UPDATE: DUCKLING FLIGHT! During the afternoon feeding, one of the ducklings, sitting on the duck island and seeing everybody get their noms on the other side of the pond, simply took off effortlessly and flew to the other end of the pond. The first flight I’ve seen! Now that I know they can fly, I also know that they’re staying on to freeload. But it was still exciting!
Well, all is pretty good in Botany Pond, but as the ducklings come closer to fledging (it should be about now), the internecine strife continues. There are duck fights; and one smallish female, whom I call Phoebe, is picked on by the others to the extent that she swims and rests largely alone, and quacks piteously when separated from the others. I make sure she gets lots of food, but those quacks (which proves she’s a female, since males don’t quack) break my heart. Honey herself, in fact, pecked at Phoebe yesterday, taking out a feather or two. Honey is still off her feed, eating only corn and mealworms (this, I’m assured by experts, is normal for molting females), and looks at me longingly after I’ve already given her the ration of food.
I’m sort of wishing that the young ‘uns would leave, if for no other reason than so poor Phoebe can finally get some rest, and so Honey can be relieved of her mothering duties, which continue, and I can feed her up with treats.
Here’s the latest: Honey is still a guardian, standing watch when the other ducks, many of whom are larger than her, are foraging:
I adore this sedulous duck. Look how big her offspring are, and their flight feathers are fully grown. They can fly, I’m sure, but I haven’t seen it yet.
Honey is cutest when she looks right at you.
Feeding time yesterday morning. Phoebe was missing: she enters with the other ducks, but as soon as the food is in the water, they drive her away. I have to run around the pond like a crazy person to ensure that she gets fed. Can you pick out Honey?
Same in the afternoon: Mom and seven ducklings. (Honey is at lower left.)
A duckling foraging in the lily pads:
Something new that I found vastly amusing: when I was feeding them yesterday afternoon, an algae-covered turtle swam by. One of the brood proceeded to follow the turtle, pecking at it and eating the algae off its back!
This is a mutualism, for I’m sure the turtle doesn’t like to be covered with algae (it may camouflage it, but there are no predators here and the growth slows down swimming), and the duck gets a snack. Also, the turtles eat the leftover duck food, so nothing is wasted. It’s a harmonic two-species ecosystem (three if you include The Feeder).
The turtle grazer follows the reptile down as it dives.