The wet winter in the Sacramento Valley has been a great benefit to the many ducks that call our area home. The weather has made for romantic conditions for the ducks as they pair up, mate, lay eggs and prepare to raise a family. Unfortunately many times the hen will lay her eggs in a field, such as wheat, vetch, alfalfa, that may be cultivated or harvested before the ducklings are hatched. Thanks to efforts by the California Waterfowl Association (CWA) and many farmers rescuing eggs, the duckling hatch rate has increased in the valley.
Courtesy of the California Waterfowl Association
I joined a CWA team of Brian Huber, Jonny Freitas, and Jason Coslovich as they swept an alfalfa field just outside the bypass in the Woodland area. A rope with cans with rocks was attached between two ATVs that went across the field. After several passes both a mallard and cinnamon teal hen flew up from the field indicating the presence of nests. After searching, both nests were located and the eggs put in cartons. I left the field early that day, but before the sweep was over, the team had located 18 nests with 144 eggs.
Eggs are then taken to a hatchery such as the one operated by Ranch Esquon in Durham that operates under a United States Fish and Wildlife Service Permit which guides the raising and release of hand-reared wildlife. I visited the hatchery recently and Manager Lorreta Gardner, told me that they hatched and released over 2000 ducks last year. This year they have already released 500 ducks to the wild this year.
Regina Stafford, CWA Egg Salvage Program Coordinator, pointed out that the egg rescue will continue into July. Farmers play a key role in the program especially during wheat harvest. She hopes egg cartons are standard equipment in harvester cabs and the operators will stop and search for the eggs when a hen is flared. Its takes a little time but the rewards are great with an increasing number of ducklings being hatched and released into the field. Regina or one of her team will pick up the eggs that are collected. Her phone is 530-870-7589, just call or text. More specifics on the program are at http://www.calwaterfowl.org/egg-salvage.
She also said that Sacramento Valley farmers have been the leaders in rescuing eggs and their actions have been noticed by other farmers in the state. They too now are rescuing eggs.
Wildlife friendly farming is common place in the valley and baby ducks are just one of the many species to benefit.