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Logs from 2016

Three batches of baby wood ducks hatched in the two nest boxes in 2016. The logs from that year are below.

Log - East Nest Box - Second round

17 ducklings hatched on June 22

June 23, 2016
Skiska looked around for less than a minute three times with a brief gap of a few minutes in between. On the third look she flew down after less than a minute of watching and began calling the ducklings. She was in a hurry! In the past I have seen hens watch for 10's of minutes with a half dozen repetitions over the course of several hours before deciding to go. An hour or two of that is typical. Skiska is the new record holder for the shortest time!

There were 17 ducklings and 5 unhatched eggs.

I don't have good mechanism for directly recording video this year due to technical issues, but I did have a movie camera pointed at an iPad that was showing the outside camera's view. I also went out onto the deck afterwards and got some still photos of Skiska and her kids. They are here: Movie and photos of Jump day

Good luck Skiska and little ducklings!

June 22, 2016
The first signs of hatching were visible mid-morning (audible too: lots of high pitched peeping) when Skiska was seen eating an eggshell. After she moved over several newly hatched ducklings were visible. Now, in the evening there is the usual impossible-to-count pile of baby ducks. We won't know exactly how many hatched until tomorrow, but there were 21 eggs (or so) in the nest box and at least one unhatched egg is visible as I type this.

The outdoor camera is now set up and online (see above) and we look forward to watching the action tomorrow morning!

June 13, 2016
Skiska sometimes sits beside the eggs and a few times has left them uncovered or been gone for quite a while. My theory is that the warm weather allows her to be less diligent. The nest box is shaded by a couple of trees, but during certain times of the day it is in the sun and on a hot day the nest box might be quite warm enough without her. We're looking forward to hatching some time next week.

May 30, 2016
The duck in our East nest box continues to be a devoted egg warmer. I'm going to call her Skiska which is a Lakota word for wood duck. She has calmed down: yesterday I mowed all around her house and I've also reset the camera a couple of times (which makes it swivel) and Skiska has stayed on the nest, unlike earlier when these scared her away. I know the camera has been offline a few times recently where it shows "Error" when you try to view it. It seems to be sensitive to power hiccups. Since nothing much is happening right now I don't rush home to reset it, but we use the same service to watch that you use so we do know when it isn't working. Looking forward to hatching sometime around June 22nd. I will set up the outdoor camera then.
May 22, 2016
We returned from a 4-day weekend out of town to find a new hen incubating at least 21 eggs! When I got home Sunday evening the camera was offline so I reset it and this is what I saw:

I was surprised! The down indicates that a hen has started to incubate and sure enough, she came back and settled in a few minutes later.

Something scared her away since she left without covering the eggs. The camera reset probably did it since that makes it swivel (quietly) to find its end stops. She also startled and left when I was mowing the lawn. Other hens have tolerated both of those so she seems to be a bit skittish.

Just 5 days ago I know there were only 4 eggs - I checked very thoroughly: I removed each egg until there were none left anywhere in the wood chips, then I put them back. As I've written before, it is common for multiple hens to lay eggs in a nest, but at least four had to be busy to lay 17 more eggs in 5 days (a hen lays an egg about once per day). I can think of no other explanation.
May 17, 2016
There are now 4 eggs. Lots of wood ducks are around.
May 15, 2016
As of today there are three eggs in the nest box but the pace of visits seems to have slowed. There is still a chance that another duck family will use this nest box this year.
May 8, 2016
A male and female pair came to the nest box this morning, she inspected it, went in and spent a half hour. We checked: there is 1 egg and it is new today (I happened to also check yesterday). Another duck family may use the East nest box this year.

Assuming she continues, to see her try watching between 8:00 and 10:00 AM CDT; that seems to be a good time for laying eggs.

Log - East Nest Box

25 eggs. 16 ducklings jumped on May 5th

May 5, 2016
16 ducklings left the nest box and followed Eury into Bassett Creek. There were 9 eggs left over, which is more than we've usually seen. They may have been laid later by other hens, or may have developed more slowly due to the cool weather.

We've watched but haven't seen the family. That is not unusual. Once in a while we've seen them after jump day, but they migrate up or down the creek and tend to hide in areas where there is lots of underbrush near the creek. This year they have little reason to stay in the area near our house because the creek banks are being reconditioned. Right now they are barren, awaiting planting in the next month with native vegetation. You may have noticed this on the cameras.

May 4, 2016
They started to hatch this morning and will leave the nest forever tomorrow morning. Here is a cell phone picture that I took when Eury was out for supper.

During that supper away time on hatching day I have always seen them just sleep like that, very still in a flat pile. I count 14 but it's hard to be certain. I'm also not 100% sure how many eggs there were at the start. We'll know both tomorrow. When they jump we can count them more easily and I plan to clean out the nest box right away because other hens were trying to get in to lay eggs just last week and we just might get another round of this.

So why so many unhatched eggs?

Unhatched eggs are common in nests where there has been a lot of "dumping" which is the term applied when hens lay eggs in other hen's nests. One hen lays about 10 to 12 so Eury's nest has eggs from at least 2 hens, probably 3 or more. The most we have ever seen was 31 eggs (3 layers deep in this nest box) and 25 of those hatched! One year we recall 16 hatched out of 16 eggs in the nest. But often there are unhatched eggs.

They might be infertile, but also by chance may have been left on the edge in the cold more than others, or might have been laid by other hens after incubation started while Eury was out eating. In both of the latter cases nature is kind of harsh: ducklings have developed in the eggs but are still one or more days away from hatching. Sadly they will "miss the bus" and die without hatching.

It is amazing that those that do hatch come from eggs laid over the span of a couple of weeks and yet they all hatch within a few hours. It's the warmth over time that determines this. Initially the eggs are laid but not incubated and so they are dormant. During incubation the temperature of the eggs goes down and up as the hen leaves and returns and as the weather is cooler or warmer. Her job is to turn them and keep them evenly warm. She can't keep their temperature constant: cooler weather means cooler eggs and longer incubation. Eury is a case in point I think: 34 or 35 days. But if she keeps them even with each other and makes them all have the same temperature history over the course of an entire month(!) then they will all hatch at essentially the same time.
AM May 2, 2016
This morning she is making the soft clucking sounds that she uses to talk to the ducklings - maybe she senses something - maybe today.

I just read on one web site that a wood duck's incubation period is 28 to 37 days! But most of the sites say 28 to 32 and that is the variation that we have seen. As I mentioned to the mailing list, one variable is when she actually started incubating by uncovering the eggs and settling onto them consistently, rather than just resting in the nest box. It's hard to be 100% sure when to start the counting. Another is the weather as already mentioned, and it has been cool.
April 30, 2016
Watched all day but no sign of hatching yet. Maybe tomorrow ...
April 29, 2016
Eury's eggs could hatch any day but as of this morning nothing is happening yet.

The housing shortage continues. Yesterday a male and female pair were looking for a nest site. (This is based on characteristic behaviors: they were together which lasts only as long as the hen is laying eggs, there's a kind of head bobbing she was doing that I have seen when inspecting nest sites and getting ready to go in to check it out, and mostly, she was trying to get into the nest box!) And again this morning there was a pair on top of Zephy's box, and another hen on top of Eury's box at the same time.

Here is a picture of the two new ducks on top of the nest box yesterday. On the inside camera we could see that Eury was hissing and jabbing forward each time the new hen bent down and looked in. Eury successfully defended her nest, of course.

Eury nested very early, almost a month ahead of last year. Since she will be moving out within a few days, it is quite possible that another will take over and use the nest.
April 14, 2016
Eury was out so I opened the box and counted eggs. (Ducks can't tell if you do that: for one thing they have a very limited sense of smell.) There were so many that I lifted 4 of them off the top, then counted the layer beneath: 24 total. There might even be a couple more since I didn't dig around thoroughly, but there are at least 24. That's the result of at least two and maybe more hens laying eggs in the box. See the notes about wood ducks below where this is described.

7:50 PM - While I was typing this she just came back and is settling in.
April 13, 2016
Now that there are two, these birdies need names. I'm going to call this one Eury (ref: Greek god of the East wind) and the other one Zephy (west wind). You may notice that Eury has a huge bulge in her neck in the evening. That is her crop - a place where birds store food until it is ground up and moves further down. However I've watched lots of ducks and never seen a neck as big as hers usually is in the evening. It might be normal, or it might be there is something wrong with her.
April 10, 2016
She usually leaves the nest for about 2 hours in the evening to go find some supper. Otherwise she's always there.
April 2, 2016
THE CHICKS WILL HATCH ABOUT APRIL 30. Incubation has started: the hen spent all night on the nest for the first time last night. This is more than a month earlier than last year.
April 1, 2016
We opened the nest box and counted the eggs tonight. There are 10 which is somewhat fewer than we expected given all of the activity. Several times we've seen one duck trying to get in when another is already in there and defending her place. There are at least 5 pairs around every day in the back yard and the creek. I am building a second duck house to help alleviate the housing shortage and I have a camera for it. I'll send the link when it goes live this weekend.
March 27, 2016
The wood duck nesting season has started. I put the duck house out a week ago and there are already at least 6 eggs. Today there were 4 male and 3 or 4 female ducks in the back yard and the creek. Several hens tried to get in except that there was already one in there.

Log - West Nest Box

16 ducklings jumped on May 17th

May 17, 2016
About 16 little ducks went on their way today. There were 5 unhatched eggs. Good luck little ducklings!
May 16, 2016
Zephy's ducklings hatched today! They will leave the nest tomorrow (Tuesday) morning.
May 15, 2016
Zephy's eggs could hatch any day now. No sign of that today, maybe tomorrow or Tuesday. The camera problems have all been resolved and both the daytime and the nighttime views should be good. The outside camera is also ready. Right now it is pointed at the creek but on jump day I will rotate it to view the outside of the West nest box. All is ready - now we just need some baby ducks.
May 8, 2016
Zephy continues to be a very attentive momma duck. She is rarely away from the nest box for long. This evening I happened to be watching when she came back. I saw a large dark bird slanting down toward the creek and wondered what kind it was, moving very fast in an arrow straight line starting from high on the left above the trees to low on the right. At the last minute she flared to slow down, flapped maybe twice, and flew exactly into the nest box hole, paused less than 1 second, and dropped in. OK, then I knew what it was. Such skill.

I don't know specifically about ducks, but often a mother animal will move quickly to minimize the chance of a predator seeing where to find her. If that was the goal, Zephy did it: start to finish she was visible for about 3 seconds, and during most of that she was a blur.
April 17, 2016
Zephy started incubating eggs all day two days ago, so her chicks should HATCH SOMETIME AROUND THE 15TH OF MAY. While she was out this evening I opened the box and counted: 20 eggs ... or maybe one or two more: I didn't want to disturb things too much. Many different colors, perhaps because they are from different hens.

April 13, 2016
Zephy slept in the box last night but was not there all day today. I counted the eggs while she was gone: 11 The eggs were cool so that overnight stay plus her absence all day means this doesn't count as the start of incubation. She is there again tonight. If she stays for most of the day tomorrow then we can start counting days.
April 12, 2016
9:00am A duck has been sleeping in the box for several hours this morning. This may be the start of incubation ... or maybe not, we'll see.

9:20 Two males are outside the nest box, one female is on the roof trying to get in, one is inside defending her position.
April 10, 2016
Opened the box again and there were five eggs. At least two hens are laying: one visits sometime between 8:00 and 8:30 AM, and the other was in the nest today at around 1:45 PM. They dig down to uncover the eggs, then sit for several minutes laying another, and finally use a minute or two to rearrange the wood chips to cover the eggs. This only takes about 10 minutes, so they aren't often there.
April 8, 2016
Opened the nest box to adjust the camera: Three eggs.
April 6, 2016
This AM a hen went in, spent 5 minutes sitting, then a few minutes rearranging wood chips, then left.
April 4, 2016
New house is up and we already had some house shoppers. I didn't even know she was in there when I remote controlled the camera to pan down. She saw the motion and it startled her away.
April 2, 2016
There are so many pairs of ducks this year. I think the creek bank rebuilding caused many people to remove duck houses. Our (East Nest Box) house is the only one that I've seen. At least 3 other hens are trying to get into the one defended by our nesting duck, but she fends them off. I'm going to build another house.