Sunday, March 27, 2016

March 27, 2016

Last week I noted our Wood Duck pair had returned to establish its nest near the lake.  This week we watched as they had to fend off a small flock of would-be home-seekers that thought Wicwas looked like a nice place to raise a family. 
An intruding group of Wood Ducks exploring Lake Wicwas
But our local pair came down to defend their turf.
Our ducks standing their ground
There was a stand off, but after a bit of non-verbal communication (see the male pecking at the water) they were able to convince the visitors that this cove had been claimed.  Click here to watch video.  (I had to upload the videos to youtube to keep the resolution from being really bad - even there it's not great.)

The intruders did make a couple more approaches with the same result;  they ultimately gave up.
On the retreat

Earlier we had the unusual sight of a duck walking around in tree branches.
A duck in a tree?

It was Mrs. Woody, waiting patiently while Mr. Woody prepared the nest, probably working on enlarging a cavity in a rotten tree.  Wood ducks have claws on their feet - unusual for ducks - that let them climb around in the trees.  Mrs. Woody sat and watched patiently from her perch on the branch.
Waiting for her home to be ready

Hopefully we'll have little woodies in a few weeks;  these are truly stunning birds.
Female Wood Duck

This wasn't the only display of duck mating behavior this week - perhaps the earlier ice-out means we are seeing more mating activity than usual.  We witnessed a group of male Hooded Mergansers trying to win over a sole female by impressing them with their beauty and strength.

It began with some preening and head-bobbing while the female watched from under a hemlock tree - you'll see her dive and then swim back out to watch the antics.  Click here to watch video.

Then they went on to chasing each other and circling around the none-too amused female.  Click here to watch video. And a second.

As time went on the behavior escalated in more aggressive tactics.  Click to watch.

Until finally she decided she'd had enough and flew off with the whole bunch in hot pursuit.  Click to watch.

It must be frustrating when there aren't enough mates for all, but just like the deer and many other species, it ensures propagation of a strong gene pool.

The last of the bird feeders have now been taken in to ensure the bears don't learn to associate with humans.  It took the downy woodpecker's long beak to extract the final few seeds that the chickadees and nuthatches couldn't reach.
A downy woodpecker cleans out the last of the seeds

Soon enough, humming birds will swap places with the winter flocks, as they coax the sweet nectar from the bounty of Linda's summer flowers that will supplant the seed-feeders on the posts! 

Finally, we had a rare but special visitor to Lake Wicwas this week: a pair of the aptly-named Goldeneye.  These fabulous birds were stopping here for a short rest and a meal on their way to breeding grounds in northern New England or Canada.

Female Common Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula)
Male Common Goldeneye

A week like this with so much activity causes me to reflect on the amazing range of animals that this precious habitat attracts and supports.  And to remember the many generous people over the years who have worked so hard to protect this unspoiled spot in our ever-developing world.

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