It’s time to catch up with the latest doings at Botany Pond. But first let me show off my prized hen Honey. The picture below, taken on April 13 of this year, shows her in all her glory (she was already sitting on eggs at the time but took a break to come to the pond for a drink and snack). I call it “Proud Honey”, and it’s one of my favorite pictures of her. Perhaps she’s swelled with pride at having laid ten eggs (nine hatched).
There’s a new phenomenon this year: our pond has become a staging area for ducks, accumulating large numbers of hens and drakes. (The drakes haven’t assumed their breeding color yet.) Here are two photos of the traffic jam, with the first being a few days ago, when there were about twenty ducks besides Dorothy and her six juveniles.
Just this morning there were thirty “pensioners”, making a total of 37: a record for the pond (the previous record was 31, set last year when we had three broods cohabiting the pond). Too many ducks! It’s madness at feeding time, but we’ve developed ways to ensure that every duck gets at least some food, while Honey, Dorothy, and Dorothy’s offspring get extra pellets and mealworms. It’s a bit stressful, but after feeding time things calm down.
Please don’t tell me that there are too many ducks and it will overcrowd the pond, for there’s nothing I can do about that. They’ll start leaving within a month.
Two pictures of the Queen, showing the left and right side of her bill, with the dark patterns being absolutely positive identifiers. They’ve gotten even darker over the season, but the patterns remain the same. As you see, her primary feathers have now grown out after her molt, and she’s ready to fly.
Honey has a new boyfriend! He’s a large and handsome drake who hasn’t yet “greened up.” They swim around together and she lets him eat next to her without chasing him (see below). They may stay together and fly off together, but hens often switch partners after they arrive at the wintering grounds.
If readers want to suggest a name for this bad boy, please do so. Remember, her boyfriend last year was called “James Pond,” a name suggested by readers. Here she is with her new swain (the yellow bill and huge size shows he’s a drake):
Duck Master Sergeant Jean Greenberg helps with the tending. Her speciality is Dorothy and the babies, and Jean has an uncanny way of identifying them and getting them to come to her for food. It’s important because they’re nearly ready to fly, so they must get good and copious noms daily (three times a day, actually).
Two weeks ago, on August 1, the whole brood and Dorothy were zooming around the pond after lunch. Here are three videos taken by Jean, showing their spontaneous zooming, flapping, and diving behaviors, which are not only play, but practice for the Big Duck World that they’ll soon encounter.
Zooming and diving. (Diving is a means of predator avoidance.)
Here’s one of the thirty-odd pensioners. He’s a handsome lad with a rich blue speculum:
A reminder that the pond is an ecosystem. One of our red-eared sliders had a duck feather stuck to its back. The ducks love to nibble the algae off the back of the turtles.
The next two videos are mine. They’re not great because I had to take them while feeding the mass of ducks. The first one shows me feeding Honey. She’s very aggressive at feeding time and won’t let any other ducks come near. Often she’d rather chase ducks away than eat, for when she does a chase, other ducks sneak in and eat the food meant for her.
Notice the constant guttural noises Honey makes. No other duck in the pond does that, and it enables me to pick her out of a mass of ducks almost instantly. (Her aggressive behavior and dark bill are also clues.)
Honey and boyfriend being fed. Note the guttural quacks.