Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Cleaning out the Woodduck Nesting Boxes at the Sanctuary

One of the recent maintenance projects taking place for KFN is the cleaning out of wood duck nesting boxes in the KFN Sanctuary.  This is often done by the Teens during the month of February, a good opportunity to get young people out in the woods in winter and teach them about the wood ducks and what we can do to help with nesting.  A few years ago Ducks Unlimited provided 4 nest boxes and poles, a crew of adults put the support poles up, and then Teens mounted the boxes. These 4 boxes were placed strategically around a large pond in the Sanctuary that is surrounded by woodlands.  Each year the boxes are checked and cleaned out, and information about what is found is recorded.  Materials and nests that are found within the box are examined, some material saved in marked plastic bags, any unhatched eggs are counted and recorded, the boxes are brushed out and drained holes cleared, and new nesting material (wood shavings) are added.  The material is examined for feathers which are helpful in determining which species used the box.  Egg shells are also examined, often whole membranes are found which helps in the count of the number of eggs.  All data is kept in both Kingston Field Naturalist files as well as reports to Ducks Unlimited. 

On February 27th, 2015, 3 members of the KFN attended to the task; Anne R., Gaye B., and Rose-Marie B.  In spite of it being a brutally cold morning with a low of -24C, the three of us carpooled from Sydenham and arrived at the Santuary around 9:45 a.m.   By then the sun had risen high and provided a classically picturesque winter day with clear blue sky and very little wind, the temperatures creeping upward.  It has been a deep-snow winter, so snowshoes were necessary to trek through the powdery snow to reach the pond with the 4 D.U. nest boxes.  With the thick ice of winter a short cut was available along a stream bed, over a large beaver pond, up a short stretch of hillside over another dam that brought us to the pond where the boxes are located.  We took turns breaking the path, and took our time, enjoying the scenery along the way.  We took some tools to open the boxes, a few extra tools in case repairs of any sort were necessary, and a big supply of fresh wood shavings.  Gaye carried the aluminum step ladder needed to reach the higher boxes.  One after another we opened the boxes, gathered materials, cleaned them out, and recorded our findings.  Two of the boxes contained grackle nests on top of the wood duck boxes.  In one of those boxes there were 15 unhatched eggs, and a big grackle nest on top.  When Gaye removed the grackle nest the form of the unhatched duck eggs were seen pressed into the bottom. 

Once the four boxes were completed, we headed back out.  Along the way we admired the work of a pileated woodpecker, 5 big holes were bored into a dead pine tree, the chips littering the snow below.  Not many birds were active, but we heard the calls of a few chickadees, a couple of bluejays, and one white breasted nuthatch.  Tracks were found in the snow, squirrels, deer, and possibly a fisher, the powdery nature of the snow didn't provide clear footprints.  By the time we reached the car after our pleasant outing the temperature had reached -4C. 

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