photographed by Paul Fusco New and improved duck nest box placement at White Memorial's Mallard Marsh photographed by Dave Rosgen
Wood Ducks have been returning to northwest Connecticut in excellent numbers over the past 3 weeks. The past few days have seen a significant increase in their numbers. Last Thursday, 3/24, we counted 12 of these birds foraging along the shore of Bantam Lake's N. Bay by Litchfield Town Beach. Their numbers nearly doubled to 23 there 2 days later, and increased to 28 on the 28th. We counted 14 more a few minutes later that same day at Pt. Folly. We also counted 9 at Little Pond on the 24th, 6 in the Bantam River near Pike Marsh on the 29th, and 5 around the Museum Area on the 30th. Smaller numbers of these birds have been seen almost daily in various parts of the Property this month. We have no way of knowing how many of these Woodies are likely to stay and breed versus those continuing to migrate on to other breeding grounds. What we do know is that White Memorial typically hosts an average of 20 pairs of Wood Ducks and 7 pairs of Hooded Mergansers in its nest boxes. A few more of these birds nest in natural cavities in trees. This year we have 30 nest boxes out and available for these birds to use, and I hope to increase that number to 35 before the nesting season ends. For the past several years the number of boxes available for use has been around 32, 33, or 34. Massive flooding during the spring of last year really took a toll on the boxes in addition to causing many nest failures. A couple of blog posts earlier in the year detailed the work that our great intern, Scott Dayton, did to help us rebuild or replace many of the damaged boxes. An integral part of this work was to move 16 of the boxes to higher ground at the edges of our wetlands and to mount them onto longer poles so that they would remain above the floodwaters. So far the flooding this spring hasn't come anywhere close to threatening these boxes, even though the water was very deep in places. The boxes at Little Pond, which we haven't had a chance to move yet, were inundated. The photo above this posting shows one of the relocated and remounted nest boxes on its long pole. The bottom of the box is 5' 6" off the ground. Floodwaters never got closer than 3' to it. Also notice the 3' 4" length of 6" diameter PVC pipe around the pole, fastened immediately under the box, that serves as a very effective predator guard. We've already seen Wood Ducks and Hooded Mergansers around several of these boxes and are confident that they will nest in them. Stay tuned.