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Fair Weather Fowl

Mar 05, 2012

The mild temperatures, blossoming maples and rash of tornadoes have made it feel like spring is already here. At Duck Creek and Mingo, dabbling ducks have been passing through as part of their spring migration towards the breeding grounds. Other ducks have already reached their final destination. In fact, the hooded mergansers and wood ducks that call the Mingo basin home have already started nesting.

Duck Creek's Breeding Ducks

Peter Blums is a waterfowl biologist who has been monitoring these species in the Mingo basin for the past 17 years. He has been banding hoodies and woodies and monitoring their nest success to gain a better understanding of where these ducks go and how successful they are during the breeding season.

Although it might seem early to some, hooded mergansers typically start laying their eggs in mid-February at Duck Creek. On average, Peter has found that wood ducks start nesting a week to 10 days later than their fellow feathered fowl. However, like anything in nature, variability occurs more often than the long-term average. This year, instead of waiting for the hooded mergansers to get started, the wood ducks began nesting at the same time as the hoodies. Although Hallmark could claim it was because of their successful Valentine’s Day marketing campaign, which isn’t the case, both species started laying eggs between February 14-17 this year.

By the end of February, Peter reports, a much larger proportion than usual of the local population has already started laying eggs. In fact, several wood ducks have already completed laying their clutches and have begun to incubate. The hooded merganser nests that Peter is monitoring haven’t yet reached this stage.

On average Peter monitors about 100 different nest boxes on Duck Creek. Depending upon the year, these nest boxes have produced between 100-200 hooded merganser and 600-800 wood duck ducklings annually. We’ll have to stayed tuned to see what happens this year, but it looks like the wood ducks may have responded positively to the mild conditions. 


photo of a wood duck
Wood Duck


Yes, there are some Canada geese using the area and have been over in Unit A.  Over the last few years we've had some pairs nest, but the recruitment has been pretty low.  It seems those small fat tasty morsels can't quite escape the predators in the basin.

Hey Frank, Are there any Canada Geese using the scours in the A and B units? I would like to see them start nesting again over there at Duck Creek like they used to. Thanks!!!

Yes, it is a great time of the year to see a lot of birds making their way back north.  Yesterday along the southern end of Pool 1 there were a lot of buffleheads chasing each other, mixed in with the ring-necks and coots.  There were also several nice drake pintails on the north end of Pool 2.  Mallards, blue-winged teal, green-winged teal, and shovelers were scattered throughout the area and using the newly created scours in Units A and B.  It is this time of year that we hope that these birds can find enough resources on their way back north to be in good condition so that they can make that bumper crop for next fall.

I was pretty impressed with the amount of woodies i seen at Duck Creek this season. I hope the work in Pools 2 and 3 are completed so we can have another awesome woody smack down !!!! I took a drive to Otter Slough over the weekend and seen several Gadwalls , Shovelers and Teal, also seen 2 Bufflehead drakes and 1hen. Looks like we're gonna have a bumper crop of spoonbills this year !!

Great news for the Wood Duck population on Duck Creek. I am glad to hear they are using the area abundantly. Keep up the good work!!

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