Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Out and About: Round Lake Nature Notes- The Wonder and Stress of Wood Ducks in the Village

Each Spring, around the end of March, I see Wood Duck pairs flying around the Village. The male is striking with his chestnut breast, green head with white stripes, buff colored sides and patterned feathers. The female is a grayish brown with a white- speckled chest and white around her eyes. In flight, you really cannot see all the details, but when they land in a tree, you can. What?! Ducks in a tree? That's what Julie Galloway thought when she first saw Wood Ducks sitting in a tree in her yard. “Something is wrong with this picture!” Year after year they visit the tree and consider the real estate. Wood Ducks have claws and are able to perch on branches. Wood Duck babies have claws, too. They can climb out of tree cavities or nest boxes. Wood ducks are good at flying through the woods around trees. They eat acorns, insects, fruits, land and water plants. They choose nests in tree cavities and specially made Wood Duck nest boxes. Male and female fly around together, land on trees, and the female examines a cavity while the male hangs out on a branch. They do this in early morning.
A couple of years ago, my husband made two cedar nest boxes with attached metal baffles which should ward off intruders like squirrels and raccoons. We placed the boxes at the end of Cleveland and Peck Avenues by the the stream. These sites were chosen because soon after birth, baby Wood Ducks jump out of the nest and mother duck gathers them together and leads the brood to water. Sounds easy. But...these ducks can nest over a mile away from water and don't take into consideration humans, cars, domestic pets, and here in the village: Route 9!
In 2011 during the Antique Festival, right about noon, I got a call from Maggie McDonough. Baby Wood Ducks had dropped down from a tree in the middle of the festival and were running under a parked jeep. Momma had taken off. I suggested that people back off, give the ducks a wide berth and maybe Momma would come back and lead her ducklings away. She did! Ducklings typically jump between nine and noon. Good to know for our Wood Duck response team.
Pat Saunders has agreed to help me on Jump Day. We just need to know where the ducks have nested and try to figure out when the anticipated jump will be. I can post on our village social media sites. The best thing we all can do is keep our pets away from the ducks, not interfere with mom and her brood by giving them distance, and run interference for them should they cross Route 9. A human road block? Call or text me at 899-9246 if you have any info on the ducks. Last spring, Dixie, her daughter Diana and I tried to unite lost babies with their mom. We drove around the village on a wild duck chase.
The Wood Duck box at Cleveland Avenue is all cleaned out and has fresh cedar shaving, thanks to Egan, Reed, Morgan, Cecily, Aiden, and Katherine. We took out a couple of old wasp hives that were in the top of the box. The Green Hour group went to spring clean the box at Peck Avenue but upon knocking, an adult squirrel jumped out. The box is currently leaning, closer to a shrub than it should be, and so is accessible to squirrels. When we looked inside, four baby squirrels were nestled together. They were adorable! I know, I know! Just send the ducks to Cleveland Avenue!

Male Wood Duck

Female Wood Duck

Pair Checking on Real Estate

Decisions Decisions

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