Birds will be returning back here to the northeast to breed soon (Red-winged Blackbird song is already reverberating in the marshes), so Jeanine and I have been taking steps to help some of our breeders. Two weeks ago we helped to move two Wood Duck boxes that have been unproductive. The idea was that these boxes were far too exposed or close to human access for the secretive Wood Ducks to nest there. So along with Cloverdale County Park manager Patti, we moved them toward the back end of their respective wet areas and hope to see nesting activity there this spring.
Plans are underway to construct a pair of nest boxes for Prothonotary Warblers at Cloverdale this year too. Prothonotaries nest nearby, and they have been seen in the park for the last three years, but with no evidence yet of nesting activity there. Maybe a few boxes will lure them to nest on the grounds, so I’m anxious to get those boxes up this spring before they arrive.
This week was part two of our spring nest box work, as we helped with Wood Duck box maintenance at Forsythe NWR. Volunteers Joe and Bill have been monitoring the Wood Duck boxes for the past two years or so, and the boxes needed some upkeep. Wood Ducks are not a priority species for the refuge, so all the work on the 22 Wood Duck boxes on the Forsythe property are left to volunteers while the staff perform other duties. Using an old map, we were able to locate two boxes that had been ‘lost’ over the years, we cleared old nesting material and eggshells from the boxes, filled all the boxes with fresh cedar chip shavings (thanks to Bill), and made repairs on the boxes where necessary. Most of the boxes are located in about two feet or so of water, so Joe did most of the hands-on work because he was the only one with waders on. He therefore was the one who was most surprised when a mouse jumped out of one box, and when an Eastern Screech-owl was found roosting in another.
Like many other birders, we tend to focus on finding and watching and photographing birds, and we don’t spend nearly enough time to ensure that bird populations remain healthy and will be here for future generations. This is just one small attempt to do our part, and we encourage you to find a way to do the same in your home patch. Support environmental organizations, or help with habitat protection, or put up some nest boxes, but do something. Anything. You’ll feel better afterwards.
After the Wood Duck box maintenance was completed, we took a loop around Wildlife Drive, being rewarded with two nice views of mature Bald Eagles, and also by the very cooperative Snowy Owl that has been seen for several days on the north dike, and by an estimated 3,000 Snow Geese at the dogleg.