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!
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.
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.
When I checked at 4:00 this afternoon 3 of the eggs were pipped, that is, the shell was very slightly broken from the inside. The ducklings do this roughly 24 hours before they hatch so they should start to emerge sometime tomorrow.
Jump Day: Saturday, … or maybe Friday
If they’ve all hatched by tomorrow evening then they could be jumping from the nest on Friday. Otherwise they’ll leave on Saturday and right now I think that’s more likely. In all the years of watching, I’ve never seen them leave in the afternoon – they’ve always gone in the morning. We’ll see what they do this time!
The outdoor camera is now live along with the inside camera. For links to these cameras go to the main page at birdsgv.com
The west nest hen started incubating 10 eggs on about the 4th so they should hatch sometime around Independence Day. I think the eggs are mostly or even all hers because we didn’t notice any other ducks dumping eggs in that nest and 8 to 14 is a normal number for one hen. We do still see adult ducks in the creek and the yard but their nest-seeking activity has nearly disappeared as it always does this time of year.
(I was wearing gloves because I was doing garden work, but that and/or washing afterwards is a good thing to do.)
However a duck has been in the east nest box for a half hour on some days in the past week and has now laid two eggs there. She wasn’t there at all today but it’s possible she’ll be there tomorrow and there’s still a chance that this nest will also have another round of ducklings – or she might not finish. The next few days will provide the answer.
These hens might simply be late in getting started, but also if a wood duck loses her brood she may try again in the same spring season. Reasons she might lose them include a raccoon getting into the nest and eating all of the eggs or ducky-disasters such as the nest tree falling, a flood carrying all of the ducklings away, or heavy predation that takes all of the ducklings.
Fortunately those are rare, but wood duck duckling mortality averages nearly 50% during the first 6 weeks. That is one reason they have evolved to have such large broods.
It’s now very likely that the West nest box will have another batch of ducklings five or six weeks from now. There are now 6 eggs and a hen has been sitting in the box for several hours each morning.
Also a hen has already visited the recently vacant and beautifully redecorated (new wood chips) East nest box. She was in there for about 10 minutes this morning trying it out, sitting this way, then that way, then another way, all the while moving the furniture (the wood chips again) around. This is typical pre-inspection nesting behavior. So maybe there too? It has happened before that both nest boxes were used twice in one season.
The hen that is laying eggs in the West nest posed nicely for a photo this morning.
The six eggs this morning. It’s kind of silly to keep posting duck pictures that look like many others and egg pictures that look like dozens (because that’s how you count eggs) of others. I do it anyway.