What is all that white? Could it be snow, flowers? Feathers, Feathers, everywhere! What, Feathers? Yes, indeed. The birds are molting. Since we have so many white geese and ducks, the overall look is that there was a major pillow fight with lots of pillows that broke open. Every summer, after the babies are hatched and a few weeks old, our geese and ducks shed their old feathers. It is hard to believe, but feathers wear out. Feathers are very special and in order for a bird to fly its feathers must be in the very best condition possible. That is why birds preen. They are zipping the barbs of their feathers together and cleaning them. Feathers provide insulation, flight capabilities, and waterproofing and consist of a shaft with barbs that get dirty and suffer from wear and tear. When the feathers can't be zipped together anymore or have holes in them, it impacts flight--at least on our geese--and many other aspects of a bird's life, so they have to go through a vulnerable period where they are stuck on the ground or in the pond while they get new feathers. During this time, they are excessively greedy for good food and water. They also have to duck under the fence instead of flying over it. My belief is that they should stay on the barnyard side of the fence, but they don't agree. They think that if they don't come into the yard and peck on the back sliding door, we will forget to feed them. Ah, well! This is a picture of the mamma duck which has opted to swim in (and dirty up) the drinking water rather than swim in the pond.
What a reward for a mama duck who has been sitting on nests since spring. One nest after another has been wrecked by some savage creature that likes duck eggs. Finally, after sitting on four nests for four weeks each, one right after the other, she has a little baby--only one! But still she seems to think it was worth it. She is a very good mamma. We were worried about the duck egg snatching creature catching this little guy or gal, so we caught the mother and baby and put them in a (hopefully) safe pen. I found it hard to put the baby in with its mama. It was so cute and didn't seem to mind my holding it at all, but mama knows how to take care of duck babies better than I do, so in it went.
Seventeen, you say, seventeen! Why on earth has Pat called this post 17? Has she flipped or is it a lucky number? The answer is neither one. Monday morning we noticed a lot of noise out in the driveway. It was a guinea hen running up and down and making the most unusual noises. She seemed very distressed. I said to Mack, "Should I go out there and put her in the yard?" He said, "It would be a waste of time!" So we ignored her. Sometime after lunch he backed the truck out of the garage and noticed what the consternation was. The guinea was a mama and had hours old keets all over the place. He came in and got me and we caught nine of the keets but couldn't catch her. We put the nine babies in a pen with another mother guinea and 3 babies. I kept worrying about the mother so went outside and ran around the yard with a fishnet trying to catch her. A couple of our neighbors stopped by to see if I was O.K. They told me that their hen lost all of her keets during the first day. That motivated even more running. Finally, I gave up and went in. After an hour or so I went out to check on the hen--she was under the elderberry bush with eight more babies. I rushed into the house to get them some water. It was so hot and dry, I feared for their lives. When I got back they were gone. Later that evening we found them under the chicken house. When it was chore time the mama took them all into the chicken house. One by one she would come out and show each baby how to climb the ramp. It was very touching! They were cotton ball size trying to climb over inch treads. The other birds were tromping all over them and we feared for their lives. We finally caught mama and her eight babies. They are now relaxed and happy in their own private pen. Seventeen little keets! All in a days work for us and weeks of work for the mother. The keet in the picture is 3 days old and tripled in size. Why is it in my hand--because the little dude and two others got out of the pen. One of the cocks was guarding them so they came to no harm. It was vey hard to keep the little guy in my hands long enough for the picture.
We were driving to work this week when I saw a funny rumpled yellow thing at the side of the bridge we were getting ready to cross. There was a doe making tracks across the road into the woods. We stopped in case there was another deer. The little rumpled thing began unfolding and you can see in the picture what it was. Long little stilt like legs that were wobbling and trying to work together. It reminded me of out kids trying to walk on stilts. The poor little thing wobbled this way and that and finally got off the road. After a few minutes it found its mother and they both disappeared into the woods. It was the cutest little thing!
Drink that water? You have got to be kidding? No way--risk swallowing tadpoles and algae? Yuccccch! A few weeks ago I wrote a sorrowful blog describing how the little tree frog tadpoles were washed out of the watering trough. Lately the trough has been getting lower and lower and green with algae. Guess what-- it is teeming with life! It is filled with tree frog tadpoles of two types. Little teeny weeny black tadpoles (actually smaller than they appear in the picture above) are swimming everywhere and fewer slightly larger tadpoles of a different type are swimming with them. The larger tadpoles are lighter in color and developing little tiny legs--just little bumps to begin with. See the picture below to get a sense of the size difference. Machi and Picchu have been horrified to see them swimming in their water. Every day, I ask them how many tadpoles they have swallowed and they look at me with disgust. I have been filling a bucket with water from the tap for them. We will drain and refill the watering trough after the tadpoles have turned into frogs and left it.
My marigolds that I planted to keep bugs off the potatoes, tomatoes, etc. were all pulled up by their heads. When I went into the garden they were lying with their roots stuck up in the air and their flowers picked off. Luckily, it has been rainy and I was able to pick them up and replant. My mind started racing--what would do such a thing? Rabbits, chickens, guineas, ducks, geese (yes, all of these would love a good marigold, but I am sure none were in the garden). I was mystified. The next morning I looked out to see about the marigolds and I discovered the culprit--the GANG of 7. They were out in the garden enjoying marigolds, peas, and raspberries. HA! Gang was the right word for them. They were taking plunder out of my garden. The weird thing was they didn't act like criminals. They behaved like a prince and princesses--like they were divine and we owed them whatever they wanted out of the garden. I watched them and they were really quite amusing, I guess they will get away with their antics. We will just have to share the garden with them! We will have to plant more.
This is Cane! He is innocent--since he is kept penned up. But wait, maybe not, since he is the attraction. The 6 girls from the Gang of 7 find him quite enticing.
Six peahens and one peacock make up the Gang of 7. One of the peahens spent several weeks in our peafowl pen--she jumped in when Mack was watering them. Later she was lured out by her sisters and brother (?) and the whole group disappeared into the woods behind our house. Then the cock reappeared making horrific noises on the roof of our garage. Now they are all back. They visit us (or our birds) twice a day in the morning and the evening. Sometimes they just hang out all day on the roof of the chicken house, the hay shed, or the garage. No, they aren't ours, they belong to the neighbor across the street but they love to visit and tease our birds, especially Cain our beautiful male. The hens are all infatuated by him and the cock tries to fight him. I enjoy them immensely and I guess they know it. This morning the cock was peaking into the sun room looking for us. His tail is quite short (only about 2 feet) but he is quite gorgeous.
In spite of the rain and cold, it seems that spring is finally here. We have seven more baby geese. This is a picture of three of the seven babies with their mother. She is trying to coax them out of the nest.
Here they are working their way down the ramp. The mama worked real hard getting them out. Some of them fell off, which caused a great deal of consternation and one was stepped on while she was focusing on a different baby, but eventually, they all made it.
Four of them exploring the new, big, wide world. First matter of business--getting something to drink and then to eat. They were also introduced to Dad, who had been hanging around trying to help. He wasn't able to, until I let them out of the pen. He is ferocious! Yesterday and alpaca, full of curiosity, came too close and Dad flew at his head full force. The alpaca moved out of there.
Early this week I was out checking on the watering trough Picchu and Macchu use as their main water source and discovered the top of the water was covered with tiny eggs floating in what looked like an oily substance. When Mack and I looked at them more closely, we discovered they were tree frog eggs. Mack took out his loupe and we looked at them under magnification and saw the most amazing thing. The egg shells were transparent and you could see the number of cells inside each egg. Some had one cell, others two, but most had 4 or 8 cells. If you watched long enough you could even see the cells dividing. It was truly magical, and something rarely seen without a microscope. We looked at them every morning and then yesterday we looked and there were none. It had rained enough to overflow the watering trough and the little frog eggs appeared to be gone. We looked again this morning, but only pollen appeared on top of the water--the little frog eggs were nowhere to be seen. We assume they washed out of the trough and perished, but I suppose they could sink to the bottom of the trough and hatch down there. I suppose we will find out if some hatch in a few days. If not, well, hopefully mother tree frog will lay some more eggs.