At ECC, we love ducks. We did the Junior Duck Stamp Art Contest, we have the Duck Club (more to come later) and we just prepped some of our Wood Duck Boxes! ECC is located right on the Anacostia River and we have some boats that allow us to set up and monitor these boxes. With the ducks coming soon, it was time for us to gear up and check on in on them.
It was a nice sunny day (seems to be a rarity here) but we got our maintenance tools and boats ready. A member of the Wood Duck Society named Clyde came to help us out and give his expert opinion. While making our way down the river, we checked on five boxes. All in all, the boxes were in good condition and we cleaned out some of the old shells to make room for the next wood ducks. Clyde, very importantly, pointed out some safety and methodological tips that are crucial for this practice. For instance, we must check for bee and wasp hives in these boxes because they often nest in these boxes. The boxes must also be strategically placed so that ducks have easy access and not too close so ducks don’t compete for boxes. The ducks will lay eggs in various places to distribute risk, but doing so can put strain on the mother raising the ducks or it can damage eggs if two ducks cross paths in the nests. It was a great learning eexperience and one of my favorite activities thus far.
However, as we had expected, none had any ducks nesting in them, but we did see a lot of eggs and egg shells from the previous year. Clyde tells us it is actually uncommon to catch a glimpse of a wood duck in the area so he wasn’t expecting to see one today. This is possibly due to the high pollution levels in the Anacostia which comes from the poor sewage management from the city. We got lucky and actually did see one wood duck on our way back to ECC and Clyde says it may be a good indicator that the river is improving. Thankfully, the city is investing in a new sewage treatment center. There is a lot of environmental inequality in this area, but I’m glad ECC and the city are trying to make changes for the residents.
This activity had a lot of learning points to it. I got to get outdoors and learn about conserving wood ducks and helping boost their populations, I met local experts, and I even got to practice my boating skills on the way back. One of the most interesting points for me was the effect of policy on the environment, in reference to the sewage plant. I am very interested in the politics behind conservation and how we can legally protect the environment, wildlife, and people. Wood ducks as an indicator of river health were a great example to being my interest to life.