“The Duckling Professor”

May 12, 2020 • 11:15 am

On Sunday, the local ABC News ran a story about the pond, the ducks, and yours truly. You can see the 3.5-minute video (and a transcript) of the piece below, shot and reported by ABC correspondent Zach Ben-Amots.

It’s a nice piece, I think, but I always cringe when I see myself. And it’s worse this time because I’m all shaggy from a lack of a haircut. And, in the second bit, I admitted to being stressed out (I was!), even though I greatly enjoy tending the waterfowl. This was right after we had another duckling death and the hens were fighting. So I’m not going to watch it again.

Oh well, I submit it for your approval. Just ignore the (lack of a) haircut.


56 thoughts on ““The Duckling Professor”

  1. The ‘shaggy’ hair doesn’t look bad at all. It suits you, I think. Plus, look on the bright side – you HAVE hair. Love the pink shirt. All-in-all, a great interview!

    1. “I’m all shaggy from a lack of a haircut.”

      Mildly humorous in view of recent pics from the early ’70’s.

    2. Yes, it gives him the “lovable wacky professor” look. I think Jerry came off very well in this interview!

  2. They did a nice job with the story. Loved it.
    The hair actually adds drama. I was thinking of how Beethoven and the romantics of that era looked. Keep the ducks, keep the hair.

  3. Very nice. Great pics of babies. Good to see the facilities guy and hear his enthusiasm. Nice that you gave a great shout out to the university president for his enthusiastic support.

  4. Rewind Duckcam to around 6:55 am (Chicago time) for some interesting video. A heron flew in. Which in and of itself is cool. I saw the heron at around 7:04 and immediately informed Jerry. It was gone by the time he got to the pond. But what was interesting was the reaction of the ducks.

    What I wrote to Jerry:
    The heron showed up around 6:55am and was still there around 7:10am. The ducks were in no way alarmed by it. They simply ignored it. There were four drakes who were mostly concerned with eating. The really scour the beach and clean up after the ducklings. All the ducklings were on the pond. I think 17 – they are hard to count. One hen had the lead the other was bringing up the rear. No alarm from them when the heron showed up. The ducklings are basically one loose brood with a few really adventurous ones. I was surprised none of the ducks had an issue with the heron. I think Honey has an issue with just about everything on the pond.

    After rewatching the video, I have a correction to my initial observation. When the heron arrived, the ducklings, who were scattered as usual, gathered into the megabrood. The mothers moved them away from the heron. But not in a panic. Just very smoothly. Looks like Honey is a bit more accepting of Dorothy’s help .

    I did see the heron by the far island later but there were no ducklings on it. You still have about six hours to rewind the video and watch it. I thought it was really interesting. I may go earlier than 6:55am to see if the heron was there earlier.

    1. Go back earlier – at least to 6:45am. The heron was already there – later walking on the sidewalk and the beach. The four drakes are together, not fighting and staying out of the heron’s way. I think Honey and Dorothy took the ducklings under the bridge,

      Best pond action I have seen yet.

      1. Hard to say since the cam has no sound, but having been at the pond before when the hens think there is danger (I’ve seen it for hawks or herons and I’ve seen it for dogs or cats) they usually make a sound that very much says ducklings assemble and they herd them usually to the water and away from where they think they are in the most danger. It’s actually quite loud and eventually even the ducklings themselves join in the alarm sound.

      2. Scrolled back a bit earlier than what you said and found where the heron first swooped in. I could see the big shadow it cast on the pond as it flew into the area from above the lower right of the pond and then alighted on the opposite sidewalk (IIRC). All the ducks reacted immediately, especially the hens obviously gathering the babies. Those were some very tense and gripping sequences where the heron kept moving around, stalking the ducklings. Honey made a move towards the bridge and the great beast moved there to head off her and her flotilla. All kinds of tactical movements from thereon occurred, and the heron by then had criss-crossed the pond, moving moved away from the bridge and standing by one of the trees in the water.

        While a couple of the drakes stayed by the beach to eat, they might have been decoys. I dunno. When Honey finally made it to the bridge with a large following of ducklings, Dorothy was quite a ways behind with a few babies and seemed quite afraid, but then followed the larger flotilla. Watching the whole thing in entirety, it seems that there was some coordination with at least Wingman and his buddy.

        When Jerry arrived shortly after the heron finally flew off, the hens and babies were nowhere in sight, and I saw him shrug towards the webcam. It’s a good thing Jerry had arrived then, as the heron was likely still in the area, maybe even checking out the channel. It’s possible the heron saw him coming in his bright fuchsia sweater. Who could miss that?!

        Anyway, the two drakes that had flown off suddenly returned, and a little bit later that’s when a hen and ducklings appeared along the ledge left uppermost corner! Were they hiding in the grasses by the pond?!

        I skipped forward a bunch and saw when Jerry reappeared. Everything seemed back to normal. I don’t want to see that again but that dino monster surely will be back tomorrow around sunrise! Ulp.

        1. I think the drakes might have flown off to reconnoitre for the heron, before heading back and landing in the pond with great flourish and flapping of wings.

          1. I have gone back and watched this again. Not really sure what happened. Time is probably wrong. Would be nice if UofC could add a clock to a corner of the camera. Using the slider and estimating the time by subtracting from the current time is not that accurate.

            I think all four drakes spent the night at the pond. They went into the water around 6:30am from the far bank. Sunrise in Chicago today was 5:32am. It was a while before the ducklings went into the water from the islands. It appears that Honey lets Dorothy have some of the ducklings for the night. Hard to tell because of the angle of the sun. The shimmering of the reflection of the trees on the pond sometimes looks like ducklings zipping around.

            Heron shows up around 6:45am or so. The four drakes are together but do not confront the heron. The hens bring the brood together and watch over it. I think the heron could easily snatch a duckling. Maybe it does not like the odds of six adult ducks against it. I let Jerry know of the situation at 7:04am. He got there in a hurry but the heron flew off two minutes before he arrived.

            Watching a heron fly you think pterodactyl. I think the danger to the ducklings will last for at least two more weeks. Dorothy’s ducklings have been on the pond for a week, Honey’s for five days. They are growing quickly and need size for defense.

            I would worry more about a hawk. I had a red tailed hawk snatch a mourning dove (ok – pigeon) off my driveway a couple of years ago while I was cutting the grass. The hawk only weighs five pounds but had no problem flying off with its prey.

    2. It may be the heron will have a regular visitation time. Animals do have their schedules doing their rounds. But ducklings grow fast, and as far as I know they will soon be immune to its attentions.

          1. I used to have a large pond and tried the fake heron to no avail. One heron was determined to get our succulent giant goldfishes and would wade in the water even with the decoy there. Willing to share territory I guess. Still, it’s definitely worth a try, as even birds have their idiosyncrasies. I wonder how the ducks would react to the decoy. It might be OK as long as Honey doesn’t decide to move the brood elsewhere.

  5. I don’t see as much duck activity as I’d like because, apparently, I’m not awake during duck time. Or, they’re over in the canal where I can’t see them. Even with my glasses, they’re sometimes hard to spot.

    I don’t remember previous broods being quite so adventurous as these guys. I think it probably takes two Mom’s on duty at all times to keep them safe

    1. Oh, shucks! I forgot to congratulate the Duckling Professor. One of your very best appearances, hair and all. Did you ever think some fame in your latter years would be due to Botany Pond and all your families of ducks? Couldn’t be happening to a nicer guy. The ducks are lucky.

  6. Wonderful report! And I appreciate the shaggy hair, as it indicates that you are taking the distancing seriously. There is no way anyone can adequately socially distance while getting a haircut; those politicians and others who have nicely coiffed hair, unlike the rest of us, are not setting a good example (that’s the teacher in me speaking).

  7. Terrific report. Glad it got some press. The shaggy hair is certainly not a bad look – even professorial. At one point though, the untied shoe …. . Bigger battles to fight. Glad there is success with the ducks.

  8. Excellent little video essay! I liked that it wasn’t presented/narrated by a reporter; rather, the principals told their own story.

    And I noticed that the professor’s “Emperor Has No Clothes Award” got a close-up!

  9. I loved the video, Jerry. You sounded great and looked great. Fuchsia suits you!

    Many thanks to you and the whole duck husbandry, pond team and the other overlords who facilitated this wonderful symposium of nature. What a great bunch of people!

  10. Well done piece by the TV station. And thoughtful interviews with the two of you. Tip of the hat to you!

  11. Dang, boss, haven’t seen that coif since Astrid Kircherr cut those Liverpudlian lads’ hair in Hamburg in the early Sixties. 🙂

  12. Looks better than my hair which I cut myself and looks like crap. I would need to wear a hat as hair camouflage when if I did a video.

  13. As everyone sad, it was a very nice piece, well put together, engaging.

    You came across quite well too.

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