March 12th, 2015 permalink
As spring approaches, the domestic drakes at the millpond are beginning to think of romance. It’s still at the fantasy stage, but they are sidling up to the always charming and vociferous Franny, the only surviving Rouen hen on the pond.
Dumpling hasn’t figured out how to win hearts yet. Rather than bobbing heads and staying in close proximity, he flat-out chases Franny trying to tackle her. The other night (left) was comical as Franny slid on the glazed surface of the snow with Dumpling in hot pursuit. She eluded him this night then clucking her annoyance to her bonded partners since they did nothing to protect her. Neither of the drakes have a chivalrous feather on their body.
Since SweetPea departed to spend her dotage enchanting drakes at Michigan Duck Rescue (She’s fine and has a new retinue of drakes wooing her, BTW.), Fred (right) has been at loose ends. He’s started noticing Franny has potential as the mother of his ducklings. For the past month, he’s been ingratiating himself to her well-established boyfriends, Dazzle and Rusty, and has slowly turned the triad into a quad; Franny and three suitors.
Dazzle and Rusty are oblivious to his intentions. Fred has a history of usurping the affections of hens. He elbowed past SweetPea’s beaus to win her heart two years ago. Now he’s employing the same nefarious tactics with Franny’s docile princes. It will all transpire within the next month. Hens will be sitting on eggs come April, and Franny will be among them. She lost two clutches last summer to raccoons. Maybe she’ll do better this year. If the tykes are thin with tan and white patches, you’ll know who’s their daddy. It probably won’t be Dumpling. He’s good at the chase but so timid other males usually push him aside.
February 8th, 2015 permalink
January 31: The domestic ducks were seen eating the thin ice at the edge of their tiny bit of open water near the Brighton dam. Were they doing it just because it was there and they needed something to do? Did they like the crunching sound? Were there small, tasty bits of nutrients in it? Several ducks were doing it. Dumpling (left) and Rusty demonstrate it here.
December 17th, 2014 permalink
Ducks paddle like mad to raise themselves out of the water a little so they have enough clearance to flap their wings. They do this at the end of a bath or when they climb ashore. It’s done to shake the water off.
Sometimes they flap their wings as a stretch or yawn, a way to exercise their idle muscles. I’m convinced it’s also a way to dissipate adrenalin. They’ll flee into the water from land when something frightens them. A quick movement or an approaching dog can trigger it. When the danger passes, most of the ducks will wing flap. After aggressive behavior or mating, the birds also flap their wings. Like humans brushing the dirt off after a fall, it appears to be a way to regain their composure.
During peak flap, it’s a good time to admire their wings at full extension. Here are shots of a Mallard hen (top) and drake along with a composite of Rusty (below on left) and Buda at full flap. No, they weren’t dancing. I sandwiched two images together. Buda is an alpha male too proud to be seen dancing, and Franny would be upset if Rusty danced with anyone but her.
November 15th, 2014 permalink
As he approaches the end of his third year at the millpond, Dazzle (above) is still a showstopper with his iridescent plumage, but he’s got competition from his six offspring this fall. None of his kids are quite as colorful though since their mom was a mallard instead of another Cayuga.
Only one of Dazzle’s ducklings might be mistaken for him, but you have to look closely. Four of the six have some white on their chests. The fifth one is all black but has a yellow bill instead of a black one. The sixth one is the closest match for him because its all black but doesn’t have nearly the same colorful sheen.
The easiest way to find Dazzle instead of atttempting to pick him out from the seven black ducks on the millpond is to look at who the ducks are hanging out with. Dazzle is almost always with Rusty (above, left) and the two drakes main squeeze, Franny, the dark brown hen with the partially broken bill. If you don’t see the trio, listen for them. Franny is loud and has an incessant, deep raspy quack unlike any of the other ducks. It’s assumed the other hen that arrived with her in the summer of 2012, Stella, was consumed by a coyote in April of this year.
October 26th, 2014 permalink
Rusty, Franny, and Dazzle (above) are a triad of domestic ducks abandoned at the Brighton millpond. Dazzle arrived in 2012 and the other two in 2013. This past week, another domestic duck with a long history of millpond residence, SweetPea, was removed from the pond due to mating stress caused by two newly abandoned domestic drakes that arrived two week ago. Matt Lyson, owner of Michigan Duck Rescue and Sanctuary in Salem Township, stated on the nonprofit organization’s Facebook page:
This is where Sweet Pea spent the last eight years of her life before finding HOME!
She, like all of the other domestics that have been dumped there, and at ALL of the other convenient “dumping ” sites around the country, survive on whatever people happen to feed them, if they even ever eat a good meal at all. Sure, they can eat some of what nature provides, but they were not raised for that daily diet.
These are big, hearty birds that need a nutritional diet of proteins and supplements. When they eat things such as bread, crackers, potato chips and other garbage (all of which have NO nutritional value whatsoever for these beautiful creatures), they often ‘slug’ threw life sickly and compromised. The only good that comes from junk food is that their bellies feel full and they don’t really feel the pang of hunger, it just masks the emptiness they would otherwise feel, by NO fault of their own.
You can read the rest at the Michigan Duck Rescue and Sanctuary’s Facebook Page. Better yet, visit MichiganDuckRescue.com and make a tax deductible contribution. While many of us duck watchers will miss one of the pond’s best know “celebriducks,” we feel SweetPea will receive the care and protection she needs in her later life at the Sanctuary.
May 18th, 2014 permalink
May 16: You can take the drake out of the parking lot, but not the parking lot out of the drake.
No self-respecting drake likes to be tied to a hen who is too busy tending the eggs to swim away with him on romanic pond excursions. Drakes require the bliss of being free and open to all of the possibilities the pond can offer. Hence, Rusty’s devotion to Franny (I’ve officially renamed Stanley due to my initial error thinking she was a male.) has waned.
After seeing Rusty dutifully guarding Franny’s nest in the evening, I found he had snuck away in darkness to woo the ever-popular Bacall who had been faithful to Dumpling for months. The wooing included shooing of her perky Pekin partner. Yup. Dumpling was dumped. Life is unfair when ducks listen to their hearts.
While the exact circumstances are unknown, during their reckless affair, Franny’s nest was ransacked, probably by a thoughtless and hungry raccoon. The transgression was almost inevitable. The nest was built at the shoreline on a path the resident millpond raccoon takes on its nightly forays. Franny couldn’t be found. Was the sitting duck a dinner with a side of eggs?
The following evening, I was happy to find Rusty’s dalliance with the white-tipped female was merely a brief tryst. He had returned to the distraught Franny and their relationship was rekindled. I have a hunch he didn’t mention his date with another hen. He probably alluded to an evening spent with drakes, a oft-used dodge. They accepted a bill-to-bill handout from me as I reassured them summer allows them ample time to raise a family again. They made no promises.
May 11th, 2014 permalink
You’re going to see more posts about Dumpling protecting Bacall’s virtue. She’s a favorite target of roving drakes who find her (and most other hens) irresistible, the Kim Kardashian of the millpond. Rusty, quite an attentive and well bonded male, has left his duties keeping drakes away from Franny to sample Bacall’s charms before returning to his regularly scheduled assignment.
Dumpling, however, isn’t pleased the endless stream of drakes attempting to interfere with their happy honeymoon. As the rogue grabs Bacall’s neck, Dumpling makes sure they don’t enjoy their encounter. He bites them and is a powerful shover. That usually manages to topple the pair before they become successfully engaged. Then he escorts the drake back to the shore to give him the heave-ho. He and Bacall quack at each other to reduce their adrenalin rush before returning to their peaceful foraging until the next intent suitor interrupts their bonded bliss. Drakes will continue to pay visits until the mating season begins to wind down in late June.
May 11th, 2014 permalink
Franny has set up housekeeping near the midpoint of the millpond and Rusty, her bonded partner, is doing his best to keep the roving drakes from disturbing her as she sits on her eggs. She’s taken time out of her dull sitting duties to come up to me to yammer about something — the accommodations, the neighbors, the weather — I’m not sure what, but she is famished when she arrives. Rouen hens are rated as “GOOD” mothers. I think she’ll stay the course so we can expect wee Rouen/Saxony ducklings near the end of May. We’ll see if Rusty remains attentive the entire nesting period. Drakes usually lose interest as the hen sits, but he’s an unusual fellow and might cling to the bonded life.
April 16th, 2014 permalink
It’s humbling to blog. My errors are right here for the world to see.
From comparing millpond ducks to photos found online, I pegged the four large brown domestic ducks dumped on the pond last summer as Rouen Clairs, an offshoot from Rouens. They were abandoned in two pairs at different times: Bogie and Bacall; Stella and Stanley (aka Franny now).
Rusty has convinced me I’m wrong. He’s bonded with Stanley and they are setting up housekeeping in the bay south of the Stillwater Grill. Since same sex waterfowl pairings aren’t common, I did some more duck identification research online. It turns out Stanley and Bogie weren’t Rouen Clair drakes or Rouen Clairs at all. They are Rouen hens. [Note: since first writing this post, Bogie has been lost, but I’ve renamed Stanley Franny. Forgive the confusion in some posts.] I should have known Franny was a hen. Look at how beautiful she is as she quacks sweet nothings with the infatuated Rusty (on left, above).
Stella and Stanley Kowalski were named at Wanda’s suggestion because domestic ducks at the pond “have always depended on the kindness of strangers,” a line uttered by Blanche Dubois in Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire. But Stanley doesn’t look like a Blanche to me. Blanche was fragile and troubled. Stanley is a duck with heft and endurance as evident by her surviving with a chipped bill (above), the result of an unknown mishap after her pond debut. So Stanley is now Franny for no particular reason other than Stan and Fran rhyme.
February 21st, 2014 permalink
Rusty has become a full fledged drake while I wasn’t watching. In late afternoon sun, I noticed green irridescence on his head. Males of duck species developed with Mallard stock have this trait. I’m still not sure of Rusty’s heritage. He’s a Saxony/Mallard hybrid, I think.
He’s come a long way from his early days as a volunteer parking lot attendant at Stillwater Grill last summer. Now he has buddies and courts the ravishing brunette, Stella, but Franny might win his heart by spring.
January 19th, 2014 permalink
Dexter is a big lumbering Rouen drake, a member of the Buda Bunch at the Brighton millpond (left). All of the domestic ducks have a bit of difficulty getting out of the water when slippery ice covers the edge.
Without hands to grab things, they use what they’ve got and add flailing wings for balance and visual effect. Their half-inch toe claws would appear to provide them with traction, but they act more like skate blades instead of digging into the ice unless it’s on the slushy side.
Rusty is no help (right). He merely glances over his shoulder as Dex attempts to paddle and splash his way up. Ducks start by attempting to plant their feet on the ice but they typically accomplish the task by getting their bellies onto the ice then kicking the water to propel their bodies forward.
When they’re unsuccessful in one location, they usually retreat, try to look like they aren’t embarrassed by their failure, and then move to another spot to try again. I’ve never seen one fail more than three times. They stick with the task until they succeed. Ducks don’t give up on things they want to accomplish.
January 5th, 2014 permalink
Each year, when temperatures dip into the brutal range, the ice created by splashes from cascading water at the dam finally connects the two sides to form a tunnel (top). Those of us who aren’t big fans of winter view these tunnels as evidence of the cold that shivers our timbers.
Rusty (right), who has examined the tunnel at eye level, tried to explain the bridge building process to me. I understood how the two sides meet based upon his gestures, but the rest of his explanation was unintelligible. Ducks don’t seem to understand complex processes involving physics.
Fluctuations in the air temperature, along with a few thaws. will influence the tunnel’s form and mass as winter rolls along.
November 30th, 2013 permalink
I thought there are five Rouen Clair ducks on the Brighton millpond plus several hybrids mixed with other species. It turns out they aren’t Clairs. They are all Rouens instead. One of the them stays at the north end, one of the six dumped dumped ducks left at the pond on September 16th.
The other four stout birds swim near Main Street. They’re easiest to identify by the company they keep: Bogie and Bacall (left) hang out with Dumpling, the smallest of the white Pekin ducks; Stella and Franny (right) are buddies with Rusty, the only Saxony duck on the pond.
Bacall is a noisy hen with an incessantly loud, grating (and amusing) quack. Her previous owner’s neighbors probably complained which lead the pair to be brought to the millpond. Bacall has a sedate white necklace that belies her boisterous personality. She’s the only Rouen with white wing tips making her easy to spot.
The other three can be identified by their behaviors. Bogie and Franny, are like guys who hide behind newspapers with their morning coffee. Other than occasional “Yes, dears,” they let their better halves do the talking. Stella isn’t as vocal as Bacall, but she reminds Franny and Rusty she’s a hen who will not be ignored through head bobs and clucking.
November 28th, 2013 permalink
Every duck has a dream. Rusty wants to be a gold medalist as an Olympus skater. Since this is his first winter, he hasn’t grasped all of the concepts involved in skating yet. I’ve been coaching him and explaining Newton’s Laws of Motion but we have a few more points to discuss. Traction and friction are among them. He has the claws to succeed.
Once he understands those along with some minor physics like the Center of Gravity, I’m sure his training sessions will go better than his early efforts recorded here so he’ll have a good chance at earning a crown of laurel leaves which he’ll gladly eat.
Stanley (left, top duck), Rusty’s buddy, is no help coaching. It appears he’s had his own encounter with gravity. See the notch missing from his bill? It’s happened this month and it’s probably best I wasn’t around to photograph it. I think he would have been terribly embarrassed.
Rusty’s given me permission to release the video of his training session. He tells me it will motivate him and be a good benchmark to show his progress while he’s waving to the adoring crowd on the podium accepting his gold medal in the near future. http://youtu.be/omt-GeBpt4w
November 17th, 2013 permalink
All long-time readers know Rusty had a difficult time adjusting to millpond life after he was abandoned on May 10th. First, he hid then he became the volunteer parking lot attendant at Stillwater Grill to fill his idle hours and avoid the big, scary pond. After nightly dinnertime talks with him about the activities he was missing at the pond, he overcame his fears and began its exploration. His early efforts were unfulfilling, but he eventually learned the ways of millpond ducks, geese, and the swan. He relaxed enough to roost with them at night. I thought he was a Saxony duck when he arrived, but I’m pretty sure he’s a Khaki Campell, the only one at the pond.
His true break through came when he befriended Stella and Stanley, two abandoned Rouen Clairs that arrived August 22nd. The alliance gave all three birds courage to become part of the greater flock and find millpond life full of rollicking good times. Rusty is now a gregarious, well-balanced duck that requires no further therapeutic intervention. He’ll happily greet you if there’s the slightest chance you have an edible morsel for him. He tolerates little kids slowly and gently petting his back while he’s distracted filling his crop with handfuls of duck chow. Once he knows you’re an easy mark, he’ll make a beeline for you every time you visit the pond.
July 18th, 2013 permalink
I found Duncan down and quivering in pain or shock on June 28. With a gentle nudge, he got up dragging his left leg behind him, not a good sign. A few days before, I saw a couple release their dogs to chase ducks in the area so I wondered if they had returned and injured him. Without being able to examine him, it was difficult to tell what was wrong. He hid for the next four days. I got glimpses of him under shrubs, but couldn’t evaulate his injuries. He’s a big duck, a Rouen of about 9-10 pounds.
On July 2, he came out of the pond to greet me and was able to hop on one foot with the injured one curled backward. I couldn’t get too close but took several pictures. The only thing I could find wrong was a large, opened bumblefoot lesion on his center toe (top). The condition can be a fatal injection and deserves medical attention but try to catch a wild duck. Attempts were made to get expert opinions long distance but nothing definitive could be determined. As weeks passed, Duncan improved. He had full range motion of his leg then I saw him move his foot so I knew it wasn’t broken.
On July 7, he extended his left toes which was thrilling to see, but last night was the corker: Duncan walked up to me without curling his toes behind him (above right). He still protected the sole of his foot, but placed it flat on the ground most of the time (below). There are calluses on top of his middle toe from walking on his knuckle. They will heal in time.
During his recuperation, Duncan has roosted at night near Rusty on several nights (left). I think there’s a budding friendship. It would be advantageous for both of them. Duncan’s been a loner since Madeline died this spring and Rusty since is trying to figure out his position within the flock.
July 4th, 2013 permalink
For the past two nights, Rusty has stayed near the Imagination Station instead of returning to his safe zone near the Stillwater Grill. There are five drakes he appears to be hanging out with, but it’s still rather fluid. Since he’s a bit larger than the Mallards, none of the other ducks are chasing him or nipping at his tail. That’s a good sign. He’s still glad to see me and while I feed him, I give him a pep talk.
July 2nd, 2013 permalink
“Now, Rusty, I know it’s not easy. You have to make friends at the millpond. Sure, it’s scary and a little dangerous, but it’s your home now. You need to find friends to pal around with. A few may be mean, but that’s no reason to hide from all of them.” Rusty looked at the ground while we chatted. I’m not sure he was paying attention. Maybe a bug was on the lawn in front of him.
He walked back to the pair of Mallards swimming and seemed to be thinking about something. Humans can’t know how ducks think.
At the edge of the pond and stared into space. The ducks didn’t look dangerous, but he was scared to take the plunge.
He slowly swam up to them and joined them in searching for things to eat in the shallow water and hoped he wouldn’t flinch if they quacked at him. He also wondered if they might attack to drive him away.
In a moment of panic, he stuck his head in the water to calm his nerves. They thought he was picking through sand on the bottom of the pond.
Then he moved closer to them but neither paid much attention. He swam around but kept an eye on the other two.
Again, fear gripped him so hard he got covered in duckpimples that made the feathers on his head shoot up into the air. Embarrassed, he stuck his head in the water again.
I couldn’t watch any more. It was too painful to see such a nice duck be so unskilled at interacting with other ducks. Later that evening, I found him on the comfortable shoreline at Stillwater Grill. He was so exhausted, he was asleep before the sun set.
June 29th, 2013 permalink
After a couple of months being a volunteer parking lot attendant, Rusty tested the pond waters near the Stillwater Grill and found them less scary than he imagined. Once he got his feet wet, he began to explore the Brighton millpond’s vast reaches. He landed on the storm-tossed and rocky shore in front of the Imagination Station (top) this past week to be confronted with incredible creatures: a flock of WILD DUCKS!
Never having faced the thuggery of free and independent ducks, having spent his sheltered youth in a suburban backyard, this was a frightening experience. He’s gritting his serrated bill (ducks don’t have teeth) and toughing it out. Four drakes have been quacking tales of wild duckmenship to him (right). I’m not convinced he’s buying their tall stories. He may seek bluer waters with another group of millpond regulars at any moment. If you see him, don’t mention geese. They terrify him because they’re big and hiss a lot.
June 19th, 2013 permalink
What a treat (and total surprise) to find Rusty lounging beside the pond on Tuesday evening. Hurray! It’s a first for him. Has he given up his menial job as a volunteer parking lot attendant at Stillwater Grill? Found with two Mallard drakes, perhaps he’ll begin to explore the pond with them instead of being afraid of it. Since he’s facing away from the pond as the others are intently watching the ducks and geese swim, I’m not convinced. Yet. He may relapse.
May 26th, 2013 permalink
Rusty still hasn’t found a full time job at the Brighton millpond so he continues to spend his idle hours being a volunteer parking lot attendant. He’s got a pretty good work ethic, but I found him slacking off on Saturday night. He was lollygagging in a remote corner of the pond.
While Dumpling is making an effort to ingratiate herself with the Buda Bunch, Rusty avoids contact with the pond’s wildlife. His only acquaintances are two Mallards, a bonded pair street-wise thugs, that have convinced him that he’s a second stringer. They bite his tail every chance they get and it’s damaged his self esteem. Once he mingles with the rest of the domestic ducks at the pond, I’m sure he’ll realize his true potential. I’ve been giving him pep talks and he listens. There’s a good chance he has a bright future if he avoids the marauding raccoon in the area.
May 19th, 2013 permalink
Dumpling is remaining near the Stillwater Grill but was presumably forced to move out of her small territory by the presence of other ducks and geese families. Even though she remains alone, she seems to be managing. I’ve watched her forage along the shore and swim around a little. She’s still roosting on the fallen tree at night. The wound above her left eye (above) is healing well.
Rusty remains a parking lot attendant. I convinced him to follow me with the promise of some extra duck chow at the end of his journey. We almost made it. Along the way, I coaxed him with a few nibbles. When he saw the huge pond before him, the feathers on the top of his head raised and he spun around and waddled back to the parking lot. Silly duck. Eventually, I’ll cajole him into making the transition to a life in the pond where he can seek some company.
May 15th, 2013 permalink
Rusty is illusive. One night I’ll see him and then next night I won’t. A couple of days ago, he was testing out a new career as a parking lot attendant, but it’s not giving him much time to keep his feathers preened (left). Apparently he’s not paid until the end of the week. He was glad to accept my offer of free duck chow and snarfed it down. He wasn’t there the next night. I don’t think the job worked out.
Dumpling appears to be a home body. She moved from her original location but has remained in the second spot for a week now near Stillwater Grill. I’ve tried to toss her duck chow through the brambles, but it scatters as it hits plant stems. She has a wound above her left eye. It might be from mating, but I think it’s more likely she poked herself on a low branch. At night, she roosts on a fallen tree branch above the water. That’s a good location. She can see predators before they reach her. The hungry raccoon forages nearby.
May 10th, 2013 permalink
He was probably dropped off at the pond with Dumpling, but I didn’t see him for his first few days. Late Wednesday night, I found Dumpling with a drake in a dark section of the pond. I was happy to see that! I thought her companion was a resident Buff Orpington that would protect her during her orientation period.
On Thursday, I visited the pond before dark and discovered this handsome drake (above) in the same area. I know he’s a new resident because of his coloration. He’s most likely the drake I had seen the night before. He surely has Saxony ancestry, but I can’t find an online picture of a Saxony with an auburn head. He’s probably a special hybrid created by one of the major hatcheries, maybe a mix of Saxony and Khaki Campbell? I’ve named him Rusty since he’s the only duck on the pond with a russet colored head. I hope he fares well but he’s currently on the nightly foraging path of the raccoon so he’d better stay alert! Dumpling wasn’t with him last evening. She moved upstream 200 yards and hid in shoreline vegetation (right).