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!

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