A birder named Ben mentioned he’d seen a Wood Duck with ducklings on the Upper Pool the day before, so we were on the lookout. A pair coasted on the water, but it was a single mom in the lily pads who emerged with seven ducklings (and, in fact, she gave the male of the pair a good razzing when he nipped at one of these young; duck sex, btw, is something those raised on Disney would be surprised by). There’s been a nest box set up for a few years now, but I can’t say I’ve ever seen or heard of any activity in it. The ubiquitous duck, the Mallard, nests on the ground; this species, though, is a cavity nester, usually in old trees (that first flight-drop for the young can be a doozy), so they’re either using the box rather covertly, or have found a nice old snag. This seems to be is the first time in a long time the species has bred in Prospect. They were not noted in the 2000-2005 breeding bird atlas for Brooklyn (Kings Co.). There is a record in the 1980-1985 atlas, but that doesn’t look like it was in Prospect itself.
UPDATE: I’ve been informed that there were Wood Ducklings on Prospect Lake last June and there may be breeders there this year as well. Now, here at B&B, I make a point of being militantly anti-cute (thus, perhaps, sacrificing a level of popularity, given the adoration of cute animals on the internets), since cuteness implies a hierarchy of worthiness in the animal world, which I think is dead wrong. But, holy duckling-fuzzballs, this is freaking cute! (But don’t count your hatchlings before they get eaten…).
After writing the above, I dipped again into selections of Samuel Johnson’s 1755 dictionary. His work was studded with “inkhorn” terms, Latinate mumbo-jumbo that dictionareers used to pad their volumes with (he actually used less than predecessors). But I did come across an apropos one: anatiferous, an adjective meaning “producing ducks.” The example is from Thomas Brown’s Vulgar Errours, a catalog of the bunkum of his 17th century day — an era, like all human ones, reeking with bunkum: “If there be anatifeous trees, whose corruption breaks forth into barnacles…” Duck comes out of a hole in the tree, ergo, tree produces duck. Eureka! The Wood Duck is a New World bird; but I guess some Eurasian duck species must nest in trees, too.
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