New Video and 8 New Ducklings

On June 8th the East nest ducklings jumped from the nest box at about 8:45. There were 9 eggs, 1 of them did not develop and did not hatch, 7 ducklings went away with momma duck, and 1 duckling went away with me to the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Minnesota.

The duckling that went with me was a day late and did not hatch with the others; that is, when the 7 left there were 2 un-hatched eggs. But when I opened the side door on the nest box to clean it out the next morning, there was this new little duckling looking back at me. I closed the door, went to get Barbara, and without telling her what she would see asked her to open it and look in. I took video and pictures to record this and also the little duckling’s trip to the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center. I combined this with other video (from other nests and other years) to create a new movie. I’m pleased with it; it is called:

Little Woodie’s First Day – A children’s story for the child in all of us

Below are three still images from the video and the video itself. (And here’s another link to the video that takes you to YouTube’s site.) Enjoy!


The nesting season is done for this year. On May 19th we watched 11 hooded mergansers at the south nest and also 16 wood ducks at the west nest, both jumping on the same morning: the streaming service reported 300 views. And then a few days ago 7 wood duck ducklings from the east nest plus the bonus duckling the next morning. It was fun. Good luck little ducks!

There will be two more postings to this blog about videos that I’m working on: 1) I’m almost done with a video about the cardinals. I previously posted video about them but this one has additional footage and editing showing their development over the 10 days of their very short lives, and 2) a video with the working title “Attack of the Goblin!” … what is it? Well, it is coming soon.


A cute little surprise in the East nest box
On the way to the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Roseville MN
Little Woodie arriving at a temporary new home.

Cameras are ready

Six ducklings!
The East nest hen went out for supper so there was a clear view of the ducklings. Six have hatched (yay!) and, as expected, there are three unhatched eggs. They will jump from the nest box tomorrow, typically in the morning sometime between 7am and 11am.

The six ducklings at about 6:00 pm (Note: This camera is not working at 100%; it seems to have resolution issues with color images but it will have to do until next time; I can’t replace it now.)

Three cameras:
I have set up two outside cameras. One is in front of the nest box and the other is just down the bank from there with a view of the creek. Both are active now if you use the “Live Cameras” button at the birdsgv.com site. (If you are already watching and don’t see the new cameras use your browsers “Reload” function.)

What to expect tomorrow:

The hen will sometimes leave early for a last breakfast without ducklings to watch. If so she’ll come back in a half hour or so. The ducklings will alternate between periods of activity – climbing and jumping practice – and resting.

When the hen decides it might be time to go, she will jump up into the doorway. She will watch for a while, sometimes many minutes, looking for predators that would harm her ducklings. Once in a while she will look just one time and then go, but often she will not be ready on the first look and will drop back into the nest box to rest for a while longer. Sometimes this repeats many times. When she finally decides everything is okay she will drop down below the nest and start to call the ducklings. Her sound is a soft pulsing call, the same sound that she has been using in the nest box. The ducklings are activated by this call and begin to peep loudly, and to jump and climb up to the doorway. They jump from there down to the ground. It doesn’t hurt them. They will gather around the hen and she will continue to call as long as she still hears loud peeping from the nest box. When all of the ducklings are out, she will lead them down into the creek bank. Sometimes they will rest there out of sight. Often she will take them into the creek and they will move on.

Usually it takes only a minute or two between when she starts calling and when the nest is empty.

Sounds from inside the egg

The east nest hen left for a while at about 4:00 today and we went out to check the eggs. Six of the nine are pipped (slightly broken in one place) and they are hatching. One already has a tiny piece of eggshell missing. The hen has been “talking” to the ducklings all day, and they talk back … from inside their eggs! They pip the eggshell to let air come in and they actually start to breath and chirp while still inside.

I held the egg with the tiny missing piece up against the microphone on my cell phone and turned on its audio recorder. It not only captured the sound of the little duck pecking away inside, but also recorded a chirp. Here’s the recording:

This egg is pipped. The duckling inside has tapped the shell with its “egg tooth”, a temporary sharp point at the tip of its little bill. After staying like this for a day or so, it again starts to peck as it very slowly twists its body around by pushing against inside of the egg with wings and feet, until it is cracked all of the way around and the shell breaks open.

East nest hatching soon (Saturday)

Status:
When I checked the eggs in the East nest this evening two of them were pipped, that is, broken slightly by the duckling inside. This occurs 24 to 48 hours before they hatch. Since it might have started earlier today my guess is that they will hatch tomorrow … for some definition of “tomorrow”: maybe during the day, maybe overnight tomorrow. This means that jump day is either Sunday or Monday morning. The young ducklings need about 20 hours in the nest box before they’re strong enough to go.

The first couple of eggs were put into the nest weeks before she started to incubate, perhaps by another duck. The hen occupying the nest laid only four or maybe five (typically it’s about a dozen) and when she started incubation there were 7. There are now 9 eggs in the nest but two of them didn’t show up until a week after she started incubating, again this is most likely due to some other duck putting eggs into this nest box. (For more about this odd behavior, see this section of my Ducks Info page.)

So I don’t know how many will hatch: at least two, maybe five, or more? In any case this will be an atypically small family of wood ducks.

Late ducklings:
Sometimes, and it’s somewhat likely this this time, a duckling will hatch many hours after the others and is not developed enough to leave when the rest go off with the hen (and never return). (Here is a page of information about late ducklings.) The Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Minnesota will take orphaned ducklings although they will not take unhatched eggs.

Cameras:
As usual I’ll add an outside camera so that you can watch them leave the nest from both inside and outside the nest box. When that camera is online, it will be shown as is the current inside camera on the new multi-camera page that is linked at birdsgv.com

Other nest boxes:
We have not seen any activity in the other two nest boxes, West and South, since the ducklings left from those on May 19th. Sometimes we have had a second nesting where two families use the same nest box, but not this year. Once the East nest has jumped the ducks will be all done for this year. However I still have a couple of things to post: I have two new videos in-progress and will provide those soon.

The 9 eggs in the east nest when the hen left for supper this evening. She had time to cover them but chose to leave them exposed. It’s hot outside and they will stay warm enough without the usual down blanket cover.

11 Mergansers, 16 Wood ducks

The hooded merganser family left their nest box at 7:15 this morning, and the wood ducks jumped at about 9:00. I hope the cameras worked well for those of you who watched. The rain sometimes interfered with the wifi signals from the South nest area causing those to be slow, and “Buffering” was sometimes shown rather than live video. I have ideas for signal improvements for next time.

There was one unhatched egg in each nest. (The wood duck started out with 18, but I removed one infertile egg about a week ago.) Here are a couple of pictures taken just a few minutes after they left their nest boxes.

The hooded merganser hen and her 11. Baby hooded mergansers have very bushy head feathers (just like mom).
The wood duck with 16 ducklings. (One is completely hidden behind her in this photo. You can see 15: two barely have the tops of their heads visible above her tail and in the second row behind her there are 4 that look at first like just 3.)

Just minutes after the mergansers left, another hooded merganser hen was in the nest box checking it out! She’s been hanging around for the past several days. It’s quite possible that there will be another round of nesting and ducklings. One recent year we had two batches in each of two nest boxes – lots of baby ducks. For now, I’ve shut off the streaming service for the now-empty nest boxes but if any activity starts up again I will put the cameras back online for you.

We’re still mourning the loss of the cardinal chicks. One moment they were getting so much bigger and starting to feather out, with a nearly constant tag-team of visits of the parents bringing more and more food – fun to watch – and then, in a 1 second blur: gone! The raptor took them both in one grab.

I pretty sure that it was an American Kestrel, also known as a Sparrow Hawk. At first I mentioned a Cooper’s hawk but Kestrels eat birds too, and a Cooper’s hawk is much bigger than what we saw. I should have a camera recording of the event and will review it soon. Also, I was intending to make a video about the cardinals but it certainly would now have a sad ending for them. Yet a happy one for the predator, I guess. When we’ve watched an owl nest camera it’s been interesting to see the parent bring in a meal yet we’ve also watched cameras where owls take osprey chicks. It really is eat-and-be-eaten out there in the natural world.

It’s that way for ducks too. One reason they have ducklings in such large numbers is that they are on the menu for so many other creatures, gulls, hawks, foxes, coyotes, northerns, bass, snapping turtles, and more. A duck has done well if just a few of her offspring reach adulthood. So: Good luck little ducks! (You’ll need some.)