Friday: Duck report

I find it hard to realize that it’s Friday rather than the weekend. With the streets and University and pond devoid of people, it’s not easy to remember that it’s a weekday. Here’s the latest on the ducks (i.e., a drake and two hens):

The two hens, Honey and Dorothy, are sitting almost full time on their eggs while Wingman the Drake lingers in the pond, awaiting the rare occasions when his wives fly down to his level. In a bit more than two weeks, if he’s still there, he’ll be able to see his children.

We’re already making preparations: a man from Facilities is putting up a “duck fence” on the bank right now to allow the ducklings a place to rest without being disturbed, and plans are being hatched (as are ducklings) to ensure a soft landing when they jump.

Dorothy came down from the nest twice on April 14. I didn’t call her as I don’t want to lure the hens off their nests when they should be incubating. While quietly feeding Wingman, I noticed that she was futzing with her nest, as the video shows below.. A duck aficionado told me that she’s her covering her eggs with twigs and down (plucked from her breast) to keep them warm and hide them in preparation for a short absence (a feeding-and-bathing interlude).

And here she is earlier that morning, eating duck chow off the pavement. She was hungry, as expected. You’ll see Wingman make a brief appearance.

Dorothy on egg duty (24 hours a day with a short break every few days):

Here’s Dorothy eating in the pond, with Wingman, always nearby and attentive, guarding her. He eats a bit, but not nearly as much as the hens do:

A formal portrait of Dorothy. Like Honey, she has a beautiful purplish-blue speculum:

. . . and an informal portrait. Notice the small black dot at the base on the right side of her beak: this is her identifying mark and source of her name:

The next day it snowed, not usual for this time of year but not unheard of, either.  For the first time since I’ve been tending her, I saw Honey off her eggs (only for a short time), coming to the pond for a drink and some chow. When she paddled to me quickly, accompanied by Wingman, I wasn’t sure it was her:

 

As they got closer, I could see the hen’s beak was dark in color, suggesting it was Honey (note the falling snow):

Yes, it was Honey! The beak marks are unmistakable:

And Honey on her nest yesterday morning, when it had warmed up and the snow was melted away. In the late afternoon, when I was feeding Wingman (that can’t attract her because she’s on the other side of the building), she came flying to the pond for a bit less than an hour, consuming a huge meal and having a long and luxurious bath-and-preening session. (I’m told that they dampen their breast feathers to keep the eggs moist, which is apparently required for successful hatching.) She then flew back to her eggs. I have some lovely pictures of that interlude that I’ll post in a few days.

4 Comments

  1. JezGrove
    Posted April 17, 2020 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

    Fantastic, as always, to hear the latest news from Botany Pond. And yes, the weekend has lost its excitement – it’s getting hard to know what day of the week it is these days.

  2. Filippo
    Posted April 17, 2020 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

    ” . . . having a long and luxurious bath-and-preening session. (I’m told that they dampen their breast feathers to keep the eggs moist, which is apparently required for successful hatching.)”

    I contemplate how this comes about via instinct/DNA, and how much training a human primate (possessed of whatever parenting instincts) would have to have in order to pull it off satisfactorily.

  3. Ross Stephens
    Posted April 17, 2020 at 8:30 pm | Permalink

    For those who like ducks – UK police shepherding a group of ducklings back to mum.

    • Posted April 18, 2020 at 6:21 am | Permalink

      That is adorable. But “for those who likes ducks”? Who DOESN’T like ducks?


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