Lots of little mergansers

It looks like the entire merganser family is out of their shells and I’ve seen at least one wood duck duckling that hatched. They will jump from the nest box tomorrow, probably in the morning … although … they hatched kind of late today so that might mean a bit later tomorrow morning, or … early afternoon?, … or ? Only momma duck knows, and she hasn’t decided yet.

Outside camera: The camera that is shown on the cameras page right now that is called “Outside” will be pointed at the nest box around dawn tomorrow. I’m not setting it up sooner because it will be battery powered on the other side of the creek, and it might run low if I left it on battery all night.

Try the two camera view tomorrow: it will let you see both inside and outside at the same time. You get that view using the button that looks like this:
The center green bar on the page is movable to resize the two sides.

What to expect: Here again is that page that explains what probably will happen tomorrow.

If one of the cameras drops out be assured that I’m monitoring the same stream that you see, so I’ll know. If you’ve been watching steadily today you will have seen a couple of 4 minute interruptions (one just a few minutes ago) as I reconfigured a few things.

East nest: I checked this evening and all of the eggs are smooth and unbroken. It will be a day or two before they hatch, but they’re due anytime now.

The south nest box at 5:30 today. The little duckling with white around his eyes is a wood duck. The one that is facing it is a merganser duckling: they have bushy “hair” which resembles the crest they have as adults.

South nest hatching soon

When I checked the south nest this morning the eggs were slightly (and some, significantly) broken by the ducklings inside. This “pipping” of the eggs precedes hatching by 24 to 48 hours, but it started on some of the eggs yesterday.

When I picked up the one on the left in the photo below I could see the duckling moving a bit and it greeted me with soft peep-peep sounds. This nest has 12 hooded merganser eggs and 3 wood duck eggs. One of the wood duck eggs was added late and will not hatch with the others.

My best guess (which historically has been more “guess” than “best”) is they will hatch late today or probably overnight, spend tomorrow and tomorrow night in the nest box, and jump on Friday morning.

I haven’t checked the east nest yet today but I think it’s a day or maybe two behind the south nest. I hope so. It’s easier to provide jump day camera coverage with just one at a time.

Live cameras are at the web site as usual: https://birdsgv.com

I’ve created a new “what to expect” page about Jump Day.

Robin Two & Ducks

In the post below:

  • A new robin’s nest camera is online.
  • A report on the east (wood duck) and south (hooded merganser) nest boxes.
  • A video of the hooded merganser vigorously repelling an invading duck, and settling in afterwards

Robin Two

There is another robin’s nest here and I’ve added a live stream camera that you will now find at the birdsgv.com web site. Incubation started a few days ago so the chicks should hatch sometime around May 29th. We hope this nest has better luck with the crows than the last one (a week ago a crow took 4 robins chicks and I posted about these robins several times if you look back in the blog). This new nest is in a more secure place, within a tight group of branches of a very small tree; it might be hard for a larger bird to get in there.

If you check the camera at night it can be kind of interesting to see how a bird sleeps (she’s also awake sometimes). At night the nest is illuminated by infrared light which the camera shows as a gray-scale image. Like us, birds cannot see infrared light; they think it’s dark.

The robin has 3 eggs.
The robin’s nest is in the heart of the small tree in the foreground. The tripod is supporting the camera.

Nest box report

Both the east and south nests are due to hatch any day soon. But this afternoon none of the eggs were pipped yet. A pipped egg has a tiny chip – a small broken place – that the ducklings create 24 to 48 hours before they hatch. It lets air in. As the hatching date gets near I try to catch the time when the ducks are away from the nest each day, so that I can check the eggs and give early warning of when they will hatch. So far, all eggs are intact so hatching is a one or two days away, at least.

  • East nest – Wood duck – 21 wood duck eggs and 1 hooded merganser egg. I recently removed 3 undeveloped wood duck eggs.
  • South nest – Hooded Merganser – 12 merganser eggs and 3 wood duck eggs
  • West nest – only dumped eggs are here, no incubation and the eggs are getting old. I candled them (shined a bright light through them) and the yolks are essentially dissolved in some of them. I removed three because they were cracked and leaking.

Merganser Invader Video

Today a hooded merganser invaded the south nest box, probably hoping to leave an egg. However the resident duck vigorously repelled the invader in a battle that took only a minute. Afterwards she did the usual housekeeping tasks: turning and rearranging the eggs to make sure they all are kept warm, and snuggling in.

Here’s a video of the invasion and settling in afterwards (2 minutes).

Robins are gone

I’m sorry to report that today a crow took the three remaining robin chicks. After it discovered the nest location yesterday and took the first of the four, it was predictable that it would return for the others since it is a guaranteed easy meal for a growing crow family. A crow came three times today about an hour apart between 11:00 and 1:00 pm, taking one robin chick each time.

This is sad and is hard to be with when you have formed a small (or large) attachment to watching the parents care for the eggs and feeding their chicks so diligently, and watching the young birds grow up.

Crows and other avian predators carefully observe the behavior of adult birds to help them locate a nest. Yesterday I was outside and saw one of the parent robins return with a beakful of bugs. It landed on the lawn and it hopped around as if hunting: a few hops one way, then a pause, then a few hops in a different direction. It repeated this in a way that looked random until it was just below the nest and in the bushes, then it quickly flew straight up to the nest. It was instinctively trying to minimize the behavior that would tell a watching crow, cooper’s hawk, or sharp shinned hawk where the nest was. But even if careful, the adults still must visit the nest many times per day and the predators are good at what they do too.

After the last one was taken, the parent robins returned several times each, bringing bugs. They would look at the empty nest for 10 seconds or so, then eat what they had brought and fly away. In the past couple of hours they have not been back.

Robins raise 2 or 3 broods per year. This pair will start again. We wish them good luck.