Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Visit 13: June 15, 2010, 11:00 am

--Saw ducks on east side of main pond in a group of approximately nine; we guess that the mother and four ducklings have joined with the new group of mallards
--The mother and original four swim off into a group; we notice that one of the four has a ring around his neck, so we suspect that one of the four is male and the other three are female
--Mother is still protectively quacking away ibis birds
--Did not see young muscovy or alligator

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Visit 12: May 23, 2010, 5:30 pm

--Saw two females on south canal bank as we approached pond.
--Spotted both groups of four ducklings each from south pond bank (looking across at north and northeast banks).
--Approached mother mallard and four ducklings, all healthy, on northwest bank.
--Four ducklings are getting distinct markings and are much more aware of oncoming visitors!--Mama and ducklings stopped to preen and then crossed 'Alligator Creek' into safer cover.
--Spotted newly released group of four older ducklings swimming from north pond bank to northeast pond bank. Saw alligator in middle of pond. No imminent danger to ducks.--Approached new group of four looking for food on northwest pond bank.
--Still curious as to the relationship of the one Muscovy to the three mallards. All appear to be about the same age, all a bit older than the original group of ducklings we've been observing.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Visit 11: May 18, 2010, 4:30 pm

--Saw three people on southeast pond bank with ducklings. We knew these weren't the ducklings we'd been watching as they were considerably bigger, so we asked about them. The people had brought them to the pond to release them. A mother mallard had nested at their place of business and hatched 14 ducklings. Of those, seven survived. The woman who took care of the mother and ducklings said that one day they were crossing the road near her business and a speeding motorist killed the mother. Of the remaining seven, these four survived. Banyan and I are curious and didn't understand, however, why one of the four is a Muscovy.
--One of the three people releasing the ducklings asked me, after learning that we visit the pond often, if the alligator warning signs were legitimate. I told him I had never seen an alligator in the pond, and no sooner had the words left my mouth did we spot one. This photograph doesn't show his(?) size well, but I'd estimate he's probably 3 feet or so, a young gator.
--As we were watching the gator, we saw the mother duck and her ducklings in the same spot we had seen them on Saturday, the northwest pond bank. We quickly made our way to their resting spot just as they were entering the pond.
--Sadly, we noticed immediately that there are now only four ducklings. We couldn't definitively tell if the duckling with the hurt leg was the one missing. Banyan hypothesized that it was.
--We also noticed that the mother duck seemed to be favoring her right side. Not sure if her wing or her leg is injured.
--The mother duck and now four ducklings began to cross the pond and were heading directly toward the alligator. I was unable to photograph their VERY close encounter, but mama came within a few feet of the gator, and then realized the impending danger and took off, as Banyan said "like Hot Wheels," toward the east pond bank.
--We walked back over to the southwest pond bank to report our findings to the three people releasing the four new ducklings, who look to be a few weeks older than the ones we've been following (they are beginning to get adult feathers).
--We were able to see imprinting in action as the woman who had cared for the ducklings tried to release them and was followed.
--She asked her friend to help chase them toward the water while she quickly left the park. It worked, and when we left the pond, there were two groups each of four ducklings on the eastern pond bank, about twenty yards apart from each other, seemingly unaware of each other's presence.
--Banyan and I wondered if the alligator had anything to do with the mother duck's injury or disappearance of the fifth duckling. We also wondered if there was a mother alligator nearby, as this alligator was still very young.

Visit 10: May 15, 2010, 7:00 pm

--Our first full family sunset trip to the pond. We circumnavigated, paying extra attention to the canal banks, as we expected the ducklings to be there.
--Benjamin finally spotted the ducklings on the northwest bank of the pond, a place we hadn't seen them before.
--The two females were standing guard very close to the ducklings.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Visit 9: May 14, 2010, 9:30 am

--Saw two females on canal bank.
--Looked for mama and ducklings on canal bank where we'd seen them last few times. Suspected they were there, because the muscovies were on guard...but did not see them.--Circumnavigated pond, then once again, saw mama and ducks climbing down bank into canal. Where were they hiding? Mama is an expert camouflager.
--Morning feeding. I think the canal has been a healthy food source for the ducklings; they appear to have grown overnight! The injury to the one duckling's left leg is improving.
--Played at park for a bit, circumnavigated pond again, and headed home westward alongside canal; spotted mama and five babies sleeping, nestled, on north side of canal.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Visit 8: May 13, 2010, 4:45 pm

--We found the ducks again on the bank of the canal, this time very far east, almost to the Hillview entrance. Their camouflage was most impressive.
--We circumnavigated the pond again and found the pair of female mallards on the west side just north of the footbridge entering the water.
--We had another interesting conversation with a frequent park-goer and are gathering enough anecdotal, experiential evidence to estimate the ducklings' age. Based on this park-goer's recalling seeing nine ducklings two weeks ago, and yesterday's recount of seeing approximately 12 ducklings three to four weeks ago, we can estimate that the ducklings are approximately one month old.
--Resident surmised that raccoons were preying upon ducklings.

Visit 7: May 13, 2010, 9:15 am

--Walked in from Hillview Street past canal and walked counterclockwise toward eastern pond bank; saw two female mallards (neither the mother) together--Circumnavigated entire pond, then started to head east down Hillview and saw mama and five ducklings walking down the path
--Surmised that they must have been hiding / resting under the cabbage palm cluster just south of the path; other possibility is the south canal bank--Watched as they went down into the canal to feed--Had a very interesting conversation with a resident whose backyard faces the south boundary of Arlington Park. Resident disagrees with county regulations and has emailed them, arguing that this is a man-made park and some species here aren't native, that ending human feeding is making the animals hungry; she also said that some of the black ducks were killed by humans a few years ago, very sad.
--Resident surmised that red-tailed hawks were preying upon the ducklings. Recalled that we had seen one on visit one.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Visit 6: May 12, 2010, 4:45 pm

--Once again, Banyan was the ultimate duck spotter. Mama and her five ducklings were in a great hiding place on the north bank of the canal leading to the pond's east bank.
--Ducks slept for a few minutes keeping a cautious eye on us. Mama and one duckling snuggled up higher on the bank, four other ducklings, including one with hurt left leg, below.
--Ducklings periodically panted due to heat.
--Duckling with hurt left leg awkwardly slips into the pond.
--Other four ducklings and mama followed, approaching Banyan and Benjamin for food. They threw grass, which was sampled several times before load reproachful quacks from mama.

Visit 5: May 12, 2010, 9:45 am

--Found mama duck sleeping on east side of pond, same place we found her yesterday morning.
--She was 'guarded' by two sentinel ducks. Their quacking awoke her and she looked at us alertly. --We were able to sneak around a clump of bushes and watch her. Her babies were all sleeping beneath her or nestled right next to her body. --As they woke up they all began preening, imitating their mother.--Met a woman at the playground that said she'd seen the ducklings about three weeks ago, and that there were about a dozen of them then.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Visit 4: May 11, 2010, 4:30 pm

--Circumnavigated entire pond in search of ducklings.
--Saw one lone female mallard emerge and quack loudly in the middle of the pond near the fountain.
--Saw a second lone female mallard near canal west of pond.
--Asked park visitors if they had seen ducklings. They said they thought they saw the mother peek her head out to check for safety and retreat. May have been one of other female ducks.
--We hypothesized that the duck family was resting in the safety of the northwest pond bank, where the growth is so thick that the bank is hidden from the viewpoint of the path.

Visit 3: May 11, 2010, 10:30 am

--Saw one female duck alone sitting in sun. Thought it might be ducklings' mama but facial markings were different. (Curious: nesting?)
--Walked further and saw the 5 ducklings and mama resting on bank on northeast side of pond with other ducks of different varieties nearby. Muscovies quacked protectively then approached for food.--Mama appeared protective and babies curious as they approached, hoping for handouts.
--As the ducks moved north (clockwise around pond), we noticed sadly that the fifth duckling in the row has a hurt left leg.--He seemed to remain separated from the other ducks as they entered the pond.
--Mother duck watched as five babies dug their beaks voraciously in the mud for food. Mama protected them from a snapping turtle by using her body as a barrier.
--Baby duck with hurt leg swam differently than other ducks. --We left as the ducks continued their clockwise swim around the pond.

Visit 2: May 10, 2010, 5:30 pm

--Saw 5 babies with mama.
--Banyan spotted them near picnic bench on east side of pond, waddling and following their mother onto shore.
--Ducks swam counterclockwise toward muddy bank where we found them this morning.
*NOTE: we have fed the ducks at this pond for years, and have not and will not feed this family. Here's why.