The Duck Nest Box

I’m happy that wild mallard call the Priory home.

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But I could do without the acute guilt trip they laid on me last year – even if it was well deserved.

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For the past couple of years, one of my (many) must-do jobs has been to replace the ancient, dilapidated duck nesting box on the east pond.

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It sat on a tiny island beside a newly planted corkscrew willow and regularly flooded.  Now you see it …

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… and now?  During recent high water only the willow was visible.  Little wonder that the nest box was crumbling away.

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But my tardiness in building a new box didn’t deter the mallards and last spring a pair built a nest in this ramshackle excuse for a home and raised a family.

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Sadly the ducklings disappeared within a few days: prey, I suppose, to one of the many duckling-eaters that also call the Priory home.  Undeterred, the female laid a second clutch of eggs.  I admired her “fiddle-dee-dee, tomorrow is another day” outlook … which only made what happened next worse.

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Disaster.  Her precious eggs tumbled through the rotten box floor.

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See what I mean about a guilt trip?  I hung my head in shame.  If only I’d replaced the bleeding box when I bleeding should have.

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Like you, I keep my spare screws and nails in a cut glass bowl

There would be no excuses this year.  On a horrible-weather day in February, I scowled at the sky and retreated to my hi-tech workshop.  Using a sheet of marine ply, I made a box.

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It was pretty easy and so, whilst I was at it, I made another: one for the east pond, one for the west.  The floor and sides are nailed together, the roof is screwed on (to make cleaning easier).  I also made a couple of entrance ramps and to avoid any unwanted (if amusing) duck-sliding, I added short, lengths of wood at regular intervals.  When the rain stopped, I launched the Priory boat (The Despondent) and set out for the large island on the west pond.

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I sledge-hammered a post into the ground (at a rather rakish angle) and bolted the box into position.

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Then I dragged The Despondent across 70 yards of garden (she’s very heavy, so that was tiring), relaunched her, loaded up and paddled out to the islet and repeated the same, if slightly less rakish, hammering and bolting.   The new box sits higher than the old one and so should be safe from drowning but I did worry that the ladder was too steep for a waddling duck.

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I needn’t have.  Within a few days, a female mallard was sitting on the ladder, sunning her feet.

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A little later, all I could see of her was a suspicious, glinty mallard-eye gazing back at me from inside her new home.  Has she already laid?  I don’t know but if we have babies, I’ll be sure to let you know.

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30 thoughts on “The Duck Nest Box

  1. Very smart new nest boxes. I’m sure the ducks will be happy in their new abodes. Will wait with baited breath for the news of the patter of tiny webbed feet.

    You need one of those little hovercrafts they used to show on TV being raced around country parks, then you wouldn’t have to carry The Despondent between lakes. 😉

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    • My breath is so bated I can barely stand, Lou. And neat idea re the hovercraft. I’ll have a dig around in the Priory petty cash box and see what’s what. Despondent can then be consigned to her ultimate fate a little sooner … as a planter. D

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  2. Great post. How big does the pond need to be for ducks to use a nesting box. Can it be on a pond too small for much foraging but 100m from a large pond/small lake?

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    • I’m no expert I’m afraid. The mallards make nests in some of the borders but never more than about 20 metres from the ponds. I suppose their main concern is getting the ducklings on to the water as quickly as possible after hatching. Obviously the young are very vulnerable on land. Having said that a mother used to walk her young brood across about 70 metres of lawn from one pond to the other regularly. 100m sounds a long way but I honestly don’t know. I suppose the ducks will decide for you?

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  3. Loved the post, Dave and those pics are ace and illustrate the story perfectly. Liked the prose, too. Can’t wait for the follow up. Hope you will shoot all possible predators on the estate.

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    • Hi Charles, not sure what is responsible for my loss. Rats, crows, mink, fox, moorhens – and probably a couple of other likely contenders. But I think mink are the culprit – they’ve been seen here. I’ve been offered the loan of a mink live-trap – and might just try it. I would very happily see Sussex mink free. Dave

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  4. Lovely houses for lovely ducks – I can only imagine how you agonised over last year’s disaster!

    Also…your cut-glass bowl made me laugh. Frankly I can barely think of a container type we DON’T keep spare nails and screws in in this house!!

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    • Blimey Sheri – that was er, educational. Thanks – I think. I knew about duck-rape and males killing females. I’ve shoo-ed off some males when they’ve held females under water. Drowning is quite common, I’ve read. I now know more about the duck’s sexual organs than I ever needed or probably wanted. Dave

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      • Hi David, I’m constantly running into stories being posted about the “angry duck” going ballistic. If your going to live in the country with animals you must be prepared for mating season. Many people find out the hard way when leaving them among their chickens.

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        • Indeed Sheri and I know that I shouldn’t interfere. But when a female is obviously distressed and trying but unable to escape, I can’t but not drive off the males. It makes little difference really – I’m only there for part of the day. D

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