Thursday, May 17, 2007
We live on some acreage with a pond (well, we live in a house on the acreage). Shortly after we moved in, my husband put up a number of bird nest boxes including a couple for wood ducks. Wood ducks are quite shy and we were pleased that they'd decided our pond was a suitable place to visit. Over the years, wood duck hens have successfully nested in the boxes and raised young, but the one thing we've never seen is the ducklings leaving the nest box. Well as luck would have it, I was finally able to see it happen!
The other morning, the dogs & I were coming back from our walk and I saw a duckling on the lawn below one of the boxes. I could hear the hen in the water calling to it and I also heard thumping, bumping & scratching in the box above. I shooed the little guy toward the water before the dogs saw it, quickly took the dogs in the house & grabbed my camera. As I walked back toward the box, I saw another duckling come plummeting out!
Near the box, I positioned myself in line of sight to the box opening, but out of sight of the hen (who was still in the water, calling softly). I could still hear commotion inside the box and occasionally, I'd see a little head bounce up into the opening. Finally, one popped out while I was there and I got a photo of it (not the best photo by any stretch, but it captured the moment). He/she hit the ground with a little thump, wandered around "peeping" and then headed toward the water. I thought there were still 2 ducklings in the box and it looked like mom had at least 7 following behind her in the pond - quite the brood! The 2 that were still in the box made it out later in the day.
Just so you know what a giant leap of faith this is for the little ducks, the box is mounted on a tree, at least 6 feet off the ground, with another foot to the opening. To get out of the box, they have to scramble up the side below the opening and jump out! They don't weigh much at all, so they're not hurt by the rough landing, but they must be a bit shaken up. Then they listen for the hen's call and head toward it - also a feat because they're such tiny little critters in a very big world.