Ducks of Fearrington

Ducks of Fearrington

The ponds in Fearrington Village have probably attracted ducks ever since they were constructed.  Several species have been seen here.  Mallards are common, especially on the Lower Camden Park Pond.  Hooded Mergansers have been seen from time to time on Beechmast pond, and once a pair of Buffleheads spent a few weeks on the Lower Camden Pond (see the story in the Belted Gazette, April 2021).  Wood duck boxes have been set up near ponds and other open water, and recently two wood ducks joined the Mallards on lower Camden pond for a week or two.  There has been at least one report of a Ring-necked Duck.  With the exception of the Ring-Neck, you can see a selection photos of each of these species below.

The most popular visitors in recent years have been the Muscovy Ducks.  In 2018 a solitary Muscovy appeared one day on the Lower Camden Pond.  No-one knew how it got here or from where it came, but it quickly settled in and made friends with the Mallards, and with the Blue Heron that visits occasionally.  Dave Reynolds, who lives near Fearrington and raises ducks, named it Sophie and built a house for it.  A little later Sophie was identified as a male by the Carolina Waterfowl Rescue center, and it was decreed that Sophie was short for Sophocles (see the account in the Belted Gazette, March 2021).

In the fall of 2022, Sophocles (Sophie) became quite unwell.  He looked bedraggled, had little energy, and was blind in one eye.  He was taken in by the Carolina Waterfowl Rescue center (see Belted Gazette, January 2023), treated well, and identified by a vet as a female after all.  Many residents have missed her (or him).

To everyone’s surprise, a month later two new Muscovies appeared on the Lower Camden Pond.  They too settled in and made themselves at home, and are the subjects of an article in the Belted Gazette, February 2023.  We are waiting to see if they, like Sophie, become permanent residents.

Click on any photo to view an enlargement

Mallards:  Regular inhabitants of Lower Camden Pond

Mallards have probably been coming and going as long as there have been ponds in Fearrington. It seems they have been more numerous in recent years, especially on the Camden ponds. They often breed and raise their brood here. The sight of a Mallard hen with her raft (the technical name for a group of ducklings swimming) is always a cause for celebration.

Mallards gathering beside Lower Camden Pond. Photo by Gordon Pitz

Mallard drake. Photo by Eric Munson

Mallard hen. Photo by Eric Muson

Gathering her brood of 14 ducklings. Photo by Gordon Pitz

Hen supervising juvenile. Photo by Gordon Pitz

Mallard hen with her raft. Photo by Gordon Pitz

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Mergansers:  Visitors to Beechmast Pond

Hooded Merganser ducks are observed from time to time, usually on Beechmast pond. Here perhaps they find the mature trees they need for nesting, although they have not been seen to breed here.  They are typically in residence in winter months, and then head north for the summer.

Hooded Mergansers are diving ducks. If you are watching them, one will suddenly disappear under the water for as long as 30 seconds, and may appear in a place some distance from where it dived.

Hooded Mergansers on Beechmast Pond. Photo by Gordon Pitz

Male Merganser. Photo by Tony Daniels

Male Merganser. Photo by Tony Daniels

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Male Merganser. Photo by Gordon Pitz

Buffleheads on Lower Camden Pond

Early in March 2021, a female Bufflehead duck appeared on the lower Camden pond. A few days later she was joined by a male. The Bufflehead (an abbreviation of Buffalo Head, so called because of the shape of the duck’s head) is not rare but is not often seen in Fearrington.

They typically spend winters closer to the coast. In summer they head north to Central Canada for the breeding season.  Sure enough, as the weather became warmer they disappeared, and unfortunately have not been seen here since.

Like the Hooded Mergansers, Buffleheads are divers, and they will disappear under the water for 20 seconds or more.

Pair of Buffleheads. Photo by Gordon Pitz

Male Bufflehead. Photo by Gordon Pitz

Buffleheads taking off. Photo by Gordon Pitz

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Wood Ducks visit Lower Camden Pond

In late October of 2022, a pair of Wood Ducks appeared on the Lower Camden Pond. They remained for about two weeks. The male is quite elegant. He was always prominent among the Mallards, and although smaller than they, he was not shy about helping himself to their food. He spent a lot of time in the company of female Mallards. (They are known to inter-breed.) The female was usually more retiring and harder to see. The white patch around the eye is the most obvious feature.  She usually remained at the North end of the pond, far from human visitors.

Male Wood Duck. Photo by Gordon Pitz

Male Wood Duck. Photo by Eric Munson

Male looking for food. Photo by Gordon Pitz

Female Wood Duck. Photo by Eric Munson

Male with two female Mallards. Photo by Gordon Pitz

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Sophie the Muscovy:  His or Her Five Year Residence

Other breeds of ducks are at best temporary visitors. Even the mallards come and go, although a few can be seen here at almost any time. It was a surprise then when a Muscovy duck arrived a few years ago, and stayed until it became unwell. One reason it remained may be that the wings were clipped, and it could not fly more than a few yards at a time. Nevertheless, it made no effort to leave it’s new home, and seemed to enjoy spending time with the Mallards and the Blue Heron that visited regularly. Eventually volunteers arranged for Sophie to be transferred to the Carolina Waterfowl Rescue center.

Photo by Gordon Pitz

Photo by Gordon Pitz

Photo by Eric Munson

Sophie is now well cared for. Photo courtesy of Carolina Waterfowl Rescue

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The Recent Muscovy Ducks

Like Sophie, the new Muscovy ducks seem to be content with their new home, and they have quickly become favorites among the folk who visit Camden Park.

Muscovy ducks survey their new home. Photo by Gordon Pitz

Photo by Eric Munson

Photo by Eric Munson

Photo by Gordon Pitz

Photo by Eric Munson

Photo by Eric Munson

The Muscovy ducks seem to enjoy chewing on leaves on the bushes that grow beside the pond. Photo by Gordon Pitz

Otherwise, we are careful what the ducks get to eat. Photo by Gordon Pitz

Postscript

Volunteers feed the ducks regularly, using food especially selected for ducks.  We ask other visitors not to feed them, since inappropriate food can be harmful, and uneaten food can pollute the pond.