East nest – still waiting

I just now (4:30 CDT) checked 10 of the 19 eggs (I didn’t dig through all of them) and none of them were pipped. The ducklings will “pip” the eggs – crack them slightly in one spot – about 24 hours before they hatch. Some sites say 24 to 48. So I’d estimate the earliest hatching day at this point as Thursday and jump day no sooner than Friday. It could be into the weekend.

Estimating the start of incubation is something of a guess: is she actually incubating (heating) the eggs, or just resting in the nest box? Then the incubation time also varies: it’s nominally 30 days but that’s plus or minus two or three. The east nest is apparently going to the plus side.

The ducks have stopped visiting the west nest box and there aren’t any eggs in there. One year we had two batches in both nest boxes: 70+ ducklings! But it looks like this year it will be one hatching for each.

Ready for east nest jump day

(A duck continues to rest in the now-empty west nest box for a while most mornings with the male in attendance outside. That is egg-laying behavior so we’re hoping for “round 2” in that nest. That has happened in the past but so far no eggs as of today.)

I set up the outdoor camera in its new enclosure (see the May 20 post) beneath the east nest box today. It is live already. I put it out ahead of the probable jump day – Monday plus-or-minus a day or a few – so the duck gets used to it and I figured might as well hook it up and turn it on. I was going to put it right down on the ground but the hostas have sprung up so I elevated it by a foot to give it a better view. Below are examples of the views that it has. (There are 4 images – if you see only one try scrolling the gallery sideways.) For now I’m leaving the camera turned to the creek so that if you take a look you might see a mallard or wood duck drifting by.

All of the cameras are linked from the birdsgv.com home page of course, but for convenience here are the same links for the East nest.

A camera blind

As you’ve probably seen, I’ve got video of the ducks inside the nest, and outside, and close-up as they jump from the door, and bouncing as they land. So I wanted some way to get a new angle when the East nest jump day arrives soon, sometime around Memorial Day. What I came up with was to try for a close, ground-level, ducks-eye-view of the hen and the ducklings.

The cameras that I use have pan and tilt functions so I can swivel them up and down and around to follow the ducks but if the camera was on the ground and close it would spook them as it moved, so how to hide it?

I made a camera blind from wood and a sheet of “neutral density” film. Neutral density is a term from photography, where it indicates that the film (or a filter) reduces the light without changing the color. I’m not trying to reduce the light, but because the film is very dark it will hide the camera and I can turn up the camera’s brightness to compensate so the image looks normal.

Although it still is a shiny foreign object (see pictures below) the ducks shouldn’t be able to see inside to where the camera is moving and I hope the hen will ignore it. To help with this I’ll put it out near the nest a few days before jump day and leave it there so she gets used to seeing it.

It has the advantage of being weather-proof whereas my old method for using one of my indoor cameras outside was a two-sided box with a roof. That was okay in the rain if it was soft and straight down, but not if there was some wind blowing the rain sideways.

The camera will be “live” on jump day for the east nest, and probably before that too. I’ll announce it here, of course. It will be a second camera just like the outdoor camera was a few days ago for the west nest. We’ll see. I hope it works!

The neutral density film was thin and flimsy so I had to add a thicker clear sheet too, on the outside. This image shows just the clear sheet installed – I had not yet fitted the neutral density film inside and thus you can see the camera. (I used photoshop to cut this image out of a cluttered background.)

Here it is with the neutral density film also installed. The camera is close to the front and the top is small to allow the camera to have a view when tilted up.

Video – West Nest Jump Day

So why yet another wood duck jump day video?

Well, this one has cute ducklings and interesting behavior … oh, wait, I guess they all have that. But it also has – a duckling with an eggshell stuck on his head – several Slo-Mo segments – a good story – improved editing (I hope) – and a nice ending.

(Nothing new at the East nest: the hen is diligently incubating 19 eggs. No new eggs have been dumped into that nest in the past couple of weeks. Other wood ducks are still around in the creek now and then, but I think the egg laying is done for the season.)

West nest Jump Day

16 wood duck ducklings and 1 merganser, in the middle.

17 little ducklings went out into the world this morning. There were 4 unhatched eggs and sadly two ducklings that hatched too late to go with the others.

The hen started calling for them to jump at 8:43 am and the last duckling left at 8:54. Mid-morning is a typical departure time but eleven minutes is longer than the usual time to empty the nest: sometimes 3 minutes is enough. The ducklings seemed hesitant and also a pair of wood ducks walked up close to the nest and the hen stopped calling for a few minutes. She threatened them with an open bill and some hisses. That added some drama because we weren’t sure what the other ducks would do or how the mother duck would respond. (When a similar thing occurred last year as shown in this video – which now has almost a half-million views on YouTube! – it was almost a disaster for the new duck family.) But this time she ended it by rushing at the other hen and making her back off.

Also unusual – something seen here just once before, again shown by that 2018 video linked above – is that she flew up to the nest box after she already had some ducklings with her on the ground and went back inside. She did that three times. Once she almost entered, but didn’t, and her flapping gave two ducklings perched in the doorway a jumping assist. The other two times she went back inside but then turned around and came right back out again. It looked like she was telling the little ones to “Get on with it! Here’s what you have to do and right now is when you should do it!”

I was thinking perhaps I wouldn’t make a video this time – how many variations of it can there be? – but I got some good footage while they were down in the creek so I’m going to do it. I’ll post it here when it’s done, of course.