ROCKINGHAM — Wood ducks now have several new places to nest along Hitchcock Creek.
Volunteers from Ducks Unlimited — Jarrett Carter, Gary Weyant, Ty Pruitt, Mike Swanson and Ed O’Neal — spent Saturday morning installing six duck boxes at the greenway on Steele Street.
These weren’t the first to go up in Richmond County, and according to Weyant, won’t be the last.
“We have 85 presently that we maintain,” he said Monday, adding the group plans to put up 40 additional boxes throughout the county this fall on both private and municipal properties. “We’re hoping to increase the wood duck population.”
He said the group maintains boxes in the Sandhills Game Lands, as well as seven at the lake by Richmond Community College and 11 at Hinson Lake.
According to the N.C. Cooperative Extension Service: “Nesting requires cavities or nest boxes. Wood ducks prefer to use cavities already made by woodpeckers and squirrels, although any cavity is acceptable. The entrance should be no larger than 4 inches and the cavity large enough to support an average of 11 young. Protecting previously used nests is very important. Once successful, a female will nest in the same cavity year after year.”
The boxes put up this past weekend were handmade out of cypress lumber, placed on poles with the holes facing the water.
“You always want to have a clear path for them to fly into,” Weyant said.
The boxes were also each fitted with a predator guard to keep out snakes, kept 15 feet away from trees to protect against raccoons.
The insides, which measure 8.5 x 10 inches, were filled with cedar chips because the ducks don’t bring their own nesting materials.
Weyant said when the ducklings hatch, they’re only in the box for 18 to 24 hours.
“Then she (the mother) calls them and they jump out of the box like they’re on fire,” he said, adding that sometimes natural cavities can be 50 feet above ground. “It’s amazing how those little ducks come out of there.”
The group is also planning to put boxes up in Roberdel, Ledbetter Lake and Everetts Mill.
“The city really appreciates the efforts of Ducks Unlimited to install wood duck boxes along Hitchcock Creek,” Monty Crump, Rockingham city manager, told the Daily Journal in an email. “The boxes will provide additional nesting cavities for wood ducks in an area that already supports a good number of nesting wood ducks. This effort by DU compliments the city’s goal to conserve and protect habitat for Hitchcock Creek/ Old Pee Dee lakebed for wildlife.”
Earlier this year, the city was recognized by the N.C. Wildlife Federation as Municipal Conservationist of the year through the Governor’s Conservation Achievement Awards program.
Anyone wishing to volunteer to help build, install or clean the county’s wood duck boxes can contact Weyant by emailing email@example.com.
“We stay active all year,” he said.
Reach William R. Toler at 910-817-2675 and follow him on Twitter @William_r_toler.