My duck is gone

I’m sad and luckless,
For my pond is duckless.

Yesterday I fed Honey a huge dollop of peas and corn; she was on land, so it was easy to give her large amounts without them quickly sinking below dabbling level. As I fed her, I noticed that her flight feathers had grown pretty big. You can see them here.

Here she is scarfing down her lunch:

But today I’ve gone to the pond, food in hand, twice—and she’s gone! Flown the coop! Yes, I think her molt being over, and her wings ready to go, she simply flew off for bigger and better ducky things.

I am quite sad, though that’s tempered with the knowledge that she was heathy and well fed. Perhaps she’ll return next year, and maybe I’ll recognize her by the black stippling on the sides of her beak (I have an enlarged photo). But feeding the red-eared sliders isn’t quite the same; I’m unable to bond with turtles. And what am I going to do with the half pound of freeze-dried mealworms that I ordered to fuel her departure, and which will arrive today?

At least when your kids go off to college, and you become an empty nester, you know you’ll see them again.


  1. Posted August 7, 2017 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

    Wow, this is almost a replay of the opening sequence of The Sopranos. If you have an anxiety attack, it will be a case of art dictating life. :o)

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted August 7, 2017 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

      Calling Dr. Melfi, calling Dr. Melfi. Dr. Melfi to the WEIT unit, stat.

    • Saul Sorrell-Till
      Posted August 7, 2017 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

      I was just going to post the same thought. Jerry Soprano has a ring to it.

      In my mind’s eye I see PCC stony-faced, firmly ushering Reza Aslan or PZ Myers onto his boat, and taking them for a ride out to sea from which they never return.

      • pck
        Posted August 7, 2017 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

        I don’t think that’s something that should be joked about.

        • Saul Sorrell-Till
          Posted August 8, 2017 at 7:11 am | Permalink

          Fair enough. But it is a joke remember – I don’t actually think Jerry is a mafia don.

  2. GBJames
    Posted August 7, 2017 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

    Those mealworms should feed next year’s ducks!

    When our daughter moved away she took the roasted insects with her.

    • Posted August 7, 2017 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

      I think they can be frozen.
      OTOH there are birds that stay around into the winter that might very much like this resource. So perhaps a bird feeder to dispense it.

  3. Janet
    Posted August 7, 2017 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

    Do squirrels eat mealworms?

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted August 7, 2017 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

      Given their … dexterity, is this a path that should be experimented upon.
      (Arms nuke inventory on ISS-2. To be sure.)

  4. Laurance
    Posted August 7, 2017 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

    Can you store the mealworms? Will they keep? Maybe there will be a duck for you next year. Or maybe Honey will return next year and recognize you.

    I hope you become able to relate to the turtles. I envy you, because I like turtles. And I love snakes! I have two ball pythons. I used to have three, but I gave one to my son-in-law.

    Anyway my condolences on the empty spot in your world. I sure do hope Honey will return at some point and you’ll know she’s okay.

  5. Diana MacPherson
    Posted August 7, 2017 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    I felt sad when the robin my parents raised flew away to migrate. The robin was so cute and had such a personality.

  6. Posted August 7, 2017 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    I wouldn’t worry too much yet. Even up here, ducks have been known to not migrate. And especially where they have been fed? Oddsare with you, I would guess. (That’s why we aren’t allowed, by law, to feed them; they have to fly away, but more and more are staying). So keep a look out. The mealworms stay in the freezer.

  7. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted August 7, 2017 at 1:42 pm | Permalink


    You should be proud! Or something!

  8. Randy schenck
    Posted August 7, 2017 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    Maybe you can freeze the worms. My grandfather use to catch mice for fishing and he would keep them in the freezer. Grandma was not thrilled.

    • Doug
      Posted August 7, 2017 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

      The mice weren’t either.

      • Diane G.
        Posted August 8, 2017 at 4:37 am | Permalink


  9. Posted August 7, 2017 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    At least with your mealworms you won’t be guckless.

  10. Ken Kukec
    Posted August 7, 2017 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

    “We’ll meet again, don’t know where, don’t know when”

  11. Teresa Carson
    Posted August 7, 2017 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

    If she has left, she’ll come back next year because she was so successful, right? We have wrens that come back to nest every year in the same place. We can’t be sure they are the same ones every year, of course, but we like to think they are.

    • Posted August 7, 2017 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

      I don’t know but if she does I can identify her by her bill. I hope I see her again.

      • busterggi
        Posted August 7, 2017 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

        I hope you do too. I’d been watching a mated pair of swans from 2003 until 2012 which showed every year at a nearby pond.

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted August 7, 2017 at 6:23 pm | Permalink

        If you knew her nesting/ resting site and could confidently assign *this* feather to Honey, would it be worthwhile DNA-fingerprinting it?
        Do the roots (remiges? something like that) of dinosaur feathers have enough cellular material to ID DNA from? On reflection, humans (& presumably other mammals) don’t shed enough reliable DNA on their hair for forensic use, which is why they pluck (i.e. pull out by the root) hair for a DNA test. How well that translates to the more complex development of dinosaur feathers, I don’t know. But I bet someone does.

        • Diane G.
          Posted August 8, 2017 at 4:42 am | Permalink

          Dunno about the dinos, but in extant birds, remiges are the wing/flight feathers (and the the tail feathers are rectrices).

          • gravelinspector-Aidan
            Posted August 9, 2017 at 4:46 am | Permalink

            Ah. I’d see the term as “remiges attachment scars” on bones (Archaeopteryx or Compsognathus, or something like that) and took it ot refer to the rooting/ growth structures, not the feathers themselves.
            But do the feathers contain DNA, or do you need to get some of the tissue analogous to the follicle of a mammalian hair?

            • Diane G.
              Posted August 11, 2017 at 12:56 am | Permalink

              Yes, you can now do genomics on birds with just part of the feather quill. Here’s a rather old paper but one of the first that came up with a search. Techniques may have changed since then.


              This is widely employed to sex pet birds that are not sexually dimorphic. Used to be you needed a “blood feather”–one that’s growing so still has a blood supply–for this, the pulling of which not only causes pain but can lead to dangerous blood loss (and which makes the bird pretty damn mad); but now any shed feather’ll do.

              We once had a baby cockatiel we were sure was male due to behavior and vocalizations, and we named him Theodore. But he was of a phenotype that indicates sex when the adult feathers come in, and after that molt by all appearances he was a girl. By that time we were so used to calling her Theodore that we kept the name and just changed the pronouns. Many years later when molted-feather sexing came about we sent one in just out of curiosity–and lo & behold, she was a boy after all. (We felt vindicated. 😉 ) So–another stretch of trying to remember the newly correct set of pronouns…We had him for 19 years and he’s still a fondly remembered character tho he died a decade or more ago.

  12. Posted August 7, 2017 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

    Aww, you got her ready for the big, wide world, Jerry!

  13. Larry Smith
    Posted August 7, 2017 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

    Mealworm Helper

  14. Posted August 7, 2017 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

    Head over to your nearest Chinese restaurant for a nice dinner and maybe you’ll feel better.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted August 7, 2017 at 6:24 pm | Permalink

      [Wonders if Chinese cuisine has recipes for kilo-bags of mealworms. Recipes that they’re willing to admit to.]

      • GBJames
        Posted August 7, 2017 at 6:33 pm | Permalink

        Surely not for Peking Duck!

  15. Laurance
    Posted August 7, 2017 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

    I hope you’ll hear a quacking and Honey will be there, looking for you…

  16. Craw
    Posted August 7, 2017 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

    Calls for a Haiku

    The silence of fluttering wings in distant flight —
    Ripples on the pond.

  17. Mark R.
    Posted August 7, 2017 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

    I sent you some duck food too! It will last in the freezer.

    Nature took its course, and Honey was successful disseminating her genes, but I feel for you. 😦

  18. Posted August 7, 2017 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

    Honey looks like a Mallard Duck. Maybe, she’ll return in the future with a handsome green-headed partner, and she’ll start a family at your pond. This past spring I’d seen at least a dozen pairs of mating mallard ducks.

  19. dabertini
    Posted August 7, 2017 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    There is only one cure for your sadness: get yourself to Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder and order one of their pizza pot pies. Honey thweet!

  20. Posted August 7, 2017 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

    Dare I add this schlocky link?

    • Saul Sorrell-Till
      Posted August 7, 2017 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

      What makes it worse is the singer reminds me a little of Benjamin Netanyahu.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted August 7, 2017 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

      Aaaagh, hotel lobby muzak be damned. The Prof has turned to the dark side – next it’ll be Christian rock.

      • Posted August 7, 2017 at 8:45 pm | Permalink

        The only part I wanted to emphasize was “Honey, I’ll miss you.” I HATE that song!

  21. Posted August 7, 2017 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

    The Wild Ducks of Chicago
    (with apologies to W.B Yeats)


    I have looked upon those brilliant creatures,
    And now my heart is sore.
    All’s changed since I, hearing at twilight,
    The first time on this shore,
    The bell-beat of their wings above my head,
    Trod with a lighter tread.

    Unwearied still, lover by lover,
    They paddle in some cold
    Companionable streams or climb the air;
    Their hearts have not grown old;
    Passion or conquest, wander where they will,
    Attend upon them still.

    But now they drift on some still water,
    Mysterious, beautiful;
    Among what rushes will they build
    By what lake’s edge or pool
    Delight men’s eyes when I awake some day
    To find they have flown away?

  22. Lee Beringsmith
    Posted August 7, 2017 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

    I was always told that a good father gives his children roots and wings. You have done a good job on both, way to go Dad.

  23. pablo
    Posted August 7, 2017 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

    My Duck Is Gone would be great title for a blues song.

    • Posted August 7, 2017 at 6:04 pm | Permalink

      With apologies to B.B. King…

      My duck is gone
      My duck is gone away
      My duck is gone baby
      My duck is gone away
      You know you flown the coop baby
      And you’ll be back someday

      My duck is gone
      She’s gone away from me
      My duck is gone baby
      My duck is gone away from me
      Although I’ll still live on
      These meal worms’ll never keep

      My duck is gone
      She’s flown away for good
      Oh, my duck is gone baby
      Baby she’s flown away for good
      Though I know you’ll be with some drake baby
      Just like I know a hen should

      • Posted August 7, 2017 at 8:46 pm | Permalink

        Excellent, except the first line should have been, “Well, I woke up this mornin’. . . “

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted August 7, 2017 at 9:58 pm | Permalink

        This wins the internets.

  24. rickflick
    Posted August 7, 2017 at 8:50 pm | Permalink

    So long Honey.

    I’m curious why the flight feathers drop and regrow. Is it to compensate for wear and tear? Without them I’d think she’d be pretty vulnerable.

    • Diane G.
      Posted August 8, 2017 at 4:51 am | Permalink

      Yes. Ducks are especially vulnerable as they molt all their flight feathers at once, rendering them incapable of flight till the new feathers grow in. In most bird species the flight feathers molt a few at a time so that the bird is always airworthy.

  25. Posted August 8, 2017 at 2:50 am | Permalink

    April Come She Will
    (with apologies to Simon and Garfunkel)

    April come she will
When streams are ripe and swelled with rain
May she will stay
Resting by my pond again

    June she’ll change her tune
On waddling feet she’ll prowl the night

    July she will fly
And give no warning to her flight

    August away she must
The autumn wind blows cross my pond
September I remember
    A duck I knew has now abscond

  26. Posted August 8, 2017 at 3:12 am | Permalink

    Meal worms?

    Eat them!

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