Honey has been gone from the pond for the past two days; I knew that because there was no hen in the crowd who was nearly finished with molting (shorter primary feathers), who had a mottled dark bill, and who was aggressive (Honey takes precedence over all other ducks, including Dorothy; she can chase them all away but nobody puts Honey in the corner).
I was worried, though, because although I knew she could fly a bit in her molting state, I didn’t know if she could go far enough away to be absent for two days.
But this morning, as we were feeding the ducks, a hen flew in with loud quacks, landed near Dorothy, and began fighting with her. It was not just a chase, nor a fight to the death, but a moderate battle in which the hens grabbed each other’s necks. Dorothy lost (of course) and retreated to the channel, leaving her babies in the main pond. She was cowed for about five minutes, and then returned to her brood. Honey settled down and I gave her some corn and mealworms (being the Queen, she spurns regular duck food for the moment). I think Honey simply went after the dominant hen in the pond to re-establish her dominance after an absence.
At any rate, all is now well, and the ducks are well fed and generally well behaved, though woe to the mallard who comes close to Honey when she’s eating!
To verify it was Honey, I took bill pictures this afternoon from the left and right, for Honey has distinctive bill mottling that has been dispositive for the last four years. And, sure enough, it’s my beloved hen. Here, judge for yourself:
Honey’s bill left side 2018:
Honey’s bill left side, today:
Honey’s bill right side 2018:
Honey’s bill right side, today.
Like last year, she comes and goes as the time to fly south approaches. I don’t think that will be for a while.