11 Mergansers, 16 Wood ducks

The hooded merganser family left their nest box at 7:15 this morning, and the wood ducks jumped at about 9:00. I hope the cameras worked well for those of you who watched. The rain sometimes interfered with the wifi signals from the South nest area causing those to be slow, and “Buffering” was sometimes shown rather than live video. I have ideas for signal improvements for next time.

There was one unhatched egg in each nest. (The wood duck started out with 18, but I removed one infertile egg about a week ago.) Here are a couple of pictures taken just a few minutes after they left their nest boxes.

The hooded merganser hen and her 11. Baby hooded mergansers have very bushy head feathers (just like mom).
The wood duck with 16 ducklings. (One is completely hidden behind her in this photo. You can see 15: two barely have the tops of their heads visible above her tail and in the second row behind her there are 4 that look at first like just 3.)

Just minutes after the mergansers left, another hooded merganser hen was in the nest box checking it out! She’s been hanging around for the past several days. It’s quite possible that there will be another round of nesting and ducklings. One recent year we had two batches in each of two nest boxes – lots of baby ducks. For now, I’ve shut off the streaming service for the now-empty nest boxes but if any activity starts up again I will put the cameras back online for you.

We’re still mourning the loss of the cardinal chicks. One moment they were getting so much bigger and starting to feather out, with a nearly constant tag-team of visits of the parents bringing more and more food – fun to watch – and then, in a 1 second blur: gone! The raptor took them both in one grab.

I pretty sure that it was an American Kestrel, also known as a Sparrow Hawk. At first I mentioned a Cooper’s hawk but Kestrels eat birds too, and a Cooper’s hawk is much bigger than what we saw. I should have a camera recording of the event and will review it soon. Also, I was intending to make a video about the cardinals but it certainly would now have a sad ending for them. Yet a happy one for the predator, I guess. When we’ve watched an owl nest camera it’s been interesting to see the parent bring in a meal yet we’ve also watched cameras where owls take osprey chicks. It really is eat-and-be-eaten out there in the natural world.

It’s that way for ducks too. One reason they have ducklings in such large numbers is that they are on the menu for so many other creatures, gulls, hawks, foxes, coyotes, northerns, bass, snapping turtles, and more. A duck has done well if just a few of her offspring reach adulthood. So: Good luck little ducks! (You’ll need some.)

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