20 Mar Photo Gallery: Ducks
The ponds in Fearrington Village have probably attracted ducks since their construction. 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 knows 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.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.