Paddling home from a berry run

October 30th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

Jemima, Jiminy, and Captain D. Hookt return home following a berry run

The ducks living near Main Street paddle north in autumn to feast on berries that drop from the trees. You can see them bobbing for berries in the shallows with their tails in the air. Part of their bounty are the wild grapes that grow on vines twining through the branches, but they may be able to digest berries from Virginia Creeper vines as well. They’re toxic to humans but plentiful in the millpond park.

If you see a trio of white ducks swimming in the pond, it’s almost always Jemima, Jiminy, and Captain D. Hookt. Lately, the Captain has become very protective of Jemima’s virtue and won’t let Fred and Duke (SweetPea’s former suitors) get anywhere near her. He hasn’t been as successful keeping Lewis and Clark away so you might see the two newly abandoned white ducks following along.

Lewis & Clark: Probationary Suitors

October 19th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

Lewis and Clark are subtly moved away from Jemima (in background)

After their thuggish introduction to the millpond, the behavior of Lewis and Clark has settled down a bit. Jiminy and Captain D. Hookt are allowing the new birds to pal around with them as they court the lovely and available Jemima. But they are still on probation. Above, Captain D. Hookt (center) escorts the young upstarts away from Jemima (top left) with Jiminy backing him up. Florence (lower left) watcheso, but whether the Mandarin comprehends the courting rituals of Pekins is a mystery.

A dancing trio of ducks look like Jemima and her two original boyfriendsJemima leads her two drakes on excursions around the pond to find foods to eat. Lewis and Clark trail behind the trio (below). They are sometimes allowed to fraternize with Jemima. It depends upon the moods of the established gents. At night, the five Pekins tend to roost together peacefully and Florence is usually nearby.

Joyce Schuelke, owner of Brighton’s Wildernest store, ordered a trio of ducks doing high kicks (right) from one of her suppliers. They reminded her of the original millpond triad. Someone will surely purchase it for their home to be reminded daily of the threesome. They haven’t learned to dance yet but cheerfully greet park visitors near Main Street.

:ewis and Clark follow the trio wherever they go

Dumped Ducks: Meet Lewis and Clark

October 5th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

Lewis and Clark are beautiful, well care for Pekins who were left at the pond on October 1

The newcomers will eventually become members of a subflock at the pondTwo newly dumped ducks have arrived at the Brighton millpond (above). I’ve named them Lewis and Clark, but I can’t tell you which is which yet. Eventually, I’ll figure it out.

I met the previous owner on the day he dumped them. He told me they were six month old Pekin drakes that had been so brutal in their mating with his female Pekins he had to remove them from his premises. He felt the millpond would be a great place for them to live. I pointed out he had now brought his problem to the millpond’s females that were already subjected to an overabundance of drakes. He hadn’t thought about that before releasing them. I introduced him to the resident ducks and he left with a better understanding of how dumping ducks is unwise. But, alas, it was too late to catch the newcomers.

Unsure of how they fit in, the new arrivals stayed in the waterLewis and Clark are beautiful birds that have received excellent care during their early life. On the night they arrived (left), they huddled together in the water unsure of how they fit into the waterfowl society already in residence. This is a typical response. Each pond has its own social structure.

There are sub-flocks, dominance hierarchies, stable territories, and other behavioral conventions. Through trial and error, newbies determine how they can survive. Most of the time, it’s a fairly smooth transition taking only a few days. But when Jemima and Jiminy arrived, MooseTracks kept Jiminy cornered below the dam for his first two weeks. Tiny Dumpling bamboozled the six larger dumped ducks at the north end of the pond last fall. He wouldn’t let them go near the water for ten days until the new Rouen drake, the powerful Smith, informed Dumpling he was no longer in charge.

On the first night Lewis and Clark (green dot, below) arrived, they attempted to befriend members of the Buda Bunch (magenta) and Mrs PomPom’s three ducklings (yellow). They were rebuffed by Buda who was very protective of Mrs PomPom and her brood.

Lewis and Clark (green dot) approached the Buda Bunch (magenta) and PomPom's ducklings (yellow) to make friends

By their second full day, however, they discovered the charming and irresistible Jemima with her two feckless suitors, Jiminy and Captain D. Hookt (below).

Lewis and Clark swim toward Jemima and her suitors for another mating run

From that point on, they have been making frequent mating runs to attack Jemima while her two boyfriends stand by helplessly jabbering (below).

Jiminy and Captain D. Hookt (in back) cannot defend her Lewis and Clark began to attack Jemima on their second day at the millpond

One of the new ducks does a victory dance after mating with JemimaThe violence of duck mating has been a frequent topic on this blog. The attics of Lewis and Clark (one doing a victory dance after mating, right) has already had an impact on Jemima and her suitors. They are stressed each time the new drakes swim toward them, Jemima has new wounds on her neck from mating (below), and the trio has changed their roosting locations to avoid the brutes (below right).

This illustrates the impact new animals have when thrust into an environment. It happens in every public park. At Kensington Metropark, the nature center’s staff have told me how people often drop off raccoons, squirrels, and other wildlife trapped on their properties without realizing they are influencing the park’s natural balance of wildlife-to-food-resources as well as causing friction between the established wildlife residents and the newcomers.

Jemima has a new wound on her neck as a result of repeated encounters with the new drakes

I’ve said it often but need to restate it:

It is against the law to abandon pets at the Brighton millpond. Abandoning any animal within the city limits without providing for its care and feeding is punishable with a hefty fine.

People think they are doing their unwanted pet a favor; that they will “make friends” and lead a good life in the beautiful environment. They don’t realize an urban pond holds dangers that may lead to their previously loved pet meeting a violent and painful death. It might be in the mouth of predator or against the bumper of a speeding vehicle. Since an informal group brings food in the depth of winter, starvation at our millpond is rare, but domestic ducks cannot adequately forage for themselves.

Jemima, her two suitors, and Florence have changed their roosting habits since the new drakes arrivedBefore purchasing a duck as a pet, owners need to evaluate whether they have the shelter, financial resources, and time to provide it with the care it requires. Ducks merely thrown into a backyard pond or a yard with no water feature or shelter will soon meet their demise through predation in suburban or rural areas.

People who learn too late the responsibilities of owning a duck or a small flock end up foisting their responsibilities onto others when they release them in public spaces. It also needs be noted the city does not provide any care. Many people assume the city or its public safety officers will run to rescue injured or sick animals. Nope. They cannot afford to provide such services. Abandoned pets are at the mercy of the elements and sometimes cruel or ignorant park visitors including their dogs. That’s the reality.

Jemima’s baker’s dozen

August 1st, 2014     0 comments     permalink

Jemima's 13 eggs in her second nest of the summer

July 31: Jemima took a break from sitting on her eggs, and the day was warm so she didn’t bother to cover her clutch to keep the chill off as she usually does. That gave me a chance to count them. She has a Baker’s Dozen – 13! Her first clutch had 17 eggs but no ducklings hatched. I suspect the same will happen this time no matter how hard she tries. Pekins aren’t skilled in mothering. They have lost their abilities through eons of selective breeding. One of the eggs in this batch has some yolk on it. That might indicate it’s cracked. Urban ducks fed lots of bread don’t get enough calcium in their diet to create thick egg shells. SweetPea‘s eggs often crack under her own weight. That fact encouraged me to carry crushed oyster shells I mix with handfuls of chow (1 to 20 parts chow) if I suspect a domestic hen at the millpond is amassing eggs. It’s unwise to give ducks too much calcium so I rarely offer it. It can permanently damage wings and internal organs.

Why is a Baker’s Dozen 13?
One of the likely reasons is ancient cultures had harsh penalties if bakers cheated customers. To avoid having an ear cut off and nailed to the bakery’s door (Egypt) or a hand cut off as they allegedly did in Babylon, bakers would toss in an extra item to make sure they didn’t miscount when filling orders. You can read more about Baker’s Dozen at

Jemima is nesting again

July 30th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

Jemima waddles back to her nest escorted by her suitors

It was bound to happen, Jemima being a Pekin. She’s built a fresh nest and been laying eggs while no one was watching. On July 24, she’s began her incubating duties while Jiminy and Captain D. Hookt stand guard nearby. I won’t divulge the location of the nest to protect her eggs, but I have little hope she will bring tiny Pekins into the world. Her first nest of the year in the cemetery contained 17 eggs she diligently watched, but none hatched. I assume the same will happen with this clutch which is in a less secure location. How many eggs are there? I haven’t counted. She carefully covers them when she comes to the pond to bathe and eat. I haven’t disturbed them.

No joy for Jemima; hope for Mrs PomPom

June 5th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

Ever attentive, Jiminy and Captain D. Hookt wait for Jemima to come swimming with them

Jemima suns herself on the banks of the Brighton millpond with Nurse Florence nearbyJune 1: It’s official. She gave it her all for the full 28 days, but Jemima has come to the conclusion the remaining egg won’t not hatch and has left her duties nest sitting. Don’t think less of her because of it. She’s a Pekin, a farm breed known to be poor sitters / mothers because farmers stolen their eggs for eons, and now incubate them in mechanical contraptions if they aren’t scrambled and served at Denny’s.

Jemima’s suitors, Jiminy and Captain D. Hookt, are glad to have her back in the swing of pond life. They wait patiently for her to finishing pondside preening (above) so they can take evening swims, and they will be ready to frolic in romance with her as soon as she gets the urge to nest again this summer. She will, too.

The end of nesting has led to the unemployment of Nurse Florence (above right, preening in the foreground), but she’s handling it well. She’s travelled to other regions in the pond to remind other subflocks of her availability, and often roosts with Jemima in hopes of a second nesting.

May 21: Meanwhile near the banks for City Hall bay, Mrs PomPom has been incredibly faithful to her nesting responsibilities. She’ll probably be as unproductive as Jemima, but effort is more important than results as we all learned in elementary school as benchwarmers on baseball teams.

Mrs PomPom's nest is not well protected but hasn't been vandalized yet

Her 18 eggs are clean and well organized In the past two years, PomPom has only had a handful of eggs, but she went all out this year. A dozen and a half spotless beauties fill her well constructed abode. She never read that, in real estate, the three most important factors are location, location, and location. While the nest is well protected from two angles, any marauding egg eating skunk or raccoon has a great view from two sides. If they mosey by, dinner is served.

The Buda Bunch hovers nearby but not too close to draw attention to what they hope will be their prodigies (except for Buddy who hasn’t received permission by Buda to participate). When I stop by to speak with them, Mrs PomPom comes charging out of her nest famished most of the time. But occasionally she just continues to hide. When I go to check on her, she’ll inflate her body to appear vicious and hiss. I pretend I’m scared and back off.

On June 4th, the eggs were found to still be in great shapeJune 4: I’ve got to hand it to her. She’s taking good care of the eggs. They are still clean and well-turned as shown in this more recent photo.

Wait a minute. Two of them are tinted pink. They weren’t there before and there are 19 eggs now! Seems another hen is shirking her responsibilities and expects PomPom to do her sitting for her. Bad call, but May the maternity gods bring her fluffy bundles of joy (but don’t count on it). She hasn’t succeeded since her arrival on July 1, 2011.

Sitting for naught

May 29th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

Jemima has been a really diligent mom. She only leaves her nest for brief periods to bathe and eat (shown here). When she leaves, she carefully covers the eggs so they retain their warmth unless she is forced to quickly flee when Fred or another male arrives to request romantic favors. Jiminy (center, below) and Captain D. Hookt (left) usually stand guard but paddle the pond for dalliances with other hens. Boys will be boys.

Jemima cleans her belly after a long stretch of nest sitting while the boys watch

I’m sad to report her diligence hasn’t been rewarded. Her clutch of 17 eggs has been reduced to one, I think. While she was off the nest last night, I poked around her large nest and could only find one egg under the grasses she had used to insulate them. Many broken shells were in evidence downhill. This isn’t the work of humans or predators. She has rolled eggs she finds aren’t viable out of her nest so predators won’t get a whiff of them decaying.

Jemima's wings are a bit soiled from the dirt surrounding her nest Fluffing up her matted feathers is a major task

Unsuccessful nesting is the norm for Pekins. They were bred to grow quickly and spit out eggs, but their mothering instincts have been lost in eons of selective breeding. They are used to farmers reaching under them to gather the eggs daily. Jemima’s eggs may not have been fertilized. While the drakes have sure given the task their all, hens will produce eggs whether they are fertilized or not.

It’s probably just as well. While I had visions of the happy-go-lucky Jemima waddling around with 17 ducklings following her, the pond doesn’t need the extra domestic ducks. Weekly, someone states ALL of the domestics ought to be removed so the pond can return to its pristine state. I wouldn’t be surprised if an attempt is made to accomplish that by state and local governments, but it won’t succeed unless guards are on hand 24/7 issuing tickets for transgressions, litter is reduced, runoff from streets and parking lots eliminated, and invasive plant and animal species are continually monitored. The cost could be astronomical. Accepting the millpond as a very good “urban pond” is simpler.

The city has done an excellent job balancing the pond’s management. It requires little policing/maintenance while allowing park visitors to experience a smattering of wildlife close to home. Is it pristine? No. As it stands, the water quality is good, the critters inhabiting it are healthy, and people can enjoy it without extensive restrictions. But, as I’ve previously stated, this urban pond is still an underappreciated economic as well as educational resource. I meet people daily who come to Brighton specifically drawn to the pond. They couple their shopping, dining, or exercise routines with a visit to the park and are willing to drive considerable distances to experience it as it is.

Jemima and her friends are the unpaid welcoming committee.

An evening stroll allows Jemima to stretch her legs and flap her wings

Happy Mother’s Day

May 11th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

Jemima Puddleduck is a diligent mother ... so far

Jemima Puddleduck is being a diligent sitter, called “broody” in poultry circles. Pekins are classified as poor in their mothering ability, but she is hopefully an exception. We’ll know within the next three weeks if she is patient enough to endure the 28 days eggs take to incubate. Estimated hatching date is circa May 28-30.

She’s built a wonderful nest that’s well lined with down, and her big body adequately protects her 17 egg clutch. While she takes breaks to bathe and eat, she returns to the nest quickly so they are well protected from chilling. The biggest obstacle may not be under her control. Since her nest is visible to everyone who visits the park, someone may vandalize it.

Jemima's big body blankets her entire clutch of 17 eggs From her hillside perch she can nest and watch the goings on in the pond

Keeping a friend company

May 9th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

There’s safety in numbers
Sticking around other birds helps each duck increase its chance of survival due to predation; the more birds, the more eyes watching for danger. The Mandarin was found resting on the edge of Jemima’s nest last night (below). The two hens were 20′ away from the drakes, Jiminy and the Captain.

Jemima and the Mandarin roosted close together last night

Since the three Mandarin ducks arrived at the Brighton millpond in December, they favored the Pekin residents. Now that only one remains at the pond, it floats between The Buda Bunch at their summer home beside City Hall, and the Jemima/Jiminy/Captain D. Hookt trio. Ducks tend to stay with similar sized ducks so it’s curious the smallest bird in the pond (1.5 pounds) would have huge buddies (9-12 pounds). Perhaps she was raised with Pekins. She’s not only comfortable around the birds six times her size, she holds her own in disputes. She’s a white feathered dragon when big birds get too close to her (below).

The smallest duck in the pond isn't afraid to threaten much larger ducks

SweetPea: The show goes on

May 7th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

The millpond’s Grande Dame Pekin, SweetPea, rarely swam with her four drake retinue and seemed uninterested in flock activities this winter. She didn’t throw together her typical inappropriate nest either. She likes to freeze her first clutch of eggs in February/March to show the rest of the hens her prowess. This year, she showed no sign of homesteading as May approached. I thought the old trooper’s egg laying days were kaput.

SweetPea enjoyed a short walk on her lawn before returning to her nesting responsibilities

Then she disappeared, a sign she was nesting or dead. A duck watching colleague emailed me a picture of her at the pond two days later. Posing for that was SweetPea’s way of inviting me to play cat and mouse. We do this several times a year — she builds a nest; I find it. She amuses herself with my pursuit. I visited all of her usual nesting sites but didn’t find her in situ.

After a refreshing bath, the grande dame required sustenanceHer retinue (now only two due to the winter loss of MooseTracks and Desi) guards the pond near the short bridge, an indication the nest was nearby. On my third day scouting, she arrived to swim and tell the drakes how dull nesting duties were. She asked if I might have some duck chow with a few head bobs. Casting lady-like manners aside, she snarfed down seven handfuls, the most she’s ever consumed. Apparently, she’s been too busy prepping the nursery to eat. Nesting for SweetPea is rehab. She sits for ten days to two weeks, clears her head and heals her neck wounds. Then she realizes drakes are more fascinating than household responsibilities.  She’s produced up to five clutches of up to 13 eggs each year yet she hasn’t hatched an egg since 2010.

Following her repast, she casually waddled around the lawn until the coast was clear. Then she snuck back into her nest to warm her eggs for the night. Ha ha! I win again. I know where her nest is, but I’ll keep her secret between us.

Meanwhile, the young starlet, Jemima, warms her hillside eggs

Meanwhile, the young starlet, Jemima, gazes at the pond from her hillside nest as her two beaus stand ready to escort her to the pond when she requires a bath or a bit of diversion. The white Mandarin hen sometimes joins the trio to roost for the night. By Memorial Day, we’ll know if this first year Pekin is capable of hatching her brood or finds nesting too dull to stay the course.

Geez-Oh-My, Ma!

May 5th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

I’m proved wrong again. Damn ducks play tricks on me all of the time.

17 eggs are neatly arranged by Jemima in her nestJemima wasn’t test driving the hillside nest. She was busy hiding her clutch of eggs when I photographed her three days ago. What a clutch it is, too. I think she’s going for the gold in the 2014 Brighton Millpond Fertility Tournament.

Don’t get your hopes up though. Pekins aren’t great mothers. She might not hatch any of these beautiful eggs. She’s a first timer so that also might influence their viability.

How did she lay 17 eggs and manage to keep them a secret? Maybe Mango added a few. Ducks sometimes drop eggs in nests they don’t own. Why miss exciting pond splash parties when someone else can endure the solitary confinement of sitting for you? Maybe she got them through mail order. She’s a smart duck. There’s WiFi in the millpond air. Bet she knows how to peck text on an iPad.

Test driving duck nests

May 2nd, 2014     1 comment     permalink

Jemima testing to see if the padding is thick enough

The hen sat on the nest for a few minutes to test it out I paid a visit to Jemima and her two beaus in the rain. She was quite busy test driving nests when I arrived. She arranged its bed of dried grasses and then sat down in it for a couple of minutes while she wiggled around.

Then she waddled over to her two drakes to jabber about it. I couldn’t comprehend their discussion since I don’t speak fluent Duck.

The trio discuss their household optionsFollowing the quackfest, the trio waddled off in another direction. Maybe they had some other ideas of where their nest should be before Jemima begins producing eggs.

We haven’t had a successful Pekin duck nest since 2010 when SweetPea hatched four ducklings. All of them have died. Pekins aren’t great mothers. They were bred to be on farms where eggs are gathered for market or incubators instead of hatched. Jemima, however, seems like a particularly bright and energetic bird. Maybe she’ll succeed.

Meanwhile, her drakes are running off occasionally to have encounters with other hens. Below, Captain D. Hookt returns following a short but what must have been a satisfying experience with SweetPea considering the spring in his step. He was able to figure out how to go around the fence separating him from the other two who were inside the Old Village Cemetery.

Captain D. Hookt returns from a conjugal visit with SweetPea

Jemima is Catholic

March 20th, 2014     1 comment     permalink

Jiminy and Captain D. Hookt appeared aggitated after hearing the quackingThe ducks have dull lives in winter so they amuse themselves by toying with bloggers like a cats bat poor little defenseless mice. When I’m not around they are either planning their next move or retelling stories about their pranks through gales of quaughter. I’m sure of it.

As you recall, I discovered the millpond was missing another domestic duck the night of February 23. This was less than two weeks after Bogie’s untimely death in the alleged mouth of a predator. By the next evening, the missing duck was identified as Jemima, the hen in the triad of Jiminy and Captain D. Hookt (right).

Quacks were heard from deep inside the culvert under Main Street February 26: While visiting the ducks, I heard a few quacks coming from inside the culvert that runs under Main Street. Or did I? There was traffic noise so I wondered if it was wishful thinking. The ducks seemed agitated by the quacks, but maybe their behavior had nothing to do with imaginary quacks. Ducks agitate easily. See, I was already questioning my sanity, part of the ducks’ plot.

To add to the humiliation, I felt compelled to humbly call the Brighton Area Fire Department the next day even though I knew they were already burdened with humans. A delightful woman politely listened to my tale of a missing duck and how I thought she might be trapped inside the culvert under the street because I heard a few quacks. The ducks became agitated when they heard quacks from inside the culvertShe explained the Chief was out to lunch, but she would see if he would authorize a visit to the culvert by firefighters. She’d let me know if a crew could take a look. I admitted I might be imagining the culvert quacks so, if the chief felt this wasn’t important, I would understand. I never heard from her again.

February 28: I called the Wildernest store to relate what I thought I heard. Joyce sent Robert to the dam area to listen for culvert quacking. Joyce and Robert have always questioned my sanity so they humored me and participated in the flock’s prank. Robert, a trustworthy source with young ears, reported he heard nothing. That’s it. Case closed. It’s settled. Old blogger hears voices.

March 4: While feeding the domestic ducks, I heard more quacks from the culvert. I was sure this time! The ducks heard them, too. The late afternoon sun illuminated far enough into the culvert to get a faint glimpse of Jemima (below). The quacks sounded robust but I couldn’t tell if she was trapped or injured. Ice covered some of the water’s surface inside the culvert. Sometimes, ducks’ feet freeze to ice or they are unable to climb onto icy shores.

Quacks from inside the culvert under Main Street were heard

Firefighters took a look and didn't want to venture inside to retreave the wayward duckRisking further humiliation, I went to Fire Station 31 to again discuss the matter with any available firefighter. The first Tuesday of each month is Maintenance Night so the fire hall was well populated. One fine gentleman listened to my plea and said they had cold weather wet suits. It would be easy to wade in to see what was hampering the duck’s escape, if anything.

Following the meeting, three firefighters made a run to the culvert without any equipment, a short trip. Their flashlight found the duck swimming behind ice but they didn’t feel her situation was worth endangering firefighters or harming their cold weather gear. Essentially they patted the old fart blogger on the head and implied he shouldn’t worry about such trivial things. Humiliation complete. The ducks accomplished their goal.

Jemima happily rejoined Jiminy and Captain D. Hookt March 5: Ten days after she entered the culvert, Jemima returned to the flock as if nothing had happened. As always, she came to my knees begging for food. She didn’t look like she had been fasting during her time in the dark. The only injury was a small wound on the back of her neck (left).

SweetPea, Jiminy, and Captain D. Hookt were happy to have her back in their company and all was well while a fresh dusting of snow covered the ice near the dam (below).

Once Jemima returned, she acted as nothing had happenedHaving observed millpond ducks for five years now, I think I’ve got this caper figured out: Less than a year old, February was Jemima’s first exposure to the rambunctious mating season. Hence the wound on the back of her neck from aggressive males. Rather than succumb to such base shenanigans, she decided to live a monastic life in the nearest isolated corner of her universe, the dark and dank tunnel under Main Street. She would lead a celibate life as a well feathered nun. I didn’t know she was Catholic.

Below the rumbling street noises, she rested in quiet contemplation considering her new life. She may have laid a soon-to-freeze egg or two as farm ducks sometimes do in winter, but that’s a personal matter between her and her God. Occasionally, she’d quack to remind the rest of the flock she was fine even though it broke her code of silence. Eventually, she found the cobwebbed walls of the tunnel and the incessant burble of water moving toward South Ore Creek stifling. She returned to the secular world for reasons she will forever keep to herself. I’ll place bets they involve food, sunlight or drake companionship. The flock welcomed her back into their fold, the blogger’s ego was reduced a notch, and all is right with the world again. Amen.

Jemima showed no signs of her adventure

The Newbie Trio: Fat and Sassy

November 25th, 2013     2 comments     permalink

Jiminy, Jemima, and Dr. D. Hookt, Main Street panhandlers without licenses

We like to think of the Brighton millpond as a bit of wilderness in the middle of the city, but it’s really an “urban pond.” It’s large enough to have wildfowl and critters in the less visited areas, but its main attraction are the domestic ducks that have been abandoned by owners who find ducks are demanding pets after losing their duckling cuteness in a matter of weeks.

Jiminy has the curliest tail feathersThree of the newest dumped ducks are (l to r) Jiminy, Jemima, and Capt. D. Hookt (above). After their abandonment confusion, each has adjusted well to urban pond life. Whether they are Pekins or Aylesbury ducks is still undetermined. Both farm breeds have much in common.

If they’re hungry, these three unlicensed panhandlers are relentless in their pursuit of food from humans. As you can see by their girths, they are all accomplished in their profession.

Captain Hookt is the shiest of the trioJiminy is the largest and can be easily identified by his curly tail feathers (above left). Capt. D. Hookt is almost as large (right) but the shiest of the trio as they roam around the pond together. He has only one curly tail feather so far but will probably grow more by next spring. Look for the dark dot at the base of his right leg (top photo). That’s the permanent tattoo he earned from his encounter with the fishhook in October.

The smallest of the trio is Jemima, but she’s the most successful beggar. She does it in good cheer so the public doesn’t resent her insistent requests. Farm ducks aren’t usually good at foraging for food on their own.

Pekins and Aylesbury ducks are good at producing eggs, but lousy sitters/mothers. The last white duck to raise millpond ducklings was SweetPea (aka: HussyHen) in 2010 but none thrived. Breed to fatten quickly, the white farm ducks have achieved that dubious goal. White bread is loaded with carbohydrates but not enough protein/vitamins for optimum bird health. Duck chow is a better option. It’s made with whole corn, wheat, and soybeans. The Wildernest store across from the millpond sells it at a price lower than bread ($.50/pound, $1.30/3-pounds) to encourage park visitors to keep our city’s feathered residents healthy.

The newbies’ beaded costumes

November 3rd, 2013     0 comments     permalink

Jemima looks great in her beaded beauty sleep

Dr. D. Hookt endures the rain tucked in for the nightNot all of the ducks made an effort to wear masks on Halloween. The three newbies near Main Street probably weren’t informed of millpond traditions with enough time to create their own.

Jemima gives her left leg a short rest while she gets ready to napNo worries. They all looked sparkly as they began to roost for the night after a hard day of amusing rain-soaked park visitors. Jemima (top and right) had obviously spent a good part of her day tending her feathers. They were properly oiled and combed so the raindrops beaded to catch the light from my flash.

Jiminy nods off while standing after a tiring day at the millpondCaptain D. Hookt was the first to get serious about calling it a day (above, left) while Jiminy tried his best to stay awake to greet the human revelers emerging from the downtown bars, but nodded off while still standing at attention (right). This trio is still not well accepted by The Dam Tribe, but they are very comfortable with the public and will gladly greet you on visits to the pond.

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.

Introducing Jemima and Jiminy

October 20th, 2013     0 comments     permalink

Captain D. Hookt stretches while Jemima and Jiminy survey the pond

While Captain D. Hookt is stretching (left), it’s a good time to introduce two newly named ducks. I asked blog readers for suggestions and Brighton resident, Pat Komjathy, a devoted millpond visitor, felt the hen should honor Jemima Puddle-Duck, the title character in one of Beatrix Potter’s beloved tales (Free Book Online \ Read Aloud). Jemima was an Aylesbury duck, but Pekins look much like them. I’m not sure which species the new ducks are. Pekins, I think. When Pat’s children were tykes, it was one of their favorite stories and they called the millpond’s resident white ducks puddle-ducks on park visits.

She suggested the drake who arrived with Jemima be called Jiminy (Center, above. Note curly tail feather). While he isn’t a cricket, he acted like one hiding in the dark below the dam. MooseTracks, named by Pat’s daughter Sarah in 2006, kept both ducks down there when they first arrived, but then he allowed Jemima to come topside. He wasn’t so kind to Jiminy. He chases him down there each time he attempted to join the resident flock. MooseTrack finally relented. Jemima and Jiminy were reunited after his two weeks in solitary.

All three of these white birds have become fast friends and stay close to Main Street. They gladly relieve visitors of treats offered. Their size and vigorous begging may frighten timid children as they clamor for first dibs, but they’re harmless. They will allow gentle petting while they eat if approached slowly.

The end of exile

September 3rd, 2013     2 comments     permalink

The exiled duck can see ducks swimming above the dam

The female Pekin has already achieved success in mingling with wild MallardsIt was a long stint in Duck Jail for the newly dumped large white Pekin (above). While his partner was enjoying the companionship of wild ducks (left), The jailed duck isn't stranded. He could climb the dam if he wanted tohe was confined six feet below the dam staring at high cement walls and watching the pond’s water rush over the dam and swiftly enter the culvert on its way to Lake Huron after a brief meander through Ore Creek, a few lakes, and other waterways (right).

The Dam Tribe patrols the water above the fallsHe tried to break out a few times, but was quickly nabbed by Sheriff MooseTracks or one of his deputies: Duke, Desi and Fred. They patrolled the crest of the dam taunting him to to penetrate their finely tuned security team’s front line (left).

MooseTracks is the Sheriff near the millpond dam

Near the dam, MooseTracks is Sheriff

I don’t have access to the duck criminal justice system so I haven’t seen paperwork, but I suspect his crime was being male. He currently lacks curly tail feathers to prove it. The Sheriff and his crack posse do their best to protect the virtue of SweetPea from roving males. It’s not easy considering she’s fond of spreading joy by entertaining lonely drakes who require fulfulling, though brief, companionship.

I found both ducks in jail the night they arrived in the millpond, August 15. Looking back, I imagine they were incarcerated within minutes or hours of being ejected from their cushy lives as amusing Easter ducklings. They foolishly grew up, darn them. As feather-clad adult poop machines, the exasperated owners decided to give Brighton’s diligent, but overburdened, maintenance staff the honor of cleaning up after them and probably thought the city will guard their discarded pets’ health and well being for the rest of their peaceful lives. Nope. Dumped ducks are on their own and often die violently under tires or between the teeth of predators. Some would strave except for pickings offered by civilians.

After my crude attempts to spring them from the slammer, one of the two was quickly apprehended by the Sheriff. He filled his days between the cement walls until a kindly, though inebriated, homeless gentleman took it upon himself to be the duck’s accomplice in an escape. He had just arrived in Brighton from Texas on the arm of a less inebriated lass via the charible contribution of a one-way bus ticket for two provided by a relative who had heard all of his stories.

The Pekin pair have reestablished their bond

The Pekins babble to each other and stay close togetherI found the previously imprisoned duck up top near the dam on August 22. I asked the affable newcomers if they saw him make his escape. The gentleman slurred how he commandeered three separate duck rescues (of the same duck) that day and pointed to his still-wet khaki shorts to prove it. He said one delighted Main Street shop owner was so pleased with his heroics she handed him a $5 tip.  It provided his liquid lunch.

As we chatted, MooseTracks arrived to chase the feathered fugitive back to his dungeon. He remained in solitary confinement thereafter until the posse issued a pardon (for reasons beyond the comprehension of humans) six days later.The Pekin drake is very large, low to the ground, and has pudgy cheeks

Reunited on August 28, the two dumpees have reveled in freedom. They mingle with the wild Mallards. Their imposing size gives them instant cred to swim and sleep near them. They’ve quickly warmed to park visitors but stay a comfortable distance from the Dam Tribe to avoid further brushes with the millpond’s sketchy code of conduct. You’ll certainly read about their future adventures here as they adjust to living in the urban wild.

The hen looks like a beautiful pony with a strong neck

The canards’ conundrum

August 16th, 2013     2 comments     permalink

Watching the cascading water gives the ducks time to think about how they are going to get out of their predicament

The ascent is a mere 8 feet, but a hard climb for 12 pound flightless farm ducks“Canard” in English is “an unfounded or false, deliberately misleading story” but in French it means “duck.” The two millpond newbies are presented with “a paradoxical, insoluble, or difficult problem; a dilemma,” a true conundrum (a word that’s fun to roll off your tongue), as they paddle around in their limited space below the millpond dam. These daylight pictures illustrate the fix they’re in: do they embark on a short, but difficult, climb through rushing water and boulders to reach the millpond or do they allow the current to sweep them through 450 feet of darkness to emerge at the far end of the culvert in South Ore Creek?

They're big and beautiful and sorta stuck until they decide what to doPark visitors are concerned, but a happy ending awaits both choices. They see ducks above the boulders once in a while so that might encourage them to climb. Whether the Dam Tribe (shown above the dam, upper left) will be thrilled to have them enter their territory is another matter. If they are swept downstream, a Brighton resident has already agreed to treat them like family.

A third option is capturing them in a long-handled net and making the decision for them. The chances of injuring these massive ducks in the process makes this the least favorite solution. It won’t be done until the ducks have time to take action themselves. The cascading water brings them morsels to eat (duck foraging, below) and humans toss them treats. They could remain healthy and content in their predicament for quite some time.

Both ducks search for things to eat that the current brings them

More rejected pet ducks arrive

August 15th, 2013     2 comments     permalink

Two massive Pekins arrived at the pond August 14

Well after dark last night, I discovered two huge Pekin ducks below the dam at the Brighton millpond. Chances are, they were dumped at the pond, didn’t realize the dam was there, and tumbled over the crest. Now they are faced with the choice of climbing an eight foot high wall of rushing water or swimming through the 450 foot long pitch-dark tunnel that moves the water to South Ore Creek.

They’ve been tossed into the city’s lap. Their previous owner assumed they will have a happy life at the millpond. He was dead wrong. Each year, countless domestic and wild birds die from injuries and brutal attacks from rival ducks and predators, are often tormented by humans and dogs that think it’s amusing to chase them, or starve in winter when food isn’t provided. Hand raised ducks thrust into an established waterfowl population have a life expectancy of less than a year while wild residents can live 8-12 years.

Time will tell what happens to these unfortunate refugees. They are magnificent birds weighing at least 12 pounds each, but they now face a dangerous life because of their thoughtless owner.

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