...another benefit of canoeing on the river is how close you can get to juvenile Wood Ducks. Rick and I were floating toward a cluster of downed trees to photograph an Eastern Spiny Softshell Turtle sunning on one of the branches. We could see a brood of juvenile Wood Ducks milling around the tree, but I assumed they would swim away in terror as we got closer to them (similar to the way adults burst from the water whistling in reproach when disturbed), but the juvenile didn't. They went about their business as we floated past, eyeing us suspiciously, but showing no real alarm. Before this encounter I had never been close enough to a Wood Duck to see the thin yellow line around their eyes. I've always loved Wood Ducks, but now I'm really smitten. I've seen this little brood three times now--twice while canoeing with Rick and once while kayaking by myself. Hopefully we can get back to see them a few more times before they head south for the winter. Time is running out, though...
A juvenile Wood Duck swims near a downed tree on the Little Miami River.
...maybe this little brood is so tolerant of humans and canoes because so many have drifted past them this summer. I guess as a little Wood Duck it would be easy to become habituated to humans if you lived on Morgan's canoe run!
...cute, cute, cute!
Since Wood Ducks nest exclusively in cavities, the next time we float past, I'm going to look up in the trees to see if I can spot the tree they used. I know, however, I probably won't find it because their nesting cavity could be in a tree 150 feet or more away from the water. In "The Birds of Ohio," by Bruce Peterjohn, he writes Wood Ducks can nest up to a half mile away, although they prefer to be close to the water. I remember when I was a kid I watched an animal show that documented baby Wood Ducks taking their first plunge into the water from their nesting cavity, which was 50 or 60 feet over the water. When they splashed into the water and immediately bobbed up and started swimming I couldn't believe it. They then showed another brood of baby Wood Ducks climbing out of a nesting cavity located in the woods no where near water. The little babies jumped from the hole, free falling to the forest floor only to bounce a few times when they hit the ground. I was so shocked to see it, but all their fluffy feathers and the fact that their bodies were still mostly composed of cartilage instead of bone protected them from injury. I was amazed back then...and I still am... What an introduction to the world these little cuties have!