwiched three images of her together, below. She seemed especially hungry last night. She might be thinking about having her second litter of the summer and need additional calories. I haven’t seen any gentlemen callers roaming her neighborhood, but rabbits are skilled in finding mates even though they lack saloons, tight jeans, and tank tops.

The park's resident rabbit like to dine with the ducks

Franny moves her tribe northward

April 28th, 2015     0 comments     permalink

Franny and her retinue of four drakes are now near Stillwater Grill

To avoid the frenzy at the south end of the Brighton millpond, Franny (brown duck, lower right) has moved her retinue to the area in front of Stillwater Grill. Clockwise from upper left, Duke, Rusty, Dazzle, and Fred follow Franny wherever she leads them. The fifth duck in the center is one of Dazzle’s offspring from last summer. I’m not sure if he’s seeking the affections of Franny or just hanging with his dad and the others. We’ll see as spring progresses.

Last year, only Dazzle and Rusty traveled with Franny. Since SweetPea’s rescue, Fred became infatuated with the voluptuous female Rouen duck. Duke has been Fred’s sidekick for a couple of years. He’s just along for the ride. He’s probably the oldest domestic duck on the pond since SweetPea and MooseTracks are gone. I don’t have a firm date of when he was dumped but it was prior to 200

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.

The millpond’s most colorful triad

November 15th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

Dazzle is still handsome as he approaches the end of his third year at the pond

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.

Rusty, Dazzle and Franny are the millpond's most colorful triad and are always togetherOnly 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.

Protecting abandoned domestic ducks

October 26th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

(l to r) Rusty, Franny, and Dazzle on a late September cruise of the Brighton millpond

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.

Franny: Empty nester again

August 14th, 2014     0 comments     permalink


This isn’t Franny’s year for ducklings. She nested earlier but her eggs were found by raccoons. She tried again this past week vanishing for several days. Dazzle and Rusty, her two suitors, stood nearby for a few days then returned to their nightly roost near the Imagination Station. Last night, Franny joined them again (above, right). That tells me her nest has been found by predators and she won’t be returning to it.

Two other domestic ducks are currently incubating eggs but the chances of ducklings arriving are slim. Mrs PomPom and Jemima have both had previous nest this year with a whopping total of 35 eggs in the pair! Unfortunately, no ducklings were born from their efforts. That’s not unusual for Pekins who aren’t known to be good mothers. But either one could surprise us within the next three weeks!

Rusty/Franny: Ransacked Romance

May 18th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

Bacall shows off in the presence of the visiting Rusty

May 16: You can take the drake out of the parking lot, but not the parking lot out of the drake.

No self-respecting drake likes to be tied to a hen who is too busy tending the eggs to swim away with him on romanic pond excursions. Drakes require the bliss of being free and open to all of the possibilities the pond can offer. Hence, Rusty’s devotion to Franny (I’ve officially renamed Stanley due to my initial error thinking she was a male.) has waned.

Rusty and Bacall spend time together after Rusty asked Dumpling to leave

Rusty primps not knowing Stanley's nest is being destroyed while he's entertaining BacallAfter seeing Rusty dutifully guarding Franny’s nest in the evening, I found he had snuck away in darkness to woo the ever-popular Bacall who had been faithful to Dumpling for months. The wooing included shooing of her perky Pekin partner. Yup. Dumpling was dumped. Life is unfair when ducks listen to their hearts.

While the exact circumstances are unknown, during their reckless affair, Franny’s nest was ransacked, probably by a thoughtless and hungry raccoon. The transgression was almost inevitable. The nest was built at the shoreline on a path the resident millpond raccoon takes on its nightly forays. Franny couldn’t be found. Was the sitting duck a dinner with a side of eggs?
The remains of Stanley's nest is seen through the underbrush
The following evening, I was happy to find Rusty’s dalliance with the white-tipped female was merely a brief tryst. He had returned to the distraught Franny and their relationship was rekindled. I have a hunch he didn’t mention his date with another hen. He probably alluded to an evening spent with drakes, a oft-used dodge. They accepted a bill-to-bill handout from me as I reassured them summer allows them ample time to raise a family again. They made no promises.

Franny celebrates Mother’s Day

May 11th, 2014     2 comments     permalink

Stanley is nesting now. Hatch date is circa end of May

Franny has set up housekeeping near the midpoint of the millpond and Rusty, her bonded partner, is doing his best to keep the roving drakes from disturbing her as she sits on her eggs. She’s taken time out of her dull sitting duties to come up to me to yammer about something — the accommodations, the neighbors, the weather — I’m not sure what, but she is famished when she arrives. Rouen hens are rated as “GOOD” mothers. I think she’ll stay the course so we can expect wee Rouen/Saxony ducklings near the end of May. We’ll see if Rusty remains attentive the entire nesting period. Drakes usually lose interest as the hen sits, but he’s an unusual fellow and might cling to the bonded life.

Franny needs an image makeover

April 16th, 2014     3 comments     permalink

It’s humbling to blog. My errors are right here for the world to see.

Stanley is a female Rouen duck

From comparing millpond ducks to photos found online, I pegged the four large brown domestic ducks dumped on the pond last summer as Rouen Clairs, an offshoot from Rouens. They were abandoned in two pairs at different times: Bogie and Bacall; Stella and Stanley (aka Franny now).

Rusty has convinced me I’m wrong. He’s bonded with Stanley and they are setting up housekeeping in the bay south of the Stillwater Grill. Since same sex waterfowl pairings aren’t common, I did some more duck identification research online. It turns out Stanley and Bogie weren’t Rouen Clair drakes or Rouen Clairs at all. They are Rouen hens. [Note: since first writing this post, Bogie has been lost, but I’ve renamed Stanley Franny. Forgive the confusion in some posts.] I should have known Franny was a hen. Look at how beautiful she is as she quacks sweet nothings with the infatuated Rusty (on left, above).

The Rouen has a chipped bill but is doing fine

Stella and Stanley Kowalski were named at Wanda’s suggestion because domestic ducks at the pond “have always depended on the kindness of strangers,” a line uttered by Blanche Dubois in Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire. But Stanley doesn’t look like a Blanche to me. Blanche was fragile and troubled. Stanley is a duck with heft and endurance as evident by her surviving with a chipped bill (above), the result of an unknown mishap after her pond debut. So Stanley is now Franny for no particular reason other than Stan and Fran rhyme.

Rusty finds Stella dreamy

January 16th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

Rusty stares at lovely Stella, a Rouen Clair hen

Rusty isn’t at the head-over-heels stage yet, but he’s paying close attention to Stella (top right). She arrived this past summer with Franny. I’m not sure how he feels about this budding relationship. The three ducks paddle around together, but as mating season arrives in March or April there will surely be some changes in relationships. We haven’t had Rouen ducklings on the millpond before. Last summer brought four new hens so the French breed might be well represented in the 2014 Fertility Tournament.

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.

Swimming with the biggin’s

August 27th, 2013     0 comments     permalink

The female Wood Duck swims with the other newbies near Main StreetThe newly arrived female Wood Duck* is fully grown, but looks tiny next to the Rouen newbies weighing 6-8 pounds. Rouens are not popular as meat ducks because they may take 2 years to reach their maximum weight. Pekins reach a market weight of 7 pounds in 40-50 days (depending upon lineage) so they dominate commercial farming with 95% of the US market.

Rouens may reach 12 pounds. A full grown female Woody would be lucky to reach 1.5 pounds.

*Long after this post was written, it was discovered the small duck is a Mandarin female instead of a Wood Duck.

Meet Stella and Franny

August 27th, 2013     1 comment     permalink

Stella is probably the duck on the left

Although the new ducks mingle with the Mallard flock, they are not at ease with them yetKowalski was named at the suggestion of Wanda because domestic ducks discarded at the pond survive “on the kindness of strangers,” Blanche’s famous line in “A Streetcar Named Desire.” Since he vanished downstream within 24 hours of his arrival, the two newly dumped ducks can rightfully be named for characters in Tennessee William’s play without stepping on his limited theatrical coattails. This bonded pair were originally cast in the Mr. and Mrs. Kowalski roles.  A future dumpee will surely fill the role of Blanche. [Note: Since this post was originally written, it was discovered that Stanley was a female so he was renamed Franny.]

They spend time watching the resident ducks to see where they can fit into the flockFirst noticed on August 22, the duo may have been on the pond for some time since they were already mingling with the Mallards near City Hall and their coloration is similar. They are Rouen ducks, the same domestic breed as Kowalski and the combo dumped in May, Bogie and Bacall. Like the other discarded Rouens, these two are beautifully marked and healthy.

Most of their time in the water is spent huddled together as they figure out their place within the resident millpond flockThey are still attempting to establish their hierarchy within the flock. If you watch them for a few minutes, you can tell they are ill at ease and stick together for safety’s sake. Resident birds challenge them but they fight back and are big enough to hold their own in any tussle.

Both of the Rouen Clair birds are beautiful and look healthyChances are good they will survive the transition to millpond life without the care and attention their previous owner gave them, but they will have to do their own foraging and stay alert to avoid predators.

Which one is Stella and which is Franny? I think the larger, duller colored bird is Stella. Ask me again next spring when their behavior mimics inebriates in singles bars an hour before closing.

They swim in tandem and often stay clear of the rest of the ducks but will eventually feel more comfortable with them

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