November 17th, 2014 permalink
If it’s not Moxie, it may be the other Mandarin hen that visited the Brighton millpond. She’s as feisty as Moxie. She threatened Buddy, the Pekin behind her, just before this picture was taken (right). Moxie stood her ground against ducks six times her size last winter.
Sunday was her first night back at the pond. Maybe we can figure out which of the two Mandarin visitors she is in the days to come.
July 14th, 2014 permalink
July 11: We had a special guest appearance at the millpond on Friday night, a female Mandarin duck. It may be a new bird, but it may be Moxie who left the millpond last fall.
I don’t think it’s the Mandarin hen who arrived with the two white Mandarins in December. It lacks the red area on the bill above its nostrils and the “nail,” the tip of the bill, appears darker.
Moxie’s bill markings are similar but to confirm it’s Moxie, I’ll have to see her out of the water. She wears a leg band and is quick to threaten other birds when they get in her way even if they are twice her size.
Both of these images show some digital photo anomalies due to the low light conditions and the duck’s fast movements. Some parts of the photos look like rapidly painted strokes done by Francis Bacon, an Abstract Expressionist favorite of mine in the 1960s when I was a hungry Wayne State art student.
The Detroit Institute of Art was open Tuesday evenings back then. I walked from campus to do my homework on a comfortable sofa in the main court. The light was nice, the Rivera murals surrounded me, and ashtrays were plentiful. The public environment and the trickle of the fountain kept me from falling asleep reading dull subjects needed to graduate.
Bacon’s “Study for a Crouching Nude” (1952, right) wasn’t far from the fountain court and a destination on my study breaks. It, along with a few other works in the DIA collection, has influenced my love for ambiguous images for the past 50 years.
It’s curious how certain things embed themselves in our brains because they enter our lives at a receptive moment. They’re often inconsequential things, too, rather than big events. I have a clearer mental image of this painting than who pitched the world series game I attended in 1968. Was it Mickey Lolich or Denny McLain? Selective memories shape us yet we don’t seem to make the decisions of what is placed in our memory banks.
May 27th, 2014 permalink
I saw what I think is unusual behavior on the part of Florence the Mandarin duck yesterday. She took several vigorous dives in the pond where she would swim about 10 feet a foot below the surface. The breed is considered to be a dabbling duck so they don’t usually dive for food. Maybe she just felt like changing the pace a bit.
May 21st, 2014 permalink
Ever since the two white Mandarin ducks arrived at the Brighton millpond, I’ve wondered what to name them. “Snowball” and “Snowflake” seemed just too easy and trite so I’ve continued to to refer to them as “the Mandarins” since no others of that species reside with us. Since one of them died from ingesting a fishhook, naming the remaining one has seemed as important because I can just say, “the white Mandarin.” An event has changed my plans:
A couple of days ago, Jemima was minding her own business incubating her eggs with the white Mandarin sitting beside the nest as she often does. The pond’s only remaining Indian Runner, Fred, decided it was time to climb up the cemetery hill and pay Jemima a conjugal visit (although he has no legal authority to do so). Jemima took off waddling to avoid Fred’s affections which Fred perceived as a sign of her deep devotion to him. Dodging headstones and waving American flags, the two romped through the graveyard as if it was an agility course.
Meanwhile, the white duck moved over and sat on the 17 eggs (top). The little white duck couldn’t possibly blanket the entire clutch, but she did her best. Dressed in white, she’s definitely a nurse. Too bad she can’t be a mother due to the lack of a Mandarin drake in the vicinity, but she is a great substitute mom. When Jemima returned, she handed the duty back over to her and returned to her place beside the nest. So the little white Mandarin will forevermore be named Florence.
There are many important nurses throughout history, but Florence Nightingale gets the nod due to her efforts to reform care for the British military and ought to be recognized on this side of the larger Atlantic pond. Perhaps mentioning her here will remind the current administration the Veteran’s Administration owes the men and women in our own military care second to none. Hey, the Butterfly Effect is real.
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).
April 1st, 2014 permalink
March 31: As regular readers know, the Mandarin duck thought to have swallowed a fish hook disappeared on March 24. Its body was found 30 yards from its last seen location by grandparents who had brought their two grandsons to the pond on Sunday, March 30.
Joyce Schuelke, owner of the Wildernest store, asked the Brighton Animal Hospital if they would x-ray the bird to see if had swallowed the gear. On Monday, I transported the Mandarin duck to the hospital and one of their exceptional team of veterinarians, Dr. Christine Lee, graciously donated her time and resources to take x-rays confirming what was suspected. Thank you, Dr. Lee!
We aren’t widely publicizing the x-rays now, but I wanted to let readers know the Mandarin’s death was confirmed. Closer to prime fishing season, the Wildernest and I will be using the x-rays to alert the public of the danger small objects are to birds.
At least once a year for the years I’ve reported on the Brighton millpond, at least one bird has died from ingesting fishing tackle or other objects like pulltabs on pop cans. After the snow melted, I found and disposed of several objects located near the pond including these nylon zip-ties. They were used to hold the Holiday lights strung on the Tridge this winter and carelessly discarded by the decorating crew when the lifts were removed in January. Waterfowl aren’t discerning in what they will swallow. If it fits in their mouth, down the hatch it goes. They cannot chew so they swallow things and let their crops grind them up. More information will be posted later in spring.
March 29th, 2014 permalink
March 26: I felt hopeful Wednesday evening. The hooked Mandarin duck was quite active. It scurried around the millpond lawn and gobbled duck chow pellets (above near an electric cord from Holiday decorations). Its feathers were held aloft a little, something I wondered about, but its actions seemed normal. It swam with its buddy exhibiting no stress.
Near dark, the two birds basked against the sun-warmed cement and looked relaxed and healthy.
March 27: Thursday night, the hooked bird had vanished. It most likely succumbed from ingesting the fishing hardware, but there’s the possibility it flew off to join the third Mandarin feeding along South Ore Creek. It has left the other white bird (above and right) alone before. It hasn’t returned by Friday night.
Wish it could have received veterinary care, but capturing it was not possible.
March 26th, 2014 permalink
First some encouraging news: The white duck that might have swallowed a fish hook is looking alright. He actively swims and seems alert. On Monday afternoon, he joined the rest of the domestic ducks and gobbled down some duck chow pellets looking downright perky and actively sought food.
He searched the sidewalk for additional chow when it ran out (above) and walked normally with his buddy. I’m not sure we’re out of the woods yet, but these are hopeful signs he somehow managed to dislodge the hook and expelled it.
I’m a little concerned about his resting posture in the water (below left) as well as when he’s standing (bottom). He “slumps.” It might be a response to our cold temperatures. Note how he’s fluffed up his feathers to increase his insulation. As previous mentioned, I also think he’s molting since he’s missing his flight feathers.
Now for the surprise: Manny Antonacci from Utah emailed me that the two white ducks as well as the gray/brown one that hasn’t been seen for a couple of weeks aren’t Wood Ducks. He’s confident they are the closely related Asian Mandarin Ducks.
Further, he feels all three are females. Woodies and Mandarins cannot interbreed so we won’t have a troop of itty-bitty ducklings this summer unless the girls can spring a drake from an exotic duck breeder. While a permit to breed Mandarins is not required in Michigan, they are considered an invasive species because they could compete with our native Wood Ducks for nesting sites. Both species are perching birds favoring hollow trees and nest boxes high above ground level.
March 24th, 2014 permalink
A few decades ago, there was probably a duck farmer within earshot of the Brighton millpond that I could ask to evaluate our Wood Duck to see if its behavior was normal and typical. Instead, I have to rely on my limited skills.
So far, so good. The duck that may have swallowed the fishing gear was swimming well and I saw him eat on Sunday. A couple of things may indicate he has a health issue, but they aren’t severe enough to warrant taking immediate action. He floats with his tail down (below right) rather than it pointing upward like the other white Wood Duck (below left). In the past, I’ve used this sign to identify injured birds.
He also seems a bit lethargic but it’s not consistent. The top photo shows him resting beside a large chunk of ice. He stayed there for ten minutes but then he began to leisurely swim around again. When some larger ducks came too close, he quickly moved away from them (right) at a jaunty pace. We all have low energy days. Ducks are no different so his behavior is within the normal range.
While he was resting, I decided I might be able to catch him so he could be taken to a veterinarian. I borrowed a net from the Wildernest store. As soon as the ducks saw it, they all swam to the far side of the pond with the two white Wood Ducks joining their departure.
We’ll keep watching him closely to see if his behavior changes during the next few days. I’m hoping it doesn’t because, unless he becomes so ill he allows someone to approach him, we might not be able to rescue him.
March 22nd, 2014 permalink
Do you remember how Roseanne Roseannadanna would pontificate on a subject and end with “Nevermind” after she was corrected? That’s me today. Wish I had some of her hair on my head.
After making intricate plans yesterday to catch and seek treatment for the white wood duck with the swallowed hook, I went to the millpond last night with a plastic bucket full of duck chow and a live trap borrowed from the Wildernest store to catch the bird.
As Robert Burns penned in 1785:
“The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!”
~~ Take THAT, John Steinbeck, you literary thief!
I could drone on about how all of the ducks ignored me because the pond’s Friday visitors filled their bellies, but the more important point is that neither duck had a sinker and clip dangling out of its bill.
The photo at the top and the one on the left show both sides of both birds. Either the entire monofilament line and all things attached to it were swallowed or expelled. I assumed the line in the bird’s mouth last night had a hook on the end of it so it couldn’t be regurgitated, but that might not have been the case.
Both birds acted very relaxed and comfortable during the 90 minutes I spent with them. They swam, napped, and preened under the watchful eyes of Buda and Bacall (above left) and Mrs PomPom and SweetPea (above right). None of the domestic ducks were hungry so I didn’t see either wood duck eat. I’ll check back later today to see if there is any change in behaviors.
Wildlife of all kinds are masters at hiding their injuries and illnesses so predators can’t single them out as an easy meal. If the fishing gear was swallowed, we anticipate the bird will exhibit a weakened condition within a couple of days. It’s possible (but doubtful) the hook could dissolve in stomach acids after a while if it’s been swallowed. The concern now is the chance internal damage might require emergency measures. Catching the bird might make them impossible.
My time with the birds last night had one positive benefit. I can now identify which bird is which. The one that had fishing gear has a pale tan feather on each wing. It also has more rounded head and lacks the long flight feathers that cross over its back, but these traits are temporary identifiers caused by molting. Pictures taken at the end of January show both birds had flight feathers then.
Let’s hope no intervention is required.
March 21st, 2014 permalink
This is heartbreaking. One of the two white wood duck drakes has swallowed a fish hook and the monofilament line is hanging out of its mouth with the sinker and clip dangling. The fish hook is completely out of sight.
This happened within the last 24 hours. The bird is shaking its head to try and dislodge it, but there is no chance of that happening.
Currently, the bird is able to eat. An effort will be made to attempt its capture and to get medical attention for it, but it is a wary animal and it may be impossible.
March 19th, 2014 permalink
March 18: It’s a good thing the domestic ducks weren’t issued tin cups this winter. They would have disturbed the peace clanging them along the bars of their self-imposed jail clamoring for grub when the public stayed home on ultra cold days.
The domestic ducks remained between the short bridge and the dam this year. In past years, they roosted on the other side of the bridge which gave them 360 degrees to scan the terrain for danger.
They weren’t truly confined behind the bars this year. They could waddle their way under the bridge to the more open location and did occasionally. Maybe frequent winds encouraged them to seek the sheltered location or the insulating properties of the dry straw bed that was maintained almost daily by a still unidentified contributor.
This winter, three of the 19 domestic ducks who spent the winter by the dam died from predation (assumed). It might be the result of the ducks’ decision to roost where a coyote, fox, or stray dog could sneak up and corner the flightless birds. Now that the millpond ice has retreated, the ducks have been sprung from the slammer! They roost on the sidewalk with a full view of anything approaching. Chances of additional deaths by predators are reduced.
The blue metal barrier had one distinct advantage: The small Mandarin ducks that arrived in mid-December could squeeze under it to reach the sidewalk. When the big ducks couldn’t reach food tossed there, the tiny ducks ate without being jostled by birds four times their size. The little birds, however, hold their own around the bigger guys who might view them as youngsters even though they are fully grown. I’ve rarely seen the big ducks peck at the Mandarins. In fact, they often sleep next to each other in harmony.
Top: Buddy, Franny, and Buda stretch to grab pellets while a Madarin nibbles beyond the reach of the “jailed” birds. Bottom: Stella and a white Mandarin watch Franny eat with his chipped bill.
March 4th, 2014 permalink
March 4: Against newly fallen snow the white Mandarin ducks* are almost invisible. Against a contrasting background, their beauty can be fully appreciated (above). On snow, only their brightly colored bills and feet show up.
One of them has a pinkish area on it’s back near its wing. It might be from battles with other ducks. Yet birds seem to get along fine with the 0ther domestics wintering near the millpond dam. Maybe the larger birds leave them alone because they don’t view them as threats for food or territory because of their size.
* One of these birds is no longer with us but I took many photos during its days at the pond. I’ll continue posting them in the days ahead.
February 17th, 2014 permalink
The three Wood Ducks remain transient. One night this weekend, only the unattached drake spent the night with the domestic ducks near the dam (above and right). Another night, both drakes were there without the female. I have reports the birds fly to South Ore Creek to visit a feeder there.
It appears they are comfortable with the 18 domestics but like to wander. There may be other food resources and roosts they frequent in the area. We’ll see how their behavior evolves in the months ahead. Millpond visitors hope they continue to honor us with their presence.
February 12th, 2014 permalink
The smallest ducks on the millpond have the most demonstrative relationship. The hen snuggles up but the male isn’t particularly receptive yet.
You can tell he’s interested when other drakes like Rusty come near her (right). The woodie threatens them with mock strikes too quick for my camera. He thrusts his head toward the offender with his bill wide open like he’ll inflict a savage bite. The drakes scurry out of his range. Since he’s less than half their size, they’re probably humoring him.
February 8th, 2014 permalink
The extreme winter temperatures are taking a toll on the humans, but the birds at the millpond appear to be doing well.
Above, Dumpling sports a quackcicle, but he’s the only duck who’s wearing one. In this shot, he looks like he’s wearing fluffy white slippers.
The female Wood Duck came close enough for me to take this portrait while she was lying in the snow. Like Moxie, all three of the newly arrived Wood Ducks have lost some of their fear of people, an unusual trait for their species but it’s because they are surely hand-raised birds.
February 8th, 2014 permalink
The female Wood Duck is scrappy and not afraid of the big farm ducks. Here, she snuck in between Duke, a big Rouen, and Jiminy to grab some duck chow pellets. All three of the birds laid down while eating to pull their feet up into their feathers to warm them.
February 7th, 2014 permalink
On Tuesday, I saw one white Wood Duck drake threaten the other one to stay away from the Wood Duck hen. The excluded one seems to have accepted his fate, but he stays close to the bonding pair. We’ll see how this plays out in the months ahead. Since I haven’t figured out which drake is which, I might not be able to record a shift in the pairing, however. Hopefully, Moxie will come back when the weather improves and we can have two bonded pairs at the millpond and two sets of what will probably be the cutest ducklings in Michigan.
February 1st, 2014 permalink
The Wood Ducks court differently than Mallards. The hen is intent upon ingratiating herself to one of the white drakes and touches him often. Mallards rarely touch each other during courtship even at the peak of the season.
The woodie hen sidles up to the drake and bumps him. It’s cute how she does it casually but it’s obviously intentional. She plants pecks on his neck and chin. I haven’t seen him return the affectionate favors. He disinterested now, but he’ll become responsive when his seasonal hormones kick in and eggs won’t freeze.
The pair rests together touching sides, something Mallards don’t do even when they’ve bonded for the spring season. The other male doesn’t appear to care. The three roost together (above) but the third one doesn’t try to compete. Maybe he’s got his eye on a ravishing domestic hen four times his size. There are five voluptious hens sharing his realm near the millpond dam.
January 31st, 2014 permalink
The third wood duck has joined the other two near the Brighton dam. I’m not sure if they will be long term residents or just visitors. I know Melonie downstream on Ore Creek has been feeding them so they might continue to frequent both places.
All three birds are banded so I doubt they were simply abandoned. It’s more likely they escaped and there’s a distraught owner in the region. Unlike typical domestic ducks that are demanding and messy pets, these cannot be difficult to maintain or house.
The white birds appear to both be drakes. Their body size and shape is similar to doves especially when they are in the water (top).
The hen is actively courting one of the drakes. I saw her groom his chest (left and below) as they floated.
It would be a treat if we had tiny ducklings from this pair at the millpond this spring. Woodies nest in trees and prefer being next to the water because ducklings leap to the ground/water when they fledge. Nest can be as high as 60 feet up although most are much lower. These adults aren’t spooked by humans so they might bring their young close enough to photograph. Then again, the pair might become instinctually more secretive when nesting begins.
January 31st, 2014 permalink
One of the worst things about blogging is you have a permanent record of all the inaccurate stuff I tell you.
Contrary to my earlier report, this female Wood Duck is not Moxie. Moxie didn’t wear jewelry. This woodie hen sports two leg bands, a white one on the left and a metal one on the right.
When I was watching her last night, she walked right up to Duke, a bird at least 5 times her size, and threatened him to get out of her way. My immediate thought was, “Yup, that’s our Moxie.” It wasn’t until I got home and saw the photos on my monitor that I realized it wasn’t. So, if Moxie returns in spring, we’ll have two tiny ducks picking fights with the big guys. I’ll do my best to provide you with a video of the action.
January 28th, 2014 permalink
Robert Cameron, on staff at the Wildernest store, captured our on-again-off-again-resident female Wood Duck named Moxie as she grapples for her share of duck chow with birds much larger than her. Compare her body shape with the small white duck that arrived Sunday evening and you’ll find they appear to match. She’s the duck right in front with the white eye ring:
Thanks, Robert for braving the cold winds to capture Moxie in action.
January 27th, 2014 permalink
Well. Well. We have an overnight guest at the Main Street duck’s Sunday night pajama party. I got a call from a Brighton resident the day of our big mid-December storm. She had tiny white ducks at her feeding station downstream from the millpond. A couple weeks later, a millpond visitor told Joyce at the Wildernest store there were three small ducks mixed in with the Main Street flock — two whites and a brown.
Last night was the first time I met one of them, a white Call Duck [see note in comments]. It was lying beside Buda, the biggest duck at the milllpond, so it was quite a contrast (above). It has a longer tail than the other ducks so it looks almost dove-like (right). Call Ducks are the Shih Tzus of duckdom. They are so cute and small (< 1.5 pounds), bet you’d love to carry one in your shoulder bag but, unlike fashionable lapdogs, it would fill it with poop. Call Ducks were selectively bred from Mallard stock in 15th Century Holland. They are noisy birds so, if tied up, they would call in wild ducks to be trapped/shot for market. Now they are bred for pets and show.
The millpond’s overnight guest has a leg band. It is probably a wayward pet that became disoriented during the snowstorm along with its buddy. The brown duck they have been seen with is our fickle friend, the female Wood Duck, who pops in and out of the millpond when the mood suits her. As spring approaches, it will be interesting to see if these three diminutive ducks continue to stick together and frequent the millpond.
October 18th, 2013 permalink
I hadn’t seen Moxie in a few days. I thought she had joined the group of Wood Ducks that visited the pond last week and left with them on their journey south. She showed up again Wednesday night and was her usual feisty self. It’s amusing to watch her pick fights with ducks three times her small stature. She does it regularly.
She’ll lower her head and open her mouth threatening to inflict a vicious bite or bulldoze into them with a powerful chest bump (right). It achieves her purpose to get where she wants to go, but I sense the Mallards don’t take her seriously. They get out of her way because she’s annoying rather than capable of wounding them.
September 20th, 2013 permalink
The Wood Duck hen that arrived on August 21 has continued to be a millpond regular and a feisty one at that. Even though she is the size of a pigeon, about one third the size of a Mallard, she is fearless when she mingles with them. If other ducks get too close to her, she lowers her head and threatens them with a wide open bill (above) and they quickly move away.
I’m guessing she came from another pond, maybe at a private residence, where she was part of a small domestic flock. She’s not only comfortable around other ducks, she’s unafraid of people. Wild Wood Ducks keep a safe distance from humans and easily bolt from their woodland ponds when approached. I’ve only seen a pair of wood ducks once on the millpond within the past year. They’d rather be in more remote waters. Outside of Mallards, they are the most numerous duck species but you’d never know it due to their secretive nature.
Juvenile Wood Ducks all look like hens, but this one is clearly a female albeit a young one. She has the yellow eye ring, white neck patch, and clean gray head and neck characteristics (right). If she’s young, she may just be passing through and leave at any time. Most woodies in the northern tier migrate southward for the winter months. I hope she returns, finds a mate, and raises a couple of broods in Brighton next year. It would be fun to photograph her ducklings.
Her name hereafter is Moxie to celebrate her ability to hold her own with the larger ducks and geese at the millpond. Look for her near Main Street. In sunlight, you’ll notice blues, purples, and a hint of rose on her wings (left), but that’s not the best way to spot her. Look for a small grayish-brown duck with white eye rings and feathers coming to a point on the back of the neck.
If you see her on land with other ducks, watch how she weaves and dodges through the birds and avoids their attacks like a pro quarterback on his way to the end zone.