|Wood Ducks by Nate Dubrow|
Yes, even though it's snowy today, the real estate market is hot!! It's all about location, location, location... This neighborhood has mature trees, a reservoir, is close to the Merrimack River, Route 95 in Newburyport and a secluded, religious retreat property. I heard Wood Ducks; then I saw a pair fly over the trees and continue over near the footbridge. They landed briefly, then flew tree to tree.
The hen peered into cavities - a home that perhaps a Northern Flicker held the deed to just a season ago. The drake Wood Duck perched above horizontally, attentively watching the hen. She flew to another tree; he followed. He again landed above on a branch with some girth; he watched and waited as the hen fulfilled her role. She's the inspector of the "grand opening"; as the entry & exit is her concern for herself and her sharp-clawed young. Frank Bellrose's "Ducks, Geese and Swans of North America" states that when Wood Ducks are seeking nest sites, "They leave their water area shortlr daybreak, fly to wooded areas adjacent to or, rarely, more than a mile away."
I stayed with them as they did their fly-bys in search of a suitable home. I liken it to the drive-bys we've done prior to that "Open House" scheduled for a spring, Sunday afternoon. I watched with binoculars. They started to toss their heads back, pointing their bills skyward. Then they were showing off their throats and chins, those white patches that we use as key field marks from afar. The Stokes' "A Guide to Bird Behavior Vol. III" calls this the "Bill-Jerk", a visual display. The drake took a drink; the hen swam, and her drake followed her. The drake approached her, then held on to her with his bill while his genetic material flowed. Afterwards, the drake swam in front of her, and she refreshed with a wiggle and a splash.
I heard her drawn out "wee-e-e-ek" as she perched. The drake joined her, putting down above her in a bare, white frosted tree. They continued with a few more home inspections and then worked their way back to the water. I so enjoy watching people and bird behavior. This morning's show was a thrill for me...