Duck Wrangling: SweetPea is rescued

October 22nd, 2014     2 comments     permalink

SweetPea was severely injured by the new drakes dumped at the millpond

On Monday evening, I found SweetPea bloodied up (above and left). While I didn’t see it happen, I’m confident it’s the work of Lewis and/or Clark mating with her. Those two Pekin drakes were dumped at the millpond to alleviate the problem of them beating up females in their owner’s pond so he foisted his problem onto our ducks. Thanks a bunch.

SweetPea cruises the millpond on her final evening at the millpondThis illustrates a problem faced in all parks with all species that give humans trouble. Raccoons, squirrels, and other critters live trapped in attics and garages then deposited in parks. People think this is a great solution but they don’t realize that they are dumping animals into the territories of other animals and the results are usually catastrophic for them. They are on unfamiliar turf with belligerent residents screeching “Get off my lawn!,” don’t know where to find food, and may be surprised by predators. I liken it to someone dropping off a toddler at a mall and expecting things to turn out well. The solution is to keep the wildlife you have in your habitat but discover ways to discourage them from entering your cherished spaces. The alternative is killing them outright if it’s legal.

Matt Lyson, calms SweetPea moments after her capture

Matt Lyson, Michigan Duck Rescue, examines SweetPea's woundsMatt and Theresa Lyson from the Michigan Duck Rescue and Sanctuary were asked to rescue SweetPea from continued mating stress. She’s been a target of drakes for years but became more vulnerable after Gramps, Afroduck, and MooseTracks (all members of her Dam Tribe) died. They arrived Tuesday afternoon and within a short time, cornered and netted SweetPea. She wasn’t a bit happy about this indignity but quickly settled down in Matt’s arms and fell asleep in the carrier for the trip back to the Sanctuary.

Meanwhile, her suitors, Fred and Duke, were trying to figure out what had happened to their main squeeze (right).

Fred and Duke (flapping) will miss SweetPea's companionshipThe Lysons have made caring for unwanted and injured domestic waterfowl their life’s work and have recently qualified for 501(c)3 status so tax deductible contributions can be accepted. They will treat SweetPea’s wounds and lavish attention on her at their own expense. She’ll soon find her care and protection from horny drakes to her liking. While there is a tentative plan to her return to the millpond, it will only happen if we can balance the ratio of drakes to hens to lessen mating stress.

If Lewis and Clark continue to be thugs, they will be dispatched.

SweetPea’s winter

March 25th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

The girl's still got it!

SweetPea looked fluffy and spotless against the fresh snow on March 6March 6: For the past three months, I haven’t seen SweetPea swimming in what little open water she had near the damn. She’s an old Pekin duck and maybe the cold water aggravates arthritis or some other malady for a duck in her senior years. Seems she’s not walking as spritely as she did.

Yet she’s obviously bathing. At the beginning of March, she was a fluffy as I’ve ever seen her (left), but later in the month, the drakes began to batter her during breeding. Now her neck is bald in the back and she”s been bloodied a few times. There are more domestic hens on the millpond this year and I thought that might take some of the heat off the old girl, but it hasn’t.

SweetPea spent little time in the water this winterMarch 25: Often, as the Dam Tribe drakes paddle around the pond, SweetPea remains on shore this winter (top and right). In the past, she was often the duck that led the flotila, but that’s changed this winter. Perhaps it’s because drakes take advantage of her when she’s afloat. She’s less able to defend herself there.

The lost of two of the four drakes in the Dam Tribe, MooseTracks and Desi, may also be a factor in her behavior. Desi and Fred (above, left) were her constant companions. I suppose you could call them her common law spouses. MooseTracks and Duke (the tribe’s police force) allowed them to weasel their way into the Dam Tribe. Maybe SweetPea had lost her allure after so many years.  MooseTracks didn’t seem to care the White and Fawn Indian Runners took on the responsibilities of wooing. The black and white duck enjoyed swimming to the north end of the pond to court (no candles or flowers, mind you) any female he could overpower, Babs being one of them.

At almost 11 weeks, Parfait is almost fully grown now and handsomeHalf of Parfait‘s genes are surely those of the Moose. He’s got the dramatically marked plumage and splotchy feet of his dad. Now that he’s an adult, I also see his demeanor is similar — a very calm duck. I’ll post recent pictures of him soon.

The Dam Tribe may eventually embrace many of last year’s dumped ducks. Young drakes might give Duke a hand protecting SweetPea’s virtue, charmer that she still is. Males from other subflocks seek bliss from unprotected hen during the mating season. Drakes don’t need a Sazerac from Tujague’s to lower their inhibitions. For 3 months each year, the millpond is an aquatic Mardi Gras and every day is Fat Tuesday.

MooseTracks and Desi are gone

March 23rd, 2014     2 comments     permalink

The bricks of the Old Town Hall reflect in the water around MooseTracks in the setting sun

Desi isn't as demonstrative as Fred, but is still a playerTwo veteran members of the Dam Tribe, MooseTracks and Desi, have disappeared. A coyote has been seen two blocks from the millpond. It’s the suspected killer of both birds on March 6 or the dark morning hours of the seventh. I originally wondered if they might have been stolen since both birds disappeared on the same night, but they were street-smart and wary of humans so it’s doubtful. I’ve been told it’s not unusual for a predator to kill more than one bird on a visit. No remains were found.

The domestic birds wintering near the dam have been “sitting ducks.” They are flightless and are essentially enclosed by the dam, bridge and fences. A predator can surprise them there and make a kill as they scatter in panic. Bogie was lost less than a month before and was probably killed by the same animal or pack. Now that there is more open water, the remaining birds are more likely to escape an attack, but not immune.

SweetPea dines with Desi (top) and Fred on their last night togetherMooseTracks has been a favorite of park visitors since 2006. He’s been “the enforcer” of duck justice near the dam, and the only Ancona duck at the pond. He is survived by at least one offspring, Parfait who is currently residing at the north end of the pond.

Desi arrived with three other White and Tan Indian Runners in May, 2011. Fred is the only survivor of the quartet now. I was fortunate to photograph SweetPea and Fred dining with Desi (top duck) on their last night together, March 6 (above right). Desi and Fred have brought smiles to thousands of faces with their comical behaviors and constant presence near Main Street.

Since June, 2011, when the alpha male of the Dam Tribe, Gramps, died from a snapping turtle attack, six of the original eight members have died including the popular Afroduck who still has a Facebook page in his honor. Fred and Desi are recent inductees to the tribe so the mortality rate has been 70% in 31 months. Only SweetPea and Duke remain from the original cast. With the arrival of 17 dumped ducks in 2013, I imagine there will be a major shift in duck politics as soon as the pond ice clears and sub-flocks establish their summer territories. Stay tuned.

Frozen feathers

February 7th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

Bathing seems more often in the frigid weather

A few wing flaps have to do. Ducks don't have towels.It seems ducks spend more time bathing in this frigid weather than they do when it’s warmer. Perhaps the temperature in the teens freezes their feathers and it is irritating. Above, MooseTracks shares the tub with the female Wood Duck.

Since ducks don’t have towels, their only method to dry themselves is to flap their wings (right). Once they climb out, they usually flap a few more times and then do some quick preening, but I’m sure their feathers freeze rapidly as the cold wind blows against them. MooseTracks stands beside his bathtub, below, and you can see how his feathers aren’t combed like they usually are when it’s warmer.

MooseTracks stands regally beside the millpond bathtub

Duke: The John Wayne of ducks

January 17th, 2014     1 comment     permalink

SweetPea basks in the admiration of three of her four companions. Desi is the fourth just beyond the frame of this image.

Look for a huge Mallard with no white neck ringSweetPea is one of the few ducks to take advantage of the straw brought to the pond by an unknown donor. I’ve seen her rest on it several times during this extreme cold weather while most of the other ducks continue to slumber on the hard, cold ice.

What she likes even more than the straw, however, is the attention she gets from her drakes. Three of the four are shown up top. They are (l to r) Duke, MooseTracks, and Fred. Desi is in front of her out of the picture frame.

These five ducks, better known as the Dam Tribe, are often the subject of this blog because their group is usually near Main Street where the majority of park visitors congregate. They are also easy to identify because of their unique markings.

Duke is big and calm like most Rouen ducksThe duck least noticed is Duke. He’s a Rouen, a breed first developed in France and improved in England that’s also known as “Giant Mallards.” They arrived in the USA in about 1850. Mature Rouens average 8-10 pounds but can reach 12 pounds while typical wild Mallards weigh 3-4 pounds. Besides filling up a platter, the breed is known for their delicious meat. Unfortunately, the breed is endangered because the public isn’t willing to pay for it. It takes 24 to 32 weeks for Rouens to reach market weight while white Pekins are ready in only 7 weeks so Pekins have 95% of the U.S. meat duck market.

Duke is a typical Rouen, very calm and docile. He helps MooseTracks haphazardly guard SweetPea when randy drakes come calling, but most of the time, he stands in the background and tags along wherever the group decides to swim or stroll. He rarely leads the parade yet seems happy being the strong, silent type.

The comparison photos (below) illustrate there is no way his small wings could lift him for sustained flight. Even Fred, a flightless Indian Runner (right) has larger and longer wings. In a farm environment, it’s advantageous to raise birds that can’t fly away profits. At the Brighton millpond, it’s a disadvantage. Predators or mean spirited humans can overtake lumbering ducks, but Duke has managed well over the years. There are at least eight Rouen and Rouen Clair ducks at the Brighton millpond. We lost Duncan, a Rouen drake, to a foot infection last year.

You can see how the size of his wings couldn't support him in flight Fred is an Indian Runner, more slender than Duke

A labor of love on Labor Day

September 2nd, 2013     0 comments     permalink

Fred, SweetPea, and Desi bask in attention as eggs accumulate

You guessed it, Sweet Pea is nesting again. I saw her hop up into the raised garden bed between the sidewalk and Main Street two nights ago. She had two nests in those beds earlier this spring so I knew what she was up to. I found one egg that night, but last night I found that egg moved to another spot in the raised bed (probably had human transportation) where four other eggs were placed. That’s a total of 45 eggs this year (so far) in five different nests. Chances of successfully hatchings are similar to Stephen King penning a bouncy musical comedy.

Fred is an upstanding member of the millpond flock Desi isn't as demonstrative as Fred, but is still a player SweetPea doesn't believe in monogamy

Who is fathering these future failures? Buddy and Budda haven’t been making pilgrimages to the Dam Tribe territory lately so Fred (above left) and Desi (center and right) seem to be the primary partners of our Grande Dame these days. You can tell the two Indian Runners apart by looking at their chins. Fred’s is white while Desi’s has more tan on it. Their upright posture, goofy babbling, and comical gait are identical. They spend most of their days on each side of the love of their combined life. They are two of the millpond’s most amusing ducks and as 40% of the Dam Tribe, they are almost always near Main Street.

Duke is aback bencher but is happy with his role in life MooseTracks is the primary enforcer near Main Street

The other two members of the tribe are contenders. Duke (left) could possibly be a daddy-to-be, but he’s a back bencher and happy in his beta role to MooseTracks. Could MooseTracks be the father of some eggs? Since he arrived with SweetPea in 2006, he’s rarely in the mood to court her anymore. He treats her like a sister. He initiates flings on short jaunts to the north end of the pond. The females find his infrequent visits and dashing good looks irresistible, but he always comes home to the Tribe.

Duck wrestling: Ducks 3, Blogger 1

August 18th, 2013     1 comment     permalink

This post will prove my insanity and a reader will surely inform the authorities. I hope I’ll have an Internet connection in my locked room at The Home.

A badly injured foot needs attention by a veterinarian if I can catch the ducklingSaturday, I arrived near dusk at the Brighton millpond with a mission: capture a 11 week old duckling to have his turtle bitten foot repaired by a wonderful veterinarian on Monday (right). I didn’t let the ducks know my plans. I started with my usual charm and duck chow. The ducks were thrilled as they gathered at my feet. The injured duck joined them to get his share of the goodies.

Bones are protruding from the foot of this 11 week old duckWith their crops full, the birds bedded down for the night along the pond edge. I identified the duckling’s location (left) then retrieved the telescoping capture net loaned to me by the Wildernest store and a cardboard box large enough for a duck. Ducks have terrific vision. They saw me returning with paraphernalia from 100 feet away and pegged me as a traitor with sinister motives.

They flew into the water and huddled in a trembling, quacking mass. I set the net and box down and spent the next hour charming them again. Well, at least the gullible ones. Many knew I was no longer trustworthy and stayed 50 feet away. By 1:00 a.m., there was no chance to nab the duckling. Round One: Ducks Win.

Wanting to return home with some success, I embarked on using the long handled net to my advantage with the two dumped ducks who remained below the dam. As soon as the net was within their view, they realized I was evil and scambled for the boulders. Cool! That’s where I wanted them! Within five minutes of waving the net downstream from them, one of the ducks waddled for its life UP the embankment and was happily paddling around the pond where it belonged!

Within another five minutes, the other duck was frightened into the rushing water and carefully scooped into the net and plunked in the pond with his buddy. He was dazed for 30 seconds then realized he and his mate were FREE (below). Round Two: Blogger Wins.

Two dumped ducks free at last ... for a few minutes at least

Desi was the first to notice ... and attackSince it was 1:30 a.m. by then, I basked in the glory of my deeds as I watched the two ducks relax in the quiet pond on a perfect summer night.

Then Desi spotted the interlopers in the Dam Tribe‘s territory and charged (left, not clickable). Drakes aren’t amused by rivals stealing the hearts of their harem hens. Desi’s harem consists of one: the lovely (and easily infatuated) SweetPea.

Desi mounted the interloper and bit its head and neckDesi mounted a newcomer and savagely bit his head and neck as they moved around the pond out of the my flash’s range (right). Sorry for the grainy images.

The other white duck stayed clear of the assaultWhile Desi convinced one he was not welcome, the other was stressed and confused by the encounter (left). Desi finally returned to the Dam Tribe after he taught the new duck a lesson in dominance. Round Three: Desi in a unanimous decision.

MooseTracks, however, felt he needed to punctuate the tribe’s dissatisfaction with competition. He rushed the pair and mounted one to bite its neck and head (below). SweetPea paid scant attention to the heroic efforts being made upon her behalf. She is willing to reward all soldiers returning from battle regardless of the outcome.

MooseTracks attacked minutes later

MooseTracks drove the duck to the crest of the falls and back to where it belongedThe attack lasted several minutes. The white duck struggled to free himself while swimming in large circles around the pond.

The battling ducks arrived at the dam and the white duck got his footing on the cement. It dislodged the moose and hurried away (right). Yup, you guessed it. He tumbled back into his safe place below the falls. Round Four: MooseTracks.

Humiliated by a duck, this blogger spend another hour using every wily method he could conceive to convince the cornered bird to rejoin his mate above the cascading water but found no joy. None of the inebriated souls leaving the Brighton saloons at closing offered viable solutions but some offered their slurring wisdom. Unfortunately the duck developed several new strategies to evade all methods employed. This might be a long stand off. Round Five: A Draw. (So Far.)

MooseTracks: Swimming in color

August 11th, 2013     2 comments     permalink

The bricks of the Old Town Hall reflect in the water around MooseTracks in the setting sun

The water is more subdued so MooseTracks is the star of this imageOne of the pond’s favorite celebri-ducks, MooseTracks lends a hand posing for portraits surrounded by colorful reflected light. He’s dramatic with the red bricks from the Old Town Hall swirling around him (above), while he’s more subdued in the two images where the millpond reflects the scattered clouds of a mid-summer sky.

MooseTracks is an Ancona duck who arrived at the pond in 2006 when his previous owner wanted to get rid of him. He’s fared well as a member of the Dam Tribe.

MooseTracks swims in a swirl of summer clouds

Rivalry in the Dam Tribe

July 28th, 2013     0 comments     permalink

Desi is SweetPea's preferred suitor these days

Oh, the tangled and ever-changing relationships of the five members of the Dam Tribe. Currently, Desi is SweetPea’s preferred beau. He’s the White and Fawn Indian Runner with the tan chin (left foreground, above). For some reason, Desi has decided Duke, a Rouen, can’t be trusted around his beloved. Perhaps SweetPea finds Desi’s devotion to her stifling and has wiggled her tail feathers in Duke’s direction.

Desi keeps Duke away from his belovedWhile standing on land, when Desi lowers his head toward Duke, the Rouen knows it’s time to get out of nipping range (left). In the water, Desi chases Duke and sometimes makes him leave the pond. I’m not sure what toggles Desi’s switch to Rant Mode. At other times, the two drakes are pals again.

Meanwhile, SweetPea preens as if nothing is going on, and MooseTracks stays clear of the fracas. For a while, the moose cruised the length of the pond seeking bliss with any available hen, but his devil-may-care pursuit of passionate encounters has morphed into dreary loitering with bands of drakes staring blankly into the murky millpond in the same way men stare into coffee cups after the bars close. Like deer, drakes seek the affections of hens for only a portion of the year. The rest of the time, they fill their days with finding food, sleeping, and trying to convince feathered companions they are stronger and deserve a higher rank in the flock.

Parfait: Still a delicious treat

July 24th, 2013     2 comments     permalink

Parfait takes good care of his beautiful feathers

Parfait is dramatically marked and looks like his dad, MooseTracksParfait is nine weeks old now. Nine of the Brood5 ducklings have thrived under the tutelage of the Brood8 hen. Close to what his adult dimensions will be, he and his brood mates are roaming around the pond now, but they have returned to the north end. Eventually, they will gravitate to the Main Street area and be in the presence of his father, MooseTracks. They don’t know they’re related but readers of this blog do. :-)

How can you tell them apart? It won’t be difficult. Parfait has a brown chest that’s not showing in these two images, and he will be smaller because his mom, a Black Swedish duck, is much smaller than dad. The jury still hasn’t decided if Parfait is male or female. They’re waiting to see if curling tail feathers grow above his tail, a clear sign he’s a drake.

It might change a bit, but I think Parfait’s bill will remain speckled orange like it is now. MooseTracks’ is darker. Parfait is friendly now, but that might change after he deals with the public for a while. I doubt he’ll be able to fly. MooseTracks can’t, but his mom can.

Angel: The 2013 millpond heartthrob

March 12th, 2013     2 comments     permalink

I can identify many millpond ducks by their markings or behaviors, but I’m unsure of this hen’s history. Plumage can change with each molt. She may be Valiant since she hasn’t been seen for months or she might be Blonde Bombshell #2. Until I have time to review photos to determine her heritage, I shall call her Angel.

This is Angel's first breeding season and the drakes find her very attractive

Within the past few weeks, she’s started to remain with the domestic ducks near Main Street. She’s sizing up the drakes as possible mates hoping one will surrender to her charms. Since Buda seems smitten with Mrs PomPom, he’s allowing the other three drakes in his group to pursue Angel’s affection. Dexter and Buddy admire her beauty (below left). Later, Dexter and Beauregard escort the young damsel around the pond (below right) while Buda watches.

Dexter (green head) and Buddy share a moment with  AngelBuda is apparently allowing Dexter and Beauregard to court the starlet

Most hens are actively courting drakes by bobbing their heads and clucking now. Angel hasn’t singled out her special choice yet but will probably select another large domestic since ducks tend to gravitate toward others of the same size. Beauregard and Buddy certainly find her actions alluring (below left). Angel (below right) is a hybrid mix of two domestic breeds, Buff Orpington and Pekin.

Beauregard and Buddy (white) are captivated by her head bobbing and cluckingShe's a hybrid Buff Orpington and Pekin mix born last summer

MooseTracks, a member of the Dam Tribe, is rarely demonstrative but also shows interest in Angel. I have a hunch, by mid-summer, Angel will be a member of the Buda Bunch because of the attention she’s getting from all of the drakes in that sub-flock (below center and right).

While still aloof, even MooseTracks appears interested in Angel's charms The drakes in the Buda Bunch follow Angel around the pond most of the time Beauregard is more attentive than I've ever seen him with a hen. Might be love ...

Jump, SweetPea, jump!

February 20th, 2013     0 comments     permalink

MooseTrack stumbles his way down to the pond using his flapping wings for balance

Wild ducks are nimble and quick. The domestic ducks at the Brighton millpond are less so. Bred to be large so they fill a roasting pan, their wings can’t support them getting off of the ground for any length of time. For the most part, they are Earth bound.

The distance of 12″ between the sidewalk surrounding the millpond and the slippery ice-covered pond requires some serious thought before the domestics take the leap. They look down at it and wait until one of the group takes the lead. Then, one by one, they jump. SweetPea is often the last one. This time, I actually saw her “fly” for about three wing-flaps. It’s unusual to see her in the air. It wasn’t graceful, but the old girl is still able to be aloft if only for a brief moment.

Fred was cheered on by Desi as he made the leap while SweetPea considered her options

Main Street’s Winter Ducks

January 17th, 2013     0 comments     permalink

At least 75% of the ducks that summer at the Brighton millpond flew south in late fall, but 70-80 ducks have remained for the winter. Forty percent of them are domestic (farm breeds) or domestic/wild hybrids. Most domestics can’t fly or can’t sustain flight long enough to migrate. The others are wild Mallards that had no motivation to leave since visitors feed them and they have enough body fat to endure the cold.

You can count on seeing this group of ducks in the evenings near Main Street during the winter months

During daylight, almost all of the millpond’s wintering ducks go to the southern end of the pond to cajole food from park visitors. As night falls, most fly the half-mile to the pond’s north end (near Grand River). There’s more open water there with better protection from predators and humans. Those staying near Main Street day and night are domestic ducks that cannot fly. They include The Dam Tribe, The Buda Bunch, and few others for a total of 14. Some nights there are more overnight guests, but rarely do the 14 regulars stray from the area during winter months.

Joyce Schuelke, owner of the Wildernest store, recently wrote about this winter “night crew” on her site’s blog. You can learn more about them there.

Pond Politics: Who’s in charge here?

December 5th, 2012     0 comments     permalink

November 26: During summer months, the Dam Tribe stays near the Main Street dam and the Buda Bunch is out of their sight in the bay north of Brighton’s City Hall. Males from Buda’s group visit the Dam Tribe’s territory to foist their affections on the hapless SweetPea, but that’s a story for another time.

This changes as winter approaches. The wild waterfowl moves to the pond’s north end lured by open water and better food stocks, but the farm ducks can’t fly to join them. Instead, the Buda Bunch barges into the Dam Tribe’s stomping grounds to winter with them. This changes the dynamics and there’s a period of confusion as the ducks compete for their places in the pecking order.

Then there are the stragglers. Dazzle, the black duck that shines bright green in sunlight, isn’t affiliated with any buddies or subflocks. He’s low on the totem pole as evident when Buda’s wingduck (a feathered “wingman”) nods his way (top). Dazzle pulls back expecting he’ll be bitten. In that same image, note how another drake in Buda’s group nips a Buff duck that doesn’t know he’s in charge now. Even Mrs PomPom gets frequent pokes from members of her own group (Dexter in this case) as Dam Tribe rivals surround her (above right).

Portrait: The Dam Tribe

September 17th, 2012     12 comments     permalink

It’s been a while since I posted anything about the Dam Tribe, the closest the Brighton millpond has to a royal family. Named after their almost constant proximity to the millpond dam, most park visitors know these ducks on sight since they are all bigger than the rest of the flock and seasoned beggars for food. All of these ducks shouldn’t be at the pond, but city residents would miss them if they left. They have all been dumped at the pond by their owners over the years. None can fly and endure winters sitting on the ice.

SweetPea (white with dark bill, a frequent subject on this blog) and MooseTracks (looks like the ice cream, the enforcer of Dam Tribe rules and seducer of random pond hens) have been at the pond for somewhere between 5-8 years, the stories vary depending upon who tells them. Duke, the dark duck on the right, is of undetermined vintage (Khaki Campbell and Mallard?) and the most passive of the bunch. He stays in the background. All three of those ducks are “meat ducks,” domestic stock raised for the platter rather than their eggs.

The two “White and Fawn Indian Runners” (Desi and Fred) were dumped at the pond in May, 2011 and have weaseled their way into the good graces of MooseTracks and Duke because of their … um … affection for SweetPea, the only female in the group. Indian Runners are egg layers, but these two are worthless in that regard because they are males. That’s probably why they were discarded at the pond. They are handsome and beautifully marked.

In the Spring of 2011, the Dam Tribe had eight members. Only three of them are still alive, but one of them lives on at Facebook: AfroDuck! People still ask me if I’ve seen him a year after he was last seen, probably a victim of a turtle. But we still have a duck with a crest (poof of feathers on the head) in The Buda Bunch north of city hall. Her name is Mrs. PomPom and she’s had a tough year.

Paybacks are hell

March 29th, 2012     2 comments     permalink

You need a scorecard to plot winners and losers in the tussles of the Dam Tribe ducks. Two weeks ago, the fawn and white Indian Runner was held under water by MooseTracks until he learned his lesson. Now the tables have turned, and he informs MooseTracks he’s a significant rival who demands his respect. At least for today while he’s on a tear.

Moments earlier, both of them gave the uninvited Pekin the Bum’s Rush (below) and did a good job of it, but note how MooseTracks takes a jab at the Runner in the scuffle (below left). Perhaps the excitement of the moment encouraged the Runner to let MooseTracks know that wasn’t appreciated.

The flurry of activity began when the Indian Runner took the lead in chasing away the Pekin who comes calling to his beloved SweetPea (below) quite often. On other nights I’ve been there, however, he’s acted as a disinterested bystander while SweetPea is ravaged.

Following the drubbing by the ducks (above right), the Pekin heads back to the Buda Bunch near Brighton’s City Hall, but takes a poke at another member of the Tribe (below right) probably just to prove he’s not a wuss. Loyalties and displays of dominance change quickly while the mating season is in full swing.

Drama at the dam

March 20th, 2012     4 comments     permalink

Who needs Hollywood when dramatic adventures are brought to you in 3D and Surround Sound at the Brighton millpond! Pardon my dwelling on the brutal mating habits of ducks, but they are in high gear now and quite fascinating. Here’s last evening’s dramatic event:

The large male Pekin dominated by Buda cut loose from his 5-duck flock to swim at a fast clip from the bay near Brighton’s City Hall to the millpond dam. He had made the trip several times before and knew exactly where he was going. Without acknowledging the Dam Tribe’s three drakes upon his arrival, he cornered SweetPea for a unannounced conjugal visit. She wasn’t happy to see him. The drakes in her immediate circle did nothing except quack to stop his amorous advances (both photos below).

The two Indian Runners (Desi and Fred) joined the attack. One has been SweetPea’s prime suitor since mid-January. He didn’t seem concerned the Pekin was usurping his budding relationship.

The Dam Tribe males just watched while voicing some agitation. None jumped in to defend the only female in their millpond family. SweetPea struggled but was easily overpowered by the trio.

Moving into deeper water near the crest of the dam, the Pekin mounted her and one of the Indian Runners climbed on top of him in the frenzy of the moment. The other four drakes hovered but, as usual, offered no assistance as she was held under water by the hefty Pekin.

As this drama unfolded, the ducks weren’t aware they were drifting toward the falls. Suddenly SweetPea, the Pekin, and an Indian Runner were hurled over the edge the rapids and boulders!

This unexpected jolt freed SweetPea from the Pekin’s clutches and she bounced back up into the millpond. The Pekin was swept into the rushing waters (below). Like most Pekins, this one cannot fly. Its wings can’t raise its large body into the air. You wouldn’t believe that, however, if you saw how he managed to get enough lift from his small wings to charge back up the falls using his webbed feet to slap the water.

It wasn’t graceful, but it was effective. Once back in the millpond, two of the Dam Tribe drakes regained their senses and chased the brute back toward City Hall as SweetPea dusted herself off with a couple of wing flaps of her own. Curiously, the Indian Runners, who were quite happy to help the Pekin attack SweetPea only moments before, changed sides and helped MooseTracks vanquish the intruder.

This action-packed drama happened within two minutes. The photos aren’t terrific, but they illustrate how the event unfolded. During the next few months, encounters like this will take place many times each day at the Brighton millpond as drakes vie for chances to father the ducklings to be born this spring and summer.

Crimes of Pond Passion?

March 16th, 2012     2 comments     permalink

One of the two surviving Indian Runners has been courting the lovely, but fickle, SweetPea for a couple of months while he tries to become an accepted member of her Dam Tribe. Her trio of drakes tolerate his presence most of the time, but aggressively chase away his brother who was his loyal companion before the mating season began. The 3-duck jury is still out; sometimes they threaten him but often ignore his amorous encounters with SweetPea. Maybe they turn a blind eye to her casual flings knowing she’ll never reject their own.

There are other moments when, for no apparent reason, one of the drakes decides to brutally attack him. He’s usually not actively pursuing SweetPea’s attention at those times. Perhaps they sense his vulnerability or irrational rutting instincts flood their brains. If one drake attacks, the others join in. In this recorded encounter (top and right), two drakes held his head under water for a couple of minutes. He struggled, gulped air, and finally found the strength to break away this time.

Following the attack, his fawn-and-white brother watched as he flapped his wings (below) to toss off the tension. Later that night, all of the ducks involved returned to SweetPea and bedded down as if nothing happened. Maybe these frequent near-drownings are merely dominance displays and the occasional murders are simply accidents. We can’t read a duck’s mind. The murders might be First Degree, Crimes of Passion by enraged rivals, or simply Duckslaughter where there’s no intention at all. The millpond retains many mysteries.

Moose Tracks gripes to SweetPea

October 2nd, 2011     5 comments     permalink

Since the death of Gramps, the alpha drake, things haven’t gone well for the Dam Tribe. Their numbers have dwindled from eight to four since last spring. I thought Buster, Gramps’ identical twin, would become the dominant male, but he shows scant interest in taking on more responsibilities. He’s not pictured here because he’s lollygagging in the pond. Of the three drakes, SweetPea (center) seems to favor the swarthy mallard hybrid (left) who is still unnamed. Maybe that’s why MooseTracks (right), the only rare Ancona duck on the pond (more Ancona info), is voicing his displeasure to her in this photograph. No matter who winds up chief, SweetPea knows she’s running the show.

Waddling South for the Winter

January 14th, 2011     2 comments     permalink

By January 8th, the nighttime temperatures were in the single digits and the ducks’ beloved open water had frozen solid. Instead of taking action, the ducks continued to remain in place resting on its surface in a tight gathering.

As I approached, they stood hoping I’d toss some food. All of the regulars were there: the Black Dahlia, MooseTracks and the others.

Two days later, they had left their favored spot (between the second and third sculptured geese in the photo below), and waddled southward to where they will probably spend the rest of the winter, a distance of less than 100 yards. You can just barely see them huddled together right in front of the small bridge in the left center of the image. Beyond this bridge, the dam keeps a tiny section of the pond free of ice so they can continue to bathe but be available to visitors who toss them treats.

Where Am I?

You are currently browsing entries tagged with MooseTracks at Words4It.