You may remember the “Ask SIB” story published on June 14th with questions about the Nesting Anhingas on Jenkins Point Road. At that time, Valerie Doane, along with others, had observed a breeding pair of Anhingas bullying the Great Egret away from a nest. On July 3rd, Valerie sent Bob Mercer a follow-up question:
You had answered in a post on the SIB website the questions I had regarding the Anhinga/Egret squabble & nesting area at the Jenkins Point rookery. Thank you. I have a couple more questions if you don’t mind. I’ve sort of adopted the Anhinga mating pair and check on the nest daily. Every two days it seems the pair trades-off sitting on the nest. No chicks yet though. I’ve been watching the nest since May 30. Perhaps they were building the nest back then in prep for mama to lay the eggs, but it still seems like an awfully long incubation period. Is it possible the eggs won’t hatch, and if so at what point would the pair give up and abandon the nest? Thanks very much Bob.Valerie Doane
Bob sent Valerie this reply:
The incubation period for Anhinga is 25 to 29 days. I suspect your eggs are not viable. It is hard to give a date for abandoning a nest. The whole mating process is chemically and instinct driven. The hormones say breed. Once that is done new hormones say build nest. Then other hormones say lay eggs. The sight of eggs creates another change. This says sit on eggs. In a normal nesting, the young hatch and that triggers feed young. If the eggs don’t hatch, the birds will sit longer because they do not understand. All the while, the chemicals in their body are changing. One day and probably fairly soon the hormones will say leave nest and don’t come back until next season. Similar reactions happen when a nest is predated. For many birds if they see no eggs in the nest the hormones say lay eggs. After time the body stops producing that hormone and if the nest is predated the birds just walk away. It is still hypothetically possible the eggs may hatch, but at this late date I would be surprised. Great question. Let me know what happens.Bob Mercer
Valerie continued to visit the rookery daily, hopeful there would be Anhinga chicks. It was on Wednesday July 8, at 8:30 am when Valerie spotted one chick. When she returned later that morning around 10:30 am, she spotted a 2nd chick. Her third visit at 5 pm revealed three chicks with the 3rd looking like the runt of the brood. It was Sunday morning July 12, when she saw the 4th chick.
Even at that time, the nest was very crowded with the chicks piled on top of each other. We can’t be sure exactly what day each of the chicks hatched, but you can clearly see the change in their size and coloring from the photos taken almost daily since July 8. On the first day, their little heads were sort of a light yellowish color, whereas on the 5th day it’s more of light pink/salmon color.
Here’s the link to the “Anhinga Chicks- Jenkins Point Rookery” album on Valerie Doane’s Adobe Portfolio site, and her preceding album documenting the conflict between the Anhingas and Great Egrets, “Anhinga Pair & Nesting – Jenkins Point.”
Valerie continues to visit daily and add photos to her portfolio. At the end of three weeks, the chicks are able to climb out of the nest to a branch and fledge at approximately six weeks. They stay with their parents for several more weeks before becoming independent.
We know many Seabrook residents and guests have also been excited to follow the progress this family is making as they walk, bike and drive past the rookery on Jenkins Point Road. We hope you enjoy watching these chicks continue to grow in person and as Valerie documents their progress through her photographs.
It has been such a treasured gift & pure joy for me to observe the mating pair’s behavior and interactions with each other as well as with their chicks, and to observe the daily development of the chicks. I think what has made it even more special is the fact that we thought it was too late, given that 30 days had passed and no chicks hatched, or so we thought. Goes to show you Mother Nature is in control and on her own timeline. Yeah I admit I’m captivated and I guess have fallen in love with the cute little buggers. LOLStory and Photos by Valerie Doane