The Wood Duck Diaries

By Matt Seek | February 1, 2012
From Xplor: February/March 2012

Taking the Plunge

May 17—Hi, I’m Lily. I may look like a fluff ball now, but when I grow up I’ll be a beautiful wood duck. Yesterday was my hatch day. Whoever claimed eggs are fragile never tried to peck their way out of one! Mom says today we must abandon our nest high in the tree. She flew down first to check for danger. I clawed my way to the edge, jumped, and flapped my stubby wings. “I’m flying,” I thought. Then —oomph!—I hit the ground. I bounced a few times but wasn’t hurt. I guess being a fluffball isn t so bad. We waddled nearly a mile before reaching the marsh. Boy, the water felt good on my tired, webbed feet.

My New Bracelet

July 9 — Strangest. Day. Ever. While dabbling for breakfast, I discovered a strange box floating in the marsh. Dabbling means I take a gulp of water, let it run out slots in my beak, and eat the tasty insects and seeds left behind. But back to the box: All you need to know is it was filled with corn —and wood ducks love corn. I scrambled inside, and my brothers and sisters soon joined the feast. But after we stuffed our tummies, we discovered we couldn't escape. We were trapped! A person aded up nd pulled us out, one by one. I was so scared. The human poked and prodded us, slipped a shiny silver bracelet on each of our legs, and let us go. Humans are so weird.

Sneaky Mink

June 2—I had just swallowed a bug (yum!) when I heard mom squeal. She’d spotted a hungry mink slinking nearby! As I skittered into the cattails to hide with my brothers and sisters, mom began thrashing and splashing, pretending to have a broken wing. The mink must have thought he’d scored an easy duck dinner, because he chased mom far off into the marsh. She flew back a short time later and gathered us up with a quack. Mom does her best, but her tricks don’t always work. I hatched with 11 brothers and sisters. There’s only six of us now.

Migration Vacation

January 24— A few days after the bracelet incident, mom split. I guess she figured 8-week-old ducklings are big enough to fend for themselves. I hung with my nest mates for a couple weeks, but once we could fly, we scattered. I spent winter in a Mississippi swamp. Now, I’m slowly migrating back to Missouri. I take off at sunset, fly all night, and splash down in a new marsh at sunrise to nap and gorge on acorns. Today, a boy wood duck named Drake caught my eye. He was showing off, and I normally pay no attention to such things, but ooh-la-la, he looked handsome!

Nursery Search

March 2 —Drake and I are a couple! We arrived in Missouri a few days ago and found a marsh called Eagle Bluffs. It looks like a nice neighborhood to raise a family. Unlike most ducks who nest on the ground, we wood ducks prefer a sky-rise apartment. Our skinny bodies are perfect for squeezing into holes in trees, and our webbed feet have strong claws to grip branches. Each morning, Drake follows along while I search for a place to nest. I’ve inspected every knothole in every nearby tree an d even a few abandoned woodpecker cavities, but none fit the bill.

Home Sweet Box

March 11—I finally found a place to nest! It’s a cozy box perched right over the marsh. Drake sits on the roof keeping a lookout for danger while I go inside to lay eggs—he’s so brave! I’ve lined the box with down plucked from my chest. Ouch! Not only does the down make a soft cradle for my eggs, but plucking it out also exposes a patch of bare skin I can press against my eggs to keep them warm. I lay one creamy-white egg each morning. The rest of the day I spend sunning on top of the box and stuffing my beak with every insect I can pluck from the murky brown marsh. I need all the protein I can get to make more eggs.

Life’s Egg-cellent

April 2 —Wood ducks have never been great at math, but when I slipped out this morning for a snack, I swear I had only 12 eggs. Now I ha ve 13. I bet another wood duck laid an egg in my nest! It happens all the time, you know. Drake left me, by the way, but I don’t care. My eggs are the only company I need. To pass the time, I talk softly to the little ducks inside. They can hear me through the eggshells. In a couple weeks they’ll hatch, and I'll have a little flock of fluff balls to watch over. Isn’t life egg-cellent?

And More...

This Issue's Staff

David Besenger
Bonnie Chasteen
Chris Cloyd
Peg Craft
Brett Dufur
Les Fortenberry
Chris Haefke
Karen Hudson
Regina Knauer
Kevin Lanahan
Kevin Muenks
Noppadol Paothong
Marci Porter
Mark Raithel
Laura Scheuler
Matt Seek
Tim Smith
David Stonner
Nichole LeClair Terrill
Stephanie Thurber
Cliff White
Kipp Woods