Lots of ducks

The wood ducks are finally here in larger numbers today. There were 9 this morning: 1 in the west nest and 4 pairs in the yard. They were house hunting …

… but so far we haven’t seen any wood ducks inside the west nest except the hen who clearly has claimed this place as her own.

The west nest duck has visited nearly every day, staying for longer and longer each day. She had nine eggs early this afternoon and I think today she has started to incubate! She’s been plucking down for a couple of days, was on the nest most of the day today, the eggs were warm when I checked them, and she is there right now (7:30pm) as it’s getting dark. If she stays, this would be the first day of incubation and jump day would be approximately April 28th.

Both nests were occupied for a little while on the morning of March 30th, as shown by this screen shot of a phone app image. As of today there is one egg in the east nest (top) and nine (maybe 10?) are in the west: the bottom picture is the hen who has claimed the west nest box.

Other visitors:

A pair of hooded mergansers has been in the creek a couple of times with the male doing his mating display and then both doing what comes after that too. The female hooded merganser was in the west nest a few days ago (while it was empty) but she only stayed for a few minutes and did not leave an egg.

We also saw a very odd duck in the creek: furry instead of feathered, with a long rat-like tail, and swimming down in the water instead of floating on top:

It’s a muskrat – look at how the water beads up on his fur. (3 images)

Finally, here is a link to an animated GIF (40MB) made from a series of 20 images taken on March 28th. It shows a duck flying from the roof of the east nest down into the doorway. If you’ve wondered how they can possibly transition from flying with wings spread to diving into that small opening, have a look.

Daily visits, 4 eggs

The wood duck using the west nest box has been visiting for about an hour at a time to lay eggs. As of this morning there are four. If you want to try to catch her on the live camera, here are the approximate times she has been in the nest: March 22 – 7:00 to 8:00; March 23 – 7:30 to 9:00; March 24 – 11:30 to 12:30; March 25 – no visit; March 26 – 7:00 to 8:30

A pair of hooded mergansers were in the creek two days ago. They were fun to watch – so beautiful. I didn’t get a picture this time but here’s one from two years ago:

Hooded Mergansers (April 2017)

Mallards are here every day but we have seen few wood ducks. Some years there have been a dozen in the yard at a time but so far we’ve seen only the one that is using the west nest and, more than a week ago, her mate was with her too. He hasn’t been here lately. There’s been no activity at all in the East nest. But it’s still early and kind of cold so they’re probably waiting for warmer weather here.

The west nest wood duck leaving at 12:30 two days ago.

Egg #1

The ducks haven’t been around much in the last few days. It’s been cold. But this morning one was in the West nest box from 7:05 until 7:40 and she laid the first egg. Good news! If she continues we’ll have baby wood ducks about 6 weeks from now.

From the camera this morning at 7:35

She’s blurry in the photo because this is a frame grab from the camera’s video and she was moving, covering up and getting ready to leave. This is the best frame that shows why she was doing that. Also it was too early and cloudy for good daylight so the camera was still using its infrared lights to illuminate the nest and therefore it’s in black and white rather than color.

House Hunting

Wood ducks have visited several times in the last few days. On the 15th a hen was in the west nest box for many minutes, checking it out. I’ve created a video of her, digging, wiggling, investigating, spinning around, pretending to cover up eggs.

She did not lay an egg. It would be surprisingly early if she had done that. During the next week or two the hens typically are just investigating possible nest sites.

Here’s a link to the video:

3 minutes

Nests and Cameras are ready

The nest boxes are set up now and the cameras are back online. Go to the main birdsgv.com page for links to the cameras. HOWEVER: during the next couple of weeks you’ll be lucky to see anything other than wood shavings at the bottom of an empty nest box.

That’s because the ducks visit very briefly at this time of year. A hen will go in and toss the wood chips around with beak and feet, sit and wiggle, turn a bit, sit and wiggle, but then after a few minutes she’s gone. They’re just shopping, kind of like what you might do if you went to the auto show and tried sitting in some cars. Later when the ducks start laying they also aren’t in the nest box very long: maybe 10 minutes to a half hour typically; sometimes longer and occasionally a duck will rest in the nest overnight although she isn’t incubating. After all eggs have been laid and one hen starts actual incubation you can count on seeing the duck in the nest for about 20 hours on every day.

Your best time to check right now is in the morning. Not at dawn – not real early. They wait for full daylight before moving around because they are in the middle of the food chain and want to easily see any creatures that might eat them!

They’re Back!

Today for the first time we heard a few of the distinctive plaintive calls that are so easy to recognize – here’s an audio clip – and when we looked out the window we saw a pair of wood ducks in the back yard! The hen was on top of the low electrical box that provides camera power (yellow arrow), looking up at the bare post (blue arrow) where the nest box goes. It looked like she was wondering “WHERE is my Nest!?” I wish I’d captured that shot but by the time I had the camera they were walking away. They flew off but then came back into the yard again a few minutes later.

I’ll get the nest boxes set up today and the cameras will be online again too, very soon. I’ll let you know.