Happy Birthday!

June 5, 2012

by Tim Burris, Mariton Preserve Manager

Maureen and I were in Michigan over the weekend to celebrate my Dad’s Birthday.  My parents have a great house that overlooks the marsh where I spent a lot of my youth.  The living room is essentially a bird blind, with window-walls that look out on about a dozen bird feeders. 

After they built the house, Dad became very interested in Wood Ducks.  He read, attended lectures and watched a lot of nature shows about both Woodies and Hoodies (Hooded Mergansers).  He experiments with different box designs and keeps records.  He is the person I call when I want a Wood Duck expert.  Dad has several boxes in the “swamp” strategically placed where he can watch them from his living room chair.  He also puts up three in the yard temporarily in the spring, just to make sure the Wood Ducks have lots of nest cavities.

When we arrived on Thursday night, he told us that he thought that he had a batch of eggs in Box #3 that should hatch out on Saturday:  his birthday.  By watching the hen’s visits to the box, he can tell when she starts sitting on the eggs.  From there it is pretty easy to calculate the hatch date.  When Wood Ducks hatch, they have to leave the nest and get to food right away. 

Sure enough, on Saturday morning while we were getting ready for the party, I noticed the hen sitting in the hole.  We put the spotting scope on the box and could see her talking to get the young babies ready to leave the nest.  Soon, she was on the ground and calling to the ducklings inside the nestbox.  They started appearing at the hole and shooting out.  Excuse the photos, I was pushing the limits of my camera. 

(In this photo there is one duckling on the ground with the hen, and one in the opening ready to jump out.)

(In this photo you can see a duckling in the air.  It doesn’t really fly, rather they propel themselves out of the nest box opening.)

(Finally with everyone out, the hen leads her young to find food and shelter.)

So, a batch of Wood Ducks was born on my Dad’s 85th birthday.  That was pretty neat.  Later that afternoon, my brothers, sister, nieces, and nephews gathered to celebrate, which was very special too.  Happy Birthday Dad!