Visit to Another Pond
The other day, I was lucky enough to visit another pond at work, one populated with many ducks, ibises, turtles, and herons. I saw
several broods of ducklings, from both mallards and muscovies. Several ibises. Tons of muscovies. And the best part, a great blue
heron, that flew and landed right in front of me! I'd never been that close to one. It is such a magnificent bird! Much taller than I expected, too.
I had my camera with me and was able to take lots of pictures. He didn't seem to mind at all. Just kept
looking in the distance, and occasionally walking a little bit. Wow.
Recently at the pond, there's been an increase in mallards, both adults and young adults. In particular,
there's a new brood of young mallards that's been hanging out at the pond. Nine ducks in all. They
are all brown and keep close to one another. They must be pretty young...
Earlier this month, while I was riding my bike around the neighborhood, I saw an injured hawk in
someone's yard. The poor thing had been attacked by another hawk, possibly defending its terrirory.
At the same time, a neighbor arrived. At first, the bird was on its back, and we thought it was near death, but turning it over, we realized that perhaps it wasn't that badly hurt. There was blood, but not too much,
the eye was intact. Only the top of the head was stripped of its feathers. I stayed with the bird (and the neighbor's son), keeping watch over the bird and making sure the other hawk, who was still in the tree, didn't attack again, while the neighbor went to get a cardboard box with a towel on the
bottom. I lifted the bird and put it inside. He was exhausted and weak, but doing ok.
I learned a few days later that the bird was transferred to an animal hospital and that he looked a lot more alert the next day, so things seemed to take a positive turn.
Shortly after the pollution started to fade, a female muscovy showed up with 16 ducklings! She must've
been nesting while the pond was polluted, and avoided that situation all together. As usual, the
number's been steadily decreasing, about one duckling every few days. Still, they're doing better than the last few broods where none survived.
Shortly after that one showed up, another female, a black-headed one (and, I believe, very young) showed up with 3 ducklings. Within days, there was
only one left. But she didn't care for him at all, barely tolerated him in fact. Several times, he was by himself
and she was nowhere to be found. The poor thing learned early to fend for himself. The next day,
mom would show up and let him come close again. The poor thing didn't survive in the end. I think it
was this mom's first brood, and she just wasn't prepared. As of May 26, there are 9 ducklings left in the first brood. They are a little over 2 weeks old, so almost out of the woods.
Last month (April), as I was going to the pond to feed the ducks, I noticed something black in the water. As I got closer, I
realized it was one of the muscovy males, dead in the water. A heart-breaking sight. I went around the pond to the other duck, farther away. He seemed ok until I reached him. Then I noticed his head was resting on the sand at the
edge of the water. He too was dead.
I walked some more and found another male duck, in the middle of the pond, looking healthy, until I realized he
really wasn't. His head was held high and from afar he looked fine, but his gaze was distant and he didn't move at
all. He wasn't dead, but getting there. So was a turtle. In the following days, a number of shrubs also died and were
removed by the grounds dept. Whatever happened, it happened quickly.
There were no mallards around at the time, except for Broken Wing, of course. I didn't see him for a few days, but
then he reappeared, scared and aloof, but ok (grounds people had been at the pond picking up dead birds and putting them in large bags, so I can't blame him for being afraid). That duck has more lives than a cat! His life hasn't been easy; Now he was alive (and hungry) but alone. Fortunately that would soon change (see my
Duckling Time Again
10-09-05 update: We had 8 ducklings for the longest time, but unfortunately, one didn't make it. Now they are big
enough that they know turtles are predators and they will either run the other way when they see one, or hit it with their
small bills, just like Mom. They are growing so fast now. Still 2 moms who barely tolerate each other. I wonder what
the little ones think of that peculiar situation.
Btw, it seems they can now recognize me, even in a crowd of people. The other day,
I was running late, so parked in another parking lot, and went by the pond on the way to work. Black Head spotted me, signaled
to the others that I was here, and within a matter of seconds, a whole slew of ducks were running my way. There was no
way for me to stop, as I was already late, so I walked faster and turned the corner. But what's amazing is, when I came back
out 4 hours later, I found them just a few yards from the door (they are never that close), and as soon as I exited the building, again, they spotted me,
and all ran to me as fast as they could, so I fed them right there. It seems they decided to wait until I came out, since they
had missed me earlier. :-)
9-12-05 update: The moms seem to still share the responsibility of raising the brood. Today White Head had 3 ducklings with her; Black Head had the remaining 5. I've also learned, after some research, that the 4(!) turtles in the pond are Florida Soft-shelled turtles. These eat all kinds of things (amphibians, fish, etc.) but will also eat baby ducks. So, there you have it, our culprit. What seems to happen is that oftentimes, 2 ducklings will go in the water together, they'll lose track of mom, and instead of looking for her, they'll just stand there and cry until mom comes around. If she doesn't, they're dead meat (literally). Not much I can do about that, other than keeping a 24-hour watch. Not gonna happen. Btw, I've posted new pictures below.
9-09-05 update: We're down to 8 ducklings...
9-07-05/9-08-05 update: They're back, 10 of them now. Both moms still involved. They really don't like each other but have learned to tolerate each other, which is an improvement. Seems they like to hide in the tall grasses next to the lake, and which borders the man-made beach near the dorms. Once they're in the grasses and weeds, it's almost impossible to see them at all.
9-06-05 update: Today there were no ducklings to be found. Big panic. I don't know what happened, but Black Head is missing too, and White Head is looking for the babies, and calling them. Could they have been moved to another pond? Killed? Nothing really makes sense, so I'll assume Black Head kidnapped the babies temporarily, and that she'll bring them back tomorrow. *crossing fingers*
9-02-05 update: Black Head was with (or very close to) the babies today, but as soon as I came in, White Head took over, and chased her away. It's like they switch when I arrive. In any case, there's no difference now between the babies. I don't think anybody knows which are from which mom, not even the moms themselves. Anyway, there are still 12 of them, and they're getting stronger.
9-01-05 update: Today we're down to 12 duklings. As White Head swims with them, and eats with them, Black Head looks on. She almost looks sad that she gave them up, somehow. Maybe she's having second thoughts. It's too late though, White Head doesn't plan to give them back now. Strangely enough, mom lets the 3 young muscovies come close. I guess it's because they're family. If you'll recall, they're her ducklings from 3 months ago. The babies are still as adorable as ever.
8-31-05 update: At last count, there were still 14 ducklings. Still all raised by the white-headed female, who lets them get very close to me, but makes sure that the other ducks keep their distance. The black-headed female got close to them (after all, some are hers) but she was pushed away by the other mom, so it seems that the white-headed mom decided 'if you're gonna give me the ducklings to raise, then you can have no more claim to them'. Makes sense, I guess.
8-30-05 update: Today, there are 14 ducklings left, and all are with the white-headed mom. Black-headed mom just looked on, but wasn't that interested in rearing her little ones. They are eating like pigs. :-D
8-29-05 update: Coming to the pond to feed both families, I found the white-headed female on her own with 16
ducklings. The black-headed female was in the area, but apparently content that the other mom was taking care of the kids.
After a while, the ducklings split up in two groups. The black-headed mom ended up with 10 ducklings; the white-headed female with the remaining 6 ducklings, so they obviously don't care which ducklings go where. Not something that would happen with mallards...
8-28-05 update: Surprise! It seems both females have had ducklings. I found the black-headed female with her
8 ducklings on one side of the pond, and the other, white-headed female with her 10 ducklings on the other side. Wow! They
seem to be no more than a day apart.
8-27-05 update: All the eggs have hatched today. There are 8 tiny little ducklings gathered under
the mom. So cute.
For about two weeks now, I've been feeding the other muscovy female, where I work (the one with
the dark head). She's located her next next to the parking garage, in a dark corner that makes her
pretty invisible to the general public, although in full sight, if you look that way... I know that she's
been sitting on her 10 eggs for about 2 weeks, but it's impossible to say how long she's really been
there. Some other people have brought a water bowl, I bring her bread and fill the bowl; others
also bring her food. She's well taken care of.
About a week ago, one of the eggs was thrown out of the nest for some unknown reason. It was still alive. Put back
under her, she seemed to have no problem with it. A few days later, it was out again, farther, and dead. My thinking is
it hatched too early. She now has 9 eggs, and they should hatch any day.
The 3 ducklings are now young adults and are still together. They're often seen with their mom, though. They are now almost
full grown, and it appears that one is a male, and the other two are female. The red on their faces isn't quite there yet.
For a few weeks now, one of the two female muscovies at the lake where I work has been caring for a brood of ducklings. Originally starting out with 5, there are
now 3 left. Two with a dark brown head; one with a 'female' colored head (yellow with brown stripe). Just this last week, they grew an awful lot, and are
now about the age of teenagers - in duck years, of course. They are starting to fend for themselves, and rely much less on their mom. I feed them every day after work.
Ducks at Christmastime
For more than a year and a half now, we've had this duck at the university where I work. Originally part of a 10 duckling 'gang', he is the only
one left after all the others flew away more than 6 months ago. You see, this duckling is special. When he was little, he got hurt by
another duck and broke his wing. His wing's been broken ever since, and he can't fly, so when all the others left, he stayed here by
himself. I, along with a few other people on campus, feed him every day. He's aloof, always wary of people. He knows very well
he can't defend himself since he can't fly, so he always stays some distance away just in case. Anyway, strangely enough, 2 days
before Christmas, his family came back to see him (Christmas is a family holiday, after all). As of early January 2004, they are still
here. There's our duck ('Broken Wing' as I like to call him), his mom & companion (yes, I know, ducks don't generally mate for life;
this is very odd, but they've been together for years, and they *are* the same 2 ducks), and 3 of his siblings. What a beautiful thing!
Below, you'll see pictures of Broken Wing, and a picture of him with his family visiting at Christmastime. I also have other pictures of
the whole gang as duckling from last year I'll scan later.
A Flurry of Birds
The other day, I was impressed to find lots of different birds flying in and out of one shrub. I was able to get close and saw cardinals (adult and juvenile),
chickadees, titmice, and a tiny unidentified bird. There were dozens of them!
The next day, I saw several birds I couldn't identify with the nake eye, so I took my binoculars, and discovered a great crested flycatcher,
busy scooping up insects, then bringing them back and dropping his bounty in the young bird's beak. First time I've seen flycatchers that close, but
they were unmistakable. Wow.
A few days earlier, I had noticed a bird climbing down one of the trees. Sure enough, it turned out to be a nuthatch. First time
I had ever seen one.
New Feeder Birds (again)
Even more unexpected, we've recently been privileged to see a flock of robins feeding on the ground in our backyard (I counted around 40 and lost track after that), and got close enough to take pictures. I had never seen robins before in my life. Quite a treat that was. Then days later, I saw my first ever chickadee. Chickadees are supposedly common here, but they only come down to the northern part of the county I live in. So personally, I had never, ever seen one before. Again, what a sight! And what a year this is turning out to be.
New Feeder Birds
Since we installed the new squirrel-proof feeder in the back (see above), we've had the privilege to witness our first ever goldfinch. Goldfinches are only here during the winter months. They're migrator birds. I know they're fond of thistle seed, but as I don't have that to offer them, I didn't think I'd ever see a goldfinch. Imagine my excitement when I saw my first goldfinch ever, on that feeder. What a sight. :-)
This year, I've been fortunate to have my first ever hummingbird sighting. And it wasn't any of my doing. I had been
putting out hummingbird feeders for some years, with zero results. This month, I first saw a humminbird hovering around
the 10-ft.-high firethorn tree (which is covered with round, red berries). A week later, I saw it again in the same area. A week after that, I saw the little thing hovering (and
eating from) a 6 ft.-high wild pea we have popping up everywhere
(bright yellow flowers, as it were). This time, it actually stayed there for about a minute, eating from every flower.
And here I thought that hummingbirds preferred red, tubular flowers... so much for that. Anyway, I didn't get to see its
colors as it was hovering very high, and seeing it against a bright sky only allowed me to see its silhouette
(with the long beak and cute little buzzy wings). What a neat sight! :-)
While on a trip to N. Carolina, we met a group of Canada geese (I counted about 50 of them!) on the side of the road. They're
some of the most gorgeous birds I've ever seen! For some pictures, check out my Georgia & Carolinas travel page.
|Last updated May 29, 2006
||© Mimi Christien
|Optimized for Internet Explorer 6.0 or above
||Best viewed at 1024 x 768 resolution.