Monday, March 11, 2013

Herbert's Pond: Part II

Note this is Part II.  Part I should be read first.

I did read go home and read about wood duck behavior on Cornell’s “Birds of North America Online” (    subscription required).  I suddenly realize I have been watching more courting behavior than I realized.  They seemed to be the thirstiest ducks  imaginable, but all that bill dipping is one of the behaviors.  I saw a lot of that!  The other behaviors happen very quickly.  I think the video is a really good idea.  

Maybe if we arrive at the pond early, they’ll be even more wound up.  But, for some reason, we just can’t get out of the house as early as I would like.  I write in my notes:

“Haven’t started and we’re late already.  8AM.  The sun is actually shining  -- visible!  Of course it always shines -- somewhere.  In winter it is a rare morning that we wake up to sunshine.    We’re just heading out the driveway and I’m wishing we were already at Herbert’s Pond.

We arrive.  Quiet.  Don’t even see a wood duck!  Have they left, flown to their nesting territories?  Then I find them sleeping amongst a tree that has fallen into the pond.  Some on low limbs, some in the water.  This is what we scrambled for!”

Before long some of the wood ducks head our way.  A little chick scratch (corn) thrown onshore helps to convince them we are some of those ‘good humans.’  The corn is soon gone and the ducks get back to paying attention to each other.  

Bill dipping is happening all the time.  It looks like a quick sip of water, but they’d be as big as watermelons if they were really drinking all the time.  When I watch carefully I see a hen bill dipping.  

Another frequent behavior is a quick chin up, usually by the drake but I saw a hen do it too.  

We also watched mutual preening.  A hen and a drake snuggle up next to each other and nibble at each other’s long head plumes -- very tender.  Really quite sweet to see.  

I start videoing.   Last summer I first dared to push the video buttons on my CANON 7D camera.  I still haven’t shot a total of an hour of video. Shooting video is a challenge.  By the time the duck actually does something, it is way too late to push the button..... so I watch for birds that seem fairly engaged, start the video and hope something happens.  As we often say, “It’s only pixels.”  What we don’t want can be erased.  

I get so lucky!  I’m filming a small cluster of wood ducks bobbing about, bill dipping,  when suddenly one does the head flick, that ever so quick head fluff / rear up that happens so quickly I wasn’t sure quite what I had seen when I first saw it.  With the video I can slow it down and see the exact sequence of movement:  head fluffed the drake dips his head down then rears up and flips his head back in a flash.  Back to normal. It takes about a third of a second!

The beautiful display catches the hen's attention.
I keep watching the trio of woodies -- two drakes and a hen.  Usually a drake is on each side of the hen, but every so often one swims in front and fluffs his crest.  There is a reason a wood duck drake has all those iridescent colors on his head.  What a show off!  Suddenly he turns broadside to the hen and flashes her -- another of the ‘behaviors.’  First he bill dips, then raises his crest, quickly shakes his head, and then, ever so fast, he reaches back as if to preen his underwing.  In the process he flashes his wing, showing a blaze of iridescence.  Wow!  With my eyes I just thought it was a quick preen.  After reading about the different behaviors and actually catching it on video, I am so impressed.  He knows how to show off his beautiful feathers. 
Soon after, I see that the hen is ready.  She lays flat out in the water in front of one of the drakes.  He approaches, grabs the long feathers on her head and mounts her.   

.... and during all this duck watching, did Dale get some good photos?  Oh, Yes.


  1. What a treat watching these wood ducks. Love your sketches.

  2. We're lucky, too, that we have you. Beautiful sketches and photo. Wood ducks are now even more special to see than just their gorgeous coloring. Thanks for sharing.

  3. We are lucky, too! Beautiful sketches and photo. When seeing Wood Ducks from now on, we will appreciate them for more than just their gorgeous coloring. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Love your ducks! I sent a link to your blog to my cousin who does nature photography as an inspiration. (and thanks for looking at my sketches from Paris)

  5. very nice duck... very nice sketc too