Spring is upon us, and if you have not already done so, it’s time to get your nest boxes ready for 2012’s new occupants! Michael Hill, a biologist with FWC, recently asked for help to check and to clean out all the Wood Duck boxes he maintains at Lake Lafayette Heritage Trail Park in Tallahassee. So one frigid, windy, but otherwise bright and sunny morning last week, my wife Selena and I hopped aboard Michael’s airboat for a whirlwind tour of the lake. With nearly a dozen boxes to visit, it was apparent right away this was going to be an adventure; just keeping the boat positioned in place under the boxes was challenging enough. Working off a kitchen stepladder (either delicately poised on the front of the boat, or jammed down into the mud) was another matter!
The FWC’s Michael Hill on the job, removing last year’s nesting materials (and keeping those eggs at arm’s length).
Armed with a telescoping pole, we took turns carefully removing the active paper wasp nests (no one was stung, thankfully), plus the mud dauber nests, old wood chips, feathers and spider webs. Of course there were quite a few rotten eggs from last year in the boxes as well (multiple females often “dump nest” in the same box, resulting in numerous unhatched eggs). Michael warned us in advance to keep the rotten eggs from falling into his nice clean boat, and happily we obliged (although a few came rather close).
Last year’s unhatched eggs from one box. Oh that sulfur smell!
We used paint scrapers and a stiff brush to scour the box interiors clean, and then we filled each box with four or five scoops of fresh cypress chips for the ducks to use as nesting material. In less than three hours, the boxes were once again “open for business.” Michael plans to return soon to replace several predator baffles that are no longer functional, and to replace one box that is no longer serviceable. Some of these boxes made from cypress wood have been in use out there for several decades!
FWC volunteer Selena Kiser preps a box for new tenants.
So if you have any type of nest boxes on your property, be a good landlord and keep your tenants safe and happy! Clean out the interiors, make any necessary repairs, add a predator guard to the entrance hole or below the box if appropriate and let the birds know the “vacancy” signs in your yard are lit!All photos and text by Mark Kiser (FWC)