You think *you* have troubles?

It was a rough evening; I should be asleep, satisified that all is well with the one thing I can control: the ducks at Botany Pond.


A new brood consisting of a mother I’ve never seen and her six babies came to the pond.

Actually, it was four babies; the other two were scavenged from the area around the pond when they were spotted by others after they jumped (probably from a windowsill in my building). I ascertained they weren’t injured, and put them in the channel with the mom and other four. They all kept together.

Honey and her brood went nuts when they detected the new brood and, as I feared, Honey went for the mother. Had I not intervened, it would have been a nasty fight.

I kept the broods apart until a lady from Chicago Bird Collision Monitors arrived. (I called them.) She had a box, blankets, and two nets.

Object: catch the babies and mom and transport them to a nearby bigger lake.

To catch the babies, I had to get into the pond and keep the broods apart while trying to net both mom and the babies (separately). So into the murky and muddy water I went. It’s not nice in there! The bottom is irregular, slimy, and muddy, and there are underwater pillars that I didn’t know about.

I netted five babies on one go, but Mom flew away, though of course she stayed nearby.

One baby escaped and swam around the pond. (This was a small baby–even smaller than Sammy. They had jumped down only a short time before I came to the pond to check on things.)

I went into the deep part of the pond to net the baby. It had an amazing and adaptive escape behavior: it would dive underwater when approached and then resurface about 15 feet away in an unpredictable location. This must be innate, as the tiny baby had never been in the water before.

This made catching it very difficult, and I lost my glasses trying to get it, which made me nearly blind as well.

Thanks to the verbal directions of two nice pond-frequenters who came by to help, I finally netted the last duckling. We put them all in the box with a blanket.

I mucked around afterwards on the pond bottom trying to find my glasses, but couldn’t locate  them. Fortunately, I have a spare pair.

Mom kept coming close to the box, but we utterly failed to capture her. The CBCM lady decided to take the brood home and then transport them to the Wildlife Rescue Center tomorrow. I gave her duckling food, but they’ll be good without food for a day.

The nice couple drove me home in my car, with one following, so I could get home with my car though I was too myopic to drive.

Completely grimy, I took a very long shower and washed my hair three times. I applied Neosporin to the cuts I’d sustained tonight and in the previous week.

Now I’m drained and sad. Mom and her babies are separated, and mom is disconsolate.

On the other hand, had I left the brood in the pond, the babies wouldn’t have survived, and Honey might have killed the mother as well. So mom will live, though without babies, and perhaps the babies will be okay. It was better to do that then wait for them all to be killed or die.

And. . . if Dorothy is nesting and has babies that come to the pond, they will also be attacked. This is worrisome. I have no idea if she’s raising another brood.

And so to bed. I should be satisfied that I helped ensure that the brood had a chance rather than no chance, but I’m just sad, and am stifling the urge to sob. Duck farming isn’t supposed to be this stressful.

Thanks as always to the Chicago Bird Collision Monitors, who are a great bunch of people, and all volunteers.




  1. Mark R.
    Posted June 3, 2020 at 10:16 pm | Permalink

    I hope you get some rest Jerry, you deserve it. The world just keeps piling on, doesn’t it? Botany Pond is quite the saga this year, mimicking the world-saga in miniature. It seems “order” is not on the menu for 2020.

  2. neilmdunn
    Posted June 3, 2020 at 10:19 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for your good deed and for relaying another duck “adventure” for us to follow.

  3. Posted June 3, 2020 at 10:29 pm | Permalink

    Oh no, this is terrible. Is there a way to get the ducklings and mom over to the lagoon at Washington Park? Capturing mom is near to impossible I imagine.

    Perhaps you should find a way to discover if Dorothy has eggs. Forewarned is forearmed.

    Sorry about your bad evening. You’re the best, PCC.

  4. Posted June 3, 2020 at 10:30 pm | Permalink

    I’m so sorry. I hate it when these things happen. Even if for the best, the best does not take away your sadness. I hope you feel better in the morning.

  5. Posted June 3, 2020 at 10:37 pm | Permalink

    Thank for sharing your duck adventures with us, the good and the bad. It gives me such pleasure to know that you are the caring, sharing sort that I wish all of us were. Not likely, but I hope you can find your glasses. Being exceedingly myopic, I always have a second pair available also.

    • Posted June 3, 2020 at 11:33 pm | Permalink

      Thank = Thanks. As my son says when he finds a typo in something he’s written, he has “dyslexic fingers”. I either blame it on autocorrect or my “fat fingers”.

      Anyway, I wanted to say that the ducks must be spreading the good news about Botany Pond
      and the professor there who feeds them so well. Good luck with keeping the population manageable (and the feed bill down!)

  6. Cate Plys
    Posted June 3, 2020 at 10:38 pm | Permalink

    It’s tough when you do the right thing, and it still feels wrong. But you saved those babies, and the mom will live to have another brood. Open up one of those great bottles of wine you mentioned keeping around. You deserve it!

    • jezgrove
      Posted June 4, 2020 at 7:36 am | Permalink

      Nicely put, Cate. And a good plan!

  7. Barbara Radcliffe
    Posted June 3, 2020 at 10:45 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for updating us, Jerry. I understand the issue of driving home when one has lost one’s glasses! With best wishes to you and all the broods of ducklings.

  8. Roo
    Posted June 3, 2020 at 11:26 pm | Permalink

    It sounds like the babies are in good hands and will do well, which is something to be happy about at least!

  9. rickflick
    Posted June 3, 2020 at 11:27 pm | Permalink

    Quite the adventure. Sounds like all’s well that ends well. The chicks will be OK,and the mom will go on to raise another brood.

  10. uommibatto
    Posted June 3, 2020 at 11:37 pm | Permalink

    What an ordeal! So sorry to read this!

  11. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted June 4, 2020 at 12:22 am | Permalink


  12. Claudia Heilke
    Posted June 4, 2020 at 4:08 am | Permalink

    What is Honey’s problem? She’s deprived two mothers of their children and one set of babies of their Mom. Last year there were 3 moms each with her own brood of babies and Honey didn’t go all Bitch Queen Psycho Duck. What’s wrong this year?

    • Posted June 4, 2020 at 5:14 am | Permalink

      Perhaps it has to do with her competing with Dorothy for babies, but she started out that battle in a belligerent way. I don’t know what’s with her except that she has 17 babies to take care of. It’s worrying. She deprived only one mother of her kids this year, though: the one last night.

    • eric
      Posted June 4, 2020 at 9:01 am | Permalink

      Could be the big starting brood size makes them more likely to fight for limited territory?

      Could be (in Dorothy’s case) the hatchings occurring so close together confused her instincts?

      Or could be Big Duck On Campus – she picks fights more now because she’s more confident she can win?

      I really have no idea. Ultimately however, it’s hard not to anthropomorphize and see this as ‘bad’ behavior when in reality, nature makes no such judgement. It’s all about getting more of her own ducklings successfully to adulthood.

      • rickflick
        Posted June 4, 2020 at 11:48 am | Permalink

        In a larger pond or lake, Dorothy would simply mosey down the shore a ways and Honey would be just fine with that.

        • Posted June 4, 2020 at 6:06 pm | Permalink

          I believe you are right. When a scarce resource gets overburdened, fights for it become more intense.

  13. Julie Johnson
    Posted June 4, 2020 at 5:01 am | Permalink

    Thanks for the disruption to our tv bedlam – you giving it your best is heartening.

  14. Katey
    Posted June 4, 2020 at 8:17 am | Permalink

    So sorry for the physical and emotional endeavor you’ve been through. It does get very difficult to know/feel the “right” thing when it comes to wild animals, even when you’re armed with knowledge and concern. But I think you did what the situation called for, as awful as it might still feel. You are a good duck guardian!

  15. GBJames
    Posted June 4, 2020 at 9:13 am | Permalink

    Boy oh boy oh boy!

  16. sugould
    Posted June 4, 2020 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

    “Duck farming isn’t supposed to be this stressful.”

    Properly done, everything is more stressful than it’s supposed to be. More lives = more work.

    Being Guardian of the Ducks is not for the faint of heart.

  17. W.Benson
    Posted June 4, 2020 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

    Welcome to ecology!

  18. Torbjörn Larsson
    Posted June 4, 2020 at 10:23 pm | Permalink

    Oy, what an adventurous day! Good to hear that it went without too much accident.

    I applied Neosporin to the cuts I’d sustained tonight and in the previous week.

    Using antibiotics as a _preventative_!? I’ve never imagined people did that! You are supposed to test what antibiotic to use, are you not? So post infection use.

    [Though it wouldn’t surprise me if one can get antibiotics without a recipe in other nations.]

    Now I’m stressed, antibiotics resistance on the rise and all that.

    • Torbjörn Larsson
      Posted June 4, 2020 at 10:26 pm | Permalink

      On second thought, a possible explanation: was the older cuts already infected and hence a prescribed antibiotic at hand?

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