Empty Nest

Published on: Aug. 23, 2012

As the kids go back to school, your house may not be the only empty nest in the area. This summer’s drought conditions also had an impact on breeding wood ducks at Duck Creek Conservation Area.

Nest Attempts by Wood Ducks

If you’ve read our blog over the last couple years, you may recall that Dr. Peter Blums monitors the nest boxes at Duck Creek each year. His results for the 2012 breeding season are in. This year he recorded the lowest number of nesting attempts (60) and total eggs laid (853) for wood ducks since his research began in 1996. He accounts for these low numbers because of the dry habitat conditions.

Unlike other waterfowl species wood ducks can’t really “pack their lunch” and haul fat and protein reserves from their wintering grounds. Instead, once the females arrive in the spring they have to forage heavily on bugs, snails and crayfish to meet the requirements for egg production. Usually their dietary needs can be met within the flooded sloughs in the timber and emergent marsh. However, this spring we lacked the precipitation that typically recharges these habitats and makes the bugs easily available. Since there wasn’t adequate food, many of the potentially breeding wood ducks took a “rain check” this year at Duck Creek.

Nest Success by Wood Ducks

Despite the lower wood duck numbers, Peter did have some good news. The percentage of nest success was at an all-time high at 85%; typically percentage of successful nesting attempts is closer to 68%. Nesting efficiency was also a record high at 71%. This is the number of eggs laid divided by the number of ducklings that leave the nest box. Dump nesting is where other wood ducks or hooded mergansers lay their eggs in nests that are being incubated by another bird. If you are sitting on a pile of eggs (10-60 eggs potentially) not all of them will be incubated adequately and therefore will not hatch. This causes the average nest efficiency to be much lower, typically around 51%.

Nesting by Hooded Mergansers

The hooded mergansers did not seem to be affected by the drought conditions. Over the last 17 years, there have always been fewer merganser nest attempts in the nest boxes, but the number has steadily increased over time. This trend continued in 2012. There were 23 hooded merganser nest attempts and 286 eggs laid in the monitored nest boxes. Although the nesting efficiency and nest success was higher than the long-term average, the difference was not as substantial as it was for wood ducks.

Production Overall

This year, only a handful of nests were depredated by black rat snakes or egg-pecking birds. Peter reported that the excessive heat did contribute to the death of developing embryos within two nests during the last week of June. However, on average in 2012, each successful nest attempt produced 8.6 ducklings. Last year’s average number of ducklings per nest was 11. When you look at the overall production, (605 wood ducks and 251 hooded merganser ducklings), the higher nest success and increase in the number hooded mergansers, the total production (856 ducklings) falls within the range that we’ve seen over the last 17 year (850-1000 ducklings).

Although, years with lower production are just part of the natural variability of habitat and population dynamics, severe conditions definitely get your attention. As with kids these days, even though you may have an empty nest this year, things could change and next year it could once again get a little crowded.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, special thanks to Peter and his continued monitoring of our locally breeding wood ducks and hooded mergansers. It is always fascinating.

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Comments

On September 15th, 2012 at 1:14pm Bandtaker1 said:

I noticed some repairs on blind K2. I also noticed the roof was looking in need of some new shingles. Could you guys use some new shingles? I have a couple of loose bundles (Just got a new roof myself). More than willing to donate for use on the blinds that need them. I know bb4 also leaks.

On September 13th, 2012 at 3:21pm frank said:

Bandtaker, both 55 and 53 hunting locations will use the parking lot at the end of the road that runs along the south side of the 54 hunting position.  Over the last few days we've had some rock put down, but the work is not yet complete.  We'll continue on this scope of work over the next month. 

On September 13th, 2012 at 9:37am Bandtaker1 said:

Thank Ye Kindly MattB for the info. Any more info on where we will access the new and improved Field 53? (the old Field 41 and 43)?

On September 12th, 2012 at 10:17pm MattB said:

Bandtaker you are not allowed to park in PL 15/16 because it is in very poor shape due to the construction work around that lot.  This week we are trucking rock onto the areato improve this lot and many other areas on site.  We have made good progress this week in several aspects of the project.  Including improvements to the Water Control structure that appear to have it working now.  Frank is working on an update and will hopefully get it up before the weekend.  We are not over the hump yet, but at least we are moving up the hill again!  Thanks for everyone's patience.

On September 12th, 2012 at 8:44pm Bandtaker1 said:

Why are we not allowed to park at the blind 15 blind 16 parking lot in Unit A during the current Teal Season?

On September 12th, 2012 at 8:40pm Bandtaker1 said:

Same Questions as asked on September 6th? Did not get ANY response.

On September 12th, 2012 at 6:29am Anonymous said:

Bud has a good point. Take what is given and enjoy the day. We are all lucky enough to have a place like Duck Creek to enjoy. They are making improvements and adjustments to make sure our children and grandchildren have a place to enjoy just like we all have. There is NO reason for comments like Cub !!!!!! This isn't a political race Cub, a place to ask questions or express thoughts on Duck Creek.

On September 11th, 2012 at 6:42pm Bub said:

In response to cub, you have not a clue about me. I've been dealing with MDC for probably longer than you've been alive. I have always voiced my opinion with MDC, and sometimes its like talking to the wall. They have a plan in place, and your not gonna change it. All I'M saying is that life's to short to dwell on things you have no control over, and i will never lay down and take it as your post stated !!!!!!!

On September 11th, 2012 at 5:49pm Anonymous said:

oh yea...and the lake is still low as it was....which is lower than Ive ever seen it

On September 11th, 2012 at 5:48pm Anonymous said:

ditch is full after the rain...fields are dry except a few puddles....looks good for when water finally does come....can't wait!

On September 10th, 2012 at 9:46pm cub said:

maybe bub likes to lay down and take it , when i dissagree with something i speak up

On September 10th, 2012 at 3:56pm Anonymous said:

Just curious what still needs to be done for Unit A and what the hold up with the contractors is? Additionally, with the rain that came through from Issac, were you guys able to capture any of it in pool 1? Any word on how many reservations you may have available this year?

On September 7th, 2012 at 2:26pm Bub said:

No matter how much we all grumble and complain, it's not gonna change anything. it is what it is,so just take what your dealt,get out and enjoy the hunt. Yes it's nice to kill birds,but just being able to experience the beauty of Gods creation is worth everything to me. GOOD LUCK all, hope everyone has a good season this year !!!!

On September 6th, 2012 at 8:48pm Bandtaker1 said:

Can you give us an update on what exactly needs to be done to the main water control structure? Was there today and did not see any activity. Do the contractors have a deadline or required completion date?

On September 5th, 2012 at 12:25pm Darin said:

I am glad to see that at least DC is offering a few spots to reservations this year. I know these renovations take time and there are hick-ups along the way but with the continued efforts this should make a better hunting opportunity for everyone. I see this is going to offer some of the best public hunting in this part of the state so guys on this blog please be patient. Sometimes we duck hunters get antsy.

On September 1st, 2012 at 5:34am Anonymous said:

How can any reservations be considered when you still are not functioning?

On August 30th, 2012 at 9:26am cordek said:

Bandtaker1; We will capture the precipitation from the forecast rain event to the best of our ability.  Any water from Ditch 111 will be diverted in Pool 1.  Unit A and B will benefit from saturating the ground and filling up the meandering scours, however, as I have previously stated, the main water control structure at the bottom of the distribution channel, is not functional.  This structure is required to close the channel and back water up to all the units.  The rain forcast is for 1 to 4 inches.  This is going to improve conditions considerably by saturating the ground and provide better conditions to capture runoff water from future precipitaiton, but it will not flood the area.  Conditions are currently as dry as they get and we are at least 12" behind on rainfall.  It is going to take several large events such as what is coming this weekend to catch us up.

On August 30th, 2012 at 8:04am Bandtaker1 said:

As of August 30. Yesterday this site was not functioning. Seems it is back on line today. Is there any plans to save the rainwater coming from Isaac's remnants in Pools 2 & 3 and the new Units A & B? Every drop is very precious!!!

On August 28th, 2012 at 12:23pm frank said:

Our waterfowl draws are used to distribute numerous hunters across large areas of habitat.  Unfortunately, this year we don’t wide tracts of teal habitat because of the drought.  There are mudflats in the northern portion of Pool 1, which is typically available for teal and only a few puddles of water in Unit A and B.  If you can find water in these locations you are welcome to hunt them once the season rolls around.   That is why teal season will be a self-check in system this year.  The wells are not on.  The contractors have not resolved some issues that our engineers have identified to be addressed.  We are just as anxious as you to get things moving forward.  Hopefully this will occur soon. As far as 53, you’ll access it from the road south of 54.  Signs and access to the pools have not been posted because this is still an open work site.  Once the contract is finished we will start working on access. 

On August 28th, 2012 at 11:13am Bandtaker1 said:

as of August 28th 11:15 am. Why is there no draw for the teal season? Are all the areas in unit a and b available to hunt? Any progress on the wells? How do we access area 53 in south b unit?

On August 27th, 2012 at 11:37pm MattB said:

We are having some issues with a couple of the ends of the boat ramps breaking off.  We are in the process of getting these fixed, but in the mean time we need everyone to be extra careful loading and unloading your boats.  Boat trailers are falling off the edge of the ramps in the low water and then people pull out of the water too quickly.  This can cause damage to the trailers.  This problem is happening at many boat ramps across the Region due to the low water conditions.

On August 27th, 2012 at 12:22pm Darin said:

I was over there this weekend and I didn't see any signs that said that??

On August 24th, 2012 at 6:39pm Anonymous said:

what is wrong with the boat ramps on the main lake? I heard there were signs saying "use at your own risk" ??
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