I think wood ducks are one of the most beautiful ducks in the world and Cleveland Metroparks North Chagrin Reservation is considered one of the best locations in the world to view and photograph this species. Typically shy, wood ducks at North Chagrin have become accustomed to human activity around Sanctuary Marsh and Sunset Pond, allowing close and undisturbed observation of the ducks. And, the autumn colors surrounding the pond and marsh provide the ultimate background for stunning photographs. The best month to observe wood ducks is typically October when their numbers increase, as migrants from Canada visit on their way south. Their numbers build throughout the month and then rapidly decrease as November arrives and by December they become a rare sight.
Wood Duck male and female
They will return again in the spring to nest, in both natural tree cavities and artificial nesting boxes placed throughout Cleveland Metroparks. The eggs are incubated by females for 28-32 days. Typically the first ducklings are seen in mid to late May, when sometimes more than a dozen chicks scamper after the females for protection. They have a large clutch size and this species in known to dump eggs in other female’s nests. They grow rapidly and soon they will become more independent and during September they begin to lose their summer plumage. By October they have molted into fresh new feathers. This is the most spectacular time to see them as their plumage is fresh, and before feathers slowly wear from typical daily wood duck activities.
Wood Duck on nesting box and wood ducklings.
Female Wood Duck with ducklings
There are plenty of other birds to be seen during October, too! American coots are common on the marsh, hooded mergansers are seen diving and hunting for abundant fish. Green-winged teal can be found hiding in the vegetation along the edges of the marsh and pond. Great blue and green herons hunting fish and frogs can be seen. Mallards and geese are a common sight, too. The best time and light for observation and photography is typically between 8 -10 a.m., and again in the afternoon between 4 – 6 p.m. On the boardwalk I have met photographers from all over North America visiting North Chagrin to photograph birds, including Texas, California, Ontario, Pennsylvania, New York, and every corner of Ohio. Please remember that there is a strict no feeding policy in Cleveland Metroparks and respect both the wildlife and vegetation, as well as other visitors utilizing the area.
Hooded Merganser with fish.
October is a great time to be out in Cleveland Metroparks and make sure you stop by to see the wood ducks before they are gone. Bring your camera as we would love to see your photographs. Here is my favorite wood duck photo that I have taken from Sanctuary Marsh.