Monday ducks

August 29, 2022 • 12:30 pm

Our ducks numbers are variable—from 5-12 per day—but are not increasing. Sadly, Frisky the wood duck drake appears to have left for good, but Honey is here, and now deigns to eat duck pellets (she previously would eat only corn and mealworms). She seems to have snagged a boyfriend, too: the biggest drake in the pond (of course).

On and off we’re visited by a hen with an injured leg (GiGi which stands for G. G. which stands for “Gritty Gertie”), but her leg is improving, much to my relief. And we have Billie, a duck with a bill that she can’t fully close. But she eats very well (and from a hand). Billie also has acquired a drake, whom we call “Bernie”.

All of the young seem to have fledged, though we may have a few of Audrey’s drake offspring here. It’s hard to tell.

The pond still has ten or eleven turtles; the epidemic that killed off five of them several weeks ago appears to have abated.

So, some photos of Botany Pond and its residents. First, her Highness, Honey the Hen.

Front view:

Head in the water:

Left side (believe me, you’re going to see all of her!):

And the right side. Isn’t she a lovely hen? This may be the last season I see her. At least six years old, she’s now a Senior Mallard. Note that on both sides of her bill there’s a black triangle, which is diagnostic for her. (So is her behavior, which is aggressive.)


Honey and her drake, who is molting and thus is not a first-year drake. Isn’t he handsome (and huge)? We don’t yet have a name for him. The drake, with the yellow bill and head becoming green, is to the left:

Here are Billie and Bernie. You can see that her bill is slightly open (that’s permanent). Bernie may be a first-year drake. Although she was named after her wonky bill, she’s now become quite vociferous, so “Billie” could also be short for “Billie Holiday”:

Billie is a sweet duck, one of our favorites, and I worried about whether a drake would find her attractive. But apparently one has—Bernie (named after my uncle):

Billie has learned to eat out of our hands, though she’s a sloppy eater because she can’t fully close her bill. That means she spills a lot of pellets, but it also means she gets extra food. Look at that mess on the ground. (She immediately cleans it up.)

Mallards are not dumb. After watching Billie get fed this way, her new swain Bernie took to eating from the hand as well, and at the same time! He’s the first drake that I’ve seen eat from a human hand at Botany Pond. Here’s the loving couple dining together.

And we mustn’t forget the turtles. They’re all healthy now, and we have at least ten. Yesterday was warm and sunny, and they fought for a place in the sun, extending their heads and limbs to warm up:

Finally, two artsy “reflection” pictures:

Soon the season will end; there will be no more ducks as they start draining and dredging the pond. We’re all worried about what will become of the turtles, and whether they will kill or injure any fish or turtles as they dredge.

And will I ever see Honey again?

19 thoughts on “Monday ducks

  1. OK, I’ve got to ask – why “Wednesday” ducks on a Monday?
    I can add this to another pressing question of the day – why the “copy of the Rubiyat of Omar Khayyam given to me by my uncle Bernie” is signed by Uncle Moe?

      1. Almost all of them were put in the pond because the red-eared slider doesn’t readily breed this far north. We watched two nests being made last year and then, this summer, dug them up, to find that all the eggs were defunct. However, we saw at least two very tiny turtles in the pond, and those were undoubtedly newborns, so some hatching must have occurred around the pond.

  2. I suppose we could follow progress on the webcam. One would hope they will have a contingency plan for the pondlife – at least vertebrate. I have three tiny common newts I accidentally collected as eggs with some pond weed, in an aquarium. I will have to fish them out when a tad larger & return them, but they look too delicate at present. To me they look almost cat like, & they creep up on tiny water fleas (as a cat stalks a bird) with they gills flared out.

  3. Jerry, your remarks about recognizing individual ducks have prompted a question. Sorry if it has been asked before. Why don’t you band them?

    1. We’re not allowed to band them: you need expertise and certification. Moreover, we can’t even touch the ducks, really, as it’s a violation of the Waterfowl Protection Act. One needs a professional to band ducks, or any birds.

  4. You could try Alfred for Honey’s drake.
    Alfred Drake was an American actor
    and singer, and Alfred George Drake
    was a British war hero.

  5. The artsy photos are great, especially the first one – richly textured with a mysterious dark centre drawing the viewer in.

  6. Thanks for the update. Sad to hear Frisky left before becoming resplendent. Who knows, maybe he’ll come back…there’s still a lot of Summer left.

    I fret for the turtles, too. To overwinter 12 turtles will be a challenge. A small swimming pool of some sort would work, but it would probably need to be indoors or it will freeze solid and the turtles will die. Also feeding / periodically changing the water, etc. I’d volunteer to take care of them if I lived nearby!

    Do you know how much “dirt” they’re going to dredge? Hopefully, they won’t make the pond 6-feet deep; how would you save the ducklings?

  7. TNX. I especially enjoy the updates on Botany Pond residents and the duck team. Love following what is happening there. Good shots of the reflections and turtles as well.

  8. You’re on to a good thing there, Prof C. At least when your “pet” ducks reach their natural end you won’t have to know. Try that with a dog/cat: disaster. If my 12 year old dog and substitute child/companion outlives me (which he might, no bets though) I’ll be fucked. Like Ricky Gervais who after losing his German Shepherd just can’t bring himself to repeat losing a dog ever again (he says).
    NYC me and puppers:

    1. Honey endures. Long live Honey.

      I empathize with you and and Ricky Gervais. We have a 13-yr-old black (well, somewhat gray now) Standard Poodle. A year and a half ago she was getting about poorly. She got an x-ray and NMR scan and we determined she had one kidney and the remnants of one adrenal gland, so it was obvious she was suffering from Addisons for some time. It’s a wonder she has thrived for as long as she has. (She has a couple other ailments as would not a few dogs her age.) She endures. At least we can see it coming and be as prepared as anyone can be. Our previous Standard Poodle bit the dust at age four. A friend was looking after her while we were out of town. We were practically as upset for his sake as we were for our dear girl. We wasted no time getting our current dear girl. I’m not sure we’ll take the plunge again.

      I’m reminded of the philosopher Schopenhauer, one of the first people one thinks of when the word pessimism is mentioned. Yet he wrote a wonderful paen/panygeric to his beloved poodle.

      I’m also reminded of a quote from the Rubiyat of Omar Khayyam: “Take the Cash and let the Credit go.”

      I’d like to think that, however far and wide comedians’ collective writ may run, pets are off limits.

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