Well at least this morning it was for this mother Wood Duck (Aix sponsa) swimming with her brood in Wiley Slough. I wonder if this is the same hen I saw here last fall. On that encounter, she was swimming with a mate. Wiley Slough is in the Skagit State Wildlife Recreation Area on Fir Island. Here it is possible to hike out into the wetlands of the Skagit River delta on the Spur Dike Trail. This is one of the best spots I have found in the area for viewing wildlife. The site is a partially wooded wetland which is ideal Wood Duck habitat.
Another shot provides a look at a few more of the ducklings. There were 12 to 15 in all. I spotted the ducklings first before mom swam into view.
Wood Ducks have the unusual characteristic (for ducks) of nesting in trees. They have claws on the ends of their webbed toes to facilitate this. They will nest in a natural cavity or in a nest box according to BirdWeb. There are some large nest boxes mounted over the water here which I now suspect are for them.
Within a day of hatching, the ducklings will leave the nest. This might involve jumping into the water from high in a tree. They are able to swim, feed and fend for themselves at this point, but they will be shepherded by their mother for another 5 to 6 weeks.