A farewell to wings: a reprise of this year’s duck tails

I’ve just checked the pond and it is bereft of ducks. Sanja told us yesterday—she’s filling in while Anna and I are gone—that she hasn’t seen the pair for over two days, and the corn she left on Duck Island #1 has gone untouched.

I suspect that they’re really gone now (but of course I’ve been wrong before), and have headed to either the “staging area” or due south on the Mississippi flyway. My one consolation is that this story ended as a love story should, with Honey and James leaving together—but stay tuned.  Here are some photos reprising our spring and summer.

Honey showed up on April 12, apparently swollen with an egg or so, and was accompanied by her first husband Frank. She then disappeared, incubating her eggs somewhere. Taken on April 12, this is the first shot I have of the lass, showing her distinctive beak marks. She then went off to a site unknown to sit on her eggs.


After I returned from France, Honey reappeared on May 20 with 10 ducklings. (It takes about four to five weeks to incubate eggs to hatching, and they all hatch on a single day although only one egg is laid per day.) One duckling died almost immediately after being stranded in the cement ring overnight, unable to leap out of it (I rescued two others and then built a brick ramp). Here she is with the nine. Doesn’t she look proud?

Make way for ducklings!

My favorite duckling photo:

Another duckling died when it was young; I found it in bad shape by the pond and took it to my office in a warm box, but it died quickly. I was heartbroken and vowed that the remaining eight would all fledge and fly away. They did.

With the help of Anna and Sanja, the remaining eight grew into awkward teenagers, and began learning how to be ducks. Here they are on June 23:

Nearly adults on July 27:

Honey heads the pack:

They learned to dabble. . .

. . . .to squabble over food. . . .

. . . and to fly!

One of the brood, Phoebe, was picked on and shunned by the others, which made me very anxious. She went off by herself, and it was hard to feed her. But after her seven siblings flew away, she recovered and hung out with Honey. Phoebe eventually flew away as well, and I hope she’s integrated into another group.

Here she is lonely and shunned:

And then with mom, recovering and eating well (Honey’s in the foreground):

After Phoebe left and Honey began molting, the beautiful, giant, and gentle mallard James Pond appeared. He was the ideal mate for Honey, or so I thought until the dreaded Billzebub showed up and displaced him. It was a sad day, especially because I saved Billzebub’s life when I really wanted to wring his neck!

The beautiful James:

What a lovely speculum he had!

He was good to Honey, letting her eat first and have all the choicest morsels, and guarded her as she slept:

Yes, they’re gone now, but fingers crossed that Honey (perhaps with James in tow) will return next year. Safe flight, ducks, enjoy the warm South, and come back to us!

The last video of Honey and James (see here), taken by Anna on October 15. I can only imagine how delighted James was to see Honey return after having waited for her on the duck island, alone and bereft for over a week.

I’ll remember Honey from the feathers she molted:

And I want to give special thanks to Anna (top) and Sanja (bottom) for tending our favorite waterfowl:




  1. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted October 20, 2018 at 9:13 am | Permalink

    Nice review!

  2. Ken Kukec
    Posted October 20, 2018 at 9:28 am | Permalink


  3. BJ
    Posted October 20, 2018 at 9:31 am | Permalink

    I can’t wait until somebody buys the movie rights to this saga.

  4. Posted October 20, 2018 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    Omg they’re so cute 💗

  5. Randall Schenck
    Posted October 20, 2018 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    Remembering a really old TV show, The Naked City — There are three million duck stories in the big city.

  6. Posted October 20, 2018 at 10:22 am | Permalink

    Nice retrospective.

  7. Claudia Baker
    Posted October 20, 2018 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    “…I saved Beelzebub’s life when I really wanted to wring his neck!”


  8. Ken Kukec
    Posted October 20, 2018 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    “A farewell to wings” — So the model for our star-crossed couple wasn’t Daisy & Gatsby, after all, but Catherine Barkley and Frederic Henry? We can all take comfort, I suppose, that Honey will never be called upon to attempt live birth.

    • peepuk
      Posted October 20, 2018 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

      Isn’t it a reference to the epic Rush-album “A farewell to Kings”?

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted October 20, 2018 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

        Maybe, since the “arms” in the title of Hemingway’s novel aren’t the ones homologous to wings. 🙂

        • Diane G
          Posted October 21, 2018 at 1:46 am | Permalink

          Yes, but it’s easy to move from one definition to another with “arms.” I, too, thought it was a take on the Hemmingway. 😉

  9. Frank Bath
    Posted October 20, 2018 at 11:30 am | Permalink

    Roll on next year’s saga.

  10. Glenda Palmer
    Posted October 20, 2018 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    Everything required for a child’s book.

    • rickflick
      Posted October 20, 2018 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

      Just what I was thinking.

  11. mikeyc
    Posted October 20, 2018 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

    It’s a shame there is no way to tell if any of the quackers who’ll show up in the Spring of ’19 come from this year’s brood. I hope Honey, at least, survives the winter.

  12. Mark R.
    Posted October 20, 2018 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

    A Summer’s tale, well told.

  13. George
    Posted October 20, 2018 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

    Saw some migration activity this morning. Two large (40-60 birds) skeins (flying vees) of geese noisily flying overhead in a southerly direction. Then the weather went to hell – temperature dropped, wind was howling, a mix of rain, hail, sleet and snow blowing sideways. That stopped and tomorrow will be much more fall like – as will the balance of the week, high of 50F (10C) and low of 35F (2C). I assume migration activity will start to pick up – peaking in November.

  14. Heather Hastie
    Posted October 20, 2018 at 9:46 pm | Permalink

    The loveliest of True Stories. I’m already looking forward to next year”s installment in the hope Honey and James will be back with their babies.

  15. Diane G
    Posted October 21, 2018 at 1:51 am | Permalink

    Time goes by so fast…

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