Friday ducks (and turtle lagniappe)

June 18, 2021 • 12:30 pm

All is well and peaceful on Botany Pond, with the two cohorts (four broods) getting along well. First let’s see America’s Most Famous Mallard, Honey, in a formal portrait. She has been with her four ducklings for several weeks now, after a satanic drake drove her away from her brood for about two weeks (they had to take care of themselves, but we made sure they were fed). For some reason that drake left, there was a grand reunion, and now they’re back to being a family again.

Honey smiling:

Honey swimming:

Honey’s four scruffy teenagers:

Honey, her drake Shmuley, and one of their offspring, who in this photo is getting up there with tail feathers and a rudimentary speculum.

A video of Honey and her four getting out of the main pond (one has a bit of trouble) and crossing the sidewalk to get to the channel on the other side.

Here’s Dorothy, who had 11 ducklings originally. We lost one, and she expelled another (the “Peepster”) from the brood). The Peepster was alone and sad, chased around a lot by other ducks, and peeped a lot, but we fed him well and he’s managed to bring himself up to nearly a full-sized duck. He’s going to be fine, despite his status as a pariah.

I’ll show the photos as Dorothy’s babies grow up. Newborns:

Dorthy’s brood as it ages. Here she is sitting on them on a chilly day.

On warmer days they huddle together but don’t need Mom to sit on them for warmth. But ducks are social creatures and the broods stay together until they get older and fully feathered.

The brood slightly older, starting to grow feathers:

The feathers start as “epaulets” on the rudimentary wings, and then on the tail, and then grow backwards and forwards to meet.

Look at these ugly ducklings!

Dorothy’s brood just yesterday—fully feathered but without large primary feathers on the wings, so they won’t be flying for about a week or so. Dorothy is in the foreground, right—attentive as always.

Here’s the Peepster about two weeks ago, looking sad and scruffy as his feathers begin coming in. No other duck likes him—he’s the lowest duck in the pecking order. Despite that, he’s developing just like his sibs and will be fine.

Here’s Dorothy’s Armada flapping, diving and splashing after their lunch the other day. Notice that their wings are larger, but still not full sized. (Video by Jean Greenberg)

Shirley Rose crossing the path with her brood of 12. We lost two of these, but since then she’s been stable at ten. Make way for ducklings! Note the baby having a sip from a muddy puddle.

Courtship of the turtles.  These are red-eared sliders (Trachemys scripta elegans), of which the pond harbors several dozen. Greg told me that the small one is a male, and he has special large claws on his forelegs that he uses to stroke the female’s face during courtship. He then goes behind her in a mating ritual. We’re too far north for this species to breed, but they still try. (These turtles undoubtedly descend from pets that were put into the pond. They can thrive here, but it’s too cold for them to nest and breed.

14 thoughts on “Friday ducks (and turtle lagniappe)

  1. There are red eared sliders here too. I am surprised they can over winter. I haven’t seen any in the wild and mostly we have painted turtles here.

  2. The Peepster has had a sad upbringing. I wonder why Dorothy did that dastardly deed and ditched the poor darling. Would it be a good idea to anoint him with a strong name, such as Victor or Charlemagne, Arthur or Winston, and wish his all the luck in the world?

  3. I did not know that the turtles couldn’t breed there. But it makes sense given the species and their native range. It does seem possible that native turtles might show up.

  4. I recently built a new turtle island for our pond: A floating platform (about 2 inches above the water level) with easy ramps along all four sides. The turtles love it.

    We also saw, about a month ago, a large female Painted Turtle laying eggs in one of our gardens. Just like those nature videos of sea turtles doing on beaches.

  5. I wonder what Peepster did to piss off the rest of the gang?
    I often try to work out why or why not my dog “Aussie” decides a new dog he comes across is a dear friend or deadly enemy. (One consideration is if they have bulldog like “smushed in” faces – he automatically hates them – the vet says it is b/c he thinks they’re snarling at him.)

    The larger question is why do WE make very fast decisions on whether we like somebody or not at first meeting?

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