Both Honey and Phoebe have returned!

The duck soap opera continues at Botany Pond. Yesterday we learned that, after both ducks were driven away by chainsaws and commotion as the Pond’s reeds were cut down by an unwise order from Buildings and Grounds, Honey returned after a day’s absence. Phoebe remained AWOL.

Late yesterday afternoon, Anna sent me a text message saying “Guess who’s back?”

It was PHOEBE, who came back after her mom Honey had returned earlier in the day! And there’s no doubt it was Phoebe: she was young, had the dark bill that set her apart from the other ducklings, and, most important, came when Anna whistled and also “knew the drill” about feeding.

Lord knows where both ducks had been. Phoebe, at least, can fly, but as you can see from the photo below, Honey’s wing feathers aren’t yet fully grown, and I haven’t seen her fly. She might have waddled away and hid!  Without a GPS affixed to them—and ornithologists can now do this with ducks—I am left with no knowledge of where they went.

Now the two are biding their time till migration, and I’m happy they’re reunited and that poor bullied Phoebe is swimming around with her mom. They’re still acting skittish—chainsaws will do that to ducks.

Anna says she’ll feed them copiously, getting them ready for the Big Trip South. I’m pretty sure they’ll still be around when I return on Sunday. And then, I hope, the two will soon depart together, steering by the stars as they flap their way across the night sky to warmer climes.

Here they are yesterday afternoon, with Honey to the right.


  1. Barry Lyons
    Posted August 16, 2018 at 8:02 am | Permalink

    What a saga! Good to know that both are doing fine.

  2. Randall Schenck
    Posted August 16, 2018 at 8:08 am | Permalink

    Using a chainsaw to cut reeds. Kind of like a sledge hammer to go after a mosquito.

    • Mark R.
      Posted August 16, 2018 at 11:58 am | Permalink

      I doubt they were actual chainsaws. Probably 2-stroke hedgers. They’re as loud as a chainsaw, but would cut down reeds a lot easier.

      • Barbara Radcliffe
        Posted August 16, 2018 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

        I too was wondering about using a chainsaw to cut reeds! Whatever it was, surely it could have waited until after the ducks depart. So glad to hear th Honey and Phoebe have returned. Here the Australian Wood Duck seem to be going into breeding season. They sit in trees and make a call rather like an incompetent kookaburra!

        • Mark R.
          Posted August 16, 2018 at 11:09 pm | Permalink

          Yeah, should have waited, consulted with the duck handlers. What the hell were they thinking? You knock down the reeds in the fall when things are dying anyway. Pathetic!

  3. Posted August 16, 2018 at 8:14 am | Permalink

    Groundspeople are the worst enemies of nature. Tidiness is their only goal (and it’s what administrators judge them on). And the more noise they make, the more the administrators are likely to notice that they are working instead of puffing joints behind a building somewhere…

    • Linda Calhoun
      Posted August 16, 2018 at 9:39 am | Permalink

      “Groundspeople are the worst enemies of nature.”

      Please don’t generalize too much.

      My grandfather was a groundskeeper at a country club at the end of his career. But, it was the work he could find during and after the depression. He was not an enemy of nature; he could get wild birds to land on his wrist and eat seed out of his hand.

      I learned a lot from him about living peacefully with nature, too.


      • busterggi
        Posted August 16, 2018 at 10:09 am | Permalink

        Then again there was this one guy…

    • Posted August 16, 2018 at 10:21 am | Permalink


      • Mark R.
        Posted August 16, 2018 at 11:56 am | Permalink

        That would completely eradicate the reeds, so they won’t want to use that.

  4. busterggi
    Posted August 16, 2018 at 8:27 am | Permalink

    Much better!

    I suppose next though either Honey or Phoebe will be accused of a murder she didn’t commit and have to go through a legal nightmare that will end with either a surprise revelation or amnesia.

  5. Simon Hayward
    Posted August 16, 2018 at 8:29 am | Permalink

    Do we know where mallards go in the winter, or indeed if they all go anywhere at all? I don’t know if the ones we see in winter are the same ones we see in summer. We are only a few miles north of you and I have photos from last year of mallards scrounging around our bird feeders in late December and a lot of them in mid-Feb. They waddle up to pick through the seeds that the small birds spill, and seem to be in active competition with the resident squirrels. Later into the spring, we saw one pair (I assume) at the feeder a lot, with the drake standing guard (and pecking at the unperturbed squirrels) while the duck fed. No ducks in the Jan pics, but I don’t know if that’s just chance.

    • Posted August 16, 2018 at 8:36 am | Permalink

      I have no idea, but you might improve the duck food at your feeder!!!

      • Simon Hayward
        Posted August 16, 2018 at 9:26 am | Permalink

        We never really contemplated ducks as target species for the bird feeders. The waddling up and scrounging around was an unintended form of added comedy. We did end up putting out some mealworms which they seemed to enjoy – but they aren’t the only ones. When it’s cold everyone competes for calories. We also put our squirrel food when it gets particularly frigid. The squirrels eat those offerings and then go on to treat the bird feeders themselves, not just their contents, as food items

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted August 16, 2018 at 9:15 am | Permalink

      Unless someone has something better I believe many of the ducks, just like the geese are local. Meaning they do no do the natural migration. They do move further south during the winter if necessary to find open water. We have ducks and geese here in Wichita, Kansas that are here nearly all year. The geese that are born here are the local type. They would not have the migration instinct. In other words, if you breed and have young here, why would you fly north as many others do in the spring to breed.

      • Simon Hayward
        Posted August 16, 2018 at 9:19 am | Permalink

        I think you are right about open water. I have plenty of pics of Canada geese standing around on the ice, but not of ducks – although they seem to need only a limited amount of space to return. Perhaps just enough to make them feel safe or to allow for feeding.

    • George
      Posted August 16, 2018 at 9:44 am | Permalink

      Your best source for information on duck migration is Ducks Unlimited, a hunting group. Which is also at the forefront of wetlands preservation. Check out their website:

      State DNRs are also a good source.

      From what I gather, duck migration patterns have changed and are continuing to change. There are some resident mallards – but nowhere near the numbers as Canada geese. Many (most?) still head north to Canada while others decide they have gone far enough. Most still head south to the Gulf of Mexico, Mexico and Baja California for the winter. From Ducks Unlimited:

      “Mallards migrate along numerous corridors, but the greatest concentrations move from Manitoba and Saskatchewan through the Midwestern United States to the Mississippi Alluvial Valley. Mallards winter throughout the United States, with the highest densities typically recorded during winter surveys along the Mississippi Flyway from Cape Girardeau, Mo., to the Gulf of Mexico. Among the dabbling ducks, mallards are one of the latest fall migrants. They also have the most extended migration period, which lasts from late summer to early winter. Mallards are found in a variety of habitats, including dry agricultural fields, shallow marshes and oak-dominated forested wetlands. Mallards are vagrant to Central America and the Caribbean.”

  6. Teresa Carson
    Posted August 16, 2018 at 8:58 am | Permalink

    Is there an ornithologist at the university who could tag Honey and Phoebe with GPS? Just to give you peace of mind — or maybe that would make it worse. I can imagine you following the ducks on their migration!

  7. Michael Fisher
    Posted August 16, 2018 at 9:23 am | Permalink

    NetFlix are going to bid for the rights to a 13-part series

    • Posted August 16, 2018 at 9:57 am | Permalink

      The Chicago Chainsaw Massacre?

    • Glenda Palmer
      Posted August 16, 2018 at 11:42 am | Permalink

      I was thinking that when PCC actually goes into real retirement someday 😊 maybe he could write a child’s book about Honey. There is plenty of excitement at Botany Pond plus it could be a fine teaching tool regarding feeding etc. and what does happen with many ducks in the winter.

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted August 16, 2018 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

        A great idea – & duck dialogue is a piece of cake 🙂

  8. Nicholas K.
    Posted August 16, 2018 at 9:51 am | Permalink

    I still worry a bit about Phoebe’s “failure to launch” so far. She seems very timid. But, I also hold out hope that she is just cautious and she’ll soon get bored with Mum and venture out to the world (or perhaps, she’ll eye a local drake and get the idea).

    • Jenny Haniver
      Posted August 16, 2018 at 10:32 am | Permalink

      I know I’m anthropomorphising but perhaps Phoebe just wants to hang out at the pond, swim around, catch some rays, and get all those noms without being harassed by her brothers and sisters.

      • Posted August 16, 2018 at 10:42 am | Permalink

        That’s what I like to think! She is free at last to be a social duk!

  9. Posted August 16, 2018 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    The daily doings at Duck Pond would be a wonderful addition to Netflix.

  10. DrBrydon
    Posted August 16, 2018 at 10:22 am | Permalink


  11. yazikus
    Posted August 16, 2018 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    That is wonderful news!

  12. Christopher
    Posted August 16, 2018 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    As someone who spent a bit of time working in a parks department, I can honestly say that the people in charge of caring for our green spaces are the least capable of doing so intelligently.
    Glad the ducks are ok.

  13. Posted August 16, 2018 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    Is there a reason you haven’t had them fitted with GPS?

    I would love to follow their trip south and back north to you

    • George
      Posted August 16, 2018 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

      There are so many laws and regulations about what you can and cannot do to migratory birds. Although shooting them is OK.

  14. Mark R.
    Posted August 16, 2018 at 12:00 pm | Permalink


  15. Michael Fisher
    Posted August 16, 2018 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

    If god were a duck:

    • Bob
      Posted August 17, 2018 at 7:16 am | Permalink

      The Hunter
      by Ogden Nash

      The hunter crouches in his blind
      ‘Neath camouflage of every kind
      And conjures up a quacking noise
      To lend allure to his decoys
      This grown-up man, with pluck and luck
      is hoping to outwit a duck

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted August 17, 2018 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

        Cool. How true.

  16. wetherjeff
    Posted August 16, 2018 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

    I am deighted to see this news Jerry. Your duck posts have been wonderfully heartwarming over the last few months, I really have enjoyed them. Seeing the ducks growing and being nurtured has been quite lovely, and I was very upset at the news which followed the landscaping work.

    Thanks for sharing your duck adventures with us, and good luck to Honey, Phoebe, and all her siblings. I am already looking forward to next year’s installments. Thanks again for the heartwarming duck posts and long may they continue.

  17. Posted August 16, 2018 at 9:42 pm | Permalink

    What a relief! Thanks for letting us know.

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