Saturday was hard steady rain. We went down to the golf course and the release pond. The ducks were not there except for a few feathers. We walked deeper into the course where we spied five ducks at another pond. Two flew off right away as we began to approach. Shortly thereafter a third one flew off. The remaining two allowed a closer approach. I closed my umbrella to be less threatening. Nevertheless the last two flew off. Were they our birds? Was that third one also one of ours?
It’s been two months since they hatched. With the ducks now clearly able to fly, we thought it best to bring them to some place where there was water and other water fowl. With the Dearborn Hills golf course right near by we thought it as good a place as any. The evening of Friday, August 7 we decided to bring them down to the golf course. We debated different ways to get them down to the course. We decided to hold them and just walk down to the spot. We put the two, Dorothy and the other one – now named Dennis in the crate as we prepped to go.
Here they are….their last crating….
Last minute return
Just as we were about to get in the crate and get a hold of them, a quack was heard somewhere nearby. Then another a quack and then another. It definitely was not Dorothy or Dennis. With the last quack, we located him or her in the yard just behind ours. I climbed over the fence, cornered him/her and placed duck #3 on our side of the fence. The ducks greeted each other although soon thereafter there was some squabbling.
On to the Golf Course
We grabbed the three. I had one under each arm. We marched quickly down to the course, about three blocks away. Fortunately, the odd looks and laughter from neighbors was minimal. Our route is marked in green.
We brought them to a pond that we were very familiar with. This video starts immediately after we released them. There were a couple of other animals about them.
Surprisingly they did not seem to like the bigger water. They hung close to shore and did not move around much. I used a large branch to try to get them out into water. I was concerned they would be more exposed to attack if holding close to the shore. I wondered if it would have been better to release them earlier in the day to give them time to adjust before dark. It was not too from from sundown. After about 30 minutes, we left. Would this be the last time we would see them?
The ducks continued to develop. I could still pick them up. Although they tried not to be caught, once captured they readily settled down and would bury their beaks into my hand. They mostly slept in the yard as their hunger for worms and lettuce wane. As August approached sometimes they would fly a few yards.
Goings and Comings
In the beginning of August I went to a chemistry teachers conference in Virginia. The ducks got to hang out most of the day with no humans around. Mary would wonder each day if they would be there when she returned from work. In the evening they would start to fly off. Mary found one down at the corner. Another was found at a street that runs perpendicular to ours. The evening duck retrieval provided great entertainment for several neighbors (and great consternation to one dachshund!). The evening of Wednesday, August 5, one flew off and this time, could not be found. The next evening, just an hour or so before I returned from my trip, another flew off.
When I got home there was only Dorothy remaining. After relaxing a bit, I hopped on a bike and began tooling around the neighborhood. Maybe I might cross paths with a duck or two. Across from the end of our block there was a group of a few adults and children off to the side of their yard. I turned around to get a closer look to see what the people were standing around. In an inverted garbage can cover sunk into the ground swam Dennis. I introduced myself and explained about our summer of ducks. They said they were surprised how tame this duck was. I attempted to herd the duck back home, but it was difficult. I cornered him along a wall and grabbed him. I brought him back across the street so the kids could pet him. We crated the ducks early that evening.
At some point in time, this duck which we referred to as “Not Dorothy” got a name. Emily named him/her Dennis.
Just a few days later, look at how much the ends of the flight feathers are now exposed.
Look here. A hint of color:
The ducks continue to grow. Any down feathers are hard to find.
Those blue sheaths that guide and protect the growth are still large. Just the tips of their flight feathers are beginning to show as Dorothy flaps her wings after exiting the pond.
The ducks constantly nibble the ends the of the sheaths.
This is what they mostly do.
Less and Less Down
Their feathers continue to grow at a fast pace. At three weeks their tails looked scrawny. Look now.
Their backs still have some down, but the feathers are filling in.
The flight feathers are just starting to peak in:
Eat your veggies
The duckling like a lot of salad greens. They love romaine lettuce, red or green leaf lettuce, baby spinach, the green tops of bok choy, and the Napa cabbage. They tend to leave the white stalks of romaine, bok choy and Napa cabbage although they will work on the stalks of romaine if left in the pond and there is nothing left to eat. Here is a video of them eating some leaf lettuce.
They will eat iceberg lettuce but it is not their favorite. They even nibble on cucumbers. They generally stick their beaks up at collard greens.
If you looked at the the video above, you will notice that there are no plants in the pond any more. The plants were all moved out into plastic tubs. The ducks were eating all the vegetation. They would even prune new lily pad leaves as they were sprouting at the bottom of the pond. They continue to work the shallow shelf along the perimeter of the pond.
Did you see them retrieve the green, wrap-around tie for the leaf lettuce that fell into the pond?
The ducks have been kept in a 4 x 6-ft cage built with 1×1s, luan plywood, and scrap wood with a small shelter inside. The chicken wire was run even on the bottom of the crate. During the night of July 4 two of the ducklings were killed. One was tight against the chicken wire with neck severed and many feathers just outside at that spot. The other was dead on the floor of the cage. Its neck was wounded. There was blood evidence that it moved around the cage until it collapsed. The chicken wire mesh was not damaged or twisted. Apparently the culprit reached into the crate and grabbed the ducklings.
Here is the last photo of the five. Dorothy, one of the survivors, likes to sit in flower pots.
Who did it?
There have been raccoons in the neighborhood. However, this summer there has been no evidence of any. Usually the pond will have wet footprints in the morning along with empty, broken snail shells left along the edge. There has been none of this so far. Also, I would have expected that a coon would try to tear at the chicken wire. What about cats? There always some about in the night.
2-ft wide, ¼-inch hardware cloth was attached along the lower half of the crate the next day. A critter would have a hard time getting to them this time. Here are photos of the modified cage.
Indoor/outdoor carpet lines the bottom. It can be easily cleaned with a hose.
Every night since the crime the movie camera has been set up with its nightshot setting and time lapse setup: 1 ½ sec taken every 30 seconds. The first two nights have seen cats, one different one each night and only one of them showing interest in the crate. No critters showed up last night. Here is the video. Watch carefully on the right side.
Drill Baby Drill
The ducks still like to work for what’s under the leaves. They are now working the lawn more than not.
Weather for Ducks
They were hanging out under the table but then got back to eating.
Out of the Geranium Forest
They no longer venture into the geraniums. Must be that they are too big. They just work the periphery. Listen to the patter of their feet when they decide they need a drink
Flower Pot Tray Bed
They started to huddle together in this tray which was used to put worms in for them to pick out. There was room only for four.
However, they could all get into the larger pan.
One morning it was cold.
Truth be told, it has been cold many mornings in a row. Near record late June, early July weather.