Lots of ducks

The wood ducks are finally here in larger numbers today. There were 9 this morning: 1 in the west nest and 4 pairs in the yard. They were house hunting …

… but so far we haven’t seen any wood ducks inside the west nest except the hen who clearly has claimed this place as her own.

The west nest duck has visited nearly every day, staying for longer and longer each day. She had nine eggs early this afternoon and I think today she has started to incubate! She’s been plucking down for a couple of days, was on the nest most of the day today, the eggs were warm when I checked them, and she is there right now (7:30pm) as it’s getting dark. If she stays, this would be the first day of incubation and jump day would be approximately April 28th.

Both nests were occupied for a little while on the morning of March 30th, as shown by this screen shot of a phone app image. As of today there is one egg in the east nest (top) and nine (maybe 10?) are in the west: the bottom picture is the hen who has claimed the west nest box.


Other visitors:

A pair of hooded mergansers has been in the creek a couple of times with the male doing his mating display and then both doing what comes after that too. The female hooded merganser was in the west nest a few days ago (while it was empty) but she only stayed for a few minutes and did not leave an egg.

We also saw a very odd duck in the creek: furry instead of feathered, with a long rat-like tail, and swimming down in the water instead of floating on top:

It’s a muskrat – look at how the water beads up on his fur. (3 images)

Finally, here is a link to an animated GIF (40MB) made from a series of 20 images taken on March 28th. It shows a duck flying from the roof of the east nest down into the doorway. If you’ve wondered how they can possibly transition from flying with wings spread to diving into that small opening, have a look.

Daily visits, 4 eggs

The wood duck using the west nest box has been visiting for about an hour at a time to lay eggs. As of this morning there are four. If you want to try to catch her on the live camera, here are the approximate times she has been in the nest: March 22 – 7:00 to 8:00; March 23 – 7:30 to 9:00; March 24 – 11:30 to 12:30; March 25 – no visit; March 26 – 7:00 to 8:30

A pair of hooded mergansers were in the creek two days ago. They were fun to watch – so beautiful. I didn’t get a picture this time but here’s one from two years ago:

Hooded Mergansers (April 2017)

Mallards are here every day but we have seen few wood ducks. Some years there have been a dozen in the yard at a time but so far we’ve seen only the one that is using the west nest and, more than a week ago, her mate was with her too. He hasn’t been here lately. There’s been no activity at all in the East nest. But it’s still early and kind of cold so they’re probably waiting for warmer weather here.

The west nest wood duck leaving at 12:30 two days ago.

Egg #1

The ducks haven’t been around much in the last few days. It’s been cold. But this morning one was in the West nest box from 7:05 until 7:40 and she laid the first egg. Good news! If she continues we’ll have baby wood ducks about 6 weeks from now.

From the camera this morning at 7:35

She’s blurry in the photo because this is a frame grab from the camera’s video and she was moving, covering up and getting ready to leave. This is the best frame that shows why she was doing that. Also it was too early and cloudy for good daylight so the camera was still using its infrared lights to illuminate the nest and therefore it’s in black and white rather than color.

Video: West nest jump day, round 2

I just now uploaded a video of the second round of ducklings jumping from the west nest box on July 6th. It includes the ground-level camera view that some of you watched live on that day, the camera that is inside the nest box, and also a telephoto view from a camera that I set up in the dining room.

The low-level view is interesting to watch, the flowers and hostas and ducks are pretty, the hen and ducklings are great entertainers as always, and I got some nice scenes of the family in the creek. Getting video of the ducks in the creek has happened before, of course, but this time was a good one. About half of the time I can’t find them when I go out to look because either they’ve gone up into the brush along the bank somewhere and are hiding or they are already way downstream. This time they were nearby when I went out with my camera and even though the foliage has grown tall and hides much of the creek from view, they stayed on the far side where I could film them.

You can see in the video how fast they can go out of sight: the time from the last one jumping until my final shot where they are a couple of blocks away and still moving was only about 15 minutes.

Here’s the video:

This is now the end of the wood duck season and there won’t be much activity on this blog until next spring (unless I find something else to post about). I hope you enjoyed these looks into the beautiful world of birds and nature. I certainly did!

9 ducklings

The west nest hen called her ducklings at about 8:15, led them to the creek, and they quickly went way downstream. There were 9 vigorous and healthy looking ducklings, and one unhatched egg.

She might have set the record for the longest look-around before committing: 19 minutes! (However she does not earn the Maximum Human Impatience award which is still held by a duck a few years ago that did about a half dozen ten-minute looks over the course of a couple of hours, before finally deciding to go.)

We said goodbye to the last wood ducks of the season today. All of the live cameras are shut down and the nest boxes are in the garage until next April. There will still be an occasional post to this blog – I do plan to put together a video since I got some good views of the ducks in the creek.


Yesterday I posted a short video that you might like about the House Wrens that are nesting next door. It’s linked from the main birdsgv.com “Videos” page, or here is a direct link.

Hatching in-progress

There’s not much to see on the cameras yet, but the hen was away just now (2:20pm) so I checked the nest. All the eggs except one have a small place of broken eggshell. This indicates hatching will occur soon, but a duckling rests for a while after making that first tiny break.

Virtually all of the liquid inside of the egg has been absorbed and is now part of the duckling. An air pocket forms between the egg membrane and the shell even before the eggshell is broken; the shell itself is somewhat permeable to air. A duckling’s first breaths occur when it breaks through the egg membrane and gets to this air pocket. A while after that the duckling slightly breaks the shell and that lets in additional air. Once it’s breathing it can make sounds. You can see the hen react to this sometimes.

I held each of the eggs to my ear and twice I could hear very soft peeping from the duckling and both hear and feel very tiny tap-tap-taps as it pecked at the shell. I tried to record that with my phone so I could put it online for you, but all I can hear in my recording are outdoor noises of songbirds and the breeze – I would need a better microphone to pick it up.

When the duckling is ready to get out of the egg, it starts pecking as it very slowly turns, instinctively using its wings and feet to pivot around inside the egg and eventually – many hours later – the egg is broken all the way around in a ring and falls into two pieces.

You can see the broken shells on several of the eggs, especially the one on the left. The darker egg at the top may be infertile: it shows no signs of hatching yet and is noticeably cooler than the others.

Close-up of the two eggs in the middle, showing some of the work accomplished so far by the ducklings inside.

This photo shows the camera that is bringing you the outdoor pictures. The camera itself is hidden behind black film so the ducks won’t be startled by seeing its “eye” and watching it turn.