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Wood duck nest box install and unexpected visitors!

On April 21, 2021 a handful of staff, exhibits folks and Ranger Brooke, installed a wood duck box in our wetlands. This was not a first. There had been previous wood duck box installs in our wetlands, but erosion, age, and weathering had rendered them unusable. We now have a fresh new nest box.

John, Andrew, Brooke, and Cory.
The crew at work installing nest box.
After install, Brooke pulls crew back to shore.

Originally, I requested to have the nest box installed to entice a pair of hooded mergansers to stay the summer and nest in our little wetland. They, like wood ducks, are cavity nesters and will use the boxes as readily as wood ducks. However, that’ll have to wait til next season. Mostly winter visitors, the mergansers have already departed. I rarely see mergansers in our wetlands after mid April and then it’s usually a single non-breeding male or female. Wood ducks are welcome.

The finished product.

The team installed the box and we were patiently waiting for a pair of wood ducks to set up residency. Then, on April 29, I noticed a swallow fly from the box. Swallows pass through the wetlands each spring, but the only ones that nest in the immediate vicinity are northern rough-winged swallows. The bird I saw, without binoculars, appeared darker on top and clear white below, a clean-cut look which is not a rough-winged swallow profile.

The next morning as I walked the path on the north side of the wetlands, a swallow swooped in front of me and landed fifty some feet ahead in the leaf liter alongside the path. This time I had my bins. It was a tree swallow collecting nesting material and it took off in the direction of the wood duck box. I later saw one fly into the nest box.

The next morning a pair of tree swallows worked steadily on the nest they were building inside their new oversized nest site.

Male tree swallow.

We’ve had various nesters in our wood duck boxes, everything from wood ducks to great-crested flycatchers to raccoons. Tree swallows are certainly welcome.

Female tree swallow collecting nest material.

Tree swallows have attempted nesting in our wetlands before. In 2018, a pair tried to usurp a pair of chickadees that were nesting in a hole excavated in a black willow by brown-headed nuthatches. They were not successful and subsequently moved on.

Female swoops down out of box to fetch more dried grass, stems, or goose feathers.

On May 6, I watched the pair mating. They will be laying eggs and staying with us.

I’m already making plans for next year. I think a couple of additional nest boxes (a bit smaller) would do nicely in our wetlands.

Besides the four staff mentioned above, special thanks to Michele, Reeve, KJ, Jill and anyone else who had a hand in the project