Monday, July 28, 2008

Another Pond Update

Hi Folks!

Welcome back! Thanks for stopping by again!

Now that summer's in full swing, I've been a little preoccupied with my usual summer activities like art festivals, and studio time at the place where I do pottery. Some weeks, I've actually missed a duck feed or two. At this time of year, I don't worry too much about that because Domestic ducks are famous dabblers, which means they smack their bills around in the mud, hunting for bugs and worms. They do the same thing in the water, too, searching for tasty duck treats at the bottom of the pond. So in theory, they should be getting plenty to eat on their own - even if they do act like they're starving to death when I show up with my bag of corn!

Because I'd missed a couple of feeds the other week, I thought I'd better make the rounds and see whether any of the girls had started another nest. The easiest way to tell who's nesting is to take a quick head-count when I first get out of the car. Who's lying around on the grass with the gang, instead of sitting on a nest somewhere? Let's see: Baby Fuzz is here. So are both Freckle Ducks. Pretty Lady is missing. Pretty Boy and Girlfriend Duck are here. Ethel-Ethel? Nowhere to be seen. And it would be some minutes before Ethel showed up, which led me to believe that she might just have a nest over there on the side of the pond. I made a mental note to check it out after I went around the apartment building and fed Lady.

Good old Ethel is the friendliest duck on the pond. She and a sibling had been dumped there a few years ago after what must have been considerable handling by the humans who'd owned them. Always glad of a friendly face and a little food, both girls were congenial from Day One. Even though Ethel's sister disappeared this spring (probably the victim of a raccoon), Ethel's cheerful nature has not diminished one iota. She'll let me pet her, and she's the only Domestic trusting enough to actually crawl inside the bag of cracked corn without worrying about what the hulking human outside might do.

As it happened, Ethel did lay a new nest of eggs while I was off prowling around art fairs. I found the nest in a location she's tried to use before, behind a small shrub just at water's edge. It was fairly well-hidden, and contained eight eggs. She'd clearly been sitting on the nest, as the whole thing was covered in feathers. Domestics don't seem to consider a nest sit-ready until they've laid quite a few eggs and covered the nest in down feathers plucked from their own breast. While Ethel was off eating corn, I tossed all eight eggs into the water and replaced them with chicken eggs. I left the small pine cone that was already in the nest.

The lesson I took away from Ethel's latest nest was that perhaps I needed to tone down my zealous approach to duck nest-hunting. Instead of spending time during every feed searching for nests, maybe I'd have more success if I gave the girls time to lay more than an egg or two. It's a thought worth considering.

In any case, most of the girls have given up on their nest attempts for the year, and the boys' hormones have settled back down to normal. They're now beginning their yearly molt, and the cliques that inevitably separate the ducks during spring mating have now merged back into one big gang of ducks in which Pretty Boy seems to be the Alpha Duck, and Ducky, his willing henchman. In other words, all's right at the pond!

That's all for now, Folks, but it's by no means the end of the story: we still have two girls trying to nest (Lady and Ethel), and all the usual summer hazards (fishing line and hooks, and unkind children) to contend with. I'll be sure to keep you posted as events develop. In the meantime, please be kind to all the critters!

Monday, July 21, 2008

A Duck With A Chronic Eye Problem

Hi Folks!

Welcome to Kelly's Critter Talk! I'm glad you stopped by.

Well, Dr. Chrys was right when she said Pretty Boy's eye infections would most likely be a chronic problem. Unfortunately, Dr. Chrys isn't here anymore to take care of them: she recently moved to Germany for two years, leaving Team Pretty Boy in search of a vet that didn't require the sort of thirty-minute drive it took to reach Pretty Boy's other, sometimes-vet. After asking around, I got the name of a vet with avian experience whose office is much closer to the pond than Dr. Susan.

I initially spoke with Dr. P. on the phone, explaining about the pond-ful of abandoned ducks, and the need for a vet who could handle their usually-unscheduled emergencies. She seemed nice enough, and willing to help where she could. I closed the conversation by saying I hoped I wouldn't be meeting her any time soon! Naturally, I found myself in need of her services less than a month later.

I'd been growing concerned about Pretty Boy's eye. It looked cloudy, and Dr. Susan's words about ducks needing two good eyes kept ringing in my head. Last Friday, I made the decision to take him in to meet Dr. P. With his guard down, he was easy to grab. I'd already set the critter carrier out by the far side of my car where he couldn't see it. It was a simple matter to scoop him up and drop him in the carrier.

Riding in the front seat with the top of the carrier off, Pretty Boy spent another car trip clearly entranced by the idea of flight. Head swiveling like a periscope, he took in all the sights and sounds. When a truck drove by and made that hydraulic hissing noise, I chuckled and announced to my favorite duck, "Geese, Pretty Boy! Noisy ones!"

Dr. P. confirmed my suspicion of an infection and explained why, exactly, Pretty Boy's eye would always be an issue. Because the sutures hadn't been able to completely join his torn eyelid back together (you can go to my archives to read the blogs on his original eye injury, last November), his left eye no longer drains properly, meaning that his tears are no longer able to sufficiently cleanse his eye of all the yuck and bacteria that live in his pond. A build-up of that bacteria will eventually, inevitably, cause an infection.

I had been hoping that Pretty Boy's immune system would take care of the problem, but that was not the case. Dr. P. prescribed antibiotic eyedrops, and we agreed that the best course of action would be to put Pretty Boy in my bathroom for the few days he'd need those drops. He's been in there for three days, now.

As you may recall from past blogs, the last time Pretty Boy was in my bathroom (this last spring), he was in full mating mode. Mad as hell at being trapped in a stinky bathroom, away from Girlfriend Duck, he proceeded to tear the place up. Pulling bath towels off their racks was a favorite trick. Thankfully, mating season is over at the pond. Unfortunately, I forgot about molting season!

It must be said that molting season is a hell of a lot easier to deal with than mating season. For one thing, he doesn't have duck hormones racing through his veins, making him slightly nutty. But molting is a messy affair, one that involves individually picking the multitude of feathers out of the bathtub before I can drain it. The tiny down feathers go down the drain; I'm hoping they don't collect in a pipe somewhere and cause a clog!

There are also feathers all over the floor, but I believe I've stumbled upon an effective clean-up method that you might like to borrow for your own critter needs. After wasting a number of tall kitchen garbage bags, which I cut in half, spead out in the bathroom and taped to the floor, it finally occurred to me to use the drop cloth I had left over from a painting project. I could cut the stuff to any width and length, and when it was time to clean, simply roll it all into a poopy, stinky bundle and drop it in the garbage.

Because Northwest Ohio has been in the midst of a heat wave, the stink in the bathroom is far worse now than anything I endured last winter. The ninety-plus degree days literally bake that duck poop smell into the room, regardless of the two fans I have running. No matter how many piles of poop I clean up, the stink remains until - Pretty Boy watching closely from the tub - I wash down the entire floor, and some of the walls!

I've been so impressed by the cleaning product I've been using (and I'm not a clean freak by any stretch of the imagination; I simply needed a product that wouldn't kill a duck), that I'm going to mention it again in this blog. It's a spray bottle of stuff called Seventh Generation. Billing itself "Free & Clear," it claims to have no fumes, no phosphates, and to be non-toxic. As near as I can tell, they're not kidding.

While I object strenuously to the idea that Clean, Green and/or Organic must for some reason be exhorbitantly high-priced, I was then, and will be in future, willing to shell out the extortionate sum my local grocer asks for Seventh Generation, if for no other reason than it's the first effective cleaner I've bought that didn't bring to mind worries of COPD every time I breathed the stuff. Indeed, this cleaner has no fumes at all.

While I'm happy to be able to help Pretty Boy, the feeling does not seem to be mutual. In spite of the fact that I've known that goofy duck since he was an egg, he remains wary and standoffish, growling in warning if I get too close. As I squat down to clean up the piles of poop, he'll tilt his head and scrutinize me with his good eye. No matter how many times we go through this trapped-in-my-bathroom routine, he refuses to get used to it. I suppose it's just as well: a certain guardedness around humans might keep him out of harm's way at the pond.

At any rate, his eye seems to be improving, thanks to this latest round of antibiotics. He was due to return to the pond today, but I thought an extra day's-worth of drops might be beneficial so I'll be taking him back to the pond tomorrow. The thought occurred to me, though, that, given the chronic nature of his eye problem, I should expect these bathroom visits to become somewhat routine. If that's the case, I definitely need to find some sort of non-toxic air de-stinkifier!

That's all for now, Folks. Thanks so much for joining me! Until next time, please be kind to all the critters!