Here is the latest For the Birds column, which runs in several New England newspapers.
No matter how long you’ve been at it, birdwatching always presents new firsts.
This latest first happened to take place right in my backyard. I’ve watched videos and seen photographs of wood ducks perched in trees before, but I’ve never witnessed it myself. I’ve seen plenty of wood ducks on the water and even under people’s birdfeeders, but never perched high in trees before.
I came close once. I was canoeing within the Bashakill Wildlife Management Area in New York years ago and dozens, maybe even hundreds, of wood ducks could be seen and heard in the distance. I focused my binoculars on a dead tree about 100 yards away and saw a huge gathering of these handsome ducks. Most of them were in the water, but a few of them perched on the snag’s low-hanging branches.
I don’t count this as having seen them perched in trees because the dead, leafless tree was more an extension of the water than anything.
The other day, though, I walked out of the sunroom and onto the deck to fill the feeders. As the door closed behind me I heard the unmistakable “oo-eek, oo-eek” call of a wood duck coming from a tall oak in the backyard.
Then I noticed two ducks flush from the tree and head into the woods. It was a male and female and they made a big circle weaving through the trees and came back to the large oak. A very cool first, especially since it took place in the backyard.
Despite the proliferation of wood duck boxes on the edges of ponds, many wood ducks nest in tree cavities high above the ground – some a fair distance from water. The babies hatch, fall to the ground and are led to water by the calls of mommy wood duck.
My yard is about half a mile away from the nearest pond – certainly within reason to think a wood duck would consider nesting there. I don’t want to get ahead of myself, however. I only saw them there once so far. I’ll certainly keep my eyes and ears peeled over the next several days. I’ll also be careful not to burst through the sunroom door, too.
Because the ducks seemed rather wary – typical of a wood duck – I didn’t want to fetch my camera and risk flushing them again. Hopefully they’ll return and find a suitable cavity in a tree to make a nest.
There I go again, getting ahead of myself.