Daily Drama 68 – Duck Herding 101

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Daily Drama 68 – Duck Herding 101

I took a little trip to Canada in February to witness my son’s marriage. The big news is this fabulous Guinea Pig coffee cup that his bride bought me!

Right handed view: little piggy swimming inside

Left-handed view: reminds me of furry Stevie Ray (RIP)

We also went to Costco (they have poutine at the snack bar!) where I saw this nice Mason Bee house. My store has them, too, so I got one when I returned from Toronto.

Mason Bee house (accidental photobomb of Dobby)

Mason bees have been using the frames on this window screen. They lay their eggs in there, daubing with mud between, and then they seal it up. when the bees emerge, they come screaming out straight at my shoulder if I’m sitting on the chair right there. It’s annoying for both of us.

Their entry/exit hole is that teeny gray rectangle under where it says $500 on the sign.

They also have a couple mudded-up areas on the siding, above the door and windows. They are all under a wide overhang on the East side of the house.

Mason Bee activity over the front door

Mason Bee activity over the window

Do you think the bees will use the new house? I have it mounted deep under the wide overhang, high on the East side of the house, within walking distance of local shops and schools. I’ll let you know.

“Can you please help me with this jacket?

Meanwhile, we were talking about ducks, right? The afternoon Garden Party is when all the poultry explode from the aviary to eat snacks with Dobby and destroy the back yard. They usually return to roost, but I often have to herd them in to the aviary at dusk. I do a head count to make certain nobody gets locked out. It’s harder than it sounds, and I am always surprised to discover a duck pacing outside the aviary as I lock up. The last time it happened, it was a suspicious drake, notably without his lady friend. A third sweep of the garden revealed Bev, one of my two Muscovy hens, snug on Princess’s tiny nest in Dobby’s pen. One more hiding place to check on this season.

“Have you seen my jacket anywhere?”

We have the opposite problem, too. About a million local mallards now know about the afternoon garden party, and it isn’t uncommon to see thirty of them on the roof, waiting for the Happy Hour snacks to be put out. Lately, to discourage them, I have varied the snack time, or offered nothing at all. Not to be deterred, they all parade into the aviary to help themselves to the layer pellets in the barn. Setting out the Happy Hour treats inside the aviary backfires for the same reason. The herding happens later, and I call this game Brown Duck at Dusk. My own flock is in the aviary/barn, and I could close the gate and call it a day, except for the mallards who can’t find their way back out. They panic when they see me, hitting the top wire, crashing into the fence, pacing at the gate itself, but not at the gate opening. This is a skilled herding: keeping their attention, quelling the panic, easing them toward the gate, using “eye” and body language like a Border Collie. Dobby likes to help, and because they are wary of him, I can use his presence to drive them to the gate. Unless he is sitting at the gate. Oh, Dobby!

Tony, Vinny, & Sal, moving on out

Currently, there is a third herding. Twice a day for fourteen days, eye drops for Sal. Tony, Vinny, & Sal are a tight sub-flock who came in to sanctuary together about five years ago. The aviary is big, but it is set up with a barn and a bully pen that I use to sequester the flock for various reasons. The trick is to herd as few animals as possible (but including Sal) into a “corner” so I can nab him. Again with the Border Collie skills, I move them gradually into the barn or bully pen, without spooking anybody. The herd thins until I have Tony, Vinny and Sal separated out. Moving Sal (who looks remarkably like Vinny) onto the bench (Get out of here, Kitty Hawk!) I can finally administer one eye drop to his left eye. I’m halfway through the treatment, fourteen more round-ups to go.

Get down from there, Conchita!

This is why I try not to move quickly or make the flock scatter. There’s always a smart-aleck who jumps up, down, or performs a risky evasion technique. I wasn’t a witness to Conchita’s Folly (when she broke her leg) but now that she’s healed and rejoined the flock, I have noticed she is always flying up to a high point. Let’s not repeat the broken leg, okay?

“Can you heat this up? Maybe float some lemons in here?”

Dobby’s limping is worse during cold weather. The calcification that occurred during the healing of his fractured vertebra pinches a nerve, causing a sciatica-like pain. I know it well, and he walks like me. He can still hop up to his pool, though it is too cold to swim. He prefers a hot tub this time of year.

Dobby and Samantha

Dobby and Princess

Dobby is eating my bamboo hedge, one bucketful at a time. He also has an Instant Pasture in the back yard. After eight winters of lousy winter front yard grazing, it finally occurred to me that he might “graze” on scattered hay. Sure enough, strewn-about rain-soaked hay has been a big hit. With a bit of luck, some of the seeds will sprout in spring.

Fat Bonnie begs in her day pen

Phoenix bathes in his water dish

 

 

Gentrification of the kitchen continues unabated. Fat Bonnie, who moved into the kitchen four years ago, has finally overcome her terror of wide open spaces. Every night, after Dobby went out to bed in his night pen, The Bartender cleaned his area, and we spent the next hour cajoling the rabbit into running around the corner to play in the area he set up for her.

Phoenix chases Fat Bonnie around the box. She’ll sneak up on him later and chase him back.

Enter Phoenix the pigeon. Now that we wheel his cage in there, too, Fat Bonnie races around to claim the ground plane before he gets out. She lets us pet her, she begs for treats, she hauls out verboten birdseed, rips wallpaper off the wall, exactly like a regular pet rabbit. So, we traded Good Bonnie for Bad Bonnie, but she seems a lot happier.

Fat Bonnie: the new relaxed model

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