A Hooded Merganser is intending to raise ducklings in the South nest box! In the past mergansers have often dumped eggs in a wood duck nest here (see: “dumping”) but that’s been just one or a few mixed in with many eggs from the wood ducks. But the South nest box has only merganser eggs in it, there now are 5 or 6 of them, and she’s spending a lot of time in there so I think she is claiming it as her own. There were 5 eggs this morning when I counted, but she was inside from about 2:30 until 5:00 this afternoon so I’m sure she added another one. This is exciting for us; we’ve never before watched a merganser raise a family here.
A wood duck continues to visit the East nest box each day and it now contains 6 eggs – top photo. Wood duck and hooded merganser eggs are similar but it is fairly easy to tell them apart if you see them side-by-side. Wood duck eggs are smaller, more oval, and have a tan or olive tint. The five hooded merganser eggs in the South nest box – bottom photo – are larger, rounder, and whiter (the two on the left look rosy because of light reflecting off the wood panel).
During the hours while the hooded merganser hen was in the nest box, laying an egg and resting, the male waited in the creek just below. Occasionally he went up or downstream a little ways, but he was always nearby. Viewed from directly above via the indirect light within the nest box, her subtle brown colors aren’t very visible.
Finally she covered the eggs with wood shavings, poked her head out to look around and flew down to the creek, landing with a big splash.
South nest camera – New!
Our neighbor across the creek has kindly allowed me to add a camera to his nest box. It is on the south side of the creek so I am calling it the South nest.
Both this year and last year we have watched a Hooded Merganser hen show an interest in the South nest box. She never stayed. But this past week we have seen the merganser couple about every other day. As usual for mergansers or wood ducks, the male waits outside when the female is in the nest so that’s a good clue that we should check the camera. Now, we can do that.
As of today there are 4 hooded merganser eggs in the South nest!
On the main page there’s a new button that takes you to the live view from the new South nest camera (and also links to the other two nest box cameras of course). For now, you’ll be lucky to see anything except wood shavings in the East and South nests: the ducks do visit for a while each day, sometimes for just a few minutes or sometimes more than an hour, but during most of the day the nest box is empty. That will continue until finally one duck decides it’s time to start incubating.
East and West nest update
A Wood Duck has been visiting the East nest nearly every day and has now provided 4 eggs. We hope she keeps on doing that. The West nest continues as it has been, with the resident hen diligently incubating 10 eggs that are due to hatch sometime around the end of this month. If you check the West nest camera you’ll usually see her there. She has been leaving for only about a half hour twice per day.
Wood ducks have visited several times in the last few days. On the 15th a hen was in the west nest box for many minutes, checking it out. I’ve created a video of her, digging, wiggling, investigating, spinning around, pretending to cover up eggs.
She did not lay an egg. It would be surprisingly early if she had done that. During the next week or two the hens typically are just investigating possible nest sites.
Here’s a link to the video:
The nest boxes are set up now and the cameras are back online. Go to the main birdsgv.com page for links to the cameras. HOWEVER: during the next couple of weeks you’ll be lucky to see anything other than wood shavings at the bottom of an empty nest box.
That’s because the ducks visit very briefly at this time of year. A hen will go in and toss the wood chips around with beak and feet, sit and wiggle, turn a bit, sit and wiggle, but then after a few minutes she’s gone. They’re just shopping, kind of like what you might do if you went to the auto show and tried sitting in some cars. Later when the ducks start laying they also aren’t in the nest box very long: maybe 10 minutes to a half hour typically; sometimes longer and occasionally a duck will rest in the nest overnight although she isn’t incubating. After all eggs have been laid and one hen starts actual incubation you can count on seeing the duck in the nest for about 20 hours on every day.
Your best time to check right now is in the morning. Not at dawn – not real early. They wait for full daylight before moving around because they are in the middle of the food chain and want to easily see any creatures that might eat them!