May 3rd, 2016 permalink
Jiminy arrived with Jemima on about October 15, 2013. They had a very colorful life at the millpond after being dumped by their owner. They began by being incarcerated by the pond’s self-appointed sheriff, MooseTracks, in the area below the dam. Their lives at the pond are detailed in a series of posts here. Jemima vanished two summers ago after a futile attempt at motherhood. Jiminy palled up with Captain D. Hookt following her disappearance.
When pet owners dump their rejected animals at the millpond (or other parks), they assume they are providing them with pastoral splendor for the rest of their lives. They fail to realize domestic ducks have a life expectancy of less than a year when thrown away in an urban pond while a wild duck can live 8-12 years. Often these abandoned pets die tragically in the mouth of a predator (coyote, fox, raccoon, dog) or on the bumper of a passing car. Jiminy’s life ended on a bumper along Grand River. It’s mating season. He was probably chasing a hen but he’s a slow runner so he couldn’t dodge a passing car.
You can click on the photo of him in his mangled state if you need proof of his departure. I’ve intentionally made the thumbnail too small to see the grizzly details. I’m hoping his previous owner reads my blog and sees the results of his abandonment.
October 26th, 2015 permalink
Ducks have buddies. The millpond currently has two pair of white Pekins who are always together — Castor and Pollux who were dumped at the pond last fall, and Jiminy and Captain D. Hookt who arrive in 2013 and 2014 respectively. If they are on land, it’s easy to identify them. The Captain has damaged webbing on his right foot so you’ll know the one with him is Jiminy. Pollux has an eye infection on his left side so you’ll know the bird with him is Castor. Florence, the little white Mandarin, is usually close behind because she’s still infatuated with Pollux though he shows little interest in her.
There are two other Pekins on the pond (Dixie and Buda) but their buddies are Rouen ducks (Dexter and Darth) that look like giant Mallards.
October 30th, 2014 permalink
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.
October 19th, 2014 permalink
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.
Jemima 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.
July 30th, 2014 permalink
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.
June 19th, 2014 permalink
Jiminy is the strong, silent type. He spends most of his days trailing after Jemima. On June 6, I noticed he had nasty sores on the inner toes of both feet. Ducks are prone to bumblefoot when they walk on abrasive surfaces like the concrete surrounding the pond, but these sores were on the top of his feet instead of their soles. I think Jiminy has a tendency to be a knuckle-dragger due to his weight. It was time to become a duck podiatrist since there was no category for that in the Yellow Page.
Scarlet Oil is a wound dressing for horses and mules, animals not intended for food. It was recommended to me for ducks that won’t be served for dinner. It has a combination of smelly ingredients that’s added a new, medically pungent hint to my old van that wrestles with the already formidable scent of the corn, wheat, and soy in damp duck chow there. So be it.
I reviewed photos I’ve taken of him recently and discovered one of the wounds was evident more than a week before. I started spraying Jiminy’s feet June 7th. Fed him with one hand and saturated his feet with red liquid with the other. The first time I did it, missed the mark with one squirt. He waddled back to the pond looking like he’d been in a Kool-Aid food fight. I’m happy to report he’s almost healed (below).
June 5th, 2014 permalink
June 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.
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.
June 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.
May 9th, 2014 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.
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).
May 2nd, 2014 permalink
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.
Following 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.
April 12th, 2014 permalink
Jemima, Captain D. Hookt, and Jiminy (respectively, above) are still fast friends and can almost always be seen together near Main Street. The Captain was dumped as a scrawny lad on September 8, 2013. The other two arrived as a pair on August 15 last year, much to the disgust of MooseTracks, the pond’s late feathered sheriff. The two drakes follow Jemima where she leads them, but Jiminy has a bit of trouble keeping up with her. During the winter months, he’s convinced many a park visitor that he’s in desperate need of being fed. Since most folks give him bread, he’s packed on a few pounds. It’s all settled in his hind quarters (right).
His waddling makes his rear end sway back and forth in a wide arc that is rather humorous to see as he walks away from you. But it has a serious dimension, too. None of the domestic duck breeds are developed for longevity. The quicker they can grow and be slaughtered for market, the more profit there is for the farmer.
As a Pekin, Jiminy was bred to be butchered within 45-50 days at “market weight,” about 6-7 pounds. He’s almost a year old now and tips the scale at 9-10 pounds. He’ll gain more weight in what could be his 8-12 year life span. Old, heavy Pekins can develop mobility problems and reach a point where they can no longer stand. Hopefully, he won’t have that fate or become so ponderous he cannot escape the danger of predators or humans with evil intent.
Captain D. Hookt isn’t far behind in the big behind department. He’s almost as large as Jiminy. The only way to easily tell them apart is to look for Jiminy’s curlier feathers above his tail.
Now that the ducks amble on sidewalks instead of white snow, I’ve noticed some ducks’ webbing is lighter edged. It might be a winter adaptation so less blood is delivered there or could be mild frostbite. Severe frostbite would turn the edge black so I’m prone to believe it’s an species adaptation.
The photo taken October 6 (above, left) with the hook still embedded in his foot doesn’t show the lighter edge. The photo taken on March 28 clearly shows it (left).
His other foot (right) proves it’s not from his injury. Some other ducks have similar feet but many don’t. I’ll do some research on this.
January 25th, 2014 permalink
I imagine native Floridians wonder how northerners endure frigid temperatures just as much as we wonder how of our neighbors in far northern Canada manage in a climate colder than ours. This winter, however, has taxed all of us in Michigan. Commerce hasn’t stalled, but it’s curtailed except for hearty souls and those behind the wheels of snow plows and salt trucks.
I’m making fewer treks to the millpond. When I go, I’m bundled up beyond easy movement (right) with about seven layers of shirts, sweaters, and a coat. I don’t stay long enough to take many photographs. My fingers quickly lose all sensitivity. I have a reservoir of images on hand to fill posts like the ones shown here taken in early January.
Jiminy is looking great with his feathers fluffed up to capture an insulating layer of air (top). He’s adjusted to his life at the pond very well since MooseTracks kept him captive below the falls in August. The two aren’t best friends, but they mingle as members of the winter flock near Main Street. Jiminy has gained a lot of weight from the bread offered by park visitors. Click the link above. You’ll see how he’s changed.
Babs, one of the most productive hens in 2013 with a total of 21 hatchlings (Brood5 and Brood19), refuses to expose her feet to the cold snow. She reaches as far as she can without getting up to grab a few duck chow pellets.
January 21st, 2014 permalink
You’ve read about Mrs PomPom (left) having a rough summer, but she’s thoroughly enjoying the winter months. She’s actively flirting with most of the domestic drakes near the millpnod planning for a summer of nests. The drakes don’t pay much attention to her advances at this time of year, but in a couple of months she’ll have more attention than she wants.
Buda (below right) is still laying claim to her charms, but he allows other ducks in his Bunch to be near her. It’s a different story when Dumpling comes around. He’s usually chased away. Jiminy and Captain D. Hookt don’t attempt to get close to her since they are still considered outsiders by the two established domestic duck clans. I may not matter when breeding begins. We have several newly arrived hens available to amuse them.
November 25th, 2013 permalink
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.
Three 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.
Jiminy 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.
November 3rd, 2013 permalink
Not 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.
No 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.
Captain 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.
October 24th, 2013 permalink
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.
Consequently, 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
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.
L to R: Captain D. Hookt, Jiminy, and Jemima. Jiminy calls the shots for this trio.
October 20th, 2013 permalink
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.
September 3rd, 2013 permalink
It 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), he 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).
He 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).
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.
I 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.
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.
August 16th, 2013 permalink
“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?
Park 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.
August 15th, 2013 permalink
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.