Last month we had a Wood Duck tragedy when fire ants got to the box in the last days before the eggs hatched. We’re hopeful that the two babies that jumped made it, but we know they had fire ants on them and embedded in their feet, like their two siblings that Jim rescued from the box but which did not survive. Jim rescued an egg that I was able to incubate for two more days before it hatched, but unfortunately the little guy didn’t make it. There is a video of him posted on June 12th.
I’ve been watching another box for weeks, and two days ago I took my scope out and carefully examined the tree for fire ants, which I had done in the past, but hadn’t seen any. Sure enough, there they were, a continuous stream of them running next to the box. I’d been reading about Black-bellied Whistling Ducks and had learned that fire ant predation as soon as the eggs begin to hatch is big cause of mortality. Apparently they can smell or hear them when they start to peep through the eggs and move in. Jim immediately put on waders and took a ladder and ant spray out. The mother flew away before he got to the box and we had serious concerns if she would come back. Jim sprayed the tree where the ants were, and opened the box to see if any were inside, which fortunately there weren’t. He could see at least eighteen eggs and at least four were had small cracks. Examining the base of the tree he found a large fire ant nest in the vegetation and sprayed it. We didn’t see her go back that night, but I breathed a huge sigh of relief when I saw her in the box yesterday morning.
Yesterday afternoon we could see tiny beaks popping up in the opening, and this morning, in a light drizzle, she safely brought out twenty healthy little Wood Ducks. The part with them jumping was digiscoped from a camera that was on the back porch at 4000 ISO on the STX95 set at around 40x. The part in the water was shot through the living room window as I didn’t want to go outside and scare her. The quality’s not good, but I was impressed that it turned out at all shot at 5000 ISO, through a double-paned window from about 500’ in the rain.