Saturday, June 14, 2008

Good Luck Little Guy

I mentioned the other day that I've seen Wood Ducks in the trees over the RVs. These are shots from earlier in the Spring.. end of April, early May. I fact, they're among the first images I captured with the D300.. way before I knew how to manipulate the menu for optimal color! This is the spectacularly colored male, or drake.

I didn't see the pair again until just the other day, while I was punishing myself walking Rally. (She has to make interminable circles on the flexi lead before she will do her thing... there have been times I swear I've fallen asleep waiting for her to pee!). Naturally, I don't have the camera with me when I'm doing this, so it was really frustrating when I glanced up and saw the pair of ducks fly to a nearby tree and disappear. I kept my eye on the spot, thinking they were perching on a limb. I didn't see them fly away, so when Rally finally finished her chore, I tossed her in the door and grabbed the camera, and ran to the base of the tree thinking I would get them taking off- (they're very skittish and shy).
Nothing. I know I would have seen them leave while I was out, and with a little searching, I spotted a trail of down hanging out of a cavity about 50 feet up.

A nest!
This tree's about 200 yards from the nearest water, but that's not all that unusual, nor is the way the young leave the nest when it's time:

"The Wood Duck nests in trees near water, sometimes directly over water, but other times up to 2 km (1.2 mi) away. After hatching, the ducklings jump down from the nest tree and make their way to water. The mother calls them to her, but does not help them in any way. The ducklings may jump from heights of up to 89 m (290 ft) without injury." (emphasis mine- DG)

Which brings us to today's tale. Once again, walking Rally sans camera, I saw a quick-moving bird crossing the campground road, heading in our direction. Baby duckling. Cursing the dog and my luck, my impatience finally won over, and I took her back to the Express and tossed her in to do whatever she was going to do inside, but I was not going to miss this picture!

Aix Sponsa (Wood duck)
I hope the little guy makes it to the water.. this was not the best of all possible weekends to be hatching here.. it's a race weekend in our part of Michigan, and there are more than the usual number of NASCAR Bubba's at the campground- you know, the guys who build giant campfires when the overnight low is only going to be the upper 70's and that number matches the humidity, and they're drinking Miller Lite. Need I say more?

Anyway, he moves pretty quickly for a tiny tot, when you approach him, so I couldn't interfere with "nature" even if I wanted to. Still, the odds are against him, which must be why the hens typically lay 6-15 eggs, and can sometimes lay up to 40 (!). And they do it twice a year. Their numbers are solid, and trail only Mallards in numbers shot each season.

I could be seeing more.

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