A second slim chance for SweetPea

April 5th, 2012     2 comments     permalink

I found the Dam Tribe loitering in an unlikely spot a few nights ago. I knew something was up. In poking around I discovered the irrepressible SweetPea had set up house for the second time this year. It looked like a little kid’s fort under a newly leafed shrub. I doubt she moved the cinder blocks herself so she took advantage of someone’s discarded construction materials. You could say she’s gone GREEN since no new building materials were used in the creation of her new home.

In fact, it’s more like a pigeon’s nest than a ducks. I don’t think she moved as much as a stick before declaring it “home.” She just found the corner where two brick walls meet that happened to have cinder blocks guarding it. It’s surely the most fortified nest she’s had in the past three years. Now we’ll see if she keeps her focus and hatches any of the eggs. As of last night, she has laid seven eggs (right). Since she’s not actively sitting yet, she has plans to add more to the clutch. Once she has her full assortment of muddied eggs and begins warming them up, it will require 28 days of her almost undivided attention. Unfortunately, she’s easily distracted and the chances of success are about 1 in 10. Stay tuned.

SweetPea: Nesting and the Lure of the Pond

August 7th, 2011     2 comments     permalink

August 4: I found SweetPea bathing at the millpond instead of tending her eggs when I arrived. She was one very grungy duck (above). Her buddies, the drakes, were obviously glad to have her pay a visit and they gave her protection but no privacy while she washed up and preened (below left) but she wasn’t as happy to have my attention. She actually distanced herself from me (below right).

But once she was cleaned up, she begged for some duck chow and enjoyed the repast before getting the urge to cross the street to get back to the nest (below). Once she decides to return to the nest, she’s on her way. She doesn’t look both ways before crossing either. I played traffic cop but in the middle of the road, she took a moment to decide whether she wanted to go back to the pond or go home (left). My presence might have made her question whether she wanted to reveal her nest’s location to me although I had visited her daily and knew all about it. I doubt ducks remember such details.

When I saw the nest, I realized why she was so dirty. One of the eggs was broken, and the nest was coated in goo. Even some of the surrounding yucca leaves had yolk on them. It was probably deposited there from her belly when she left the nest an hour before.

Only three eggs were left. She started with eight. I don’t know what happened to the others. No shells are around. I suspect a human is doing housework for her while she’s nesting. Many people are aware of the nest and just can’t let it alone. Maybe the eggs have been stolen? Why wouldn’t they take all of them if that were the case? A mystery.

August 6: SweetPea was already at the pond hanging out with the boys when I arrived at the pond. She never returned to the nest during my hours-long visit. I think she’s abandoned the nest but I can’t confirm that until my next visit. She’s done it before. Twice.

She and her retinue of three drakes swam and then drank from the puddle under the drinking fountains (below). She was very clean. She’s obviously spent a great deal of time preening. Imagine trying to get dried raw egg out of feathers without the aid of soap. She did it! Stay tuned for the sequel. I’m sure they’ll be one.

SweetPea fails again

July 8th, 2011     1 comment     permalink

Unlike Ester, SweetPea (aka HussyHen) is a clueless mother. Her nesting and parenting skills are almost nonexistent although she attempts to participate in the mating/nesting/parenting with meager results. She can’t be blamed. She’s a domestic duck someone abandoned at the pond. In 2010, she abandoned her first clutch of eggs but nested a second time and brought four ducklings to the pond. Within a week, three had died. The fourth (probably) died in this past month although there is scant hope she left the pond to nest and might return any minute.

In mid-June of this year, SweetPea built a flimsy nest of sticks in the massive hollow trunk of the Sycamore tree behind Beverly Rae’s Boutique. Within days, two of the eggs were removed, probably by a park visitor due to its unwise location in a high traffic area 30 feet from the millpond. Another egg was snatched soon after. A week later, the remaining three eggs were cracked and rotting. Maybe a park visitor intentionally did it, but the shells might have been weak and SweetPea’s own weight might have done the damage.

She still might nest again this summer. Her neck shows wounds from mating. But even if she does, the chances of producing ducklings able to survive is not very good. She’s a sweet, friendly duck, but her domestic genetics haven’t served her well as a parent in the wild world.

Fluffed, Tucked and Wary

February 2nd, 2011     0 comments     permalink

One of the millpond’s celebri-ducks named Sweetpea (aka HussyHen) keeps an eye on me as I photograph her on a cold night. All of the resident ducks are conflicted when humans approach. They have to evaluate whether we’re there to harass or feed them. Humans do both.

Ducks look like they weigh twice as much in mid-winter. They fluff out their feathers to trap body heat. You’d think their feet would freeze solid standing in the snow, but wild birds regulate the blood flow to their extremities through “counter-current exchange” which keeps their feet warm and above freezing without draining heat from the rest of their bodies. They often stand on one leg so they can retract the other into their feathers to warm it then shift their stance.

I’ve wondered why most birds tuck in their bills when they rest. Since they do it year ’round, its purpose isn’t just for warmth. From online sources, the main reasons appear to be so their heads don’t bobble as they doze, it reduces strain on their necks, they can easily scan for predators, and it diminishes heat loss through their bills.

Final Report: The 2010 Ducklings

October 28th, 2010     0 comments     permalink

The Nine Duckling Family

You’ve learned more than you want to know about this year’s duckling crop, but I thought I’d wrap it up. The hen with eleven ducklings succeeded in raising nine to adulthood. Only recently has she relinquished her parental responsibilities and her ducklings have dispersed. Just a month ago, her brood still followed her commands and she (upper left) pulled back to give them room to roam within her eyesight.

While still a clueless mother, the HussyHen has managed to raise one of her four chicks to maturity. A month ago, he was an ungainly teenager stage (below) with his feet and bill out of proportion. Now, he’s almost the size of the adults and he’s got the moxie to compete with the rest of the ducks. He’s more vocal than most ducks. He learned to squawk to get his mother’s attention. With his unique markings, he’ll be easy to identify in the future. I think he’ll be a handsome rascal once his feathers reach full size.

The Quacking of a Teenager

Duckling Update: Winner & Still Champion

September 18th, 2010     0 comments     permalink

Nine Ducklings are Left

I think it’s safe to say the above brood is the largest for the 2010 season. Last year, I saw some just-hatched  ducklings about this time of year, but I haven’t seen any this September. While she started with eleven, she’s only lost two and continues to carefully guard them. All of the brood looks really healthy and are big enough now to withstand the cold nights. Throughout the summer, they normally sleep in this shallow depression in the grass near the city hall to share their warmth now that they can’t huddle under mom’s wings.

Below, the remaining duckling of the HussyHen survives in spite of being essentially ignored by his mom. He swims with her buddies and they give him a certain amount of protection. he’ll probably survive because he’s more than a month old now so hypothermia isn’t as great of a threat. If we have an early cold snap, however, he may be in jeopardy.

The Scrapper Thrives

Duckling Update: Ducks in a Row

September 6th, 2010     0 comments     permalink

Ducklings in a Row

Still the leading entry in the 2010 Fertility Tournament, Duck Division, even though she’s lost another duckling since the last update, the ducklings in her care are not let out of her sight. She’s a diligent mother as you can tell by the way she parades the troop (above).

Maybe during the winter, she can transmit her maternal procedures to the HussyHen (below) who still doesn’t have a clue when it comes to raising little ones. While she was photographed near her only remaining tyke last night, it’s not always her style. Often, she’s with her buddies while he’s halfway down the pond peeping his heart out trying to locate her. He’s definitely got pluck. Hope he makes it.

HussyHen with Surviving Duckling

Duckling Update

August 26th, 2010     2 comments     permalink

10 Ducklings are Doing Fine

Still prevailing champion of the 2010 Fertility Tournament, Duck Division, the hen of the above tribe lets her brood wander a few feet from her now that they’ve grown a bit. Even though she’s lost one of her eleven within the past week, she a very protective mom. None of the other ducks on the pond have more youngsters to watch or does a better job of it.

The news on the HussyHen, however, isn’t as good. She lost one of her two remaining chicks. The sole survivor seems to be a fighter and looks healthy, but he’s going to have to raise himself. She pays little attention to him and leaves him in harm’s way much of the time. At night, she often hangs with her buddies and leaves him in the pond alone. Predators and hypothermia are major killers of young ducks. If she doesn’t snuggle up to him during the forecoming cool nights, he may not be able to keep himself warm.

The HussyHen's Lone Surviving Duckling

From Quartet to Duet in 6 Days

August 20th, 2010     4 comments     permalink

Only Two Ducklings Left

The Brighton Millpond might appear an idyllic place to grow up but it’s a actually an aquatic jungle filled with danger for tiny ducklings. This is especially true for those receiving inadequate care from their mother, the white hen with the sorted past. I’m not sure if she’s too young to know how to protect the tykes or simply lacks motherly instincts. The fuzzy quartet has lost two of its cute members during the first week of their lives. The two survivors paddle around the pond alone (above) while the hen hangs out with her friends. Their future looks bleak. Below is the last portrait I took of their most recently departed sibling just two nights ago. Click both images to see larger ones for more detail.

The Last Night of a Duckling's Live

Public Debut for Family Portrait

August 16th, 2010     4 comments     permalink

HussyHen with Her Four Ducklings

HussyHen with her brood taking a restAfter three days in a secluded bay of the Brighton Millpond where she reestablished contact with her duck buddies, the HussyHen introduced her brood to human visitors and began training the tykes in the fine art of begging for food.

She’s not a particularly attentive mom. Most hens keep their very young chicks close to their sides for the first week or so. This one lets her kids wander. It’s difficult to get all four in the same shot. Seems like her pals (the four drakes and a couple of others) are helping her guard them but that isn’t typical duck behavior.  Below, the HussyHen brings up the rear of a feathered parade. Note how the small ones are informally corralled. Maybe it protects them from “ducknapping” by other hens (see next post) as much as the pond’s hungry turtles.

Parading the New Ducklings

HussyHen Reappears with Fuzzy Quartet

August 13th, 2010     3 comments     permalink

The HussyHen's 4 Ducklings

The HussyHen with her Day-Old BroodFor the past two weeks, I’ve been looking under every bush for the HussyHen. I suspected she was sitting on a nest somewhere near the millpond and hoped to find her during one of her 2-3 daily trips to the pond to bathe. Ducks do that to grab a bite and rewet their belly feathers so the moisture transfers to the eggs. I never spotted her.

She was an inattentive nester during her first attempt this summer as detailed in this blog, but she apparently learned her lesson. I never saw her cavorting with other ducks during the nesting period. But as predicted, I saw her for the first time in more than a month last night with four tiny day-old ducklings trailing behind her.

The markings on the ducks are an interesting mix. Each is distinctive at this stage. I hope, as they grow, they continue to have unique markings so I can watch and record their maturation. Let’s hope the large turtles don’t snatch any of them, but I’ll be surprised if all four survive to adulthood. The morbidity rate of newborn ducks is very high. I’ll keep you posted.

MIA: Fowl Play Suspected

July 27th, 2010     1 comment     permalink

White Duck Preening

The snow white duck with the questionable character was last seen at the millpond cavorting with four attentive suitors on July 12. Shown here preening to curry the favors of unattached drakes on June 26th, her disappearance is a mystery. Foul play isn’t suspected, but fowl play is.

Unless she’s entertaining the troops on another pond, chances are she’s meandered a short distance from the millpond hubbub and built a nest. Ducks sit on eggs for about 28 days so we might not see her until the week of August 8th unless we are lucky enough to be at the pond when she takes a daily break to bathe. She’s the only all-white duck with a dark bill. There are other white ducks but they have bright orange ones. Local readers, please comment if you see her.

HussyHen Still Dallying with Drakes

July 19th, 2010     2 comments     permalink

Hussy Hen Leads Drakes Astray

I’m sad to report, the debauchery has continued at the Brighton millpond. The snow white duck has drifted into a life of frivolous pleasures punctuated by short, but meaningless, relationships with the pond’s unattached drakes as I’ve dutifully reported since June 9th. The millpond area near Main Street has been her prime waddling grounds. She unabashedly panhandles the crowds of adults and children during the day. As the sun sets, she glides into the dark with her retinue of suitors to do God-knows-what behind the backs of Brighton’s Finest.

But wait! Within the past few days, she’s been conspicuously absent. The group of drakes are still loitering so I think she’s built a nest in some hidden location. Let’s hope her efforts are more productive than her previous ones.

Expose: Life as a StreetWaddler

June 26th, 2010     2 comments     permalink

An Abandoned Duck Nest

Hen Looking for Action at the MillpondIt’s an all too common story: An innocent female trying to live a good life is lured away from her dull nesting duties by a sweet-quacking drake. Before she realizes it, she’s street waddling with drake after drake. Life becomes an endless blur of sex, ducks and rock & roll. Tragic, I say.

After sitting on her four eggs for more than two weeks, this hen began to occasionally leave them unguarded for long stretches. Then they disappeared. Maybe humans took them; maybe raccoons or skunks. Perhaps she realized they were infertile and lost interest. That happens about 30% of the time.

But there’s still time to nest again this summer. Ducks can have 2-3 broods per year. And she’s doing her best to, um, ingratiate herself with the unattached males at the pond. She’s easy for me to track. She’s the only all-white duck with a dark bill at the pond. You can expect reports on her upcoming adventures.

Former Nester Now Cavorting with Drakes

Duck Returns, Maybe Repents

June 21st, 2010     0 comments     permalink

Hen Resting on Nest After a Wild Night

I’m happy to report the hen I found carousing with four drakes of questionable character on Saturday night (see yesterday’s post) has returned to her nesting responsibilities. Let’s all hope she can withstand the pressures of nesting and avoid those hooligan drakes until her chicks hatch and can fend for themselves.

RepriHENsible Saturday Night Conduct

June 20th, 2010     3 comments     permalink

Ignored Eggs in a Duck Nest

I’m shocked and very disappointed. After 10:00pm on Saturday night, I discovered the four eggs, in the care of what I thought was a dedicated duck, left alone. I found the hen cavorting with a band of four known hooligan drakes at the edge of the millpond. I mean, really, a fling so soon? It’s as if she put on bright red lipstick and leaned against the jukebox at a country-western bar! She’s a common trollop! Doesn’t she know eggs need to be kept at a constant 99.5-100 degrees during incubation and she should only leave the nest to eat and bathe for a few minutes each day? I doubt her eggs should be rescued, but I hope she comes to her senses and I find her back at the nest on my next visit.

Hussy Hen Covorting with Known Hooligans

Still Sitting, Sitting Still

June 17th, 2010     1 comment     permalink

Duck Sitting on Nest

I’m happy to report the duck I photographed at least 10 days ago is still sitting on her very exposed nest at the Brighton City Hall. All the passersby and the raccoons haven’t disturbed her. The incubation time for duck eggs is about 28 days. I’m not sure of her start date so it could be any time now.

A Sitting Duck

June 9th, 2010     3 comments     permalink

A Sitting Duck

A Nesting DuckThe Brighton City Hall is on the millpond. It used to be the public library but their collection outgrew the space. Two walls of the building come together with no landscaping at their intersection. One of the millpond’s resident ducks decided that would be a good place for a nest when, in fact, it’s a terrible location. Besides hundreds of people walking within 30 feet of it, there is no cover for her at all and, since she’s bright white, everyone will notice her.

The Note Duck's Red EyeI hope she and her eggs can survive the 28 days it takes duck eggs to hatch. I’ve found the remnants of other nests, well hidden ones, that have been (probably) looted  by raccoons. Hopefully, the public won’t bother her. She steadfastly sits and doesn’t appear to be stressed when I come within six feet of her nest. Once hatched, the ducklings will quickly take to the water, but that poses other dangers. Predation, parasites and disease are constant threats to the fuzzy critters in their first weeks.

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