Afternoon duck report

May 21, 2018 • 1:30 pm

It’s raining, and I’m monitoring the pond while trying to write a paper, so it’s been a busy day. But the news is good for the ducks. First, though, let me introduce you to the two other members of Team Duck, Dr. Anna Mueller, a professor in Comparative Human Development who studies clustered suicide, and her grad student Sanja Miklin. Anna is on the right here, in a picture taken at a meeting last weekend.

All nine ducklings are thriving and are eating crushed mealworms, while Mom eats corn and whole mealworms. Frank hangs around, and I give him corn, but he’s becoming a jerk, lunging at and even pecking at the ducklings and at Honey. Team Duck will have to figure out a way to feed them while keeping Frank away from the family. At this point, after Frank has donated his sperm but proffers no childcare, his presence serves no useful purpose (and it’s even detrimental to the family); but I still feel some affection for him.

They’re all good, and it’s still raining. Note that there are nine ducklings still.

This morning a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) appeared by the pond, and Honey went apeshit quacking. It was in fact her frantic quacks that alerted me to the presence of this bird. Normally I’d be delighted to see it, but I suspect that, along with fish, this species would snatch ducklings. (I see no other reason why Honey would become frantic upon seeing it.) Therefore I needed to prompt it on its way. I don’t like doing that, but I was fortuitously thwarted by a student who, when taking a picture of the bird, made it fly off. It is a lovely thing, but doesn’t belong at the pond.  (Please, no remarks about thwarting natural selection, which is what you do when you give your kids antibiotics.)

The good news is that Physical Plant is doing its thing. Today they put up a sturdy ramp out of the pond into the shrubbery, allowing the ducklings an egress from the pond into thick vegetation that will hide them. Here it is, and I hope they learn to use it.

They also heaped dirt around the base of the two trees in the pond, which, when it dries out, will also give Honey and offspring a dry and safe place to rest. They’re adding leaves and other things to it to make it softer and less muddy.  Thanks, Physical Plant!  More improvements to come, including a fence.

36 thoughts on “Afternoon duck report

  1. Your visiting Great Blue Heron would love a duckling lunch. I’ve watched them standing over a gopher hole and then swallowing the critter in one gulp once they catch them.

    1. I use a ramp in my pool, it works well for ducklings (the years we get them), squirrels, and chipmunks. Toads and mice still get pulled into the skimmer. The toads can usually survive a night in the skimmer whirlpool, mice don’t fare well.

  2. Hero’s. Will eat anything they can fit in their mouths and enjoy dining on ducklings. They are hell on frogs too. They are actually kind of gross, despite their elegant appearance, in their gourmandizing of ponds.

      1. You always have the best typos, Diana! I still remember the one where your formatting for a Bible quote didn’t cut off, so your comment of “How could anyone believe this rubbish” etc, looked like it was the Word of God from the the Gospel of St John.

  3. Ok, I’m going to admit it. Until yesterday, every time you or a reader said something about Physical Plant, I thought your were talking about getting a physical (real) plant (as in botanical) for the ducklings. There. I said it. I’m a dope. I have (duck) egg on my face.
    And as for the heron, yes, they’ll scarf down ducklings like nobody’s business! I believe Darren Naish over on his Tet Zoo website has posted articles about herons and their appetites, including when their gluttony gets the best of them. Worth seeking out, trust me.

  4. The Heron likely has chicks too. Just sayin. I suppose it should settle for frogs and fish and be happy with that.

  5. Clearly Frank needs a job or at least a hobby, he has way too much free time. Have you considered helping him volunteer his services elsewhere?

    1. He could spend his spare time protecting his offspring from the heron! He’s become pretty good at attacking and being fed has made him a bit territorial. (And who can blame him?!)

      Does he know the ducklings are his? Is that a stupid question? I assume he doesn’t, but you know what they say about assuming.

      1. No idea about ducks. Cockatiel fathers certainly know their little ones because they help raise them and they remember them from that.

        1. From this mornings Duck Update

          “This from Ducks Unlimited;

          “The majority of male ducks usually invest little or no energy in rearing offspring. In swans and geese, however, both parents are active participants in brood-rearing activities and may remain with their young until the following breeding season. …..

          In most northern-nesting ducks, on the other hand, males play little to no role in brood care. In fact, most male ducks abandon the female when she begins incubation or shortly after her eggs hatch. The bright plumage of the drakes may attract predators, so the male ducks rarely attend broods. Most female ducks usually remain with their broods until they are nearly on the wing.”

          1. As far as I know, the rule is that bright-colored male birds do not participate in raising the young. Last year, Honey was alone with her offspring by the time PCC met her.

  6. We had some ducks. Khaki Campbells I think they were. We used a kid’s toy pool for their swimming lessons and arranged a ramp similar to the one shown made of a board. However, a few never seemed to learn how to get to the entrance. So, I’m not too confident the board technique will work in the pond.

  7. The ramp for the ducklings is a great idea. The ramp will also help the frog population to survive.
    Frogs cannot climb (tree frogs excepted) and they do not feed in water, hence ponds with vertical sides are death-traps for frogs. A frog which cannot get out of the water will die from exhaustion and starvation. I make frog ladders to affix to ponds to allow the frogs to escape. You need a lot of them, though.
    Please spread the word about frogs and vertical sides.

  8. Great work, all of you.

    I do hope that ramp is sturdier than it looks. Is it attached or hinged to the white thing at the pond’s rim or is it just perched on its edge? If the latter is the case, it could get knocked off.

    I was thinking that small pond plants like marsh marigold could provide a less muddy nesting ring for the ducklings, without fouling the water like decaying leaves. But I don’t want to suggest something that will turn out to be the wrong thing for Botany Pond. This link has some good info on setting up a nesting/resting area:

    A small roll of chicken wire is quite light and portable, and might help in providing a temporary safe feeding area for the ducklings.

  9. Umm.. I think comparing a great blue heron and ducklings to why human adults give their children antibotics might be stretching it a little. And this is coming from the person who allowed a black widow to live on the backdoor of her house growing up who survived the winter until the spider fell into the house and my mom squashed it stating that was her territory. However, the duck stories are keeping me entertained. :-> Hopefully Jerry will forgive me.

    1. My dad has ants in the house. Little brown ants. My mom keeps threatening to kill them & my dad keeps telling her to stay away from his ants. He has made many ant behaviour observations about them.

  10. Nice photos! I think the ramp should be wider and hope physical plant will do something like maybe a very gradual concrete entry to the water on that side. I’ve seen great blue herons stalk and gulp down ground squirrels from their burrows on the UC Santa Barbara campus, so I’ve no doubt they would eat ducklings. Chase them away!The duck saga continues!

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