Mother wood duck heads for the exit Saturday, her ducklings in tow. (Art Knapp Dirt University image)

WATCH: Mother wood duck and ducklings leave South Surrey roost

“We know at least three (ducklings) made it”

The stars of Art Knapp Surrey’s Dirt University YouTube channel have flown the coop.

Or, more accurately, jumped from it.

Ducklings that hatched in a barn-owl box Friday were marched out of sight of a camera that has been monitoring the nesting box for the past three years on Saturday morning.

“They’re all gone,” Lisa Finkle, who handles advertising for the store and is involved with conservation projects underway at the King George Boulevard property, told Peace Arch News Monday.

The life and times of the mother wood duck and her seven youngsters had been rolling live for the past month.

Finkle had predicted shortly before 5 p.m. Friday that the mass exit was imminent.

At that time, it had been about 10 hours since the ducklings had hatched in the barn-owl box – one of 12 whisky-barrel nests that have been on the King George Boulevard property for the past 20 years.

Typically, they hit the road with mom about 10 hours after hatching, Finkle said.

She noted the wood duck’s use of the nesting box was a first for the program; described as “very unusual,” particularly since the roost is about 30 feet off the ground.

It’s believed the mother may have been displaced by nearby habitat disturbance; such as a barn that was dismantled about two months ago.

In an effort to boost the ducklings’ odds of making it into the waters of the nearby Fen, Art Knapp’s Marty Vander Zalm used a tarp to create a slide of sorts that would soften their journey from the nest to the ground.

In other words, so they wouldn’t jump to their deaths.

The only other concern was whether they’d survive the journey across the road, Finkle said.

Saturday morning, “two or three” crows and a pair of eagles were apparently keeping a close eye on the trek; and later that afternoon, momma duck and just three ducklings were spotted paddling.

“We know at least three (of the ducklings) made it. They jumped at 10:16 on Saturday morning.”

The live feed has a host of followers who’ve been eagerly watching the wood ducks’ story unfold.

With the ducks now out of the picture, the Dirt University camera has returned its focus to a whisky-barrel nest where four barn-owl owlets have hatched.

Finkle estimates they’ll leave the nest in “two or three weeks.”

She described the survival of the four – out of five eggs laid – as “really good.”

“We’ve added to a population of a species that’s slowly dying because their habitat’s slowly being taken away from them,” she said.

As there are only two cameras set up, and because the program’s policy is not to interfere, Finkle said there is no way to know if there are more owlets in the other 10 whisky boxes.

“We don’t interefere with anything. We just really hope it matters to somebody,” she said.

Efforts to expand the conservation work are ongoing, with goals including to add more cameras and encourage schools to make use of the opportunities the program presents to learn more about the species.

To tune in to the owl cam, visit youtube.com

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