Hmmm....well, after an awkward start to incubation then watching as Durand finally got the hang of it and stuck tight to the eggs for ~3 weeks we might have hit a snag. The past couple of days have seen Durand leaving the eggs uncovered on a fairly frequent basis and for extended periods of time. There are several possible reasons for this including, but not limited to:1)
It is possible that we are once more seeing a result of her not yet being fully mature in that her hormone levels are beginning to fluctuate again which would result in less interest in the eggs and her "maternal duties."2)
There is speculation by some that the male is no longer in the territory as he has not been seen via the Falconcams for several days. While it is possible he is still around but just not in front of the cameras, certainly if it were the case that he is gone, Durand would definitely need to leave the nest for longer periods of time in order to hunt for herself, especially if the cached supplies of food are depleted. Were she fending for herself she would need to eat twice a day or so, however, she is leaving the eggs much more frequently than that.Will this hurt the eggs?
There is a point late in the stage of incubation that the eggs are mostly developed and do not have to be incubated as consistently. It also helps that the weather in Columbus has been more seasonable therefore it is unknown if this on and off the eggs then on again will actually be detrimental. This is assuming that the eggs are actually fertile. Don't forget, we also have that unknown issue to consider.Lack of focus or hungry?
Looking a little closer at her behavior we can note that besides her leaving more often, when she is at the ledge she is spending time in front of the ledgecam and perched on the nest box camera housing. Logic would tell us if she was only leaving the eggs to hunt/feed, then when she got back to the ledge she would immediately get back on the eggs. But since she is spending time in view of the cameras but away from the eggs I believe her apparent change in behavior could be a result of the hormone issue vs. simply having to fend for herself. Were the eggs getting close to hatching (and it is really too soon for that) there would be sounds coming from within the egg (chirping, pecking) that would hold her interest and we would then expect her to be standing over the eggs--not perched at the other end of the ledge. What's the definitive answer to what is going on here?
No one knows for sure. All we can do at this point is continue to watch and wait and let what will happen, happen. The best scenario is we see at least 1 egg hatch, or the worst scenario is still good in that the eggs do not hatch but Durand got a lot of good nesting practice in preparation for next year! We should know more in the coming days and will be monitoring her behavior. I will post updates as soon as anything new is definitive.