Monday, March 31, 2014

Wood Duck Update March 31, 2014: Two Ducks in a Box Last Week!

Eleven eggs!-- Saturday morning, March 22, 2014

               It was an eventful week for the Parc Perlière Wood Ducks last week!  In my previous post, "Wood Duck Update:  March 19, 2014 ---- Shhhhhhhh......!" I recorded that our female Wood Duck no. 1 had begun incubating.  However, a Wood Duck no. 2 had also been going in the box to lay eggs!  With more research on the encyclopaedic Birds of North America Online, a subscription site with comprehensive life histories of the breeding birds of North America produced by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the American Ornithologists' Union, I was reminded that the Wood Duck hen incubates part-time (usually just at night) for the first 4 days.  She also continues egg-laying during this period.  Then she begins incubating full time except for a morning and late afternoon break for feeding.  Breaks last on average from 87 minutes to 104 minutes with longer breaks occurring late in the day.  Thus, our Duck no. 1 followed the rules -- she began her part-time incubating on Wednesday, March 19 and began her full-time incubating on Sunday, March 23.  But then there's Duck no. 2, our interloper, who just wants a place to lay her eggs!  Here's a list of the events as they unfolded last week:

Saturday, March 22, 2014
           Early in the morning, Wood Duck no. 1 was still incubating when Wood Duck no. 2 dropped into the box right on top of Wood Duck no. 1.  At first, Number 1 did not really respond.

Under infra-red light -- Wood Duck hen no. 2 sitting on Wood Duck hen no. 1's back -- where she landed when she came into the box.  -- Parc Perlière -- Charleston, SC --- March 22, 2014

But then Wood Duck no. 2 began to try to jostle for position in the box.  Around and around the two ducks went.  Number 1 was trying hard not to be dislodged from atop her eggs and bit Number 2 from time to time.  Finally, after several minutes of this, Number 2 left.  Right before she left though, Carl and I witnessed some tail pumping action.  Was she laying an egg?  We do not  know.  A short while later, Wood Duck no. 1 left and we captured the above picture.  We wonder if there is a twelfth egg in there under some of the cedar chips and down.

Sunday, March 23, 2014
            Our Wood Duck no. 1 had left the box on a break when Wood Duck no. 2 came in.  She plopped herself down and pushed around a bit.  After about 10 minutes, we saw more tail-pumping action.  Then she carefully covered up the eggs and left.  This is the day that Wood Duck no. 1 began full time incubation.  She returned to the nest a little later that morning and did not leave again except for a break in the late afternoon.

Monday through Wednesday, March 24 -26, 2014
           Each evening upon returning home from work, Carl and I watched the videos for the day.  Each day, Wood Duck no. 2 came into the box landing on Wood Duck no. 1 and the jostling and the biting then ensued.  We noted that Wood Duck no. 2 did not fight back.  She simply seemed to be attempting to lay an egg.  Wood Duck no. 1 was furiously tending her turf though --  not being willing to sacrifice her nesting attempt to this interloper.   With this much egg dumping, we wondered if the eggs would survive.  Wednesday was the worst of the days.  Wood Duck no. 2 came in a total of 9 times -- 3 times in an hour at 3 different times during the day!  How frustrating for both these ducks -- trying to do what they are biologically programmed to do!  You can watch the video below though you may not want to.  Some may consider the struggle too hard to watch.  Wood Duck no. 1 is most definitely the agressive duck.  Wood Duck no. 2 just takes it as she attempts to push out an egg.  We do not know if or how many times she may have succeeded in laying an egg.


Thursday, March 25, 2014 to present   
            There have been no more duck box battles.  Our Duck No. 1 has been able to incubate in peace.  Duck no. 2 appears to have given up.  We have not seen her since Wednesday.

            We now hope that there are not so many eggs as to inhibit a successful incubation.  We will keep watch and count the days.  Hatching should occur in the few days before Easter.  It may be delayed because of the dumping .... if it happens at all!  Fingers crossed.  We will keep you posted! 


Saturday, March 22, 2014

Live Nest Cam Watching! -- Spring 2014

Live streaming video by Ustream

        Berry College, a private 4-year liberal arts school close to Rome, Georgia, in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains is proud to host a live webcam on an eagle nest on their 27,000 acre campus, the world's largest campus!  A friend sent me a link to this live cam this morning and being quite impressed with it, I decided to share it with you.  I was delighted to be able to embed the link.

        It is nest-cam watching season now.  Of course, Carl and I have our own nest cams here at Parc Perlière.  Unfortunately, we do not have the means to make them live views for you.  But we will continue to update you as to the action occurring within and outside the boxes.  More is happening elsewhere as the temperature begins to rise for Spring.  For example, I recently learned that the Cornell University Red-tailed Hawks, Big Red and her mate Ezra, having refurbished their nest, have nwo produced a first egg (March 19) and a second egg (March 22 -- today)!  These are hearty birds to be laying eggs in 37 degree temps in Ithaca, New York.

Watch live streaming video from cornellhawks at

You can learn more about Big Red and Ezra and their daily lives by visiting the Cornell Hawks link in the caption above.  I have enjoyed watching these two hawks raise chicks for the last couple of years.  My regular readers will recall this blog post about them from June 26, 2012: "Another Red-tailed Hawk Family Followed in Far-Away Cornell Land"  

             Cornell University also has a webcam on a Great Blue Heron nest outside of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology building in Sapsucker Woods.  They have spent time this winter reburbishing cameras for this nest site prior to the birds' arrival.  They were expecting to have the work completed by the end of March.  They may need to speed up the process as a Great Blue Heron visited the nest on March 15!           

Watch live streaming video from cornellherons at

           Cornell University partners with other groups to promote their live bird cams as well.  Earlier this year, in a February 1 post, "The Ice Man Cameth -- January 29--30! Birding out the Window & Birding on the Net Continued" , I gave this link to the Laysan Albatross nest web cam in Hawaii!  I am not permitted to embed this live feed but I do recommend that you check it out.  The still flightless child has left the nest and now wanders about the yard.  The cam must be remote controlled so that it can follow his movements.  It is pretty cool!  To keep track of all of the Cornell web cam partners, use this link.  You will be able to watch birds at feeders in Sapsucker Woods (Cornell) and in Ontario as well as Ospreys nesting in Montana and American Kestrels in Idaho!  Word is that the Ospreys are expected to return to their nesting sites in Montana within the next couple of weeks!  Yes, I have posted these links before (see my post from June 3, 2013).  But being excited about nesting season, I do not want you guys to miss out either.  Do not forget to check out the Audubon-sponsored Project Puffin web-cams either!  The Puffins are still out to sea but you can enjoy last summer's highlights below.

Video streaming by Ustream
            Now, when it rains tomorrow or another day, you can still get your birding fix by going on the the web to have fairly close-up views of the private lives of birds.  Enjoy!  In the meantime, Carl and I will keep an eye on the activity in our boxes.  I promise an interesting video clip from this morning!  I will say that we know now that we have 11 eggs in the duck box.  More later!  

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Wood Duck Update: March 19, 2014 --- Shhhhhhhh....... !

...... look who's sleeping!

Wood Duck begins incubating on Wednesday evening, March 19, 2014 -- Parc Perlière -- Charleston, SC

             When I came home from work last night, I spotted a male Wood Duck alone in the creek.  He appeared to be rather alert, and dare I say, looking a bit lonely.  So I peeked inside the box via our live video feed and saw his little female all snuggled up over her eggs .... and probably the eggs of the second duck as well!  Incubation has begun!  Mark the date!  In 36 days, we hope to see chicks jumping out of the box!

            We have not yet counted eggs.  We will need to do it this weekend when the female leaves the box in the morning to feed. But what about that second female?!  If there are more than 8 eggs in the box, the second female was indeed laying eggs.  We are pretty sure she was.  For at least 3 days, she spent an hour in the box and was coming into the box a little earlier each day.  Yesterday, Duck no. 2 came in an hour after Duck no. 1 had left.  Carl and I are wondering what is going to happen today when duck no. 2 shows up!  We hope that there will not be a battle in the box.  Will the male be outside to defend home turf?  What a shame for the second female that there is not enough nesting space for her!

           It is 5:25 am.  I just peeked inside the box.  Mama is there awake.  Those pesky Great-Horned Owls are having a conversation right now, waking up the neighborhood.  We live in a rather heavily populated area close to Folly Road.  And yet we still are able to enjoy having wildlife such as Wood Ducks, Great Horned Owls and Red-Tailed Hawks raising families in our "back yard!"  We will see what the day holds for our Wood Ducks and I will keep you posted!  Good morning, everyone!  Let's hope it is a good morning for the Wood Ducks and their eggs!   


Sunday, March 16, 2014

Quick Peeks into the Wood Duck Box This Week!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

           Carl and I had been watching the wood ducks -- via video feed -- come nearly daily, in the morning,  to our Wood Duck box.  The female only stayed in the box for just 2 or 3 minutes -- definitely not long enough to lay an egg.  We did check the box from time to time just to make sure.  No there were no eggs.

           Finally, Wednesday, it appeared that all the practicing is over.  Carl captured an hour's worth of video of the female in the box and, yes, there is an egg!  Carl made this video to share.

Friday, March 14, 2014

         Friday, Carl captured this photo which showed 3 eggs.  We have not actually gone down to the box to attempt to count eggs. 

Wood duck with 3 eggs -- Parc Perlière -- Charleston, SC -- March 14, 2014

Sunday, March 16, 2014

         Yesterday, the female spent about 2 hours in the box, which was longer than usual.  Then in the afternoon, a female came into the box and spent about 5 minutes.  We are doubting that it is the same female.  It behaved like it was "practicing."  It laid on the eggs, pushed them around with its feet.  Then she covered them up and left.  Thinking back to the previous weekend's duel pair of wood ducks in the creek, it makes us wonder if there are 2 females who are going to attempt to use the box.  I would go out and count eggs right now, BUT, a pair of wood ducks showed up behind the house.  I do not want to flush them so we will wait and see.

          Strangely, until just now this afternoon, no one has shown up.  We will watch the box to see if the female, who is currently feeding under the bird feeder which hangs over the creek, goes into the box.

          What will happen next?  Surely, the eggs have not been abandoned!  We will keep you updated as events progress!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Dumb and Dumber ... In the Animal World, too!

"Dumber" -- 9-Banded Armadillo at Donnelly WMA near Green Pond, SC -- February 15, 2014 -- Photo taken at a 400 millimeter focal length.

            As much as we admire wildlife for their ability to make a living in ways that make the human race seem fairly soft, we animal lovers must admit that there are some truly dumb critters out there.  This past month, I have witnessed first-hand two truly dumb ones.  It makes you believe that the only reason these species survive is due to the fact that they are such fecund breeders.

          I will begin with "Dumber," the Nine-Banded Armadillo.  Texans fondly refer to them as "Possum on the Half Shell" because, as many have said to me personally, the only ones they have seen were roadkill.   When I lived in Texas, the only ones I saw were on the half shell, too.  Some 18 years ago, upon moving back to Georgia from Italy, Carl and I began to see them regularly and could observe their behaviors.  They seemed oblivious to your presence unless you made a sudden move.  We wondered if they could hear.  We had learned that their eyesight was very poor.  But according to this Animals-Pawnation site, they have a keen sense of hearing which helps them to forage for insects.  You would think they would use that hearing to avoid oncoming traffic!  After all, cars make noise. 

        I spotted the specimen above when birding at Donnelly Wildlife Management area on February 15.  I noticed several more a week later when I was birding there.  In fact, Donnelly seems to be overrun with them.  Though they are primarily nocturnal, they apparently forage  in winter months  in the warm afternoons.  When spotted this guy, he was out in the middle of the lawn behind the lodge.  I determined his general direction and then set up my tripod to photograph and film him.  I was interested to see how close he might come to me.  The above picture is the first shot and the shadow is a shadow from a picnic table.  I never moved my tripod.  Each picture here is full framed on the height dimension so the series that follows will show how close he came.  I eventually had to pull in my zoom from the long 400 millimeter focal length to 190 millimeters.

"Dumber" -- 9-Banded Armadillo at Donnelly WMA near Green Pond, SC -- February 15, 2014 -- Photo taken at a 400 millimeter focal length

          The shadow above shows the upper corner of the picnic table shadow.  I had expected that he might work his way through the shadow and that perhaps he would see me and run for cover by the time he came out of it.  He did indeed work his way through the shadow.  But when he came out the other side, he ran towards me for a moment instead.

Here he comes! -- "Dumber" -- 9-Banded Armadillo at Donnelly WMA near Green Pond, SC -- February 15, 2014 -- Photo taken at a 400 millimeter focal length

          At this point, I decided to film him as he continued his slow zigzag approach.

        I had to stop filming though as the camera was unable to maintain focus as he approached me.  So, I continued with taking his picture.  With each successive frame, I had to reduce the focal length of my lens. 

"Dumber" -- 9-Banded Armadillo at Donnelly WMA near Green Pond, SC -- February 15, 2014 -- Photo taken at a 260 millimeter focal length

"Dumber" -- 9-Banded Armadillo at Donnelly WMA near Green Pond, SC -- February 15, 2014 -- Photo taken at a 210 millimeter focal length
"Dumber" -- 9-Banded Armadillo at Donnelly WMA near Green Pond, SC -- February 15, 2014 -- Photo taken at a 190 millimeter focal length

Finally, he figured out that a potential threat was a mere 15 feet away and he ran for cover!

"Dumber" -- 9-Banded Armadillo at Donnelly WMA near Green Pond, SC -- February 15, 2014 -- Photo taken at a 190 millimeter focal length

        Amazing!  And funny!  Later, that afternoon in fading light, fellow birder Caroline Eastman and I were returning from the dike that runs across the impoundment behind the office.  She had seen my encounter with the armadillo above earlier and we were talking about it.  Next we heard a rustling in the underbrush and we anticipated that it was another one of these incredibly dumb (or oblivious) creatures.  Sure enough, an armadillo emerged from the underbrush and ambled right past Caroline within 6 inches of her feet!  When she turned, she startled him and he took off.  Crazy!  We had been talking the whole time as he approached.  He had not been bothered by our voices.  For a critter, that's not just dumb, that's "Dumber!" 

         Now, I come to the story of the critter that has earned the designation of "Dumb" for this blog post.  Knowing what we do about this species, "dumb" may not be the appropriate appelation.  We have in the past after all witnessed some rather clever behavior from this particular species.  From those observations, maybe "foolhardy" is a better word to describe the animal.  This species knows what it wants and has the audacity to go for it nearly every time.   Such seemed to be the case last Saturday, a week ago. 

          All during the week, Carl and I had noticed a young female Red-shouldered Hawk perched and hunting from the bluebird box in the churchyard across the street.  I never had an opportunity to see her actually successfully catch something.  But I did see a couple of attempts.  Well, while Carl and I were eating lunch, I looked out and saw her perched on a branch across the creek.  When I pointed her out to Carl, I noted she was next to a squirrel on the same branch.  Wait a second!  A squirrel on the same branch as a hawk!  What is wrong with this picture!?   Not only that, the squirrel seemed to want to move towards her.  Carl ran for his camera and captured the following shots!

"Dumb" the squirrel and a mystified Red-shouldered Hawk -- Parc Perlière -- March 1, 2014 -- Photo by Carl Miller

 The hawk seemed to be as dumbfounded as we by this squirrel's audacity.  "Really!  What are you thinking, squirrel?!"  was a sentiment that the three of us shared.  We had noticed that squirrels have been gathering leaves and building nests.  Perhaps, this squirrel saw some choice leaves on the other side of this hawk that were truly appealing.  We did see this squirrel begin to move down the branch 3 or 4 times inching in closer to the hawk.  As it approached, the hawk flexed her wings and rasped at the squirrel.  Apparently, she was not hungry though. Her craw did appear rather full!

"Dumb" with an unimpressed Red-shouldered Hawk on same branch -- Parc Perlière -- March 1, 2014 -- Photo by Carl Miller

The squirrel eventually came to its senses and ran down the tree in search of other leaves and the hawk flew off.  It was quite an amazing lunch time show for us though!

          Obviously, just as in humans, there are varying levels of "smarts" in animal species.  Some humans are smarter (or dumber) than others; some squirrels are smarter  (or dumber) than others and some armadillos are smarter (or dumber) than others.  There's is no shortage of squirrels in our yard -- in spite of the predators.  And there seems to be no shortage of armadillos in Donnelly WMA.  As they are such prolific breeders, then they certainly stand a chance in spite of other shortcomings.  In the end, we should expect the unexpected with such variation and we can continue to be awed by our observations of the natural world!