Farming, hot tubs and wood ducks

Monday, August 22, 2016 5:56PM

Bare with me... oops thinking hot tub here… I mean bear with me and the connection will become clear.

Several years ago while attending a home show, Bill and I stopped and stared longingly at the hot tub exhibit. We thought how good it would feel to be submerged in that hot water with jets working out the knots that a day of farm chores creates. We bought one and have not regretted it.

There is nothing as mesmerizing as sitting in the hot tub with snow banks piled high, looking up at the star studded winter sky. The walk from the tub through the snow into the house is a bit sobering but does not detract from the soak.

We often have our morning coffee in the tub, discuss the day ahead and enjoy that time when we are just simply together.

Early one spring, during one of our morning coffee reposes, Bill noticed ducks flying overhead. They came from the direction of the marsh and flew north over the farmhouse, circled the field and landed in a nearby tree on the edge of the dirt road. This sequence took place several days in a row. Each morning he waited to see if he could find where they were nesting. He identified them as wood ducks.

We have an ancient maple tree at the end of our driveway and, sure enough, one morning we saw the female leave from a hole in the tree and head out toward the marsh for breakfast. A few hours later she returned with the male in tow.

One morning, weeks later, as Bill left for work, he noticed a dark colored duckling running down Liberty Farm Road in front of his car. He stopped to watch as it ran off the road, through the ditch and into the bushes toward the river. A fledgling wood duck duckling for sure!

The wood duck is one of the most stunningly pretty of all waterfowl. Males are iridescent chestnut and green, with ornate patterns on nearly every feather; the elegant females have a distinctive profile and delicate white pattern around the eye. These birds live in wooded swamps, where they nest in holes in trees or in nest boxes put up around lake margins. They are one of the few duck species equipped with strong claws that can grip bark and perch on branches.

Each spring we wait with bated breath to see if they will return and every year we are rewarded once again with their presence. Although we have not seen any more ducklings fledge, we enjoy watching this mating pair each morning.

Reliable estimates of wood duck populations do not exist due to the difficulty of surveying birds in forested habitat. Years ago, Bill built a wood duck nesting box and set it out on the marsh. Fingers crossed that a mating pair have moved in.