Monday duck report

I have some videos of Dorothy’s babies (yes, still six) preening, dunking, and engaging in other watersports, but I’ll leave those until later this week. Today I’ll try to catch up on the photographs.

First, the red-eared sliders, which are coming out often in the heat:


No matter how old these are, they always look ancient (and wise):

A formal head shot of Honey, the most famous mallard hen in America (or so I like to think). Her bill pattern is distinctive, though it’s darkening up a bit as the season progresses.

Honey began molting around two weeks ago, right when her youngsters began their first awkward flights. Here you can see, in contrast to her offspring in the rear, with those big wing feathers, that Honey has lost her primary flight feathers. For a while she was flightless, but they’re growing in and, when a Cooper’s Hawk flew over the pond yesterday morning, and Dorothy sounded a “QUACK” alarm, all the ducks flew out of the pond, including Honey! Even without fully-formed feathers she was able to fly.

The hawk, by the way, appears to show no interest in ducks or ducklings, but often munches on songbirds as it sits perched in a tree next to the pond. But I am wary, and the ducks even more so. (A pair of Cooper’s Hawks fledged three babies in a tree only about 150 yards from Botany Pond.

Part of Honey’s brood dabbling. They’re finding more of their own food these days, having less interest in my yummy duck pellets. Honey eats very little from me, but still loves her corn and mealworms.

Her brood was originally 17, but they’ve been leaving in ones, twos, and three, and, yesterday, in fives. We’re down to Honey and five offspring today.

Honey’s brood sacked out in the water on a hot July 4. Remember, less than two months before this photo was taken, those full-size ducks were just hatching. How they’ve grown!

Here’s a photo I took of Dorothy on June 5 to verify her identity. And you can see the black dot underneath her right nostril that gave her the name “Dot,” which became formalized as “Dorothy”. At this point she was coming to the pond sporadically and then disappearing, sometimes to various windowsills. But I didn’t know she was re-nesting.

On June 22, much to our surprise, she produced seven ducklings from her old nest on the third floor. As I’ve related with sadness, one of them disappeared (a predator?), but the remaining six are big and thriving. Dorothy seems proud, and I like to think she’s happy to have her own family at last. After a rocky start, she seems to have shaped up after losing that one duckling, and now she’s an excellent mom, guarding her brood and chasing away every other duck save Honey, who still rules the pond. (Don’t forget that about 8 of Honey’s brood were actually produced by Dorothy.)

Dorothy’s brood on June 25, when she still had seven. That was the day when they learned to get up on the bank by walking the Duck Ramp. (Dorothy looks proud!)

One of Dorothy’s at the “most adorable” stage:

After we lost one, now there were six. Here they are resting in the grass as Dorothy stretches a wing. Note how they’ve grown.

July 9: At a bit more than two weeks old, the fluffballs have become fuzzy little ducks. They stay together onshore, and Dorothy guards them nearby, either from the front. . .

. . . or from above. Four days later (just this morning), they’ve lost more of their fuzz.

Dorothy’s ball o’ ducklings. Their crops are distended as they’ve just had a meal (I feed them 4 times a day):


In a few days: videos!


  1. jezgrove
    Posted July 13, 2020 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

    The distended crops look somewhat unsettling but Dorothy’s ducklings are clearly feeding and growing very well indeed!

  2. Nicholas K.
    Posted July 13, 2020 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

    I cannot shake the feeling that Honey and Dorothy are mother and daughter. Only a DNA test will prove it, but I’d bet money it is true.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted July 13, 2020 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

      In the often married and remarried world there is that often heard refrain – Honey, I think your kids and my kids are beating up on our kids.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted July 13, 2020 at 7:30 pm | Permalink

      I’m of the same opinion. It might be wish-thinking or something, but I’m sticking to it until a DNA test proves otherwise. (At least it’s something that can be proven, unlike the existence of a deity.)

    • Posted July 13, 2020 at 7:37 pm | Permalink

      Either Dorothy is Honey’s daughter, or a random mallard hen showed up at Botany Pond this Spring at the same time Honey did. Which is more likely?

      • Mark R.
        Posted July 13, 2020 at 9:10 pm | Permalink

        This is the kind of experiment that will take a few years to fully figure. Biology on Botany Pond, yup.

  3. Glenda Palmer
    Posted July 13, 2020 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

    Tnx for the update on activities at Botany Pond. Nice to see the photos. Looks like Honey, Dorothy and yourself will successfully launch 23 young ducks into the massive fall migration.

  4. Diana MacPherson
    Posted July 13, 2020 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

    I always think birds look like they are contemplating big philosophical questions & turtles look like they already know the answer & are quietly laughing about it.

  5. Posted July 13, 2020 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

    Looks like Dorothy has turned into a good mother.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted July 13, 2020 at 7:34 pm | Permalink

      I’ve decided Honey knew Dorothy has more ducklings to come and was making sure she was free to look after them. (I apply all sorts of human emotions to the ducks. I don’t have a life, so living vicariously though the ducks is one of the ways I get one! 🙂 )

  6. rickflick
    Posted July 13, 2020 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

    I imagine many dinosaurs raised young in much the same way, except for flying.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted July 13, 2020 at 7:16 pm | Permalink

      Tell it to the Pterosaurs. 🙂

      • rickflick
        Posted July 13, 2020 at 7:54 pm | Permalink

        Well, there were some, yes.

  7. notsecurelyanchored
    Posted July 13, 2020 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

    I love the pictures of ducks dabbling and can’t see them without thinking of Kenneth Grahame’s “Duck’s Ditty” in Wind in the Willows. Up Tails All!

  8. Posted July 13, 2020 at 6:53 pm | Permalink

    How time and ducks fly!

  9. Posted July 13, 2020 at 7:21 pm | Permalink

    Turtles do not seem to have ears, red or otherwise. I don’t see any openings.

    • rickflick
      Posted July 13, 2020 at 7:55 pm | Permalink

      They have thin flaps of skin covering internal ear bones. The skin flaps allow vibrations and low-frequency sounds in the ear canal — so the turtles can hear to some extent, but their hearing isn’t sensitive.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted July 13, 2020 at 8:28 pm | Permalink

        Yeah like in this image. My tortoise’s ears were a bit more obvious because of his colouring.

        • rickflick
          Posted July 13, 2020 at 8:37 pm | Permalink

          I wonder if you could shine a bright light through from the other side.

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted July 13, 2020 at 8:44 pm | Permalink

            No! It’s not owl ears!

    • Mark R.
      Posted July 13, 2020 at 9:17 pm | Permalink

      I have a turtle pond and from what I can observe, they are most attuned to sight. And unlike many mammals, they see color and perhaps even more vividly than some mammals. Sound doesn’t seem to disturb them, and I always figured their hearing was poor. Maybe land terrapins have better hearing. Aquatic species wouldn’t need much to get by I suppose.

      • Posted July 13, 2020 at 10:00 pm | Permalink

        Sound conducts very easily through water, so perhaps aquatic species do not need ears like terrestrial species. Fish don’t have ears either.

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