Woodies Return to Heron’s Haunt

20080325-Wood_Duck-032Like many birders I am anxiously awaiting the return of spring migrants, especially all of the colorful songbirds that will make their way through southern Brazoria County in April after a long winter break in Latin America. I actually dream about the fancy little warblers decked out in bright yellow, orange, and many hues of blue. But, not being a sportsman I never dream about ducks despite the fact that probably one of the most colorful birds around here is the Wood Duck. When seen in good light, male ‘woodies’ are extravagantly colored – they have an iridescent green head cut with bold white stripes, a chestnut breast that often looks purple, buffy sides, and a bold red eye-ring. Females are more subdued in color and are mostly gray-brown with a white-speckled breast and a bold white eye-ring. The drab colors on the female offer them near invisibility while sitting on their nest of 10-15 eggs. Wood Ducks live in wooded swamps, along rivers, or ponds, where they nest in holes in trees or in nest boxes put up around pond margins. At GCBO we have a beautiful little constructed wetland we named Heron’s Haunt that is surrounded by bottomland forest and the woodies feel right at home here. They have occasionally used the nest box we installed for them but because we have abundance of old trees with lots of holes and snags the females usually end up nesting out of our sight. This month is the start of breeding season so our local Wood Ducks are paired up and dozens of them are actively foraging early and late daily on the wetland’s bounty of acorns, smartweed, water primrose, duckweed, beetles, isopods, and snails. During the heat of the day, most of the ducks move to forage along Buffalo Camp Bayou and can often be seen from the trail in Wilderness Park. Because of their beauty, these ducks are highly sought after by photographers, but they are very shy and flee at the sight of anything on two legs! Because they are so difficult to approach, we built a special path through the forest to enable us to ‘sneak-up’ on the woodies foraging in the wetland. This path ends up at a photo blind giving us a nice, unobstructed view of the ducks at a range close enough for photography. You are welcome to visit the GCBO sanctuary and see the woodies during our office hours of 8 am to 5 pm. Who knows, you could get a photo of a duck pretty enough to hang on your wall.

By Cecilia M. Riley, Executive Director

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