East 10

At least two ducks continue to visit the east nest box every morning and there were 10 eggs in there this morning. One of the hens is quiet and the other one (“Chirpy”) clucks continually – it’s a very noticeable difference. I think they’re both laying eggs. I’ve posted videos recently (Apr 4 and Apr 18) of an incubating hen vigorously defending her nest from an intruder but sometimes two will share a nest peacefully. These two were together for about 20 minutes before one of them left. No drama, just sitting together.

Incubation here will begin in a week or so but has not started yet. We know that because the nest box is empty except for an hour or so in the morning and occasionally for a little while in the afternoon. Until the eggs are kept continually warm they are dormant and do not begin to develop. This is why they hatch within hours of each other even though some were laid a couple of weeks before the others.

31!

There are now 31 eggs in the west nest box. 23 are visible in this picture but there are 9 more underneath. It’s likely that even more will be added since more than one duck barges in each morning and often leaves another egg after putting up with a lot of neck biting and shaking and squawks from the resident hen. The all-time record in our nest boxes is 31 eggs (25 of them hatched) so that record will be broken. The eggs are a couple of layers deep and that makes the incubating hen’s job more difficult.

Ducks are visiting the east nest too, but there are still only 3 eggs in there.

Invasion Video

Today I recorded from both inside and outside the nest box as a hen tried to invade the nest of the incubating duck. She again provided strong resistance and I think the invader left without leaving an egg. Any egg that was laid at this time would not hatch with the others since it would need at least 4 weeks of incubation and the others are due to hatch in about 2 to 3 weeks.

The egg count has gone up. It was 20 on April 10th just after incubation began and yesterday, the 17th, the count was 26. There’s still just one hooded merganser egg. The other 25 are wood duck eggs. I don’t think an incubating duck will lay more eggs; that is, I think she starts incubation only when she’s all done laying. Thus the additional eggs (and quite of few of the original 20) are from other ducks like the one that tried today.

I edited the video to show what was happening both inside and outside at the same time. All of the audio is from the camera inside the nest. The outside video was taken with my regular camera on a tripod in the dining room.

East – 1 egg

Finally, some small progress in the East nest box. Ducks have been going in each morning and sometimes in the afternoon, however they have just kicked the wood chips around for a few minutes and then left. But yesterday one of them provided an egg.

In past years the east nest box has been popular, there are still several pairs of wood ducks visiting the yard each day, and there was snow on the ground up until a few days ago so it’s still kind of early. Hopefully one of the ducks will nest there.

20 eggs

The west nest box was empty when I checked a few minutes ago and I was able to get a count. The duck actually left without covering the eggs. When I checked the camera playback to see why, she was sleeping and then she opened her eyes wide and sat for about 1 second, then jumped for the door and left. Something startled her but I could detect nothing unusual. It was quiet (there was a good sound recording) and nothing visible that seemed abnormal.

There are 20 eggs. 19 of them are wood duck eggs but one is a hooded merganser egg: it is slightly larger, rounder, and whiter than the wood duck eggs. For the photo below I put it in the center, on top of the others.

She’ll come back fairly soon. It’s not unusual for a duck to leave suddenly when startled and they typically don’t stay away for very long. Also ducks don’t have much sense of smell and are not disturbed by my counting and slight rearranging as long as I put things back the way I found them … except in this case I covered the eggs with the down blanket when I was done counting and taking a picture, more or less as she would have done if she had left normally.