Friday, 23 January 2015

Wood Duck Box Cleanout Part 1

This post is one that I had long hoped to do, but never seemed to have the time.  Every year, during the winter is the time of the wood duck nest box cleanout.  For years my dad and I would drive around to our ponds, cleaning out the boxes.  We used to put this off until it was getting plenty late in the winter.  It's better this time of year because the ice allows me to access boxes that I could not otherwise.  I thought that other birders would be interested to 'accompany' me on the project through this post. 

I arrived at our first pond nearest the house and home to two duck boxes.  If I sneak down here in the spring, I can regularly see wood duck life on this pond. 
I put my ladder against the pole of the first box and headed up.  Of course, it was at this point that I realized I had forgotten a pliers to open the box.  I quick trip to the shed and back, and I had the box open. 

This box had very little inside, but the few shell pieces I found told me that wood ducks had been in here at some point since last season. I replaced the old shavings with new, and moved to the next box.
Egg Shell

The next box at the other end of the pond was an interesting story. 

I found some egg shells under this, but clearly something inhabited the box after that clearly had a different diet than  a duck.  There's a good chance that this box contained an eastern screech owl.  I always open the boxes carefully and if lucky, might see a little owl snoozing inside.  I also found an owl pellet in the nest box material, confirming that there was an owl in here.  
The bits of feather and bone confirmed what it was.

I packed up and headed to the next pond.
My transportation between ponds.

I had to park a little ways from to next pond to avoid getting stuck.  It's sure good exercise to carry the ladder and pail of shavings through the snow.
  Parked at the pond.

This was probably one of the tallest boxes.  It's at least 10-12 feet high.  I had to clean it out carefully.  The boxes do not have to be this high, but it does allow for extra protection from predators.  I wasn't quite sure what happened at this nest.  There were a few eggs remaining in the box.  Perhaps it was only a partial hatch, or else none hatched at all.  It sometimes happens, but I'm not sure why.  This pond is one of the best for wildlife.  We are almost guaranteed to get wood ducks here.  I saw some young ducks here last year, so this pond clearly had some success.

The pond was entirely frozen which made for easy walking.  Last year, I remember cleaning the above box while a common goldeneye swam some distance off.  It was plenty late to be doing the boxes last year with the melting ice.

The second box was just as high, but I got the ladder up and got it opened up fine.
For some reason, this nest also had some eggs remaining.
I added the fresh shavings and decided to do one more box in the amount of daylight I had left.

The last box is here on the edge of the frozen ditchbank. 

 I opened it and this is what I saw.
This is the sign of a squirrel nest.  Luckily the squirrel was not home or I could have gotten him straight at my head when I cleaned it out.

On the way, back home, this happened.

It wouldn't be a Canadian winter without the odd stuck vehicle would it?  I was pulled out with the tractor and all was fine.

Anyway sorry for the long post.  Hope you enjoyed it.  I have four boxes left to check, meaning a part two is in the forecast sometime soon.  I'll conclude with some random pictures I took during the day.

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