Sunday duck report

Just a quick update. In the pond the ducks come and go, talking of Michelangelo. Some days there are twelve, other days over sixty, and it doesn’t seem to depend on the weather. They are getting ready to migrate South, and so I have fattened them up for the long haul.

The pond is graced for the first time by a new resident species: three wood ducks (Aix sponsa): small, graceful, and beautiful creatures. There are two males, with pink bills, and one shy female who comes and goes. Below we see a male in eclipse plumage.

I’m giving extra food to the wood ducks, just to see if they’ll hang around till migration (they’re generally shy and skittish), and, perhaps, with luck the males will undergo their plumage change to what you see below, becoming one of America’s most beautiful birds:

Picture from Wikipedia

I love our little woodies and their feathery helmets, and I don’t think the many visitors to the pond notice them among the many mallards. Here’s a male woodie preening itself. Notice how it flicks its wings as it grooms.

When the woodies arrived, the trio used to rest on the south and east ledges of Botany Pond, where no other ducks rested. They wanted solitude. Now, however, many of the mallards do, and I wonder if this is a form of cultural evolution in the local birds. They also seem to space themselves out fairly evenly, as you can see below. I suppose an ecologist could determine whether this is random spacing or an attempt to socially distance each other. I suspect the latter.

And. . . . Honey is back after an absence of about five days!  I noticed this yesterday when there was an extraordinarily aggressive hen in the mix, driving the other ducks away from the food.  It was too dark to photograph her bill to verify her ID, but this morning I did, and, sure enough, it’s Honey. She looks a bit peaked in the photo below: no surprise given that she raised 17 ducklings this year and is now battling for noms with a lot of other mallards. My poor hen!

ID: Honey’s bill, right side, photographed today:

Honey’s bill, right side, photographed in 2018:

Honey’s bill, left side, photographed today:

Honey’s bill, left side, photographed in 2018. I’m calling a match with 100% confidence.

More photos and videos to come.

15 Comments

  1. Janet
    Posted September 20, 2020 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

    Perhaps that should be “Just a quack update.” Sorry…

    • jezgrove
      Posted September 20, 2020 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

      Sorry? You will be when you get the bill…

      Sophisticated ducks, quoting T.S. Eliot. Sadly, though not for readers of WEIT, I can’t come up with a mallard-related Eliot pun.

      • jezgrove
        Posted September 20, 2020 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

        Maybe the ducklings can wax philosophical and say:

        “We shall not cease from exploration
        And the end of all our exploring
        Will be to arrive where we started
        And know the place for the first time.”

        • Posted September 20, 2020 at 8:54 pm | Permalink

          In “duck” it might be:

          “We shall not cease from paddling
          And the end of all our paddling
          Will be to shake our tail feathers
          And preen ourselves and then go sleep in the sun”

  2. Posted September 20, 2020 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

    Lovely pictures! Enjoy their company!

    • Glenda Palmer
      Posted September 20, 2020 at 7:13 pm | Permalink

      +1

  3. Charles A Sawicki
    Posted September 20, 2020 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

    Wood ducks are beautiful birds, we have nest boxes along the Red river where they raise young.

  4. Ken Kukec
    Posted September 20, 2020 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

    In the pond the ducks come and go, talking of Michelangelo.

    First time you made me think of “Prufrock” since “Eat a Peach” Day.

  5. Posted September 20, 2020 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

    The breeding plumage change of the wood drake is remarkable. Sexual selection at work, I suspect.

  6. Ken Kukec
    Posted September 20, 2020 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

    She looks a bit peaked in the photo below: no surprise given that she raised 17 ducklings this year and is now battling for noms with a lot of other mallards.

    I say the next time you name a hen, you call her “Ruthie.”

    And …

  7. Posted September 20, 2020 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

    Very good.
    A couple days ago I had surprised a pair of wood ducks. I was sitting on a remote bank of the Flint river, near sunset, just to get pictures of ruby spot damselflies in the ‘golden hour’. Since I was sitting very still for over an hour, the local vertebrates started to appear as they were unaware of my presence.
    An osprey had flown in and landed for a time on a dead tree across the river from me. Then a pair of blue herons made a raucous entrance and exit, flying very close to my side of the river. I could clearly hear the air hissing thru their feathers.
    And then several yards to my left was a splash and ripples from it moved out from the bushes. Closely following were a pair of woodies, and they were surprisingly close. I raised my long lens for a picture and they took off like a pair of bullets, emitting high pitched quacks in alarm.

  8. Posted September 20, 2020 at 8:04 pm | Permalink

    The wood ducks are beautiful. I hope they return next year.


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