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2018 Log

Thursday July 13, 2018

I tried to make a quick video of the ducklings hatching and leaving the nest yesterday: maybe an hour or two to splice the best clips and then upload it. But I just don't know how to do that. I ended up creating yet another edited video with captions, edits back and forth between 3 different cameras, transitions and zooms. I hope you like it!
(17 minutes)
Unless something interesting happens such as the ducks returning to our area for a visit and I get some pictures, this will be the last log entry for this season. I hope everyone enjoyed the log, the pictures and videos, and of course the live cameras. So until next spring, thanks for joining me in this fascinating glimpse of nature.


Thursday July 12, 2018

Nine ducklings hatched today

West nest: At 7:52 this morning the hen did just one short, 1 minute look-around, then called her ducklings to leave and they were in the creek by 8:00. It was a very prompt exit with none of the more typical waiting for an hour or a few as she looks for a while, decides to wait, and repeat. I counted 9 ducklings jumping from the nest while watching a recording and also saw 9 of them in a picture I took of the family in the creek. There were only 5 unhatched eggs and I know for sure there were 15 eggs in mid June, so one egg is missing! A minor mystery.

I have some good video so I'll make another jump day movie today. When it's done I'll link it from this page, of course.

I'm going to disconnect the last camera today and store the nest boxes ... until next year.

Tuesday June 12, 2018

West nest: This wood duck has the most casual attitude about incubation that I have ever seen. OK it is summer time so maybe the eggs are staying warm enough. You have to figure she knows what she's doing but I've never before seen so much time away from the nest. Typical is an hour or maybe 2 or 3 twice per day, which means she's there for something like 20 hours out of 24. Here's the last 4 days:
DayAbsentTime on the nest
Saturday June 912-4pm and 7-8pm19 hours
Sunday June 105-6am and 8am-8pm11 hours
Monday June 111am-11am (at night!) and 4-8pm10 hours
Tuesday June 125am-5pm (so far, it is now 5:30) no more than 12 hours

Saturday June 9, 2018

East nest: 20 ducklings left the nest yestereday. There were 3 unhatched eggs. It was a pretty much normal jump day with nothing as unusual as last time. She got up into the entrance to look around several times, then went back into the nest box, and finally on about the 4th look-around she called her ducklings out at about 9:40. They all left within minutes and she led them away.

We went out to the creek a few minutes later and watched for quite a while, but have not seen them again. That is kind of typical; the creek bank offers many hiding places. Roughly a third of the time I don't see them after they jump, another third I've seen the hen lead her clutch into the brush just after they leave the nest, and another third I've watched them drift downstream, as in some of the videos.

West nest: The playback timeline for the camera shows that the hen with the arrow mark on her bill was on the nest for about 6 hours on Thursday and about 18 hours Friday. and will probably be there about that amount of time today. She has taken some long, multi-hour breaks between sittings both yesterday and today. She seems to have a laid back attitude about incubating but the weather is reasonably warm and I thihk that allows her to be less diligent. Or maybe she just goes out and has so much fun that she loses track of the time, after all, a duck's gotta have some kind of life beyond just taking care of the offspring.

I think it's safe to say that incubation started as of the 8th and that means ducklings somewhere between the 6th and 10th of July. She has at least 9 eggs.

Thursday June 7, 2018

East nest is hatching today

Yesterday several eggs had small breaks in them as the ducklings began to puncture the egg shells. When the hen was out of the nest at 7:30 am none had hatched, but at 9:20 there was an empty egg shell. It's hard to get a good look with her always in the way but as of 1:00 perhaps 6 or 8 have hatched. There are quite a few eggs visible that haven't hatched yet.

West nest: This is may be the first day of incubation for 9 eggs (counted yesterday) in the west nest box. The hen has spent the night in the nest for the past couple of days, but did not stay during the day and the eggs were cool when I checked: she was resting on top of them. Today she has uncovered the eggs and is wiggling in to make better contact. If this persists then we can expect more ducklings on about July 7, plus or minus a couple of days.
     5:20 pm ... then again, I guess not (and that's just what it is: a guess). She left early this afternoon and has not been back.

Lots of ducklings! Too many to count - some are underneath the others. Photo taken at 6:45pm.
A very wet just-hatched duckling is on the right. Photo taken about 12:30pm.

Monday June 4, 2018

East nest: Still waiting. There were 23 eggs as of May 27. They're due to hatch any day now.

West nest: There are now 8 eggs in the west nest box so there will be another round of ducklings there about a month from now. Two different hens have been in the nest box recently but the one that is there most often is in the photo below. She is easy to identify. She spent the night in the nest yesterday but was just resting there. She is not incubating yet because she hasn't been there at all during the day today, there is very little down in the nest box, and the eggs were cold when I counted them just now. See the photos below.

The wood duck hen that has been laying most (or perhaps all) of the eggs has a very distinctive bill. The other hen that has visited the nest recently also has a multi-colored bill, but without the arrow shape.
A few days ago a merganser hen also visited the west nest but didn't provide any eggs.
A House Wren also dropped in for a quick look around.

Thursday May 31, 2018

West nest:
A duck has been laying eggs in the west nest box for the past three days. She's usually there sometime between 7:00 and 8:30. There were two eggs yesterday and she's there again right now (8am). She has a multi-colored bill which makes her distinct from most other wood ducks. Thus it looks like we'll have another round of ducklings in July!

Sunday May 27, 2018

East nest: Hatching between June 3-8    23 eggs

The East nest box hen continues to incubate. I counted a few days ago and she still has 23 eggs; that is, other hens have not dumped more eggs recently. As always, I’ll send a message when things start happening.
West nest jump day video
There is now a video on YouTube of the West nest box ducklings hatching and jumping on May 20th and 21st. We have been out looking as we walk around our neighborhood and have gone to a few likely places downstream but have not seen the duck family since the 21st when I got the photo just below. This is typical; most of the time we never see them again. There are many good places for ducks to grow up both upstream and downstream and many of them are not easy to view.

I hope you enjoy the video:
(11 minutes)

Monday May 21, 2018

Update: 6:10pm

I'm kind of surprised and very pleased - they found each other! All of them were together in the creek directly behind our house just now.
7 wood duck and 3 merganser ducklings, with mom.

Jump day report - a copy of the message I just sent to the duckcams mailing list

That was an unusual month and a very atypical jump day for the west nest box duck. It included below freezing temperatures to start and an unusual amount of egg dumping by other hens during her incubation weeks including one hen who even tried to enter the nest many times today. Heavy egg dumping has occurred before: as I’ve mentioned our local record is 31 eggs but in the past it has been mostly prior to the start of incubation rather than during. For example of the 31, 25 of them hatched which means they were in there when she started. Today only 11 of the 26 eggs hatched. [Note: a week ago I counted 27 eggs and put that in the log but more recently I double-checked and triple-counted and there were actually 26; 27 was an error.] There were 15 that did not hatch at all, one duckling that hatched too late and was not strong enough to leave with the others and 10 that left the nest: 3 hooded mergansers and 7 wood ducks.

This odd month then ended with the hen going off with only 3 of her 10 ducklings. I’ve never before seen a hen return to the nest box after calling some of her ducklings to leave and I can only offer guesses about why she did that. There were three other pairs of wood ducks in the yard including one hen that was crowding her and tried to approach the ducklings several times as the first ones were jumping. Each time the other hen retreated but only slightly in response to a hissing open-beaked threat from the mother. Maybe the momma duck was intimidated by this. Or perhaps she saw something that scared her although that probably would have made her fly away instead of back into the nest. Maybe she just lacked experience and made a mistake.

Once she returned the hen settled back into the nest. During that time four of the seven ducklings that were out approached and started to follow another hen. They are “imprinted” to follow whatever animate thing they first see when they emerge from the eggs and that can be interesting when humans raise ducklings or chicks and they imprint on a person. In this case the other hen may have looked like mother duck, good enough to try anyway in the absence of an alternative. But that hen flew off and the ducklings then went into the brush beside the creek. Someone asked if another hen might adopt them. I’d say no ... well, just maybe that might happen if a hen had a just-hatched brood of her own then some others might be able to join in. But I think the instinct for the complex behavior of taking care of ducklings probably requires every step: incubation, hatching, leading them away, to develop properly and I doubt a hen that hasn’t followed those steps would simply switch on her maternal instinct just from seeing ducklings. But I don’t know, just speculating.

The other three of the seven ducklings that were out were last seen running all the way across our neighbors yard and out to the street, where our neighbor sort of herded them back down to the creek. So 7 of them were out on their own and 3 were in the nest box with the mother. Finally after 6 minutes in the nest she went out again and called her remaining three ducklings to join her and took them toward the creek. Once again she was crowded by another pair of wood ducks. She went into the bank at the same place where I last saw her other 4 so maybe they joined up.

About 10 minutes later I went out to look for them nearby and then I did a more thorough search a half hour after they had left by going a couple of blocks upstream and downstream. I did not see them either time but that is very typical. Unless I hurry out to see exactly where they go, I usually cannot find them again - they are extremely good at hiding in the grasses and brush and ferns.

Some viewers were distressed by the one duckling that remained in the nest who could be heard peeping loudly and, once I re-aimed the camera, could be seen feebly moving around. It is tempting to assign human emotions and say that he was crying for his mother. But keep in mind that little ducklings have two modes: awake and peeping loudly, and asleep. I’m not saying he was a happy little duck, but his instinct to make a lot of noise is not the same as being sad and lonely. I euthanized him and it was very quick: one moment lights on and then in a blink, lights completely out. I don’t like doing it but it's better than letting him starve and is a part of managing wood duck nests that I accept..

It’s possible that the mother and her three found the others because they all ended up within a short span of the creek and she continually makes her calls to the ducklings to keep them nearby. If the others heard her they would go to her. She also would respond to the other ducklings peeping if she heard it. So there’s a chance that they found each other. If we see them again - any of them - I’ll let you know. I’ll also post some video or images which you’ll find if you check the log in a day or two.

As always, good luck little ducks! And this time, some extra.

Sunday May 20, 2018

The west nest ducklings hatched today. We'll know how many there are tomorrow when they leave. At least 3 of them are hooded merganser ducklings.

The incubating wood duck hen will raise all of the ducklings as if they were her own: those that actually are, those from other wood ducks, and those from merganser hens too - all the same. A hen lays maybe 10 to 12 eggs herself and the largest clutch we've ever seen in the past was 25 ducklings, which means more than half were not hers. Merganser hens also get dumped on by wood ducks, so it kind of evens out. It's a survival strategy for both.

The newly hatched ducklings will jump from their nest tomorrow morning. The hen will wait for daylight but anytime after that she may decide that it’s time to go. The earliest I have seen them leave is 6:00 AM; the latest is 1:00 PM. In this case the oldest ducklings have been out of the egg since 3:00 am Sunday morning, so they’ll be active and hungry and I think this influences the hen: they might leave early.

What to expect ...

The hen will start by sitting in the nest box entrance and watching, with her head and half of her body out. She looks for predators, people, anything that might harm her ducklings before she gets them safely to the water. Sometimes she will give up after many minutes of looking and settle back into the nest box for a while. Sometimes she repeats this many (e.g. a dozen) times. Yet sometimes a hen will look around for just a minute or two and decide to go right away, on the first look.

Once she decides things happen fast. She goes down to the ground below the nest and calls softly using a special sound that tells the ducklings it’s time to go. They respond with loud peeping, climbing, and jumping. When the last duckling has jumped she leads them away into the creek. The time between starting to call and leading them away might be only a couple of minutes although last year it took 8 minutes to empty one of the nests which was unusually long.
First indication of hatching at 3:10am was the hen eating a broken egg shell.
When the hen left in early afternnon it was much easier to see the ducklings. Hooded merganser duckling at top (and another partly visible behind him) and 3 wood ducks.
Two wood duck ducklings and a merganser (bottom).

Saturday May 19, 2018

The west nest is now quite overdue for hatching. I figure that incubation has started the first time the duck spends all night and all day in the nest, except for a couple of hours. If she does that for a few days then I use the first day of that as the start. Usually it's correct.

Why not this time? It could be the cold weather a month ago was a factor. Sometimes a duck will just rest in the nest box in the early days without actually incubating, which requires plucking down and settling in to start transferring body heat. Prediction is tricky. Waiting and watching ...

Monday May 14, 2018

East nest: Hatching between June 3-8    23 eggs as of May 12th
West nest: Hatching between May 14-18   27 eggs as of May 12th
Something scared the west nest hen off of her eggs sometime between 8:00 when camera recording stopped and 9:00pm when we first noticed it. Unfortunately the camera was not recording at that time. As of 11:15 she has not returned.

The hen left the eggs uncovered which means she left in a hurry. Note the time of the image.
Silly duck quacking from the top of a 10 foot pole that puts our suet feeders up where we can see the birds. Wood ducks don't eat suet, but they do frequently perch up on tree branches. They normally nest in tree hollows that are sometimes 80 feet (8 stories) above the ground, so they're comfortable perching up high where you'd never see a ground-nesting duck such as a mallard.
Good looking guy.

Sunday May 13, 2018

East nest: Hatching between June 3-8    23 eggs as of May 12th
West nest: Hatching between May 14-18   27 eggs as of May 12th (counted yesterday)
We noticed two holes in a merganser egg late this morning that look like what the ducklings do when they're just starting to hatch, but a couple of hours later there are no further developments. When she moves off the eggs for a moment it doesn't look like any other eggs are hatching.

Updated Sunday evening. We checked the nest when the duck was out having supper. The egg has a couple of black spots on it that look like little holes, but it is solid and there are no holes.
Two tiny black dots on one of the merganser eggs.

Saturday May 12, 2018

East nest: Hatching between June 3-8    23 eggs as of May 12th
West nest: Hatching between May 14-18   27 eggs as of May 4th

Wednesday May 9, 2018

Once again this morning a hen invaded the East nest box to lay an egg. Often the resident hen puts up a fight but this one seems to just accept the situation quite peacefully. Here's a video of the encounter that I edited to make it shorter to watch.
(2 minutes) - selected segments from 8 minutes of video.
Silly ducks! Kind of funny sometimes but also interesting behavior - I wonder if the two hens are related?

Tuesday May 8, 2018

East nest hatching: June 5   -2/+3 days

I've held off from declaring that incubation has started on the East nest until today, because both yesterday and the day before the hen was off of the nest from about noon until 8:00 or so, but still she was there for 16 hours of 24 and the weather was quite warm and she may take that into account. Given that today she has been there for the entire day except for a 40 minute break this morning (see note below) I'd say the clock started two days ago. Thirty days from then would be June 5th. However since I'm not sure how much to credit the past two days I'm giving my estimate an extra day.

We saw three invading hens in the nest box yesterday morning and each stayed for a while, so probably 3 eggs were added. They may be in time to hatch with the others. Unlike the hen in the west nest, this one seems less inclined to fight and even settled sometimes and mostly ignored the other hen sitting next to her (or sometimes mostly on top of her!). There were 18 eggs in the nest box after that in the early afternoon. Just now (Tuesday, 3:00 pm) I spot-checked the camera recordings for today and it does not look like any other hens barged in this morning.

Note: The camera records whenever there is motion and it also provides a screen that shows when it was recording as bars on a timeline. Therefore if I see a gap then it's quick and easy to check the recording on either side of it to see if she was merely sleeping and motionless or if she left and came back.
18 eggs in the east nest box yesterday. All are wood duck eggs, no mergansers. I opened the side door to uncover the eggs then stuck my phone camera in through the nest box opening to take this picture.

Friday May 4, 2018

The east nest now has 10 eggs. A hen is in there for an hour or so most mornings. She also rested there for most of a night recently but was not incubating: she hasn't yet put any of her down into the nest and until she stays there continually the eggs will remain cool and dormant.

In the west nest things are getting kind of ridiculous: there are now 27 eggs! (our record here is 31). Every morning one or two invading hens go in to lay another egg, tolerating all of the defensive abuse that the resident hen dishes out for many minutes. It's futile - they should be laying in the other nest box if they want a chance to have those eggs hatch, but I guess they aren't watching the cameras to know what is going on.

Someone asked if the "real mom" ever comes back to do anything at all for her own ducklings. Nope. The hen that incubates raises them all and she doesn't discriminate between her own offspring and those of some other hen, or even some other species of duck! (e.g. a hooded merganser). It's a survival benefit: mergansers and wood ducks and several other species "dump" (that's the biologist's term for it) eggs in other duck's nests. This increases the chance that at least some will grow to be adults even if something happens to the parent (e.g. she gets eaten up by a fox) or she has bad luck with her own ducklings, such as hungry snapping turtles and northern pikes and various raptors, all of whom relate to a brood of little ducks about the same way that you relate to a side of tator tots. One reason wood ducks have so many ducklings is the survival rate can be quite low: only 10 to 25% might grow to be adults. Nature is beautiful ... and harsh!
Eggs in the west nest box today. I had to take 5 off the top to get them all in the picture.
The hen that is incubating the west nest box. Pretty bird. She was out for supper when we went into the back yard. When she came back she would fly toward the nest but each time when she saw us she chickened (ducked?) out, swerved away, and landed in the creek. When we went in, so did she.

Wednesday May 2, 2018

The ducks are finally using the east nest box. It had 5 eggs when I checked yesterday. One and sometimes two! ducks are in there every morning in recent days.

In the west nest the hen continues to do a very concientious job of incubating, leaving only once per day usually in the late afternoon and returning just and hour or so later. Other hens have still been going into that nest box to dump eggs (almost?) every day so I'm guessing there are now more than the 22 that I counted on Sunday.

Sunday April 29, 2018

There are now 22 eggs in the west nest box: still 4 hooded merganser eggs and 18 wood duck eggs. Other hens have been going into the nest box almost every day, putting up with the pecking and biting of the resident hen to lay eggs. As I've written in the past, I doubt many of these wil hatch since they just won't have time to develop.

The east nest now has 3 eggs - they're finally using it and I think I know what was wrong. It was mysterious why all of the many times the ducks went in that they would dig around with their feet and turn over the wood chips with their bills, but after a few minutes of this they would leave again. It was the same nest box as last year when they were eager to use it, the same type of natural wood hamster/gerbil bedding that I always have used, nothing changed, and plenty of "demand" from the ducks but they just didn't like it. Then one day the sun was shining in the door when I happened to watch and on the camera I noticed dust in the air when one of them was kicking around. I know that sawdust is the wrong thing to ever put into a duck nest since it chokes the ducklings - it's too fine and dusty. Could the hens be objecting to the amount of dust in the wood chips?

I took all of the chips out, vacuumed the box, and then poured the wood chips from one bucket into another several times as the wind blew the dust away, then put it all back. The next time a duck went in the behavior was different: she settled down almost immediately and now there are 3 eggs. So note to self: assume that purchased wood chips are saw-dusty and get the dust off of them before putting them in the nest box.
One hen in the east nest when another tried to come in. After some negotiation that involved squawks, some bites, and flapping, they changed places.
The west nest today: 22 eggs! (some are underneath).

Wednesday April 25, 2018

The west nest now has 17 eggs: 13 wood duck and 4 hooded merganser. Quite a few of these are unlikely to hatch with the others since they were laid many days after incubation started.

Yesterday I observed a behavior that I hadn't seen before that provides another way that the number of eggs increases after incubation has started. I didn't know that a hen would add an egg while in the midst of a fight with the resident. Makes sense, but I had not seen it occur (the new cameras that record full-time help with that).

There were several ducks trying to get into the west nest box all day and at least one of them did. The resident hen bit and shook the invader continually for about 8 minutes but the invading hen just took whatever the resident dished out. She turned around and turned away but didn't fight back. When she finally left the camera showed a shiny new egg off to the side which the resident hen then pulled in with the others.

All of these pictures are from yesterday (Tuesday):
Two hens on the roof look into the nest. (The resident hen inside opens her beak and threatens when she sees them doing this.)
They seem friendly to each other. One groomed the other one.
One inside, two on the roof, and one landing in the doorway.
One of the males joined his mate on the roof. He has his crest up.

Monday April 23, 2018

The west nest now has 14 eggs: 10 wood duck and 4 merganser. It is likely that the extra eggs will not hatch on time since they were not in the nest when incubation began and started the development of the other eggs. But we'll see; they can surprise me.

The wood ducks are getting busy now that the weather is warmer. There is usually a pair and in the morning several pairs in the creek and the yard but they are still mostly ignoring the east nest box. One hen continues to go in for a few minutes every morning at about 8:00 but no eggs yet.

One or two hens (its hard to tell them apart) wanted to get into the west nest a couple of times this morning but the resident hen defended the entrance. Sometimes this leads to a battle that can last several minutes when a second hen actually enters the nest. That happened today:
(2 minutes) - One wood duck defends her nest from another.
This type of wood duck fight consists of biting and feather tugging, especially on the back of the neck. I've never seen them draw blood or injure each other or even pull out any big feathers. The resident hen (almost?) always wins the battle I think. She simply will not leave even if the brawl goes on for a while. Its her nest. She's staying. If the invader did drive the resident out it is unlikely that she would take over: the resident's affinity for the nest is strongly developed and the invader's is not: she just wants to get rid of an egg. (Kind of like when you're on the freeway and need to find a rest stop right now! ... but you also have no plans to settle in and live there.) If the invader did drive the resident out she would probably leave again or be driven away by another fight when the resident hen came back.

In any case a new egg would not hatch with the others because it would be more than a day (many days) behind in development. This also occurs if a hen dumps an egg (biologists call this behavior of laying eggs in other hens nests "dumping") without a fight while the resident is out for supper. Before incubation starts all eggs in the nest have a chance. Once incubation has begun new eggs will be too late.

Sunday April 22, 2018

On each of the past four days a hen has been in the east nest at about 8:00am for a short time. She's been strirring the wood chips around and settling down momentarily to try it out. No eggs yet, but this behavior suggests thst she is going to use it.
The hen in the east nest this morning.
In the west nest box, all is well, and sleepy.

Thursday April 19, 2018

I got out to the nest box while the hen was away just now (5:15) and there are 12 eggs: 8 wood duck and 4 hooded merganser.
The four hooded merganser eggs are in the front and on the right. (I swapped one of them to the front just to make this picture, then put everything back the way it was.)

Monday April 16, 2018

Ducks hatching: May 16 +/- 2

The west nest wood duck spent the whole day on the nest except for a 1.5 hour supper break, and is staying overnight for the first time tonight. So incubation has started and the ducklings will hatch sometime between May 14 and May 18.

Sunday April 15, 2018

Yesterday the west nest had 5 wood duck eggs and 3 hooded merganser eggs. The wood duck has spent the entire morning in the nest box both yesterday and today. The camera recordings show that the merganser hen has visited in the afternoon for only a short time - a half hour or so.

The ducks are dealing with the blizzard yesterday (and today) as best they can. Lots of winter, not much bird food.
Snow was blowing in the doorway. Good insulating feathers and a shelter from the wind made sleeping through the storm a good option.
East nest box.
West nest box in the distance on the left. Check out the snow depth on the table!
"Aren't we supposed to be swimming the creek?"

"Gimme a break and just keep hiking. It bends to the south up ahead a ways, I think ... pretty sure it does."
Hooded merganser posing nicely with his hood up, taken a couple of days ago.

Thursday April 12, 2018

A wood duck was in the west nest box for a couple of hours this morning starting at about 7:00, and there are now 5 wood duck and 2 hooded merganser eggs.

The east nest still has none. It's the same nest box as last year, nothing changed, so perhaps the slow start of spring is delaying its use and when things warm up the ducks will be more interested in it.
West nest box this morning: The two hooded merganser eggs are larger and whiter than the wood duck eggs.
A mink visited the back yard today! We've seen them before, but only a few times over a span of many years.

Monday April 9, 2018

There are now 4 eggs in the west nest box. The east nest still has none. A hooded merganser hen was in the west nest box from about 3:15 until 3:45.
Hooded merganser hen in the nest today.

A picture from last year of a male hooded merganser showing off for his mate.
Today: Three wood duck eggs and one hooded merganser egg, second from left. The merganser egg is slightly larger, rounder, and whiter than the wood duck eggs.
Wood ducks in the back yard yesterday.
Wood ducks flying into the creek when they saw me moving inside the house.

Saturday April 7, 2018

A hen spent a couple of hours in the west nest yesterday afternoon but there are still only two eggs in that nest and none in the east. Wood ducks continue to be in the yard and the creek every day: 5 pairs yesterday and several today, but not much nesting is going on. We haven't seen the hooded mergansers lately either. On this date last year the nest boxes were full of eggs and the hens had started incubating.

C'mon spring, we're waiting for you!
Kind of cold out there.
A nice looking couple.

Wednesday April 4, 2018

Two eggs are in the west nest, none in the east. Last night the temperature fell to below 10 degrees F, but a couple of web sites said eggs can survive freezing if they are dormant; that is, if incubation has not started, so I left them.

Three pairs of wood ducks were in the creek but I have not seen any in the nest boxes today. I don’t have to watch them to know that: the cameras are set up to send a message to my phone if they see motion and if that happens then I check ... no messages today yet.

Tuesday April 3, 2018

There is still a lot of snow on the ground but the creek is open.
Five male hooded mergansers were together in the creek this morning! Unfortunately they drifted quickly downstream before I could get a picture. A pair of mergansers this AM in the falling snow:
This wood duck spent about an hour in the west house this morning between 8:00 and 9:00
When she moved (and so she's blurry) there was an egg visible, at the bottom of this picture.

Wednesday March 28, 2018

This morning a wood duck hen was in the west nest at 7:30, followed by a merganser(!) hen at 7:45, then another wood duck at 9:00. In all cases the colorful male ducks were waiting outside, which is often how we know to check the camera. The hens were very active in there, kicking the wood chips and raking them with their bills. They were just sizing up the nests: in each case they stayed for only a few minutes and there were no eggs when I checked at 10:30.

Both nest boxes now have live cameras.

Tuesday March 27, 2018

I set up both of the houses today, a bit late - the ducks have been around for a week already. Yesterday 4 pairs of wood ducks were in the back yard and there were at least 2 pairs hanging around this morning.

This time of year they typically don't spend much time in the nest boxes: the hens go in just to check it out sometimes but that often takes only about 10 minutes, sometimes more. And once they start laying they often stay in the box for only 10 to 30 minutes. So until incubation starts there is often nothing to see on the cameras except wood chips. The best chance to catch one of them in the nest is in the morning between sunrise and noon. Occassionally a hen will spend a night in a nest box too, not incubating, just resting there in a safe place.

New Cameras
I'm installing new cameras this year that I hope will be better: better controls and recording for me, and more stable and less prone to crashing for all of us. They're also higher resolution cameras (HD at 1080p) but the online stream that you see is turned down to a lower level (but still better than last year) to provide better throughput.

They are moderately priced cameras (Amcrest IP2M-841, $70 each) and one consequence of that is a fixed-focus lens. I found that anything closer than 20 inches got very blurry. In my older cameras the lens was threaded into the housing and could be turned to adjust the focus. But in the new cameras the lens is literally fixed in place with no easy way to adjust it. The camera is farsighted and to see things as close as ducks in a nest box (10 to 18 inches away) the camera needed "reading glasses". So I got some actual reading glasses at Walmart, sawed out a little disk from the middle of the plastic lens, cut a shallow groove around the circumference, twisted some wire around it, and screwed it onto the camera turret (voiding the warranty, I would certainly expect). I'm pleased. It works well!