You almost need to have watched the PBS production of “An Original DUCKumentary”, narrated by Paul Giamatti, to understand what I saw yesterday. I certainly wouldn't have been aware of what I was witnessing if I had not previously watched the DVD. The import fact you need to understand is that baby ducks, in the DUCKumentary case, Wood Ducks, have to jump out of their nest high in a tree and make their way to the water the first day after hatching. This is what I got to see by pure coincidence yesterday while birding at Luckiamute Meadows in Kings Valley. As I was approaching the Luckiamute River, I saw a bird drop to the ground. I moved in closer to see if I could spot it, and could hear quite a bit of peeping going on. Then another bird tumbled to the ground. I looked up and spotted a nesting box and realized these were ducklings jumping from the nest box some fifteen feet up in an oak tree. I could tell from the sound and all the commotion that they were making a mad dash through the tall grass to the river, so pulled out my camera and started photographing.
Ducklings making a bee-line to the river.
The mother suddenly appeared out of nowhere to collect the ducklings.
As the mother leads the ducklings away, I realize for the first time they are Hooded Mergansers. Eventually I counted seven ducklings.
The empty nesting box
I am still amazed that the little ducklings on their first day had to free fall from their nesting box fifteen feet to the ground, and then make their way through the tall grass another fifteen feet or more to the river, jump in and swim away. All this without any practice. I doubt that I will ever be lucky enough again to be at a nesting box at the exact moment when this amazing event takes place.