Friday, May 4, 2012

Duck Eggs and other little wonders

Around suppertime last night, I became fascinated by a pair of common mergansers who were hanging out by the shore near the cabin. These two ducks have been spending a lot of time on these rocks this spring. Sometimes they go fishing in the clear, shallow waters. Other times, they simply sit on the rocks, preening or sunning themselves. I'm harboring a not so secret hope that they're spending so much time here because they're going to nest around these parts. 

This evening, Mrs. Merganser was taking a nap on the rock, while Mr. kept watch. 

Eventually they both fell asleep.
After about 20 minutes, I'd eaten supper and the two ducks were up and about again. 

Mrs. Merganser has taken to, how shall I say, relieving herself on the rocks, so when she crouched down, her derriere pointed right at me, I was expecting another lovely splattering of guano. So imagine my surprise when something round, beige and hard looking popped out. It took me a second to realize what I'd just seen. Could it really be an . . . egg?

Binoculars confirmed my suspicions. It totally was an egg!

I was a little surprised she'd just laid an egg for a couple reasons. For one, she was standing on a not so flat rock that the egg could easily roll off of. The rock, which is out in the wide open, and could also soon be submerged if we have some more rainfall. Wouldn't she want to lay her egg in a slightly more secure spot, you know, like on shore . . .  in a nest?

Still, I couldn't help but feel a little excited. Was I really going to get to watch the pair incubating their eggs (mergansers lay up to 13 eggs!) for the next month or so? Mrs. Merganser kind of perched over the egg for a while, but she didn't seem too into it. She nudged it about with her beak a little, but when she shifted on the rock, she bumped the egg with her foot and just as I'd feared, the egg slowly rolled down the slopped rock and plopped gently into the lake. Mrs. or Mr. appears completely and utterly nonplussed by the fact. They continued to go about their business as though nothing had happened.

I however was slightly horrified. That's no way to treat your baby!!

When the pair flew off down the lake, I had to go look at the egg, which was resting in about a foot of water.

I was surprised by both how large and how heavy it was. It was probably a third again as big as the "large eggs" we're used to baking and cooking with. I'm guessing it's unfertilized and that's why Mama Duck was so uninterested in it, but then again, are ducks really smart enough to know if the egg is fertilized or not?

Chickens certainly sit on their eggs regardless of whether or not the eggs will ever hatch and I remember when my grandmother had a small pet bird that she had to remove the egg the bird laid every single day or else the bird would get broody. Granted, that's the extent of my bird breeding knowledge, but based on that, I see no reason why Mrs. Merganser would be so uninterested in her egg. Who knows, eh?
Although I'm curious to know if I *could* eat the egg, I did return the egg to the bottom of the lake after I'd looked at it. Mother Nature knows best, I suppose and if nothing else, perhaps the egg will be tasty treat for some other (wild) mammal.

I discovered another little wonder on Wednesday, when I was walking to the mailbox and snapping pictures of early season wildflowers. I was looking for a violet to photograph when a little bit of blue caught my eye on the far side of the road. I know my wildflowers pretty well, but I had never seen it before and couldn't find it any of the many wildflower guidebooks in the cabin.
It took two parents (Andy's mom and my dad) to figure out what it is. It's a scilla and could have come in with the road gravel. Oh heck, it's probably invasive, but it sure is a pretty little thing. It's only about 4 inches tall!

Have you seen any little wonders lately?
 

18 comments:

  1. Oooh, how cool to see! Wonder why this duck lady decided a rock was a good place to take an egg dump. That's a pretty big egg.

    No wonders for me lately... unless you count last night's thunderstorm. It was kind of magical. :)

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  2. That is pretty cool! I love how you wrote this too, even I was excited!!

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  3. I am so excited just by reading it!! That is truly a small wonder. What a timing you had with this duck and its egg!. I like that you left it in the lake!

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  4. I was totally intrigued by this story, so I decided to put it past the resident family naturalist and see what she thought. Katie was totally baffled and consulted some of her books and was still totally perplexed (her words were "crazy ass mergansers", and she suggested that if they're really just dumb, maybe it's best they don't pass along their genes).

    Her best guess is that the parents either somehow knew it was non-viable, or they had another nest elsewhere with plenty of eggs in it. But that was just conjecture on her part. She says that if your museum has a permit for collecting non-viable eggs or nests, you could take it to the museum.

    Also, I think you live in a National Geographic documentary.

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    1. I have to admit, the thought "crazy ass mergansers" also crossed my mind while I watched this whole thing. I don't think we have a permit for collecting non-viable eggs or nests. The egg is still in the water though. Does Katie's work place want it?

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    3. Just checked with her...she said that as much as she would like one (she's in charge of their wildlife collection), the logistics would be too difficult and she wouldn't want to make you get dry ice to pack it in or whatever. So she says she hopes whatever critter finds it first has a tasty snack. Morbid.

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  5. That is a big egg! Maybe this is her first year laying. A couple years ago we had "new" mallard ducks that nested twice, right next to our back door. Of course the raccoons or mink found the eggs. Eventually they wised up and found a better place.

    The blue scilla flower does spread but not super aggressive and they are really gorgeous, I have them in my flower gardens. Nothing new since I posted our trumpeter swan visit!
    Thanks for stopping by my blog! ~~ Diane

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  6. now there's something you don't see every day, lucky you!

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  7. That's so cool with the egg. In the water of all places! I never knew they laid eggs in the water.
    I suppose the wonder I've seen this week was that we had 20 degrees C for two days! And that there are leaves coming on our jasmine tree that we moved after the drainage work around the house. I never thought it would survive.

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  8. Wow! The egg looks so big! What a find!

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  9. Hey I found you via the aloha hop and am your newest follower!! Maybe we can follow each other? Also Today is the last day to enter my modcloth giveaway!! Come check it out!

    THanks so much:)
    Emily

    http://emilymmeyers.blogspot.com/2012/05/giveaway-time-again.html

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  10. Following via the Aloha Blog Hop! Your blog title had a very Thoreau-esque sound to it, so I was eager to check it out; needless to say, I wasn't disappointed. I'm Kate:
    http://marlowesloft.com
    https://www.facebook.com/Marlowes.Loft
    https://twitter.com/#!/Kate_Aloft

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  11. Awesome!!! We hatch duck eggs in my classroom, to learn about life-cycles, habitats, and help with responsibility!

    I have a huge soft spot for all things duck :)

    Hey, bee tee dubs, lady - I'm following you on twitter. Since I enjoy your blog comments, you should follow me back and we can chat on that too!(@CrowndVic - but my tweets are protected so you have "request")!

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  12. Your comment sort of got lost between my messing with the new RSS (just started using feed burner) or something. :( But yes, I totally agree with you, and who doesn't want a clean house! Just that sometimes life comes in between, but that doesn't make you some kind of bad person! The bread was lovely :).

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  13. I was hoping to see a big wonder in the supermoon last night, but the sky wasn't cooperating here. Total cloud cover. I love your pictures.

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  14. Popping over via Exposure 99% Weekday Blog Hop

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  15. We do get some wildlife in our neck of St. Paul, but I can't say I've had the pleasure of observing ducks / the cycle of life anytime recently. If I think too much about eggs (of any kind) I have a hard time eating them in general, so I don't think I could have eaten that one!

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