Monday afternoon, during my daily visit to check on the Woodcock eggs, I discovered the nest site in a state of disarray. It wasn’t torn apart, but the nest location was distinctly more visible than before. I hurried forward to see if the change was due to a visiting predator, or a successful hatching.
It was a hatching, although not one that was completely successful. Two of the original four eggs remained intact. The other two looked to have released live chicks into the world. Unfortunately, the young birds were long gone by the time I arrived on the scene.
The empty shells show all of the signs of a successful hatching. The chicks peck in a circular pattern around the large end of the egg. The series of cracks allows the end of the shell to lift off like a lid. Occasionally, the chick’s toenails will make puncture marks in the small end of the egg as it pushes itself out of the shell.
During the time these eggs were incubating, there have been several thunderstorms and two flooding rains, and temperatures have ranged from 25oF to 82oF. During the time this clutch was being laid there was a storm that produced 2.2 inches of rain and flash flooding. The location of this nest in the low area next to the creek could easily have been flooded. It’s possible that the two unhatched eggs were killed during that event. Woodcocks only produce one brood per year, so I hope the two hatchlings are lucky enough to survive to adulthood.