With no fanfare, the millpond’s grande dame has returned to her favorite waddling grounds after an unexplained absence of about two weeks. It’s assumed she was nesting but skillfully evaded the prying eyes of the blogosphere’s media the entire time. Perhaps the nesting thing was a ruse concealing a retreat to a spa to evade the pond’s relentless drakes. She looks clean and well rested yet there’s no evidence of any serious nipping and tucking.
Duke and Fred are missing their main squeeze, SweetPea. She’s nesting somewhere and I’ve checked all of her usual places and she’s not in any of them. I’m sure I’ll find it some evening when I follow her home from a millpond bath so stay tuned. This is only her second nest of the season. In 2013, she had 5 of them. The old girl is slowing down.
Maybe she’s mended her slipshod ways in an effort to show the new girls in the pond how to be an devoted mother hen, but it’s difficult for me to view her first attempt in 2014 of hatching eggs as serious after years of failure. The seven eggs gracing her nest are more beautiful and clean than any of her creations in 2013 and she has been attentive to them. This spring, I’ve supplemented her bread and Dorito diet offered by the public with huge handfuls of duck chow and crushed oyster shells. Consuming more calcium may help her produce stronger eggs that won’t crack when she sits on them. If we could help her keep her mind on sitting instead of entertaining the drakes, she might stay the course. There’s a chance Eminem might sing Ave Maria on YouTube, isn’t there?
One of the anomalies of digital photography is the ghosting in longer exposures. They show up the most in low light shots like these. The flash can be set for “1st Curtain” or “2nd Curtain” which means the light triggers at the beginning or end of the exposure. In both of these shots, my camera was set for the second so Buda leaves a puff of smoke behind him as he jumps into the water (above) but he follows his own ghost, below, because he’s moving slower.
Buda was making his nightly run to mate with the lovely and talented SweetPea. For the past several nights, he hasn’t been able to find her since she’s nesting, but that doesn’t stop him from trying. Buddy, Jiminy, and Captain D. Hookt also arrive to quench their passions but leave squelched instead. The elusive lass is resting comfortably upon her hidden nest healing from wounds inflicted by these unrepentant brutes. Did I just heard her quack a giggle as Buda returns home unfulfilled?
Wish there was a good way to isolate the wake and the reflections on it in this shot. It has a beautiful quality that can be appreciated if you click the image to see it larger.
The millpond’s Grande Dame Pekin, SweetPea, rarely swam with her four drake retinue and seemed uninterested in flock activities this winter. She didn’t throw together her typical inappropriate nest either. She likes to freeze her first clutch of eggs in February/March to show the rest of the hens her prowess. This year, she showed no sign of homesteading as May approached. I thought the old trooper’s egg laying days were kaput.
Then she disappeared, a sign she was nesting or dead. A duck watching colleague emailed me a picture of her at the pond two days later. Posing for that was SweetPea’s way of inviting me to play cat and mouse. We do this several times a year — she builds a nest; I find it. She amuses herself with my pursuit. I visited all of her usual nesting sites but didn’t find her in situ.
Her retinue (now only two due to the winter loss of MooseTracks and Desi) guards the pond near the short bridge, an indication the nest was nearby. On my third day scouting, she arrived to swim and tell the drakes how dull nesting duties were. She asked if I might have some duck chow with a few head bobs. Casting lady-like manners aside, she snarfed down seven handfuls, the most she’s ever consumed. Apparently, she’s been too busy prepping the nursery to eat. Nesting for SweetPea is rehab. She sits for ten days to two weeks, clears her head and heals her neck wounds. Then she realizes drakes are more fascinating than household responsibilities. She’s produced up to five clutches of up to 13 eggs each year yet she hasn’t hatched an egg since 2010.
Following her repast, she casually waddled around the lawn until the coast was clear. Then she snuck back into her nest to warm her eggs for the night. Ha ha! I win again. I know where her nest is, but I’ll keep her secret between us.
Meanwhile, the young starlet, Jemima, gazes at the pond from her hillside nest as her two beaus stand ready to escort her to the pond when she requires a bath or a bit of diversion. The white Mandarin hen sometimes joins the trio to roost for the night. By Memorial Day, we’ll know if this first year Pekin is capable of hatching her brood or finds nesting too dull to stay the course.
I knew what was up when I realized SweetPea wasn’t with the Dam Boys. She was snuggled in one of her favorite garrets at the base of the tree near the restaurant’s entrance. Hidden in yuccas with the ground scratched down to the black plastic weed barrier she sat amid a few dismal cedar chips. She must find it homey. She returns to it at least once a year to attempt raising a family, but she eventually becomes bored or distracted. I wonder if she makes a conscious decision to stop incubating her clutches or if she gets distracted by The Boys and forgets she was otherwise engaged.
Later, she was cheerfully welcomed back at the pond by her suitors. She amused them in giddy head bobbing before bathing. Her kibbitzing gave me time to photograph the nest and count eggs. There was the brand spanking new one she had just laid and three filthy ones. A fifth object was there. It might be an egg she resurrected from a previous nest, a potato, or the result of a brief (but productive) fling she had with Satan. It’s positively ghoulish. I’m not about to touch it or question her about its presence.
The pond’s Grande Dame allows her maternal instincts to flower at inappropriate times. In 2012, she started laying in February and continued until early November. There were five nests then but an exact count of her 2013 nests is impossible although five are mentioned in this blog. Fifty-four eggs were found in her usual haunts and other odd places. Another hen with a sense of humor might be ghost-laying in her territory. SweetPea probably can’t recount how many families she’s started either. She doesn’t maintains a journal. She’s much too spontaneous and lives for The Moment. She’s had many of those since arriving at the pond in 2006.
Muddied eggs found in a raised bed beside Main Street this week announce another attempt by SweetPea to hatch the next rocket scientist. She laid several a month ago but these are in a more tawdry location between a scraggly Dusty Miller and lamp post. Last year, her last nesting ended on November 13th so she’s on schedule to fail again. Her egg count for 2013 is 49 duds. It’s probably for the best these eggs won’t hatch. She’s been busy entertaining drakes. She hasn’t had time to dust off her maternal talents since 2010. As you can see from the condition of the eggs and unkempt nest, she also failed Home Economics in her early schooling.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Following a slide into the abyss of self pity where she wallowed in filth and egg yolk, our beloved SweetPea has found the internal fortitude to rise again. While dodging cameras and reporters, she tidied up her abode in Brighton’s low rent district and evicted the offending egg. This reporter found its smelly remains in the alley where predators won’t associate it with the nest.
Ever aware of her public image, SweetPea has also managed to dust herself off. She’s removed all traces of yolk from her 10,000 angelic white feathers. Considering the difficulty of removing dried eggs from slick plates with the aid of modern science’s detergents, one cannot imagine how the old girl accomplished the task with nothing more than saliva and pond water. Nesting success is still likely doomed, but the Grande Dame won’t be shamed by any more demeaning online snapshots by heartless paparazzi!
My first stop was the pocket park beside Ciao Amici’s Restaurant, a past favorite of hers. I found four eggs at the base of a tree hidden in yuccas (left). She’s nested there before. Apparently she started laying there again, but decided the neighborhood was too upscale for her this year.
My second stop was where she nested once last year, a grungy ground floor garret with an alley view. There she was (right). The owner of this property kicked her out last year. She’ll probably do it again when she discovers a repeat performance. Eviction might dent her self esteem, but it won’t impact Brighton’s duckling population. She’s covered in yolk. Her bread-filled diet doesn’t contain enough calcium to produce strong eggshells. They break as she sits on them. I’ve supplemented her diet with ground up oyster shells, what farmer’s use to increase shell strength. It obviously hasn’t been enough.
Boo hoo. The four drakes in the Dam Tribe (above) have no one to woo. Actually, there’s a millpond swarming with available hens, but these blokes slather most of their attention on the pond’s Grande Dame, the alluring SweetPea. She’s gone missing. Don’t worry. The old girl’s not being held for ransom. She’s just nesting but not in any of her usual spots near the cemented shores.
She’s surely in one of her distant kingdoms (across Main Street’s lanes of traffic) unless she’s applying her creative decorating skills by gathering a few sticks, plucking some feathers, and setting up shop in a new niche. She hasn’t endured the full 28 of sitting since August, 2010 following our acquaintance that June long before I learned her proper name from Pat and Sarah. In my crass cub reporting days, I branded her as the HussyHen because of her shameless conduct. She might surprise pond visitors with a multi-colored batch of ducklings this time around, but chances are about the same as you being struck by fireballs from the Perseid Meteor Shower during the second week in August.
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.
While 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.
SweetPea’s become mysterious this year. I never get an inkling she’s nesting. She’s built her third one, and I didn’t have a clue until friends told me they saw a duck nest in the raised bed along Main Street. I knew it was hers. She’s laid ten eggs so far and I think she’s done. I also think she has no intention of sitting on them.
The two smaller images were taken June 29, the top one on July 2. Note the eggs haven’t moved. There’s gooey yolk under some of the eggs because one is broken. Two flies (top left) are in residence, not a good sign. I’ve mixed oyster shells into her food this season hoping it might help. Her diet of bread from the public doesn’t have enough calcium for strong egg formation. Two were broken in her previous nest. She’s laid 35 eggs this year and none have hatched.
There will be two thousand people standing near this nest for the July 4th parade at 10:00am. Whether the eggs will still be there afterward is anyone’s guess but it doesn’t matter. There’s little hope for them.
Park visitors anticipate disaster as ducks stand at the very edge of the Brighton millpond dam, but their fears are rarely justified. It’s dangerous for very young ducklings, but after about two weeks, they sometimes go over the top, bounce around in the rapids and then climb back up to join mom again. Occasionally, an adult duck will err and slip over the crest. If it’s a duck that can fly, it’s not a big deal, but the resident farm ducks are earthbound so they can be in trouble. Last March, three adult ducks were swept over the edge while mating and it was rather dramatic, but all survived. I’ve been told a Pekin named Lois took the trip years ago and became a residence downstream thereafter. Stories involving the dam usually have happy endings.
As the Grande Dame of the Dam Tribe, SweetPea has spent years listening to the water babble. On this evening with a sunset tinted in pinks, she was searching for things to eat in the crannies while Fred watched (above). Fred finds everything SweetPea does endlessly fascinating since he’s always looking for opportunities to become amorous. The moving water concentrates all sorts of floating goodies in this bottleneck on its journey to the Great Lakes, and the ducks know it. Even the ducklings.
The photo at right shows SweetPea at the crest of the falls with Fred on the other side. I took some liberties with it in Photoshop to create the close up (below) since the original wasn’t very good.
I disparaged the Grande Dame of the Brighton millpond in a post yesterday. This is my public apology to her. I suggested her lack of mothering instincts and fascination with her suitors had kept her from her nest sitting duties. Since she hadn’t returned to the nest after 48 hours, I felt it safe to pay it a visit under the pine tree to see the rubble she left.
To my surprise only one egg was there. Originally, there were 13 and then only 11. That means either a vandal or predator stole the rest. Since no broken shells were in the vicinity, I suspect some damned forager or organic foodie decided to sample her culinary creations and dash her hopes for a family in 2013. At least this time, it wasn’t SweetPea’s fault for abandoning a nest. I hope she’ll accept my apology and be willing to accept duck chow from me in the future once she heals from the public humiliation I have unrightfully brought upon her.
Oh, SweetPea, I thought you were on a roll. Your current nest was close to the pond and close to the drakes. I thought you’d sit on the eggs for a full 28 days. It looks like you’ve lost interest. Again. Darn it.
SweetPea was doing well until two days ago. Then she started to spend more time with the boys following her millpond baths. Maybe she isn’t laying fertile eggs, but I think it’s more a matter of her not having the mothering instincts needed to stick to the task when the Dam Tribe drakes endlessly charm and amuse her and “gentlemen callers” from The Buda Bunch find her fascinating.
On May 18th, I confirmed that SweetPea had 13 eggs in her nest under the canopy of spruce boughs. Last night, while she was taking a break from her nesting duties for a sunset swim with her suitors (left), I had a chance to photograph her nest again. She has removed two of her eggs.
Ducks can tell if their eggs are viable and remove ones that are no longer worth the nesting space. Last summer, a Main Street merchant saw her roll an egg into the middle of an alley and break it open. Presumably, this is done far from the nest so predators won’t follow the scent to the nest to destroy the eggs. Unlike most of SweetPea’s nests, I have some hope for this one. It’s close enough to the pond, partially shielded from park visitors, and close enough to her four admiring drakes that she just might decide to nest for the full 28 days. She’s doing fine so far, but she usually loses interest within 10-14 days and that’s ahead of us. Stay tuned.
May 17: It’s confirmed. SweetPea has a new nest full of eggs, a baker’s dozen! I was able to coax her off the nest with a handful of duck chow last evening so I could count them. She’s dug a nice bowl into the dried needles under a spruce on the millpond lawn near Main Street, probably the best nest she’s built in the past three years but it’s in a vulnerable location where kids might destroy it. Will she sit long enough to hatch them? Probably not.
She’s had ten nests since mid-summer in 2010 and only hatched four ducklings because she gives up after 10-14 of the 28 days needed. Read all of the posts about her eventful life. SweetPea never returned to her first nest of the 2013 season after laying a dozen eggs in it. Apparently, her design sensitivity is just as pedestrian as the rest of my tempermental deduckorating critics. God knows I tried. She’s off to a good start this year with laying 25 eggs in two nests. Last summer, she laid 43 in five nests.
SweetPea has abandoned her first clutch of a dozen eggs and has started her second nest under a large spruce near Main Street. At first I thought she was hiding from pesky males that want to mate with her, but she’s been there for three days now so I’m pretty sure eggs are under her.
She probably seeks to enter the Fertility Tournament. Last year, her five nests and 43 eggs didn’t qualify since she didn’t bother hatching any of them. Here’s hoping the Grande Dame of the millpond has more patience this year.
While it’s probably futile based upon her past history, I decided to try my hand at sprucing up SweetPea’s Spartan nesting site. Not only does she make poor choices in where to build her nests, she also has limited talents in duckorating not to mention her lack of a credit card to accessorize it.
The goal of this duckorating project was to minimize interference from human passersby on a limited budget (mine). A charming Home Depot associate named Greg made several suggestions for the design conscious duck. I settled on a fashionable wire fence in glamorous black with fleurs-de-lis which are always in style. It set me back $7.97. SweetPea believes in recycling so I used two yard signs already on location to shield the south and west views. Sorta. Then I surrounded the nest on three sides with the elegant fence leaving adequate room for the pond’s Grande Dame to turn around when the mood suits her (right). Visually, the environment was still a bit stark. So I found dried oak leaves to give the place a more casual, lived-in look (top). Done!
The question is: will the veteran hen find my efforts attractive enough to sit in it for 28 days. She lounged on the lawn with her boyfriends showing no interest in the nest for a couple of hours Monday night. Perhaps she’s found it too messy. Before reduckorating, I found two of her 13 eggs broken and smelly. That’s not a good sign. It also means her typical diet of bread and Doritos from park visitors hasn’t provided enough nutrients to make her eggs strong enough to support her ample body. Last year’s success rate was zero with 43 eggs laid and none hatching because she abandoned each of her five nests. It’s a long shot, but if she hatches just one duckling, I’ll know my duckorating efforts played a part.
The Brighton millpond ducks that interact with the public long enough learn how to deal with the chasing and other forms of harassment they get, but the Grande Dame of the pond is a master at it. She’s lead me on more wild goose (duck?) chases than any other duck in the pond.
For the past couple of weeks, SweetPea lead her steadfast retinue of four male suitors, the entire Dam Tribe, to a bay in the pond where the roots of trees are submerged (above). I was certain she was scouting a location for her first nest of the season. Last year, she nested in February so she’s running terribly late … for her. She’s on a unique schedule that doesn’t correspond with reality.
Last night, I found her suitors alone so I knew she had scooted away to a nest. The boys were near Main Street instead of the bay where I thought she’d be. Hmmm. It didn’t take me long to find the nest because SweetPea came flying out of it when I got near! Darned if she hasn’t laid a dozen eggs in one of the raised flower beds three feet from Main Street (below). They are right in plain sight where thousands of people will walk by them during her 28 days of sitting. It ain’t gonna happen. She’ll probably never spend any time incubating them because she’ll be constantly interrupted by passersby. Oh, SweetPea.
After an inch of snow fell, the domestic ducks near Main Street were quite content to settle down for a nap on the cold concrete. Against the white background, you can see how the ducks aren’t pure white. They have a pale yellow tint. Also note how they fluff their feathers to trap air which provides extra insulation. All of these ducks look thinner in the summer months just because of the position their plumage. That’s true of most birds. Mrs PomPom and Buda are the subjects in the top photo, SweetPea is the ravishing snowbird in the lower one.
I’m frequently asked, “What do the ducks do in the winter?” The answer is shown here: They sit and wait for spring to arrive. They really have no choice. The domestic ducks cannot fly so they can’t migrate to warmer climates. On the coldest nights when the entire pond freezes over, they spend their time curled up with their legs and feet hidden in their feathers. If there is any open water, they still enjoy swimming no matter what the temperature. Their layer of fat must act like a wetsuit.
They also walk around looking for things to nibble and park visitors feed them enough to survive though the rations they bring aren’t always good for them. SweetPea has been at the Brighton millpond for 6-7 years. She’s surely eaten more bread than ducks should during her career as a park duck.
Last week, SweetPea continued to do well at her nest. I hadn’t found her away from it so I couldn’t count the eggs. Trouble started to emerge on Sunday evening when the temperatures rebounded into the 60s. SweetPea was found at the pond. I visited the nest to count eggs and found one of them broken and empty (below left) near the nest’s entrance. Inside, only four of the original eleven eggs remained undamaged and broken shells were scattered about.
Several of the yucca leaves had egg smeared on them from SweetPea moving in and out of the plants. Either SweetPea is breaking them herself because of her size or she’s intentionally breaking ones that aren’t viable but not transporting them away from the nest to guard against predators. She just doesn’t know how to incubate eggs well. That skill was bred out of her ancestors. Too bad. Sunday, she spent more time at the pond. Her interest in nesting has faded. In a day or two, she’ll abandon the eggs if any remain by then.
Her clutch is probably doomed, but SweetPea is hanging tough. She’s been at it since October 25th. Though diligent, she makes nightly pilgrimages to the pond to see her handsome beau, Desi (right). Soon, she’ll decide to not return to the eggs. At least that’s her typical M.O.
Not only is she a dedicated brooder. She’s willing to bite the hand that feeds her. I attempted to move the plastic bag above her (top) to provide a little more insulation from cold nights. Like a rattlesnake, her bill quickly darted toward my hand but the plastic saved my fingers. Then she puffed up and hissed to warn me I was not welcome in her boudoir.
Leave it to SweetPea to miss the mark. Had she lead the parade an hour earlier, 2,000 Americans for Prosperity’s Freedom Rally participants would have grabbed their cell phones to photograph her performance instead of one lonely guy without enough sense to know when the party’s over.
As Brighton returned to normal Sunday afternoon, I noticed SweetPea bathing at the pond. I thought it was a good time to count eggs while she was distracted. She had covered them to keep them warm on this brisk day so I didn’t disturb them ( left). Within minutes, she was ready to waddle across Main Street to resume incubating (right). I played traffic cop.
Three of the four Dam Tribe drakes (Fred, Desi, and Duke respectively) tagged along.
Once across, they nibbled on Indian Corn kernels under the farmer’s roadside benches before giving me a photo opp to show the color of their webbed feet matched pumpkins for sale ( left). Then it dawned on SweetPea her eggs needed attention (right).
As SweetPea ducked — ha! — under yucca leaves beside the large tree, the boys moved away from the nest to (maybe) distract gawkers who might dine on a sitting duck or grab eggs (left). After she hunkered down to invisibity, the drakes stood guard for a few minutes (right) until I stopped traffic again to shepherd them back to the pond.
It sounds heartless, but if you’d like to try cooking duck eggs, here’s your opportunity with my blessing. They’re more nutritious than chicken eggs. SweetPea’s latest venture in nesting, the fifth for 2012, will surely fail like her others this year. She’s started brooding, but the eggs have no chance of surviving the upcoming cold weather.
When I noticed she was missing from the pond, I went searching for her nest. I found her nestled in the yuccas near the entrance of Ciao Amici’s Restaurant … again (above). I’ve never disturbed a nesting hen before, but since this clutch is doomed, I nudged her to count eggs. She hauled off and bit me (hard!) as I attempted to move her aside. She held her ground (left) but I counted eleven eggs eventually (below).
Before they have time to hatch (28 days), she’ll be lured back to the pond by the Dam Tribe drakes. Nesting hens typically leave the nest to bathe daily, but she’ll dawdle long enough on some cold night that the eggs will freeze or she’ll willfully trade her mothering duties for the companionship of the drakes she finds so charming. If divine guidance encouraged her to go full term, the ducklings would surely die of hypothermia while still little tykes in late November. So bon appétit!
Joyce, owner of Wildernest, told me SweetPea and her two suitors, Fred and Desi, were seen walking across Main Street. She’s the Grand Dame at the millpond and the ringleader of the Dam Tribe, a frequent subject of this blog. I knew what was up so I did a quick search and easily found her new nest. This is her fifth nest in 2012 (23 eggs!) and will surely fail again. It’s located where she nested twice in 2011 — directly in front of the entrance of Ciao Amici’s Restaurant in a clump of yucca plants. There’s one egg there now (below). She’ll lay others before beginning to incubate them.
She won’t succeed. She hasn’t been successful in more than two years. It’s so late in the season her eggs will surely freeze before they can hatch in 28 days. Besides, she can’t resist leaving the eggs to return to the drakes in her life.
But don’t be too harsh in judging her. She’s a dumped-at-the-pond farm duck bred to produce eggs and meat. Many generations ago, the mothering instincts were erased from the genes in her lineage. Maybe she’ll get lucky in 2013. Her last successful nesting was in 2010 when she hatched four ducklings. Three died quickly, but one lived until the next spring.