A farewell to wings: many ducks come, but I must leave

As the weather gets colder, more and more ducks are arriving at Botany Pond and staying here. I’ve had to buy 100 pounds of duck chow in the last ten days to ensure that they’re well fed before they take off for the fall migration (mallards can lose up to 50% of their body weight during their travels). At breakfast today there were 26 adult mallards (including, of course, Honey). One or two more seem to arrive each day.

Last year they left about October 24, and the year before that November 2, so I’m not worried that they’re overstaying the weather. Still, it’s hard to feed so many ducks and ensure at the same time that everyone—especially Honey— gets fed. I’m not sure how many (if any) of the new arrivals are really offspring of Honey, Daphne, and Anna, but the green-headed mallards are surely at least a year old, and thus interlopers.

Anyway, this will be the last substantive duck post I put up before I leave. The pond, however, will be in good hands, as we have two Secret Duck Farmers to tend them until they leave. It looks as if I’ll be flying south before they do.

First, a few pictures of Honey, who is Queen of the Pond now, with rights to chase any other mallard, be it hen or drake:

She has a distinctive beak pattern, as you recall: “dog chasing motorcycle” on the left side:

Honey on October 7. Her feathers are well formed, she looks in good nick, and she’s ready to go:

 

 

And she’s hanging around with diverse males. This one may be molting, or simply a subadult. As usual, she’s sussing out potential mates (hens pair up with drakes before they fly south, and overwinter together in the feeding grounds of the South).

 

 

There are many drakes, and they chase each other around the pond, fighting for dominance and females. The fights, however, are tame, at least compared to last year’s epic battle between James Pond and Billzebub. Here one drake chases the other out of the pond. Matings, I believe, occur either right before they migrate back north or immediately thereafter.

A pale drake; I can’t tell if he’s molting or young and developing into a “greenhead”:

And a full greenhead:

Things get crazy at feeding time, with the ducks swimming up (or flying or running) when they see me. I did an experiment, walking randomly behind people, to see if the ducks actually recognized me.  They did. Ducks are smarter than most people think.

Another new arrival, a beautiful hen.  She may, of course, be one of this year’s offspring, but unless we band them we have no way of knowing.

Another feeding frenzy. I’ve taken to feeding them on land now, as it ensures a more equitable distribution of food.

The turtles are still here, of course, but soon they’ll be burying themselves in the mud for winter:

Until the huge mass of mallards started flying in about a week ago, the pond was empty for a few days. I wonder if the new incursion means that Botany Pond will become a “staging area,” where ducks congregate before they fly south. When  they do, the pond will look like this, but I won’t be in the U.S. to see it:

10 Comments

  1. jayne m ruiz
    Posted October 17, 2019 at 8:44 am | Permalink

    OMG — I sing to these ducks when I walk the dogs over there. Honey brings the duck babies over near me while I sing (even with the dogs). Love these guys!

  2. Ken Kukec
    Posted October 17, 2019 at 9:01 am | Permalink

    As usual, she’s sussing out potential mates …

    Let us have none of that Daisy/Tom/Gatsby tumult of last year, heaven forfend!

  3. 1E
    Posted October 17, 2019 at 10:24 am | Permalink

    A farewell to Duckman

    Worth highlighting:

  4. rickflick
    Posted October 17, 2019 at 10:44 am | Permalink

    Botany Pond is as busy as a train station – Grand Central comes to mind.

  5. Glenda Palmer
    Posted October 17, 2019 at 11:38 am | Permalink

    Certainly have enjoyed all the duck reports. I will be waiting anxiously in the spring to find out if Honey returns safely to you and Botany Pond.

    Like so many others I will really miss the regular posts while you are away. Have a wonderful time during your exploration trip and safe travels.

  6. grasshopper
    Posted October 17, 2019 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

    “A farewell to wings”.

    You do have a Hemingway with words, PCC 🙂 But that is just my `pinion.

    Samuel Taylor Coleridge evokes a vivid image of cold Antarctica –

    “And now there came both mist and snow,
    And it grew wondrous cold:
    And ice, mast-high, came floating by,
    As green as emerald.

    And through the drifts the snowy clifts
    Did send a dismal sheen:
    Nor shapes of men nor beasts we ken—
    The ice was all between.

    The ice was here, the ice was there,
    The ice was all around:
    It cracked and growled, and roared and howled,
    Like noises in a swound!”

    And I wish I knew what a ‘swound’ was!

  7. Andrea Kenner
    Posted October 17, 2019 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

    I just wanted to take this opportunity to wish you safe travels, and to let you know that I will miss you when you’re gone.

  8. Posted October 17, 2019 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

    The number of ducks appears to be increasing exponentially at finite Botany pond. Next year will be interesting.

  9. Posted October 17, 2019 at 9:59 pm | Permalink

    This has been the best daytime soap, three years running! Your brood is ever expanding, simply beautiful and enchanting, Jerry.
    Happy trails; stay safe and warm.

  10. Mark R.
    Posted October 20, 2019 at 11:40 pm | Permalink

    100 lbs.! ‘Nuff said.


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