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.