[Tweeters] Duck Box Season

Lee Rentz lee at leerentz.com
Sat Mar 15 20:23:03 PDT 2014

Today I ascended the Bigleaf Maple trees in front of our house to clean out our three duck boxes, which we have been maintaining for some ten years.
When I climbed the ladder some 15' and opened the maintenance door of the first one, a really startled Hooded Merganser female looked back at me for a couple of seconds with wide eyes, then quickly scrambled out of the box and out onto the lake. She had a tale to tell her mate!

She left two eggs in the box (laid several days ago), which I carefully removed before taking out all the sodden old wood chips and replacing them with fresh aspen chips. We also set up an infrared nest cam in the box so that we could remotely watch the progress of the nest. Several hours later, after all evidence of my visit was gone, she returned with her mate to the lake surface below the box. Then they suddenly took off and made a huge circle of the lake, gaining altitude, and when they came back to the box she entered the opening while he passed by and eventually settled on the lake below.

We could now watch her on the nest cam, and for several minutes she sat frozen on the fresh chips, looking extremely wary of the rearrangement of her nest box. She stared up at the camera, as if she could see us watching her, and had her legs splayed out awkwardly to the sides. Eventually she seemed to get comfortable, and after about 15 minutes, we could see her straining as she laid another egg. Then she rested several minutes before using her bill to arrange the wood chips over the three eggs. All was well in her world, and she left the box to spend the night on the lake with her mate.

The second box was empty today, though a flicker has been using it frequently for roosting at night.

The third box was packed to the rafters with bright green moss mixed with whole peanuts. This was one of the nests of a Douglas Squirrel who competes with the Steller's Jays for the peanuts I put out almost every day. He is going to be disappointed to know that the sheriff evicted him in favor of potential Wood Ducks. But, the squirrels often use a couple of nest sites, so he or she can shift to another.

Lee Rentz
lee at leerentz.com
Shelton, WA

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