Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
One of the six remaining ducklings died last week (the smallest one - we think it was the last of the adopted ones from Ethel's brood). I found it in the food bowl when I checked on the family one morning. It was curled up with its eyes closed, so I thought it was sleeping, but upon closer inspection, it was clearly dead. No obvious signs of trauma, so I don't know what caused its death, poor little thing.
The remaining five ducklings seem happy and are getting a little too comfortable around humans. The fountain they swim in is very shallow (maybe four or five inches), but the ducklings like to practice "zoom swimming" where they rocket underwater like sleek little otters. Quite amusing.
Since the fountain is getting polluted and the ducklings are getting comfortable with human interaction, we decided to set them free next week. The plan is to herd them through the short hallway that connects the courtyard with the rest of the campus. Lucy (Mama Duck) can then lead them to a new home. Staff have promised to take pictures of the release for me so I can post about it when I return from vacation.
Vegas and Birds:
I am looking forward to some down time in Las Vegas with good restaurants, lots of laughter, a few shows, lazing by the pool and of course, some blackjack. In the five years I have been making this annual pilgrimage, I have never gone birding (Vegas in July is damn hot and my mind is on other pursuits). All I tend to see are starlings and house sparrows anyway. So don't expect bird updates from Vegas, but there may be other things to write about. What happens in Vegas...will probably make it to my blog!
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Ethel and brood swimming in their new home
Lucy, left in the courtyard with her original eight ducklings, quickly adopted the two of Ethel's ducklings that we couldn't find in time to relocate with Ethel. For two days, the brood of ten followed Mom around without incident. The Maintenance Department here (wonderful guys, all of them), built a little pavilion to protect the food bowls from the elements and Lucy and her youngsters were living the high life.
Food bowls under the handmade "Duck Pavilion"The last few days, however, have only seen six of the ten ducklings with Mom. After searching high and low, we can not find four of the babies. Was it a hawk, illness, starvation or weather that caused the death/ disappearance of these ducks? We will never know.
Lucy and the six surviving ducklings
But life goes on - and the six ducklings left are enjoying swimming, eating, preening, chasing each other and other duck-like pursuits. I sit with them in the morning for 10-15 minutes. They are skittish at first but after I am still for a while, they ignore me and go about their business. It is an honor to share my mornings with them - I enjoy their antics. More updates to follow.
"What 'choo lookin' at????"
Thursday, June 4, 2009
There is a gorgeous courtyard where I work. A fountain, lots of wonderful landscaping and a great habitat for birds, including ducks. Every year, a mallard mom lays her eggs in the courtyard and raises a family. This year, there were two moms - one with 8 babies and one with 11. That's 21 ducks in a very small courtyard. Not healthy for the ducks or the fountain! So we decided to relocate the family of 12 (the duck dads were absentee fathers: wham, bam, thank you ma'am). The Maintenance staff noticed that the ducklings could not climb out of the fountain so they built a small brick staircase for them. It worked. I wish I could have gotten a picture of the ducklings climbing the stairs!
So one afternoon last week two Maintenance staff (Craig and Josh), a Marketing Department staffer (Heather) and I gathered empty trashcans and cameras and trooped into the courtyard. Both moms (Ethel and Lucy) were sitting under a tree on the babies (it was drizzling). We approached cautiously, but the moms hissed and made their displeasure known.
Check out the gorgeous blue on Ethel's wing.
Hard to believe she could fit 11 ducklings under her.
One by one, we gathered chicks - or should I say we TRIED to gather chicks. It was cold and muddy and rainy. Here were four educated, mature adults outsmarted by tiny balls of fluff. They ran under hedges and bushes and darted between our legs as we lunged helplessly after them. We got scratched by thorns and twigs, covered with mud and leaves and rain.
Catching the ducklings may have been
Heather enjoying her new friend before putting him in the trashcan with his brothers and sisters (with Craig and Josh still on duckling patrol in the background).
I tried holding them the way Bill Hilton taught us at
the bird banding demonstration at New River Nature and Birding Festival.
It calmed them right down. (Check out the mud on my hands and arms).
After an hour, we had located nine ducklings. We had to give up - the rain was getting harder and we were afraid of stressing out the family any more than we already had. We assumed that Lucy would adopt the two leftover ducklings into her brood (we checked back early the next morning and she had done just that). It was time to move the family to their new home (the pond on the campus about 1/4 mile away).
The new home for the transplanted family.
Wednesday, June 3, 2009