Monday, 13 February 2017

Preparing for a New Season: Duck Box Cleanout

Mid to late winter marks a time that I look forward to every year, checking in and cleaning out various nest boxes over the farm.  I remember making the rounds to check the boxes with my dad and the excitement of what we might find inside.  It's been two years since he passed away, but it brings back happy memories to make the rounds every year. We have nine nest boxes located on multiple ponds and creeks on the property and this is the best time of year to check when the ice is solid enough to access them. 

Last weekend, I loaded my supplies onto the tractor and set off to start the cleanout.  I set up the ladder at the first box, climbed up and carefully opened the side.  I wasn't quite high enough to see right inside, so I raised the camera and took a couple pictures.   I was extremely surprised to see what I had found.

Although not an unusual occurrence in nest boxes, it has been many years since I have found an eastern screech owl in a box and this was the best view I have ever had of one.  It appeared to have been in residence for a while based on the pellets in the box.  Anyway, I didn't bother it and carefully closed the box back up, planning to come back and clean out later.  Based on what little I saw inside the box, it appears that there was indeed a successful duck nest last year based on shell fragments.

Not all boxes show the evidence of a successful season, and abandoned nests do occur.

The final box was also quite interesting.  It was an abandoned nest, but I found some different looking eggs in there along with the wood duck eggs.
Wood duck egg on left and hooded merganser on right.

After consulting my nest box guide, it appears they are the eggs of a hooded merganser.  Back in the summer of 2015 we had a successful batch of mergansers raised on that pond and I was fortunate enough to watch the hen with her seven ducklings swim over the pond.  I didn't see them last year, but apparently they had visited. 

The fun thing about cleaning out nest boxes is that you don't know what you might discover.


  1. Nice find for what was probably shaping up to be an uneventful cleaning of next boxes!

    1. Thanks Patrick. It was definitely a pleasant but unexpected surprise.

  2. Replies
    1. Thanks Ric. It was great meeting you as well.