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Scouts build wood duck nesting boxes to help improve wildlife habitat

'The whole idea of this is to give them (scouts) some experience with conservation. We were given the chance to build these boxes to try and improve waterfowl habitats' Scouter Tom Morrow.
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For over a century, the Delta Waterfowl Organization’s mission has been “to produce ducks and secure the future of waterfowl hunting” through conservation, habitat protection and education.

Conservation is also one of Scout Canada’s top priorities.

So, when Delta Waterfowl North Bay offered Scouts Canada Powassan the opportunity to assemble wood duck nesting boxes to be erected in the area, they took them up on the offer.

“The whole idea of this is to give them (scouts) some experience with conservation. We were given the chance to build these boxes to try and improve waterfowl habitats,” explained Scouter Tom Morrow.

“Scouting is really big on conservation. Scouting is also very big on the outdoors.”

Delta Waterfowl is a non-profit organization, known as the Duck Hunter’s Organization.

“They are fully supporting the production as well as the conservation of waterfowl through projects like this through the production, installation, and maintenance of nesting structures,” said Cameron Hockey, chair of the Delta Waterfowl Organization for the North Bay area.

“These wood duck boxes are built specifically to support the productivity of wood ducks.”

The nesting boxes will be installed in Callander’s Cranberry Marsh next month while it is still covered in ice.  

“We put them on a t-post. So, you drill a hole in the ice in the marsh where the waterfowl are going to be nesting anyway. You put the t-post in the ice and then you attach the wood duck structure to the post,” said Hockey.

“Signage will explain what the wood duck nesting structures are used for. They are also going to explain that they were erected by a Delta Fowl organization and that they were able to do so because of the Waterfowl Heritage Fund.”

The Scouts will be there to take it all in.

“They will hike out to the Cranberry Marsh to see the boxes, and they can say, ‘I built that. I’m helping out with this,’” said Morrow.

A nesting box runs about 18 inches to the bottom, built tall enough to keep predators away.

Based on experience, more often than not, anything shorter would not get used.

” It is amazing to see the female fly in and out of the small opening. She will come screaming in that hole. You think she is going to hurt herself but her wings tuck in and she goes right in,” said local Delta Waterfowl volunteer Tim Toeppner

 Anywhere from four to 10 eggs are laid at a time.

“We have mesh wire on the inside, so using their little toenails the birds can crawl up it like a ladder. When the mother boots them out, they just climb out. The little ones, once they’re out, they won’t go back in, now that they’re in the water and swimming and moving on.”

Darla and Aislyn, members of Scouts Canada Powassan, enjoyed assembling the boxes and look forward to seeing their finished product in use.   

“It is pretty cool,” said Darla.

“We get to build duck houses and I’ve never done that before. I’m looking forward to seeing them in the marsh. The ducklings crawl up the inside.”

Her building partner Aislyn said it was a lot of fun building the nesting boxes.

“The fact that the mesh will help the baby ducklings crawl out is neat. I plan to see them being put up in the marsh.”

Young Powassan scout Keaton was proud of his finished product.

“It’s good. I’ve never really done anything like this. I think it is a good thing because I like the building part and knowing the birds will be using it.”

Last year, a total of 15 structures were erected throughout the North Bay area.

 “Two years previous to that, we erected 20 waterfowl mallard nesting tubes. That is just a different kind of nesting structure specifically to help mallards when it comes to nesting success. We’ve had decent success rates when it comes to utilization,” said Hockey.

The birds are often hesitant to use the nesting boxes in the first year, but once they do, they come back.    

“As soon as you get one that utilizes it, it is going to come back to that exact area year after year, and imprint that on their young, that they are going to come back because they had successful nesting there,” said Hockey.

“Overall Delta Waterfowl has done a lot of this kind of work specifically in the western provinces and as well the western United States.”

Hockey says the success rates continue to climb.

“They have proven that success rates can jump as high as 80 per cent when you’re using a nesting structure, as opposed to anywhere from zero to 10 percent as the average without any kind of nesting structures.”

The concept is nothing new to Delta volunteer Tim Toeppner who helped spearhead the program at the local level.

“We did it last year with the Widdifield Scouts. It worked really well. All of the boxes will be GPS’d so we know where they are, so we can go in and do maintenance on them and check them out,” said Toeppner.

“I was a hunter education instructor for 25 years and we put them up and watched them. What I like is going out and checking on them. When you pull the old nests out, you can see the eggs from birds that had been living in there.”

It can provide some insight into habitat use and waterfowl behaviour.   

“You get an idea of how many have hatched or what type of duck was in there, whether it was a wood duck or merganser or goldeneye duck or bufflehead duck. You can also see if maybe it was an owl in there or other wildlife too,” said Toeppner.

“Delta Waterfowl is about raising more ducks and keeping more ducks in the area, but we also like to see all the other wildlife in there that survived too. So, it actually makes you feel good knowing that what you have done actually works as far as enhancing wildlife management.”

Hockey pointed out the Delta Waterfowl organization is big on hunter recruitment and education.

“Which is another reason why we are having this event. It is to get a bunch of youth engaged and interested in the hunting sport, and specifically in terms of waterfowl. And hopefully, try to get them intrigued as the next generation to become hunters as well as stewards and hopefully assist with conservation as well.”

The organization is hosting its 4th annual fundraising dinner and auction on Friday, February 21st.

Each local chapter will keep a portion of the proceeds to use locally through its Waterfowl Heritage Fund.

” We chose to use the funds from our previous dinner to do this youth event. So, we got some funding from Delta to purchase materials. And a lot of the lumber was donated by the Powassan Home Building Centre,” said Hockey.

Tickets are available online at deltawaterfowl.org/events or through committee members.

For more details email Cam-hockey-12@hotmail.com




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