Sunday, June 16, 2013

Ring-Necked Duck Dads

Sacked Out

Sleepy Horse
Tree Swallow Break
June 16 Early Morning Pond Report:

Horses look like a hit and run accident, lying along HWY 95. Pistol sees us and wanders over like a sleepy toddler. He yawns in our faces. Good morning.

Ring neck duck males are padding across the water, one chasing the other. They split to separate sides of the pond. It's shrinking, the pond that is, but no need to be so territorial. No birds of prey lurking in pines, but no sign of baby ducks either. The reeds are so tall I'm sure they are just hidden.

The tree swallows are active. They are always active. They seem to accept our presence and we have yet to be dive-bombed. As I water the garden--grow little seedlings, grow--swallows dip and dive above me. Swallow shadows dance on the garden floor.

Hellgate Osprey Cam Report:

My daughter Allison has a communications internship with an osprey project at the University of Montana. It's Father's Day and the Hellgate osprey nest might have it's first hatching. Alli's job is to monitor and zoom in the camera. But that requires watching, and she is watering her garden and walking her two huskies.

So I'm watching.

Merganser Stretching
Iris (the Hellgate female) is plopped upon her eggs. Cams such as this allow bird nerds such as me to glimpse at daily nest life. It's like reality TV, complete with soap opera drama. Like the time when Stanley arrived late from winter migration to find Iris had two eggs in the nest. Not his. Stan wasted no time in ridding his nest of eggs not bearing his DNA.

So, it gets me thinking about duck dads. So I did some research on our current resident duck dad (thank you Cornell Lab of Ornithology for your educational website)

Duck Dad in the Pond on Father's Day
Ring-necked duck dads have a peaked black head and dive. But what kind of father are they? Unlike osprey, ring-necked ducks are not much into nest building. But he does help mama find a good location, swimming along the vegetative edges of ponds and marshes. The nest, cupped by mama and lined with her feathers, is only a few inches above the water line.

Duck Dad Cloud
I have definitely seen this couple swimming the edges of Elmira Pond. So, that supports the possibility that the four ducklings belong to this ring-necked duck dad. As I suspected, keeping the babies in the vegetation protects them from predators.

Ring-necked duck couples remain a pair during
Blue Heron Beyond "Blue Goose"
breeding season. Otherwise they flock. This, too, I have observed on the pond. Earlier in April the pond was full of wigeons and ring-necks. They dispersed, with one couple, then another returning. I'm not sure if the second couple found real estate or not.

Ring-necked duck dads display their dad-ness through ram-like behavior. During breeding season, a ring-necked duck (hoping to be a dad) will meet a contender with his bill tucked to his chest. The males will swim at each other, chest to
chest. Wing blows and biting might escalate. This I have not seen, but earlier, I noticed wing-preening and head-tossing.

Nae Roses Continue to Bloom (like Nae)
Once incubation begins, the ring-necked duck dad might take off, or hang out. Seems our resident dad is hanging out.

Or, maybe those ducklings are not his.

June 16 Afternoon Pond Report:

A southern breeze bends pond grass making it look like brushed velvet. Wispy clouds streak the blue sky. One cloud looks like a duck in flight.

Teacup Roses Slowly Open
Blue Heron rises up momentarily from the reeds, just behind the "Blue Goose," our new old truck. The grass and reeds are shooting upward like northern Idaho pines.

The Nae Roses continue to blue. The little teacup roses unfurl much more slowly, as if savoring each ray of sunshine. My germinating garden seeds continue to take the teacup rose approach to growth. I await the day seedlings take off like pond grass.

Pond Provides for All
The horses slosh through water to munch on belly-high grass and an osprey passes overhead. Tree swallows continue to dip and dive, and a hummingbird momentarily hovers at the west-side porch. Ducklings play hide-and-seek while duck dad sleeps in the sunshine.

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