We’ve been a bird-watching family for years. But two months ago we moved into a house with trees and water in the backyard. Actually it was still ice back there until April 28.
Anyway, in these new surroundings we have quickly become certified naturalists. Besides being completely captivated by wildlife and bird-watching in general, we’ve become downright overwhelmed by all things wood duck.
Our first wood duck sighting was April 17. The lake was still completely frozen, but snow was beginning to melt and pool up in between the edge of our yard and the marshy cattail area along the lakeshore.
Then it snowed some more.
And thawed. And snowed.
Again and again. And still more wood duck sightings.
One snowy afternoon a pair of wood ducks came as close as the rocks below our bird feeders. That’s just a few feet from the edge of the patio!
A few days later the snow melted again, the sun came out, and the wood ducks flocked high up into the next-door neighbors’ trees, hunting for the perfect nesting trees and basking in the late morning sunshine.
The very next day — a Saturday morning — my husband and 7-year-old woke me up with the thrilling news that the wood ducks were in the hollow oak tree just outside my bedroom window.
The early morning sunlight captured the handsome and colorful details of male wood duck as the female wood duck searched inside the tree for a good nesting spot.
Ultimately, the wood ducks opted for this newly constructed home, rather than the traditional old oak tree. I think Mrs. Wood Duck was planning ahead and preferred her ducklings have a shorter fall to the ground and a much shorter route to the lake. Makes sense.
Along with the next-door neighbors, we have been putting out corn for the ducks regularly. The price of corn adds up fast. And as the neighbor says, we might not be able to afford to send the kids college because of all the money we’ve spent feeding the ducks, but at least our kids can say they had wood ducks!
This stump is one of the ducks’ favorite eating spots. It quickly becomes an island restaurant when spring rains cause the water to rise. Nearly every evening we watch three or four wood duck couples swim up, waddle through the cattails, and make their way over to this stump or the neighbors’ corn tray for dinner. After dinner they take a little romantic stroll through the yard in pairs and then make their way back to the water to dabble at dessert.
Once the trees leafed out, we spotted another couple up high in the tree next to our hollow oak. I doubt we’ll ever get accustomed to seeing ducks so high on a tree branch.
Then again, I don’t think we’ll ever grow tired of watching them glide through the water either.
If you’d like to learn more about these and other fascinating ducks, be sure to visit PBS.org and watch An Original DUCKumentary.