Another duck hiatus

May 23, 2021 • 1:10 pm

Duck farming has becoming almost insupportably difficult these days, making it hard for me to think about, much less write about, les affaires du monde. I am exhausted, distraught, and foodless, though the ducks are all alive and healthy. No lunch for two weeks: no time!

Bear with me as the situation develops. We may even have another new brooding entering the pond before too long, in which case I take a header into the mud.

Honey is terrified, her babies largely abandoned, and Dorothy has turned psychotic, expelling one of her own brood “the Pepper”, who forages and lives alone and whose welfare, along with that of Honey’s oft-abandoned four ducklings, is our utmost concern.

So, if you want to discuss anything EXCEPT DUCKS, you can do it in the comments below.



Readers’ wildlife photos and video

May 22, 2021 • 8:00 am

We have a Saturday potpourri of videos and photos today, with all contributors’ captions indented. Click on the photos to enlarge.

First, a bunneh from Graham Martin-Royle:

As you’re getting short of photos I thought I’d send this one in. Prey animals quite often freeze when they think they’re in danger in the hope that they don’t get spotted (I know you know this, I’m just trying to explain this photo). This rabbit saw my friend and I approaching in this dry gulley in southern Utah, back in 2018 and froze, allowing us to get up pretty close.

Can you spot the rabbit?

Visiting foxes from Randy Schenck:

First, an adult in April:

Jerry,  Foxes in the front yard about 7 am. today.  There were three all together, two adults and one about half grown.  Wish I could have gotten a picture of all three but no luck.  Not a good window looking out front for photos.

This is urban Wichita, Kansas.

So all three foxes were back today, May 1, 2021.  Arrived about 7 am and stayed maybe ½ hour.  This is probably because we put out some food (five big dog biscuits) for the foxes.  The first two photos are of the pup or smaller fox.  The second photo also shows he is carrying one of the dog biscuits.  Having the food out there really did the trick and we will probably try again tomorrow.

A balancing rock from Bryan Lepore:

I am sharing a photo of Balance Rock in Pittsfield State Forest, MA (easy to read about on the Internet). I am sharing this because the rock is amazing, and also because photos I found on the internet are rather weak :

And from Bryan Tarr: a mother and ducklings in Poland. This warms my heart; I wish only that my own ducklings were so well behaved. I count ten.

I had the good fortune to see a mother with her ducklings recently, this time in Radzyń Podlaski near a small stream. I managed to grab my phone just in time to catch the second half of their hurried journey past me.

Sunday ducks

May 16, 2021 • 3:00 pm

Just a few snaps of our resident hens and their broods. Here on “Duck Plaza” are Dorothy (foreground) and Honey (background) with their broods of ten and four, respectively. In a rare moment of amity, they are napping just a few yards apart. Note the critically important duck fence that keeps people from disturbing them.

Dorothy napping but also keeping a weather eye open for her nearby brood:

And Dorothy’s adorable brood of ten in a Duck Pile. They’re napping, and several have their nictitating membranes closed for sleeping, giving the eye a white appearance.

Readers’ wildlife photos and videos

May 14, 2021 • 8:00 am

I am running worryingly low on readers’ photos, so PLEASE send in your good ones. I don’t want to have to cancel this feature or put it up sporadically. Thanks!

We have a potpourri of photos and movies today. Readers’ captions are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.

The first two photos are by Andrea Kenner.

Here’s a photo of my first sighting of a Brood X cicada. The baby is sitting on the sidewalk in Hyattsville, Maryland. I’m not sure which species he is (there are three). Here’s a link to the Wikipedia page.

I took this photo in my front yard in Prince George’s County, MD, and posted it on Facebook. The tree is an Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis). An entomologist in my neighborhood identified the bee as a Hairy Footed Flower Bee (Anthophora villosula), a recently introduced species in the Mid-Atlantic region.

From Linda Mercer:

It is hard to see the tiny fawn hiding behind my air conditioner.

A duck video from Brian Tarr:

I’ve been an avid lurker on your excellent website for several years, and have finally plucked up the courage to share a bit of wildlife with you. This is a sord of mallards which I filmed this last winter in Łuków, Poland, by the Southern Krzna River in the central park. I thought it a bit unusual to see so many, because I figured they would have flown south by then. As you can see, they are quite accustomed to humans, as people often come with their children to toss them bread (not the ideal diet, as I learned from you).

Please feel free to share this with your readers, if you so choose. I would love to get some feedback about migratory patterns. (Possible aberration due to climate change?)


And a parasitized grasshopper from Jonathan Storm:

I found this dead grasshopper on an eastern hemlock in the Blue Ridge Mountains of South Carolina. It was killed by an entomopathogenic fungus last summer or fall. These fungi are parasites that infect and eventually kill their insect host. Last summer, a fungal spore landed on this grasshopper and worked its way into the body cavity. The fungus then grew and spread until it killed the grasshopper. Several fruiting bodies of the fungus later grew out of the grasshopper and released their spores into the breeze. Some of these spores will then infect a new insect host and the cycle continues.

And a video from Jonathan:

This female Ruby-throated Hummingbird [Archilochus colubris] was collecting spider silk from a window on my house in South Carolina. The sticky and stretchy nature of the silk help hold the nest together and anchor it on top of a tree branch. Ruby-throated Hummingbirds often construct their nest from dandelion seeds, moss, and lichens and place it high up in a hardwood tree.

Thursday ducks

May 13, 2021 • 2:30 pm

Just a brief update: all the ducks are doing well: Honey still has her four and Dorothy her ten, and although they’re still wary of one another, they are not aggressive. The babies are growing like gangbusters and show every sign of vigor and health.

So, two pictures. First, Honey’s brood:

And then Dorothy with hers, learning from Mom how to preen themselves.

More death on Botany Pond

May 9, 2021 • 7:34 am

I regret to inform you that Honey has lost two more ducklings. I found two small fluffy bodies on the North Duck Island this morning. I don’t know if they were pecked to death or suffered from inclement weather (it’s cold and rainy). This is a devastating loss as I thought the ducks had reached a detente yesterday, though it could be the weather.

That’s all I have to say. My beloved hen has only four tiny babies, and who knows if they’ll survive?

All of Dorothy’s ten appear to be alive.

More on Botany Pond

May 8, 2021 • 2:00 pm

Things seem to have improved since the tragedy yesterday on Botany Pond. Honey has gotten a lot more aggressive, and will chase Dorothy and her babies away. The babies seem to be staying closes to the appropriate mothers, and everybody is eating well. I am more determined than ever to save the remaining babies, though I will be mourning the dead one for some time to come. And I’ve recovered a little bit of hope.

Here’s the duckling who, attacked by Dorothy, swam underwater a long distance and I found her surfaced, sodden, and still being pecked. I jumped in the pont, rescued her (I don’t know the sex of this duckling), dried her, warmed her, fed her, and took her home to sleep with me. Here she is the morning I took her to the rehabber. She was much improved.

Although I didn’t get any sleep when she shared my bed (she slept in my armpit), I really do miss her. There’s something about sleeping with a newborn duckling that’s incomparably sweet. I don’t think one can ever forget it.

On my way to rehab!

Honey, alert and aggressive, standing guard over her six remaining offspring.

Dorothy with her babies (she still has ten):

A lovely little girl was engrossed in drawing the pond and the ducks. I asked her if I could photograph her drawing, and she said “yes.” Here it is with Dorothy (left), Honey and her ducklings (right), and one of the Duck Islands with the tree on it:

A bird at the pond. I’m absolutely sure many readers will know what it is, but I don’t.  Let us know!

The same bird. I love its yellow breast and yellow pate.


Death on Botany Pond

May 7, 2021 • 2:23 pm

I received a voice message on my lab phone that Dorothy was observed on the PondCam pecking viciously at one of Honey’s ducklings. I ran down to the pond but it was too late: a dead, three-day old duckling was floating in the water.

Dorothy cannot abide Honey’s younger brood and attacks them at nearly every opportunity. I had to take one of Honey’s who had been attacked to rehab today, though it’s doing well, I think.

I am of course devastated to the point of tears. And there’s absolutely nothing I can do to stop the carnage. Honey has lost three in three days: one disappeared (probably also killed), one in rehab, and another one dead. Will she have any left by fledging?

Posting will be light for some time as I try to process this situation. Yes, I know this happens (that’s what the rehab lady told me), and it’s “just natural”, but these are Honey’s babies and I am not a neutral or uncaring observer.


Bob is integrated!

May 5, 2021 • 9:45 am

For those of you who, like me, were quite worried about Honey’s errant duckling being reintegrated into her brood, worry no more. It is done, and all is well!

And it happened quite quickly—and fortuitously.

First, a picture of Bob on my desk this morning before I took him to the pond. Look at his big reptilian feet!

I took Bob downstairs to show how well he’d recovered to the Team Duck member who’d caught him. At the pond I ran into Meghan Hammond, who helped us last year on Team Duck and filmed Honey’s brood jumping down last year. Meghan pointed out that, huddled on Duck Plaza, was one of our moms sitting on her babies. I assumed it was Dorothy, as one-day-old ducklings aren’t expected to be able to get up there, but Meghan said, “No, that’s Honey.” And, sure enough, it was! Honey was sitting on the grass on top of her eight ducklings, and I had #9 (Bob) in my hand.

The view. You can see Honey’s babies underneath her.

Although it was cold, I knew I would never have a better chance to integrate the orphan into his family. I quickly took Bob, put him gently down on the grass, and he immediately saw his mom and peeped. Honey recognized the peep and turned around to see what was going on.  She quacked, and in less than a second Bob zipped up to her and burrowed under her belly, joining his family. And for about half an hour Bob got warm and met his brothers and sisters, as well as the mother he’d never known.

After a while Honey moved to the pond, leaving her brood on the grass, but they quickly joined her. I fed them all (they’re a day old now), and now they’re all resting underneath her on North Duck Island.

One of the babies below is Bob, but I won’t recognize him. I miss him a lot already, but he belongs with his family. When I was talking to him last night, I told him, “You know, someday you’re going to be a mighty mallard soaring high in the sky.” At the time, I didn’t know if that would be true, but now I think it will be.

What’s amazing is that the mothers have sorted out the babies by age: Dorothy rejects any of Honey’s brood, and sometimes pecks at them, but doesn’t hurt them; Honey eventually comes by to rescue her babies. So she has nine one-day-old ducklings, and Dorothy has ten. The broods aren’t mixing at all, and are palpably different in size although only three days separate them.

As of today, at least, all is well on the pond. I am simply overjoyed that Bob is with his family again!