Thursday, April 20, 2017

Taffy the Duck Returns:  When Ducks nest in the Garden

Ponds attract wildlife and the pond in our yard is no exception .  It seems like as soon as we installed it we started seeing more raccoons, skunks, frogs, and ducks.  The ducks seem to only show up in the spring and usually it is a couple that hangs out around the pond midday and then goes somewhere else at night.  One year we had "Quack" who ignored the pond completely and just sat on the roof squawking his fool head off.  We figured he wanted to get into the pond but was too dumb or something.  The past three years we have had a female start nests in the yard.  One year the nighttime varmits got her nest.  Last year she abandoned it.  This year she is back again, nesting behind the rose bush under the eaves.  We call her Taffy.

Taffy was pretty smart with her nest selection.  She is located behind a fence, safe from dogs and coyotes and is under the eaves against a brick wall safe from rain.  She is close to water as well.  For awhile we thought maybe she was a bad mom because she would leave the nest everyday around 4pm and not come back until after dark.  It turns out that this is totally normal behavior.  Mallards like Taffy lay one egg a day and do not stay seated on them until they have about 8 eggs.  Once 8 are laid, then she will sit longer, just leaving to get food and water for short periods of time.  The incubation period does not start with the first egg, it starts with the last egg laid and the eggs dont start incubating until she starts staying on the nest.  This allows all the eggs to hatch within a day of each other!  

I'm not exactly sure when Taffy started laying.  I think it has been about two weeks now.  She is cramping my style a little bit in that our patio is very busy in the spring with seedling care and pond start up.  I'm trying not to but her to much, but when I go out there she seems to tolerate me moving slowly and methodically and doing things like skimming the pond and feeding the koi.

It would be so cool to have baby ducks but I am a bit worried about that.  Ducks are pretty messy and I would rather not have a whole flock calling the pond home.  I also am worried about baby ducks getting harassed by the koi which are pretty big these days.  Ah well we will see what happens,  I am enjoying having her hanging around regardless.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Return from Singapore

Last night I returned from a seven day business trip to Singapore.  It is a fascinating country.  Incredibly hot and humid and bustling with about 6 million people all on a small island.  The leaders of the country a number of years ago set out to make it a "green" country, as it was originally rainforest that amuses me but still I cannot help but admire the fact that a huge percentage of their buildings have roof and inter building gardens planted with huge trees and lush tropical plants.  English is the primary language spoken there and it is extremely safe to wander around, so I spent a large part of the trip seeing their main gardens including Gardens by the Bay and the Singapore Botanical Gardens.  The Botanical Gardens were my favorite, filled with acre after acre of weird and wonderful trees and plants plus the most amazing orchid collection I have ever seen.  Of all the plants I saw on this trip, my favorite was the cannonball tree.  This oddity looks like a regular tree when it is young, then, when it matures it sprouts these alien looking spiky vines all over its trunk.  The vines flower with about 5 inch strange orange blossoms.  The blossoms, once pollinated make huge heavy cannonball fruit!.  The fruit are so significant this trees can't be planted near the road or baablooey!.

While I saw many interesting trees in Singapore what struck me the most was that almost all of the bedding plants were familiar to me.  I see these ever spring in my favorite nurseries.  I was not aware just how many "annuals" in our nurseries were tropical plants propagated for a few month stint in colder climates.  I guess this should have been more obvious to me.  It bugs me for reasons I really can't really explain, but now that I have this awareness, I will be paying a little closer attention to what I'm buying for the decorative beds.

I'm grateful for the opportunity to see this country.  I appreciate the effort the country is making around conservation messaging and found the buildings to be amazing.  It was incredibly hot there (94 degrees at 5am) and I learned from the citizens it has been getting hotter.  I worry about countries like this.  The sea around it is very polluted, the land has no real resources and the population continues to expand quickly.  I wonder what would happen if trade were blocked here.  I wonder why more is not being done to clean up the waters.  Trees on buildings are great but pretty much all of their rainforest they have cut down except for a tiny patch in the gardens and a bit of land on an outlying island.  I left there with mixed feelings.  Would I like to live there?  No.  They are far too cautious for this quirky and experimental American girl.  Did I think I was an interesting place to visit very different from the Usa and Europe?  Yes definitely.  It is a cool place for plant lovers to see?
Yes and no.  Its primarily urban cityscape but a day in the botanical gardens there is certainly something worth seeing if you are in the area.