On Monday morning, May ninth, Deb Rice and her daughter, Kim, were having coffee in their Round Lake home. Suddenly, there arose quite a clatter from their wood stove. After removing the stovepipe they got a look at their unexpected visitor… a duck! The duck gave Kim a hard time as she worked to get it out of its jam and into a cat carrier. Deb called the village office for advice on what to do about the duck. The office called me and I went over to check it out.
Deb’s chimney had been feather dusted by a female Wood Duck. This time of year around the village, Wood Duck pairs can be seen perched in trees and on top of chimneys as they are looking for a place to nest. Strong claws allow them to perch on branches, grip bark and get in and out of holes in trees. Actually it’s the female who scopes out cavities in trees for satisfactory real estate while the male patiently waits for her to make a decision.
The Mama duck at Deb’s looked fine, only losing a couple of feathers after coming down the chimney. I went outside to see if there was a tree she might fly to or have a nest in and there was a tree right next door in Jeff Max’s yard. We decided to let her go. We opened up the carrier, she flew off and was immediately joined in flight by two other ducks. They flew over to South Lawn, circled back and landed in Jeff’s tree. An hour or so later, I saw her and her mate fly over to a tree by the stream west of South Lawn. A better location for nesting as the first thing Mama does after the ducklings hatch and jump out of the nest is lead them to water. Hopefully they will make a wise choice!
On May sixth, Bob and Linda Connors had twenty baby Wood Ducks drop out of a cavity in a tree in their front yard. A garage sale was going on. Mama led the ducklings under the auditorium away from cars and people. We hoped she would stay under there with them until things quieted down. No one saw her make her get-away to water with her ducklings.
Last year, the Connors hosted a brood of twenty-two Wood Duck babies in a nest in their yard. After jumping out of the nest, which doesn’t bother them at all even at heights of sixty feet or higher, Mama had all the ducklings behind her as she led them down Prospect Avenue. However, ten ducks stayed close behind her and the other twelve started having a hard time keeping up. Mama made a left and headed over to Schoolhouse Park. The twelve stragglers became confused, got caught up in tall grass, and scattered. Mama didn’t wait for them to catch up. They lost sight of her and so did I.
I called a wildlife rehabilitator who said to catch the ducklings and then reunite them with any mother wood duck I could find. Molly, Samantha and I got quite the work-out trying to round up the ducklings. We were successful and kept them in a box with blankets. Then I drove and walked around the village searching for a Mama. No luck. I drove the ducklings to a rehabber in Guilderland who put them in a heated cage with other ducklings. They had water and duck feed. She released them into the wild when they were ready.
I have learned that “Jump Time” usually happens before noon. Broods are typically about ten or eleven babies. Huge broods of over twenty are because of egg dumping. This is when a female lays her eggs in another duck’s nest and lets that first female rear the ducklings. The Round Lake ducks have two beautiful cedar boxes on the stream south of the village. They haven’t used them. They seem to be attracted to large trees right in the middle of the village. This puts them in danger when they have to walk to water, past cars, cats, dogs, and people.
Deb will be getting a cap for her chimney and I am certain I will be getting more calls for wayward Wood Ducks around the village.