Shortly after the nice surprise of seeing a Wood Duck with two ducklings on Sunday I came upon this one with eight ducklings.
They were paddling along all together in a tight group at first but eventually spread out enough for me to count them.
They followed the pond to the corner then did an about face and headed back the way they came, sticking pretty close to mom. The water was reflecting the dead brown grass on the bank so this image isn’t that pretty, but you can see each duckling distinctly.
Small, compact and swimming at a steady pace, I thought this was a Grebe at first when I caught a glimpse through the reeds.
I was able to get to a gap in the reeds for a better view and discovered it was a female Bufflehead. I listened and looked on both sides of the marsh dike where I was walking and didn’t see any others.
This Hooded Merganser was outnumbered, by Common Gallinules of all things. Gallinules tend to stick to the edges of any waterway and mind their own business except for their cackling squawks which always alerts the whole area to a photographer’s presence. Or so I thought.
The Gallinules quickly got into the Merganser’s space.
He tried out paddling them.
They followed so the Merganser opted to put some extra distance between them.
Last Saturday was a spectacular bird day at Bear Island Wildlife Management Area and these Blue-winged Teals were one of the many groups of birds I saw. The water had been lowered in some of the back ponds which attracts the wading birds, shore birds and migrating ducks.
The reeds at the edge of the canals are above my head in most places so I did not have a clear view of the teals until they took off.
A mother Wood Duck usually stays with her ducklings until they are grown to near adult size, the “teen age” stage. The males are sometimes around but don’t seem to supervise the young the way I’ve seen the females herd their charges around.
No adult was in sight for these three ducklings and I suspect the mother became lunch for a predator. The survival rate for the ducklings is low and the adults can fall victim to alligators, hawks, or eagles. These three were sticking together, swimming around the pond to various perches. As plant eaters these ducklings don’t rely on the parent bringing food, they just eat what is around them.
This board they are settled on is an Alligator ramp that has been slowly sinking into the pond over the last year.
The surface of the pond is covered with a mixture of green Duck Weed and some variation of Mosquito Fern, the red plant. Zoom in on the closer image of the dragonfly perched on the surface to see the plants in more detail.
The oldest Wood Duck chicks on the pond right now are almost indistinguishable from their mothers.
This old alligator platform gets smaller every week, either sinking or rotting into the pond. This small family squeezes together on it to groom and soak up the afternoon sun.
From the end of the pond you get a view of the platform with the sun glaring off the duckweed. In silhouette you can see mother duck standing a little taller and with more head feathers than her four youngsters. She had turned just a bit to see which way I was headed.