Protecting abandoned domestic ducks

October 26th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

(l to r) Rusty, Franny, and Dazzle on a late September cruise of the Brighton millpond

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.

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 reappears

September 9th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

SweetPea returns to her domain at the Brighton millpond dam

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.

Yoo Hoo! SweetPea! SweetPea?

August 24th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

Fred watches as Duke attempts to call SweetPea in her hidden location

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.

So far, SweetPea is a model mother

May 13th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

SweetPea has seven beautiful eggs in her nest

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?

Buda’s ghosts and SweetPea’s absence

May 9th, 2014     1 comment     permalink

An anomaly of digital photography in long exposures

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 camera's flash is set for "2nd Curtain" so the strongest image follows the ghosts

SweetPea: The show goes on

May 7th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

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.

SweetPea enjoyed a short walk on her lawn before returning to her nesting responsibilities

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.

After a refreshing bath, the grande dame required sustenanceHer 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, warms her hillside eggs

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.

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.

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

SweetPea isn’t a snow bunny

January 2nd, 2014     0 comments     permalink

SweetPea eats ice cold duck chow with the rest of the Main Street ducks

Perhaps it’s her age or arthritis, but the pond’s Grande Dame isn’t amused with the extreme weather this winter. She can be found lying in the snow with her feet snuggled into her feathers rather than swimming with the boys.

SweetPea confers with Buda about something, probably the extreme cold weatherOn New Year’s night, she did something unusual: she stood bolt upright and took four steps backward as if she had lost her balance. Maybe her legs were “asleep,” the nerves were too cold to transmit their position. It happens to humans when fingers/toes become numb in the cold. Ducks probably experience it, too.

She recovered quickly then joined the others (top) to nibble chow. She conferred with Buda (left) about the dreadful weather, the tacky winter accommodations with limited swimming space, or their futile plan to waddle to tropical lagoons filled with year ’round vegetation and tasty insects.

Ducks need better calendars

November 23rd, 2013     0 comments     permalink

The Dam Boy were across the street. I knew what was up.

Thursday, the Dam Tribe wasn’t in its usual place. I found them across Main Street in the little park beside Ciao Amici’s Restaurant. Uh oh. Somebody’s missing again.

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.

One new egg and four dirty onesLater, 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.

There she was. SweetPea was adding an egg to her clutch

Futile offerings

November 13th, 2013     0 comments     permalink

Muddied eggs in the raised bed beside Main Street are surely SweetPea's

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.

Millpond ducks as economic indicators

October 24th, 2013     0 comments     permalink

The three most recently dumped ducks stay together

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.

Dumpling is neurotic, irrational, but sweetConsequently, I’m less confident identifying the species of any millpond farm ducks. The three white newcomers (l to r above: Captain Hookt, Jiminy, and Jemima) have facial profiles that look more like Aylesburys than Pekins but don’t have the breed’s characteristic pinkish bills. Compare their profiles to Dumpling’s. He has a smaller stature and more slender profile (right) more typical of Pekins.

Buda and Buddy have Pekin profiles similar to Dumpling’s, but SweetPea‘s profile looks nothing like any of the other white ducks. She looks more like a goose, but ducks and geese cannot interbreed so it’s a mystery from whence she came.

From a farmer’s point of view, Pekin ducks are nearly perfect for production farms. They grow to market weight of about 6-8 pounds within 40-50 days, have white skin and feathers so they look good in the butcher shop even if pluckers miss a few pinfeathers, and they are hearty, docile and calm.

Desi chases the three newcomers away from SweetPea and the rest of the Dam Tribe

Desi chases the three newcomers away from SweetPea

Before Pekins became the industry standard (95% of the meat duck market), farmers weren’t driven by scientific data. They obtained livestock offered by local breeders or neighbors for eons. The bloodlines of many farm breeds (birds and mammals) were more diverse, but many of these “heirloom” breeds are as endangered as polar bears now due to market forces.

In a tangential way, the assortment of domestic ducks abandoned at the millpond reflects economic trends, too. Most are probably the result of impulse purchases of ducklings less than a week old. How can anyone resist a tiny ball of fuzz that does its own “barking” (incessant peeping) to buy me, buy me, buy me for less than a Mocha Latte at Starbucks? But those tiny peepers become demanding quackers within a couple of full moons that cost money to house and feed.

It’s no coincident that more ducks have been dumped at the millpond this year than usual when you consider the Michigan economy is in the pits. Something has to give when family budgets tighten. It’s also reasonable that the majority of dumped ducks are males. They can’t earn their keep laying eggs and families can’t bring themselves to eat their pets so the millpond becomes their escape plan even though it’s against the law to abandon any animal without providing for its care.

Jiminy appears to be the alpha duck for the new trio

L to R: Captain D. Hookt, Jiminy, and Jemima. Jiminy calls the shots for this trio.

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.

SweetPea cleans house and herself

August 4th, 2013     0 comments     permalink

Clean and neat once again, SweetPea continues to incubate her eggsFollowing 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!

SweetPea stages La Bohème in Brighton

August 2nd, 2013     0 comments     permalink

Eggs left under a tree near Ciao Amici'sI cautioned SweetPea’s latest nesting attempt might be futile, but it’s surely more pitiful than you imagined. It didn’t take me long to find her nest last evening.

SweetPea is covered in yolk living in a garretMy 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.

The Grande Dame is missing. Again.

August 1st, 2013     0 comments     permalink

The Dam Tribe drakes have no one to woo

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.

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.

A sunset swim for the Dam Tribe

July 15th, 2013     0 comments     permalink

SweetPea leads her quartet of drakes around the millpond during a twilight swim

It’s summer and the living is easy for millpond ducks. They paddle around the pond with only two cares on their minds: 1) are there any turtles nearby, and 2) when will another human toss me something to fill my ever-emptying gullet? Here, the Dam Tribe floats near water lilies. The drakes watch SweetPea‘s every move. They tag along behind her hoping she might bestow romantic favors their way during her twilight swim. Little do they care she ignores her last batch of ten eggs baking in the sun on these hot days.

The phantom nests of SweetPea

July 4th, 2013     0 comments     permalink

Smack-dab in the middle of a lavender bush in the raised bed beside Main Street, SweetPea has built nest #3 this season

Note the egg in the upper left is smashed against another oneSweetPea’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.

SweetPea has laid ten eggs in her third nest of the seasonThe 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.

Don’t jump, SweetPea!

June 23rd, 2013     0 comments     permalink

Fred is endlessly fascinated by everything SweetPea does

SweetPea nibbles on tiny bits at the top of the falls while Fred watchesPark 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 took some liberties with this image in Photoshop because is wasn't very good to start with

An apology to SweetPea

June 1st, 2013     0 comments     permalink

The lone egg left in SweetPea's nest

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.

Focus, SweetPea. Focus!

May 31st, 2013     2 comments     permalink

SweeetPea is hanging her head in shame because she knows I'm aware she's not doing her job.

The males in her Dam Tribe have lured her away from her sitting duties. Again.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.

SweetPea’s disappearing eggs

May 22nd, 2013     0 comments     permalink

SweetPea takes a sunset swim with her suitors at the Brighton millpondOn 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.

Only 11 eggs remain in SweetPea's nest under the canopy of spruce branchesDucks 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.

The old girl’s still got it!

May 18th, 2013     0 comments     permalink

SweetPea inspects the eggs before returning to her duty of keeping them warm

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.

A baker's dozen! Maybe some will hatch ... SweetPea's neck is bald and scabbed. It will heal once the breeding season ends in mid-summer. The boys walk her home

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 is trying again

May 16th, 2013     0 comments     permalink

SweetPea's second nest is under a millpond spruce

SweetPea's white feathers are easy to see beyond the spruce branches

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.

Everyone’s a critic

May 1st, 2013     2 comments     permalink

The yard signs have been removed. Darn it!

Harumph. After I spent a good 20 minutes creating a trendy Hooverville for the beloved SweetPea employing GREEN principles (leaves and recycled objects), someone cleaned up the joint within 24 hours. They removed the two yard signs that provided her with a smidgeon of privacy and tidied up the dried leaves. They dismissed my years of experience in the design arena and imposed their own taste. How boarish. But I will trudge onward even though bruised by this assault on my design sensibilities. It’s a burden I must bear as a creative professional.

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