If you’ve ever been in Explore the Wild and looked out over our Wetlands here at the Museum you may have noticed that there are two wood duck nest boxes planted there. One is on the far side of the Wetlands, the other on a small island about halfway across the water.
The nest boxes are there in an attempt to convince a pair or two of the hooded mergansers that winter here at the Museum into staying over the summer and nesting. Wood ducks are welcome, but the boxes were installed to lure in the mergansers, who, like wood ducks, will nest in real tree cavities as well as imitation tree cavities such as the nest boxes.
The vegetation has been slowly overgrowing the nest boxes so I decided to go out into the Wetlands and do a little pruning. I don’t want to give any creatures the opportunity to get at and eat the potential occupant’s eggs. Although the trees on which the nest boxes are installed have predator guards on them, snakes, raccoons and other predators can easily climb an adjacent tree, crawl along a branch to the nest box tree and down into the nest box itself. I needed to eliminate those overhanging branches and limbs.
Ranger Kristin and I boarded the Museum’s jon boat, the Queen Anne’s Revenge and paddled over to the island nest box (the other nest box can be serviced from land). For propulsion, there is exactly one paddle, a canoe paddle, and a metal pipe that is used as a sort of punt pole. Canoe paddles are made for canoes not jon boats, and our punt pole lacks a foot to keep it from sinking into the mud. To make matters worse, or better, depending on how you look at things, there was a thin coat of ice on the water. The going was slow and awkward.
While at the island box, an inspection of the inside of the box seemed a good idea. The front of the box slides down and out in two grooves routed into the side panels of the box. This makes for a fast and easy inspection. Besides a cluster of winter ants inside the box, everything looked fine. I slipped the front panel back up into placed and we cruised back to shore after a trip around the perimeter.
Later in the day I noticed something peculiar about the nest box.
We, I, had installed the front panel of the box upside down. The entrance hole was now at the bottom of the box when it was supposed to be at the top. By the time I noticed the mistake, it was too late in the day to do anything about it. It would have to wait for another day.
And what a day it was. Seventy-one degrees said the thermometer as we launched the boat for the second time in as many days. We refitted the front of the nest box, paddled around the wetlands a few times and ultimately, back to shore.
Any excuse to get out on the water.