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.
Mama Wood Duck and her brood posed for a family portrait on one of the new alligator ramps installed around the rice field. I counted fourteen chicks while they were sitting still, but some were snoozing with their heads down so there may have been more. All About Birdssays their clutch can have up to sixteen eggs.
A Common Gallinule was doing his best to photo bomb the portrait, paddling along behind them. I waited, hoping he would move along.
He did, but Mama felt it was time to move on, too, and they all bailed off in one fluid motion off the side of the ramp away from me.
This pair of Northern Shovelers was sticking together as they worked the pond in the early morning light. They were one of only a few water birds in the area that was patrolled by at least two pairs of Bald Eagles making them easy targets.
Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, Florida, 2/21/2018.
Mallards doing the Mallard bath in a pond, as can be seen throughout most of the United Sates and Canada. We rarely see Mallards in the other ponds we visit, but Magnolia Cemetery is more of an urban location where you would expect them to congregate.
The sun was perfect on this early February afternoon and the Mallards were enjoying an unseasonably warm day.
After bathing they had a dead tree trunk to perch on, out of the water and with a good view of potential hazards. This pond does host a few Alligators, I have seen fox on the cemetery grounds, and a few Red-shouldered Hawks could be heard nearby.
The same pair of Hooded Mergansers as yesterday’s post had places to go as they were out for a swim around one of Magnolia Cemetery’s ponds. The male gradually caught up to the female as they passed this group of Mallards on the edge of a small island.
The Mergansers weren’t in such a hurry that they chose to fly, but they didn’t divert even as the Mallards went about their preening and flapping.
The Mergansers continued on their way, the female in the lead, headed out into the middle of the pond.
The Hooded Mergansers tend to be shy and I usually see them retreating shortly after I spot them. I happened to be sitting on a low wall watching a pond when these two swam by me, close enough to get a shot.
The brown reeds and grasses of late winter made a golden glow on the water, a nice complement to these gorgeous ducks. The male is certainly flashier, especially when he has his hood up, but the female is an understated beauty.