Ottawa Duck Club » Website News

By: Ottawa Duck Club  09-12-2011
Keywords: Boxes

Ottawa Duck Club » Website News


Annual General Meeting  

It’s that time again. Time for all members to get together and throw the bums out. Or to re-elect them. Whatever. It’s your choice, but to have a say, you have to be at the Annual General Meeting on Tuesday, March 23, 2010, at 7:00pm, at the Citizen Conference Centre on Baxter Avenue. There may even be a door prize or a 50/50 draw. And there will be refreshments. Hope to see you there.


We would like to welcome Richard Burnford to the ODC. Richard comes to us from The Friends Of Petrie Island where he has helped Bill Bower maintain our duck boxes. And apologize to Kim Laroque for misspelling her name last time. 


Wood duck box building

Shooting competitions kept us out of the sanctuary for six weeks in August and September, a holiday that ended in late September. But don’t get the idea that nothing was happening. First off, Bill and Austin Taverner went shopping. As Bill reported, “Almost everything has now been purchased to complete our 2009 Wood Duck Nesting Box Project. We have enough materials to build at least 25 new boxes. Home Depot cut it up for us for free. We also have the screws, glue, caulking and paint donated by Randall’s.” 

October 14 was selected as the second annual building day at the Skeet Range. Bill reported on the day: “That was a pretty ‘cool’ day out at the sanctuary — cool can be interpreted in different ways. We now have 28 new nesting boxes, certainly enough to see us through our 2010 winter maintenance program. All that remains is to get the boxes painted. Since we have a number of them stored in our outside shed we may be able to do some painting on a nice day when we can’t get in to work at our main sheds. Thanks to everyone for showing up and especially to Mary Lou Porter for arranging our meeting place, providing us with some nice hot coffee and treats.”

The intrepid box builders Mary Lou and Austin posing in the foreground, Bill and Ed working behind. (Photo by Ben Mancini)

And then on October 16 Bill said: “Ben Mancini, Tom Irwin and I were out all day (from 11 AM to 6 PM). We painted 21 new wood duck boxes, got the winter feeder ready to go and then after we got in to the main sheds at about 3 PM we put another gallon of paint on the shed. The whole shed now has one coat of paint. We even painted the old sign out by the bird feeder. It just needs the yellow letters painted now. We stayed out and watched for deer and were lucky enough to have a big buck come out to us just before dark. Overall, a very nice day.”

Shed rebuilding

Last year the big project was rebuilding our main shed. This year it was the turn of our second shed, the one that houses the Kubota. And again, Ed Lang led the work crew that included Bill, Ben, Austin, Tom Irwin and Mary Lou. Besides replacing all the siding, this shed’s walls were in serious need of straightening. The job was completed successfully and the whole shed received a coat of paint before the snow started to fly.

 Bill, Ben and company then cleaned out the old field office so that it can be used to store nest boxes and some tools. This allows us to work outside the danger zone when the ranges are in use.

Hatch results by Austin Taverner

Austin has tallied the numbers for 2009 for boxes we monitor during the summer and said: “wood duck totals are comparable with most years, with 472 eggs laid and 226 hatched for a success rate of 48% and hooded merganser results are continuing to increase, with 273 laid and 155 hatched for a success rate of 55% — in all not a bad year. Predation and abandoned eggs are still a concern, so I plan to have a closer look to see if any particular boxes have recurring failures. Perhaps boxes that are the most successful can tell us something that can help.”

The following tables provide nine-year running totals of eggs laid and hatched:

 Wood ducks









































Hooded mergansers









































 In our next issue we should be able to report on the overall 2009 results, including the boxes we only get to check in the winter as well as those at Watts Creek and Petrie Island.

2010 Winter outings

Austin has been very efficient and productive this winter and so much work has been done already that his To-Do list is getting really short — and it’s only February.

 Besides the usual maintenance work, winter work 2010 has focussed on installing predator guards. Austin believes that minks and snakes are the main causes of predation and he has devised some ways to guard against them — metal cone guards for the mink and chicken wire stuffed inside plastic pipe for the snakes. We’ll know in a few months if they’re working.

Ben and Mary Lou checking box 147 (Photo by Bill Bower)

On Valentine’s Day, the work crew checked three of the Kestrel boxes and found all had been used by starlings. The most interesting finding was that the box on the big trees just west of the sheds, a long way from the nearest body of water, was also used by a wood duck and the female had a very successful hatch on top of the starling’s nest.

 The same day, Bill and Ben saw a large group of ruffed grouses near Innis Point with one male getting a head start on mating season by performing his drum dance.

Spring can’t be far away. Before we know it, the Canada geese and great blue herons will be back choosing their nest sites.

Later in February, while checking the rest of the kestrel boxes, Bill, Ben and Churchy found evidence of a successful American kestrel hatch in one, also on top of a starling’s nest. There was "white-wash" on the inside of the box and in the flattened nest, which was on top of a starling nest, we found mouse hair, skeletal remains of mice and wings from large dragonflies, along with lots of droppings. 

 While the group of us were eating our lunch at the main shed on February 19, we were visited by a small flock of snow buntings that flew over to let us know they were hungry and the seed over at the skeet range wasn’t as good as ours. Bill quickly spread seed on the ground for them and they just as quickly returned to eat it.

We were also visited by a red (and white) squirrel that seems to be living in our main shed and chewing everything in sight. It appears to be suffering from mange, hence the large white patches.

 Over at the Innis Point feeders we saw a few deer and a raccoon that has been there before — unusual behaviour for a raccoon — and when Bill got a good look at it, the reason appeared obvious. It had got too close to a porcupine and was carrying a number of quills in its face.

We tried to entice the deer to come back by putting out some deer feed, but unlike the snow buntings, the deer weren’t hurrying back. We also refilled our suet feeders and had better, almost immediate, results. It was good to see a pair of red-breasted nuthatches come as soon as we moved away. Then, as we were returning from Innis Point, we saw three wild turkeys around McCabe Bridge. And as Bill put it: “two ‘sharp-eyed’ members (Merrill Smith and Mary Lou) saw a kestrel in the same general area, flying, hovering, and perching on one of the soldier silhouettes, not far from the box that a kestrel had used. That was good news for sure.”

Bluebird Boxes at Timm Drive, 2009 by Gretchen Denton

In addition to our duck boxes at the sanctuary, the club also maintains a number of bluebird/swallow boxes both at the sanctuary and on Timm Drive in Bells Corners. Barc Dowden has monitored the Timm Drive boxes for many years. This year he took Tony and Gretchen Denton along to get started with the work. They monitored nine boxes in all. Activity was first seen on June 12 (after one April and one May visit) and last seen on July 3. Bluebirds hatched in one box, and tree swallows used four of the boxes: two had successful swallow hatches, one had a hatch in which the babies died, and in the fourth one egg was laid which did not hatch.

 The one bluebird hatch — discovered by Barc — was in a box mounted low on a fence post near the road. By June 12, four eggs had been laid on pine needles. On June 16 a female bluebird flew out of the box. On June 23 there were four newborns. About a week later we saw both bluebird adults flying to the box, the female holding a worm. We saw the four sleeping babies inside the box, beginning to have some fuzz. On July 3 we observed the box from afar and saw a parent fly down and appear to feed the babies.

On August 17 we checked and cleaned all the boxes. In October and November Tony Denton and others carried in 11 new boxes and mounted them on metal poles in preparation for 2010. It was a challenge to find enough soil above rock to pound them in. They were left to weather over the winter and attract bluebirds — we hope — next spring.

  “Bluebird” (Tree Swallow) Boxes 2009 at Ottawa Duck Club

by Gretchen Denton

We monitored these between April 17 and September 25. Nest building had started by May 8, and most activity was over by June 26. 

 We presumed there had been hatches when either babies were seen or a dirty nest was left. The paired boxes (14 pairs) had 14 hatches. Two single boxes in the fields had babies on June 12, and a single near the Lilac Pond was dirty so apparently had had a hatch. Out of the 12 single boxes along the road, there were probably seven or eight hatches.

As expected, all pairs had one active and one inactive box, with one exception: on June 5, box 417 had babies while the box paired with it (324) had eggs.

 One box (313) appeared to have two broods: babies on June 5 and eggs on June 19 and July 3. Since the boxes were not checked again until September, we don’t know whether the second brood hatched.

When boxes were cleaned out, a total of four dead adult birds were found but no dead babies. It appears that the cold and rainy June did not affect them.

Nest boxes for bluebirds

by Tony Denton

The quest for a nesting box which will attract bluebirds continues. Off Timm Drive there has long been a moderately successful chain of bluebird boxes which were maintained by Barc Dowden. When asked by Barc to take over the chain I felt strongly that as the boxes were old, they should be replaced, especially as the position of the boxes differed from the recommendations of the Ontario Eastern Bluebird Society, in several respects.

Tony, Ben and Tom building bluebird boxes (Photo by Gretchen Denton)

With help from Tom and Ben, 12 new boxes of slightly new design, made during the summer as a 50-box construction project, were installed on poles, in pairs. (The last one is still to be done.)

 What the result will be will not be known until spring and summer. The old boxes have been left in place, where last year one of them — an old box with an unattached lid, low on a rotting post beside a busy road — produced the only successful hatch late in the summer.

One worrying development is the news that the city is planning a large infrastructure project that will see a lot of construction activity on Timm Drive in the summer of 2010. How this will affect the bluebirds and other wildlife in the area remains to be seen.

Peephole experiment by Tony Denton

When doing weekly checks on wood duck nesting boxes I had always felt guilty about opening the box to check on activity, because of the disturbance caused to a sitting hen. In order to test the possibility of checking a box to see if a hen was sitting, without opening the access door, I installed in ten boxes, a peephole such as can be mounted on a house door to see who is outside. (see: The Nestbox No. 17, March 2006, ed.)


Viewing blind

Plans are afoot to build a blind in 2010 with Tony Denton taking the lead. Here’s his proposal: “For a long time I have been interested in building a blind from which we can watch the activity on Dike Pond without disturbing the birds, and recently others have also expressed interest in building one, so I have drawn up rough plans based on wood which I have available. The main item I do not have is plywood, and it would take seven or eight sheets to enclose the basic 4ft X 4ft frame.” Some details remain to be worked out, such as how many people to accommodate, whether they should be able to sit or stand, and how to seal the box against invaders, such as raccoons, porcupines and mosquitoes (good luck with that one, ed.)

Speaking of raccoons (Photo by Mary Lou Porter)


Ontario Reptile and Amphibian Atlas

First there was the Ontario Breeding Birds Atlas, now Ontario Nature is working on a Reptile and Amphibian Atlas. For anyone interested in participating in this project, here’s some information from Joe Crowley of Ontario Nature.

 “Ontario Nature’s new Ontario Reptile and Amphibian Atlas program is nearing the end of its first year, and we need your help to compile as many observations of Ontario’s reptiles and amphibians as possible! We are looking for observations of all reptile and amphibian species in Ontario, from any time (last summer or 10 years ago). Observations can be reported using our new online reporting form, an Excel reporting form or mail-in cards, all of which are available on our website at:

In March, the online "Atlas of Reptiles and Amphibians of Ontario" will be available on our website, and will include descriptions of all of Ontario’s reptiles and amphibians, photos, range maps, information about the program and how to get involved, and much more!

Calendars: Ben and Bill are always looking for ways to get more money out of our pockets, so in December they got together and produced a beautiful calendar of 13 photos taken at the sanctuary. We hope to make this an annual publication, so watch for an announcement in the next Nest Box.

Finally, thanks to

Gerry Lee

for providing five more bags of shavings.

Keywords: Boxes