Newly named residents of Arb pond have dramatic history

by | Apr 21, 2017 | Headlines, Life, North

Sarah Watson
Life Reporter

A pair of ducks has taken up residence in the pond next to the Centre for Urban Ecology in the Humber Arboretum a few weeks ago have been named Waddlesworth and Quackmire.

Humber Arboretum held a vote on its social media for people to vote on potential names.

Both water fowl have an unusual appearance, and it is still a bit of a mystery just what kind of ducks have moved in. Marilyn Campbell, the communications assistant for the North campus Centre for Urban Ecology, has been avidly watching the pair since they arrived at the end of March. She suspects they are Bibbed mallards, a domesticated breed, or potentially a hybrid.

“What would be unusual though is for two similar looking hybrids to find each other and form a couple,” said Campbell.

Chris Wedeles, a wildlife biologist at ArborVitae Environmental Services, took a look at some photos of the ducks, and agreed that the pair are unusual.

“I believe they are mallard hybrids probably hybridized with barnyard ducks,” said Wedeles.

But even the odd duck relationships aren’t without their problems.

“The male had been vigorously defending the pond, chasing out any other ducks that landed in it,” said Campbell. “He’s smaller than a regular mallard, so it was impressive to watch.”

Then, last Saturday, a wild male mallard persisted in trying to get near the female at the pond.

“There was a lot of quacking and wing-flapping as the two males would actually fight in short bursts,” said Campbell.

When Campbell got back to campus on Monday, she feared the ducks had separated for good. She saw the female alone, who soon disappeared. Later the small mallard was back in the pond by himself, periodically calling out a sad quack.

But by Tuesday afternoon, the pair had reconciled, and were seen together, swimming in the pond.

“Frankly, it’s still quite possible that the larger, wild male mallard was able to mate with her but didn’t actually break up the pair,” said Campbell. “It seems like they’re planning on nesting in the pond, so we’ll have to wait and see if they successfully hatch chicks, just what those chicks end up looking like.”

These ducks aren’t the only wildlife that Humber staff and students have been privy to in the Arboretum.

Jimmy Vincent, the coordinator for education, camps and community outreach at the nature conservancy, said last year he filmed a beaver dislodging a stuck tree from just ten feet away.

“He was pulling on a stick, it got stuck, went back and forth, back and forth, then he finally found the branch that got stuck, chewed the branch off, and pulled the tree away,” Vincent said. He added he felt like he was working for National Geographic.

Others have seen sunbathing turtles, grazing deer or waddling skunks while certain animals, like the ducks, make themselves more well known.

“One of the joys of spending a lot of time in one outdoor location is that you have the chance to get to know the wildlife as individuals,” said Campbell. “These two make it easy because they look so distinct.”

Campbell said that as much as they feel like they get to know the ducks, and enjoy having them around, it’s important to remember that they are still wild animals who could leave at any time.

“But we’ll enjoy their company while we have it and we hope Arboretum visitors get the chance to enjoy them as well,” said Campbell.