Here’s a mother — or at least an expectant one — who made sure she’d have plenty of flowers on Mother’s Day, building her nest of pine needles under this budding bush.
I came across her Sunday while visiting my own mom, who has a view of the nesting duck from her living room window and reports that’s she’s been dutifully sitting atop her eggs — about ten of them — for weeks now.
It’s baby duck season at Arbor Acres, the retirement community in which my mother lives, where residents eagerly await the appearance of the year’s first ducklings.
Nobody’s sure who the father is, but many suspect it’s the fellow to the left — he of the poofy hairdo – who is well-known for his amorous behavior and apparently considers himself quite the ladies man.
Then again, if I had hair like that, maybe I would, too.
He is believed to have fathered many of the baby ducks that were born last year, and indications are he’s at it again.
Yesterday, as the nesting mother sat atop her eggs, amid the blooming flowers, it appeared to me — though I’m better at interpreting dog behavior than duck behavior — that poofy head had moved on to new interests.
Those ducks I keep telling you about — the flock that’s experiencing a baby boom around the pond at the retirement community in which my mother lives?
They’ve finally got some big time press coverage:
The mainstream media (I started calling it that when I waded out of the newspaper business) made its way to the pond last week.
A reporter for the Winston-Salem Journal put together a story and video on the baby boom at the old folks home, which touched on what’s most interesting — to me, anyway — about the whole affair:
Ducks, like dogs, can unite us humans — in a way we can’t always manage to pull off on our own.
The Journal piece focused on Bo Bowers, the Arbor Acres resident who took it upon himself to restore the retirement community’s dwindling duck population.
Bowers bought a collection of ducklings, raised them at his home and released them around the Arbor Acres pond. After that, they took over and started reproducing on their own, under Bowers’ watchful eyes.
When the new generation started hatching, Bowers — to protect them from being harassed by cranky geese or eaten by turtles and other predators — snagged many of them up and took them home. There he raises them in cages, feeding them his special mix of beans, squash, corn, tomatoes and zucchini. When they are old enough to fend for themselves, he takes them back to the pond, where many residents delight in watching and feeding them.
“I think it’s interesting how the ducks have united a lot of people. Some people who have never talked to each other before will begin a conversation because they will be standing there looking at the ducks and start talking about them,” Bowers’ partner, Steven Dunn said.
Bowers said some residents have given him a hard time for taking the eggs from the mothers before they hatch.
“Many people worry about me stealing the babies, but I tell them it’s not like a mammal that gives milk or nurses them. With a duck, or any kind of bird, (if) you take their babies, they could care less. Thirty minutes later, they are going to be laying eggs again.”
All of the ducks at Arbor Acres are named after residents and staffers — including one, who recently hatched about a dozen babies, who’s named after my mother.
Bowers reintroduction program has been so successful that he’s now having to find new homes for some of the ducks. He has sold about 30, the Journal reported, with the money going into a fund for the residents.
Posted by jwoestendiek June 22nd, 2011 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animals, arbor acres, baby ducks, bo bowers, community, ducklings, ducks, eggs, nature, pets, retirement, unite, video, wildlife, winston-salem, winston-salem journal
Observing my dog Ace over the past year – at the beach, in the mountains, in deserts, forests, city streets, suburban lawns and campgrounds all across the USA – I’ve noticed that he is much more interested in some forms of wildlife than he is in others.
Between our travels and the five years we shared before that, I’ve been able to chart the degree of fascination he seems to hold for different species of animals — from those that seem to enthrall him to those whose appearances produce a reaction more like ho-hum, been there, done that.
When I say “chart,” I am not using the term loosely:
Using a scale of 1 to 10 — 1 being barely piquing his curiousity, 10 being the utmost peak of piqued — I have ranked Ace’s seeming degree of interest in cats, crabs, cows and other creatures. Keep in mind, every dog — based on his genes and environment — probably has a different scale of interest in other species. So your actual dog may vary.
I have no idea how much of Ace’s reaction is sight-based, as opposed to scent-based, but it seems he’s most excited about species he has never seen (or smelled) before, or only rarely sees (or smells), whereas those that are a part of every day, squirrels for instance — abbreviated as SQ in the chart above – are worth little more than a yawn.
If, however, there are two squirrels, and they are chasing each other around a tree, or along a telephone line, making squirrel noises, then Ace’s interest rises to an 8.
He was slightly more interested in the white squirrels of Brevard, but that may be because I didn’t let him out of the car, or because he detected I was more interested in them.
Where we are staying now, in a residential neighborhood in Winston-Salem, N.C., there are tons of chipmunks — OK, not tons, but a whole lot — and I’m pretty sure Ace had never seen a chipmunk before. On Ace’s scale, chipmunks rate a 7. He doesn’t that get excited when he sees one, but when they suddenly disappear from view, going down a hole in the ground, his ears prick up, his head rises, he scouts around with a look of concern in his eyes. Then a minute later he seems to have forgotten about them.
Ducks rate a 2, probably because he sees them often — basically everytime he goes to visit my mother (mom rated a 2 with him, but since she’s gotten into the routine of giving him treats, she’s now a full 10).
Don’t get me wrong. He likes the ducks at Arbor Acres, but they don’t seem to stimulate him as much as they did the first time he saw them.
Baby ducks are another story.
He was fascinated — a 9 on the scale — by those my mother was harboring in her room a couple of years back, perhaps because they were babies, perhaps because they were in her room, or, again, maybe because we were so interested in them.
He seems to be very interested in all forms of babies, with the possible exception of human ones, who rate a quick sniff and only a 2 on the Scale of Interest.
Cats rate the maximum 10. While he has seen a lot, and co-resided temporarily with a couple — Miley, for one – his fascination with cats has never diminished.
No other animal species makes Ace perk up as much as a cat. They tend to avoid him (except for staring contests from afar). In our travels, we stayed with at least three. He befriended those who let him. Those who avoided him only made him more intrigued. The only thing more interesting than a cat in full view, it seems, is an almost hidden one whose, say, tail, is poking out from under a chair.
But I’d probably be wrong.
Rabbits rate an 8 with Ace.
He saw several while we were staying in our trailer in the Arizona desert, and lots more — though they seem a shorter and stubbier, slightly more fluffy variety – here in North Carolina.
I don’t know how skunks rate with Ace, and hope I never find out. I don’t know how bears rate, and would just as soon avoid learning that as well.
As for bugs, it depends on what they’re doing and where they are. A cricket in the house can rise to an 8 on his scale. An ant on the sidewalk rates a 1 or less. A bee or fly hovering around his face gets his attention, but is more an annoyance to be snapped at than a species to be studied.
Cows rate about a 4, while horses come in at an average of 6. Horses in a distant pasture aren’t too exciting to him, but one that’s up close merits his scrutiny. He was all but smitten with, and only slightly wary of, a horse named Goblin that we met in Maine.
Turtles rate a 9, in large part — and again I’m using my human brain to guess — because of their novelty and the way they move, taking a few steps, disappearing into their shells, sticking their heads out and taking a few steps more.
Crabs are a curiosity as well, rating a 5 when they are alive and moving, only a 2 when they’ve gone to the great beyond, leaving their earthly shells behind. Then they are but flotsam, part of the potpourri of beach muck that, while definitely worth a good long sniff, is otherwise like a bad summertime novel. After a chapter or less you move on.
That leaves humans, who in some ways are difficult to rank on the scale.
A baby human, to Ace, is like a crab — about a 5, worth sniffing but not lingering with. A baby’s cry must be checked out, but once it is, Ace no longer appreciates it. A human with a bag — no matter what’s in it — is a full 10.
Humans aged 5 to 12 rate a 7. Adult males rate an 8. Adult females rate a 9. Humans with treats rate a 15.
Homeless people rate an 11. I don’t know if it’s because of more interesting scents, or because they usually have bags. Maybe, too, it’s because they often sit on the sidewalk and dogs seem to appreciate it when humans are at their level.
In every town in our travels that we encountered homeless folk — and that was pretty much every town in our travels — Ace seemed to feel the need to at least say hi, if not take a seat or lay down next to them.
I hesitate to add to all my previous anthropomorphizations — assuming that’s a word, and I spelled it right — but permit me one more unscientific human interpretation of my dog’s behavior.
Most dogs experts will tell you compassion is not in a dog’s emotional repertoire. But this is what I like, and tend, to believe:
I think he can sense when somebody needs a friend.
Posted by jwoestendiek June 13th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, adults, america, animals, anthropomorphism, behavior, cats, chart, children, chipmunks, cows, crabs, creatures, curiosity, dog, dogs, ducks, fascination, females, forms, geese, graph, homeless people, horses, interaction, interest, males, observations, pets, rabbits, rate, rating, road trip, seagulls, social, society, species, squirrels, study, travels with ace, turtles, wildlife
But dogs, while they may be the animal we most often hear about being saved by a caring human, aren’t the only ones that bring out the hero in us.
Edward Gardner, of Naperville, Ill., pulled over to help a family of ducks cross a highway Monday night. He was struck and killed by a passing vehicle, WLS-TV in in Chicago reported.
As we’ve been pointing out in recent posts, it’s baby duck season, and humans can get pretty protective when it comes to ducks, especially babies.
Just the other day, a friend was telling me about being part of a crowd that gathered near a traffic circle outside the city of Baltimore to coax a mother duck and her babies out from under a stopped school bus and across the street.
Maybe it’s having lived 15 or so years in Yardley, Pa. — home of the bumper sticker “I Brake for Ducks in Yardley” — but my reasoning, old fashioned as it may be, is that animals, wild and otherwise, were here before we came up with motor vehicles, and thus should get right of way.
Of course, our world — particularly in places like Chicago — has gotten too fast paced for that.
Humans going to the aid of animals is a nice thing to hear about — especially given all the reports we bring you here of people abusing animals. It’s nice to know, if a little confusing, that, despite the of cruelty to which some humans go, when it comes to animals, there are others reaching true heights of kindness.
Police said Gardner died after being hit by a limousine along the Tri-state Tollway in Schiller Park. Illinois State Police say the limousine driver has not been cited.
“It was no surprise what he did, that he would risk his life to save another. That’s the kind of guy he was. Just an amazing spirit,” said his best friend, Jim Gollwitzer.
Gardner loved animals, Gollwitzer said, and working on cars. He was on his way to work on a vehicle he was restoring when he spotted the ducks.
Fellow members of his car club are finishing his car project for him to honor his memory, said Gollwitzer.
He deserves that, and more.
Posted by jwoestendiek June 3rd, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: accident, aid, animals, assist, assistance, baby ducks, brake, car, chicago, crossing, dies, dogs, ducklings, ducks, ed gardner, edward gardner, help, hero, highway, illinois, killed, pets, rescue, saving, schiller park, traffic, tri-state tollway, wildlife
A new generation of Woestenducks entered the world Saturday, when the eggs laid by the duck named after my mother cracked open and at least eight — maybe more — ducklings emerged.
I was visiting Arbor Acres, the duck-crazy retirement community where my mother lives, and by the time I left that evening, eight of the eggs had hatched, and four more were about to, according to Bo Bowers, a resident who monitored the nest all day long from a nearby folding chair.
It was Bo who, when the Arbor Acres flock was dwindling last year, ordered 16 ducklings of various breeds, raised them in cages at his home until they were old enough to survive on their own, then released the newcomers — each named after a resident of the community — into the Arbor Acres pond.
The duck named after my mother was the first one to become pregnant. She built herself a nest of pine needles in which to lay her eggs under an azalea bush just outside the window of my mother’s room.
Bo counted 13 eggs in her nest last week, but when he later found one had been stolen and destroyed, apparently by a crow, he saw a need for increased vigilance.
He put a little fence around the nest, then watched and waited all Saturday — getting up from time to time to chase off the geese and other ducks who approached.
Once all the ducklings emerged, Bo gently gathered them, placed them in a box and took them home, ensuring that, for the next six weeks, they won’t become the victims of predators. Those include coyote, fox, crows, herons and at least one good-sized turtle who lives in the pond and, attacking from below, is believed to have pulled a few baby ducklings, bobbing along behind their mothers, into its depths.
On Saturday, I stepped outside my mother’s room and asked Bo how many eggs he was sitting on, and whether he’d like to borrow my tent for the night. Despite my teasing, he let me get close enough to take a picture.
Mother duck sat firmly on her nest, protecting the unhatched eggs, and making sure none of the ducklings ventured off. I was able to see one who poked its head out (that’s it under the hosta leaf, in the bottom right corner of the picture atop this post).
As news of the births spread, the crowd grew outside the window of my mother’s room. Other residents, staff and even a security official showed up to take a look.
Bo was still sitting sentry when I left. One could argue that he’s interfering with that whole “survival of the fittest” thing. But (being not particularly fit) I’ve never been a big fan of that. Besides, Bo, having brought the ducks to Arbor Acres, feels more than a little responsibility for them, and the second generation they are producing. He sees nothing wrong with giving them a headstart — at least until they’re big enough to avoid the snapping jaws of the turtle that lurks beneath.
I agree. Long live the Woestenducks.
Posted by jwoestendiek May 30th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: america, animals, arbor acres, assist, birth, bo bowers, dog's country, dogscountry, ducklings, ducks, eggs, guarding, hatched, headstart, helping hand, jo woestendiek, nature, north carolina, predators, road trip, sentry, survival of the fittest, travels with ace, wildlife, winston-salem, woestenducks
Over at Arbor Acres, the retirement community where my mother lives, there’s a population explosion looming.
Our duck friends, whose importation we told you about last summer, have produced a second generation, and several mama ducks are now poised atop their eggs.
Arbor Acres has always had ducks and geese — sometimes too many, sometimes not enough. They stay along a pond and an azalea-lined canal that feeds the pond. The geese come and go, but most of the ducks seem to like it enough to make it home.
The ducks serve as conversation pieces, and much more. They give residents something to watch that’s far more interesting than television, let them stay in touch with nature, and take part in the excitement of a new cycle of life starting up. When the baby ducks start showing up at Arbor Acres, all other news takes a back seat.
(I am of the opinion that every center for the elderly, a group I am in hopes of joining one day, should get massive and regular doses of two things — young people and animals, and that bringing them together greatly benefits all three. )
Last year, when the numbers dwindled and most of the newborns were being gobbled up by predators — a turtle who lives in the pond is the top suspect — one resident took steps to re-establish a flock.
He bought 16 of various breeds, cared for them at home and released them when they were old enough to get by on their own. The new ducks were all named after residents — one of them after my mother, Jo Woestendiek, whose room overlooks the canal.
For a week now, Jo Woestendiek, the duck, has been laying atop her eggs in a nest she made with pine needles — just outside the window of Jo Woestendiek, the human, who leans over her couch and cranes her neck in hopes of getting a glimpse of them.
The births are always followed by a period of concern for the residents — walking on eggshells would be one way to put it — as they wait to see how many of the eggs, then ducklings, are going to survive the turtle, coyote, fox and heron that see them as breakfast.
One summer a few years ago, my mother — apparently not the first to do so – took a group of newborns in, secretly keeping them in a cardboard box in her room. (Ace, during a visit, was fascinated by them, slowly approaching and giving each a delicate sniff.)
This year, a good batch of eggs has shown up around campus and, depending on how many escape the predators, the duck population could triple, with a strong contingent of what my mother has already taken to calling — even before they hatch — the Woestenducks.
There aren’t too many things in the world cuter than baby ducks, and how they steadfastly follow their mother, on land and water, no matter how much she zigs and zags.
As I watched them Sunday, mother duck swam across the canal, her babies following closely. When the mother duck climbed up a series of rocks and into the pine needles under a bush, the baby ducks struggled, falling over each other, off the rocks, then fighting to get up again, almost reaching the top only to tumble back down.
I wanted to lend a hand, especially to the last one trying to make it up — clearly the klutz of the bunch. He’d slap a webbed foot on a wet rock, only to have it slide off as he somersaulted back into the water.
I kept thinking his mother should get up and help him.
Then I realized, by not going to his aid, she was.
Posted by jwoestendiek May 23rd, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, arbor acres, assisted living, babies, baby ducks, birds, birth, communities, cycles, dogs, duck, ducklings, ducks, eggs, elderly, explosion, geese, hatched, independence, instititutions, jo woestendiek, motherhood, mothers, nature, nursing homes, pets, photography, population, retirement homes, survival, wildlife
If that one got you all worked up — what with all that high energy and yapping — here’s one to calm you down again.
Posted by jwoestendiek May 1st, 2011 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animals, baby duck, behavior, dog, dogs, duck, ducks, ducks and dogs, funny, interaction, interspecies, pets, terrier, video
Other than Ace’s periodic visits, there’s probably nothing residents of Arbor Acres — a retirement community in Winston-Salem — like better than the ducks that waddle and swim in and around the large pond that graces the acreage.
Actually, even though Ace has some pretty big time fans there, the ducks probably rate higher – at least in the eyes of some residents, including my own mother (that’s her to the left, explanation to follow). She, I think it’s safe to say, prefers watching ducks outside her window to having a dog inside her room.
On at least one occasion, she harbored some fugitive newborn ducks who, like all newborn ducks, needed a little protection from the bigger creatures, like foxes and turtles, who tend to snatch them away.
Because of that, the duck population at Arbor Acres sometimes dwindles down to a precious few, and the residents who like to watch them, feed them, and sometimes name them, worry about losing the closest thing many of them have to pets.
(Dogs are allowed there, but only a handful of residents have them.)
Instead, most often, they enjoy the animals nature provides, the ducks, the geese, the fish in the pond and the two blue herons that call the area around the pond home for much of the year.
Sometimes though, even nature needs a hand.
And that’s where Bo Bowers came in.
Bo, who moved into the community in March, brought with him some duck-raising skills, and when the duck census recently dropped he made a deal with the administration — if they provided materials to build the pens, he’d buy some baby ducks and raise them until they were big enough to survive on their own.
He ordered 16 baby ducklings — of five different breeds — through a catalog. They were 12 days old when they were delivered, and he started feeding them in the 4-foot by 12-foot cage, complete with swimming pool, set up behind his home.
Last month, in a ceremony attended by many residents, he “launched” his babies, releasing them into the pond as residents, staff and at least one TV news outfit looked on. Many of the ducks, by then, had been named after residents, including one named Jo, after my mother.
Bowers has been raising fowl — including some blue ribbon winners — almost his whole life, he said. “They are like my children.”
Wake up early enough and you can see Bowers, tall and gangly, striding down a sidewalk with the still-growing ducks following him. He puts out food, talks to them, takes a count to make sure everyone’s still there.
Two of the ducks are of a breed called white crested.
They have tufts of feathers on their head, like bouffant hairdos — quackfros, we called them. There are black ones, brown ones and silvery blue ones, and, diverse group that they are, they all, after several weeks, still hang together – a pack, as it were.
At least two residents warned me to keep Ace away from the ducks, though he has little interest other than watching them.
I’m pretty sure dogs don’t rule at Arbor Acres. Ducks do.
Posted by jwoestendiek August 5th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace does america, aging, animals, arbor acres, community, dog's country, dogs, dogscountry, ducks, ducky, herons, nature, north carolina, ohmidog!, pets, photography, pond, retirement, road trip, wildlife, winston-salem
A California man was treated and released after being shot in the back by his dog.
The unidentified 53-year-old man was hunting in Merced County when he set the safety on his loaded shotgun and put it on the ground while he grabbed his decoy ducks, according to the Fresno Bee.
Merced County sheriff’s officials say the hunter’s black Lab stepped on the loaded shotgun, causing the safety to release and the gun to fire.
Posted by jwoestendiek February 1st, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: accident, animals, back, bizarre, black lab, california, dog, dogs, ducks, game, hunt, hunter, hunting, lab, labrador retriever, merced, news, pets, sheriff, shoots, shot, shotgun, weird
Responding to a complaint about animals in need of medical care, Houston SPCA investigators were shocked to discover more than 1,000 animals at a home in the city — mostly crammed in cages.
SPCA officials say the seizure of animals from the home in northwest Houston was one of the largest in U.S. history.
“They were in deplorable conditions throughout the entire property,” said Charles Jantzen, chief investigator for the Houston Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. “Very few of the animals had the basic staples of life — food, water and shelter.”
The majority of animals confiscated were birds, including a score of chickens, roosters, ducks and parrots. SPCA workers also seized gerbils, snakes, iguanas, a malnourished goat, and a pair of small dogs, also in cages.
The animal cages were scattered throughout the property, which is located on an isolated stretch of road in a mainly light-industrial area, according to the Houston Chronicle.
Authorities said the homeowners, who were cooperative during the investigation, told them they sell the animals at flea markets throughout the area.
“They (the animals) were not hidden — they were not secretive,” Jantzen said.
The animals were taken to the SPCA’s Houston headquarters for a medical examination.
Posted by jwoestendiek September 27th, 2009 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: $1, 000, abuse, animals, birds, chickens, cruelty, dogs, ducks, flea market, gerbils, goat, home, house, houston, iguanas, investigation, neglect, parrots, property, roosters, seized, snakes, spca