Merganser incubation and photos

There is news and I have a few pictures to share … and they are NOT pictures of eggs.

The merganser hen in the South nest box has now started incubating. She was in the nest overnight and for most of today, and when I checked today while she was out there were 11 eggs and they were warm. So incubation has started and merganser ducklings should hatch somewhere around May 17th.

Today two hooded merganser males were chasing a female up and down the creek (a different female than the one in the South nest). She flew off but the guys stayed and hung around together. I quietly stalked them with my camera and got close enough for some pictures. Such beautiful creatures!

(Photos test)

Sorry to clutter your inbox, but once again pictures that looked fine when I created the previous post (and I did set their size to “large”) came through as ridiculously tiny images via email. I need to test this, so here they are again, this time using another technique.

Photos taken today.

10 cool hooded merganser eggs
18 wood duck eggs, and a thick blanket of down that I briefly moved aside.

Ducklings about May 16th!

West nest – Incubation started yesterday. 18 wood duck eggs.
South nest – Incubation will start soon but hasn’t yet. 10 (maybe 11) hooded merganser eggs.
>> If you go to the web page, you can now usually see the birds via the live cameras rather than empty nest boxes.

West nest

The wood duck hen was on the nest for most of yesterday, all night, and most of today. She left for supper for a couple of hours but is back. When I checked this afternoon the eggs were toasty warm so she has started to incubate. That means ducklings should hatch sometime around May 16th plus or minus a few days.

She has 18 eggs. That count really jumped up recently.

  • 9 eggs on 4/13
  • 14 eggs on the morning of 4/15 – 5 more in just two days
  • 18 eggs this afternoon – 4 more in about 30 hours

One hen will lay about 1 egg per day, so clearly more than one hen has been laying. Here once again is the link to more information about that odd behavior.

South nest

The hooded merganser has been on the nest for several hours each day, adding an egg each time except when she skips a day. Last night she stayed overnight for the first time and she is there now so it looks like she’ll stay overnight again. However when I checked this afternoon all of her 10 eggs were very cool so incubation had not yet started; that is, last night “didn’t count”. Even though she was in there to sleep she did not warm the eggs. Also the male hooded merganser was hanging around in the creek this evening too, so he’s still thinking (or hoping?) that she is laying rather than starting to incubate. I doubt that his opinion matters much. She’s added significant amounts of down to the wood shavings so she’ll start soon, maybe tonight. (It will be interesting if both the wood duck and merganser nests hatch on the same day and the ducklings all jump on the same morning. It could happen.)

East nest

Even the brief check-it-out visits by wood ducks have stopped at the east nest. Nothing at all has happened there during the past 4 days. This is odd. Often in the past the east nest was active before the west.

Today’s photos

I don’t know … have I ever put duck egg photos into this blog in the past? … maybe? But in any case they are such unusual and fascinating photos, right?! Well, okay. Here are two pictures taken today anyway.

Redoubled Double Ducks

Two ducks were together in the west nest box again today. I made a new, 2 minute video about them. (For email subscribers: here’s a link to the video at YouTube, in case it doesn’t show up for you within this message. )

Once again two ducks were peacefully, even affectionately, together in the west nest box today for about a half hour.

The west nest hen has started to feather her nest. This means she’s getting ready to incubate fairly soon. There are 9 eggs under there.

Finally, for those who have subscribed and receive postings via email: Yesterday’s post had very tiny photos in it as shown by some email programs where it was difficult to enlarge them. My apology – I’ll try not to do that again. If you want to see larger photos, here is a link to yesterday’s posting at the web site.

Double Double Ducks

Yesterday two ducks were together in each of the two of the nest boxes, east and west. It isn’t unusual for two or more ducks to lay eggs in the same nest (for more about this, here’s a link) and sometimes they do that even when the other duck is there. In that case it is common for a battle of hissing and neck biting and shaking to occur as one tries to make the other one leave.

The resident hen (the one who has claimed the nest and perhaps is already incubating) does almost all of the biting and fighting. The invader who wants to leave an egg usually tries to just stay on top of the resident and even pin her down for a while, to avoid her bite-y part I think. The resident stays low to keep her nest-claiming advantage. The fight can look fierce; however I’ve never seen blood or injury, nor even many feathers pulled out. Here are two videos that I made in 2019 that show this: .

  • “Invasion Video – 4/18/2019” – 90 seconds: from both inside and outside of the nest box
  • Wood duck MMA” – 7 minutes: the longest battle I’ve seen. It ends with the invader leaving an egg despite being continually harassed by the resident hen. Then she leaves and the resident hen pulls the other duck’s egg into the clutch.

Once in a while they don’t fight but settle down together for a while. What was unusual yesterday when the pair in the west nest did that is they were so VERY still: not even a blink, for many minutes. I thought the camera had frozen until careful watching revealed slight motion: mostly just dust particles drifting along with a tiny bit of breathing motion from the ducks. They stayed that way, absolutely still in the pose shown by the first photo below, for many minutes.

There are now 8 merganser eggs in the south nest and also 8 wood duck eggs in the west nest where the two wood ducks were so still yesterday. Two were in the west nest together once again today for just a few minutes; probably the same two (I wish they had name tags). It’s likely that both have contributed to the 8 wood duck eggs. There still are no eggs in the east nest. (Note: if you happened to look for the east camera yesterday evening and today, it was offline and reported as “not broadcasting” because I pulled it out to try to improve it. Its focus seemed a bit soft so I changed the camera’s “reading glasses” (see this link) to a different prescription.

Probably more for my records – I’ve never actually kept track before – rather than your interest, here is a table that adds to the one in the previous posting:

DateEast (wood ducks)West (wood ducks)South (merganser)
Friday 4/98:10 – 4 minutes6:33 – 40 minutes
8:27 – 35 minutes
3:00 PM – 90 minutes
Saturday 4/107:29 – 3 minutes6:30 – 45 minutes
8:28 – 4 minutes
8:54 – 30 minutes
10:04 – wood duck – 5 minutes
Sunday 4/118:43 – 6 minutes
8:44 – 2 minutes
Two ducks together
6:15 – 75 minutes
6:45 – 23 minutes
Two ducks together
8:55 – 8 minutes
6:17 – 2 hours + 50 minutes
Monday 4/12— camera offline6:36 – 1 hour + 50minutes
7:43 – 12 minutes
Two ducks together
2:50 – 3 hours + 15 minutes