Agri Drain donates water level control structure

Agri Drain donates water level control structure

Agri Drain Corporation, an agricultural equipment manufacturer based out of Adair, IA, recently donated an Inline Water Level Control Structure to the SCWA habitat management team.

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Agri Drain sales executive, Jeff Harris (left) and SCWA habitat manager, Jonathan Patrick pause for a photo after discussing how the SCWA plans to use the donated inline water level control structure.

The structure will be placed in Bullington Pond, the body of water closest to the Wildlife Education Center buildings. Campers frequently fish off the Bullington Pond dock, staff members train their retrievers from the banks of the pond, and parents and chaperones often comment on the peaceful and serene view from the porch of Chace Lodge.

Habitat Manager Jonathan Patrick said “the structure will help the habitat management team retain water for irrigation, flooding and help provide better fishing quality for our summer campers. Being able to efficiently control the water will allow us to save money, water, and electricity.”

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The view of Bullington Pond from the deck of Chace Lodge.

It is unlikely the structure will be installed before duck season this year but Patrick said the installation will happen prior to the 2017 summer camp season.

With the help of volunteers, donors, and members, the SCWA habitat management team has accomplished the following in the past 30 years:

  • Distributed and installed 22,300 wood duck nest boxes resulting in the production of more than 950,000 wood ducks.
  • Provided wetland management assistance to 600 landowners resulting in the creation and enhancement of thousands of acres of managed wetlands.
  • Produced more than 155,000 songbirds.
  • Successfully released 840,000 mallards.
  • Added 75 to 100 thousand waterfowl to South Carolina’s waterfowl population on an annual basis. 

Thank you Agri Drain for supporting future conservation efforts by the South Carolina Waterfowl Association.

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Celebrating 30 years of conservation success

CollageThanks to the dedicated efforts of more than 500 volunteers and the financial support of more than 4,500 South Carolina Waterfowl Association (SCWA) members and sponsors, your Association has accomplished the following in the past 30 years:

  • Distributed and installed 22,650 wood duck nest boxes resulting in the production of more than 990,000 wood ducks.
  • Created the 410-acre SCWA Wildlife Education Center (WEC), the home of SCWA’s Camp Woodie, the nation’s leading youth wildlife education summer camp. The WEC is also home to Camp Leopold, SCWA’s school-year natural resource,  conservation camp for 3rd – 7th graders. In 2016, more than 900 youth attended Camp Woodie and more than 6,000 youth will attend Camp Leopold. Since 1986, Conservation Education has been provided to more than 82,000 youth.
  • Provided wetland management assistance to 600 landowners resulting in the creation and enhancement of thousands of acres of managed wetlands.
  • Produced more than 160,000 songbirds and released 880,000 mallards.
  • Added 75 to 100 thousand waterfowl to South Carolina’s waterfowl population on an annual basis.
  • Grown to become the Nation’s second largest state Waterfowl Association.

To ensure future years of success and growth, we must expand our commitment to conserve and enhance South Carolina’s waterfowl and wetland resources. We need your help to pass on the legacy of our waterfowl and wildlife heritage to the next
generation.

To learn more about SCWA or to become a member call 803-452-6001 or visit www.scwa.org.

I greatly appreciate your interest and support.

Here’s to the next 30 years!

David J. Wielicki
South Carolina Waterfowl Association Executive Director

Mallard Project Q & A

Frequently Asked Questions about The Mallard Release Program


 Where do SCWA mallards come from?

The mallards that SCWA uses in the Mallard Release Program come from the Frost Waterfowl Hatchery in Darlington, S.C. The Frost Waterfowl Trust manages the genetics of their flock to ensure that their breeders are of the highest genetic quality. These birds exhibit similar plumage, body size and fledging characteristics as their wild reared cousins. When given proper nutrition all Frost mallards are capable of flight at 8 weeks of age. This is identical to the fledging period of Mallards reared in the wild. All Frost mallards are USDA health certified prior to shipment.


How do I get enrolled in the MRP?

First, contact the SCWA Executive Director/waterfowl biologist David Wielicki at 803-452-6001. There are several factors that will need to be addressed in the initial conversation such as, plant and flood capability of your habitat, water sources, pumping potential, and release pond locations. These are key factors that must be addressed before moving forward.


How much does it cost to get into the Mallard Release Program?

A $500 mallard project membership fee must be paid in order to receive an annual site visit and phone consultation.


When do I get my ducks and how old are they when I get them?

The distribution season runs from the end of May through the middle of August. The ducks are transported directly from Frost waterfowl to your release pond.  The ducks will vary in age from 4 to 6 weeks old at the time of distribution.


    Should you have any questions about The Mallard Research Program please contact:

David Wielicki – SCWA Executive Director and Waterfowl Biologist – SCWA

Office: 803-452-6001 ext. 102

Wood Duck Ecology – The History of the Nest Box

The wood duck (Aix sponsa) is the only duck species to nest in significant numbers in South Carolina. Historically, the species nested in natural cavities created by broken limbs and wood peckers. Due to the loss of hardwood bottomland habitat from extensive logging and heavy hunting pressure from market gunners wood duck populations declined to very low numbers in the early 1900’s.   With the passing of conservation laws such as the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 and the Lacey Act, the wood duck was able to start making a comeback from what was considered to be the brink of extinction.

​As early as 1912 nest boxes were as a tool to improve wood duck habitat. The first attempts to improve wood duck nesting habitat by government agencies was in 1937 by placing over 700 nesting structures on National Wildlife Refuges along rivers and swamps in Illinois. Evidence of wood duck use of over half of approximately 700 nest boxes led to the conclusion that nest boxes could be a valuable tool in the management and conservation of the species (Hawkins and Bellrose 1940). These first nest houses were bark covered slab boxes attached directly to trees with no predator guards. They were bulky with a short life span, often receiving less than 15% occupancy by wood ducks (Bellrose 1953). Nest boxes in successive years were constructed with entrance dimensions based on measurements from taken from natural cavities.

​With the observation that predators could be deterred from entering the boxes by adjusting entrance dimensions, further variations on the theme of predator guards were developed. The conical metal guards used by the South Carolina Waterfowl Association’s Wood Duck Production Program were popularized in the early 1970s in the southern United States as a means to prevent rat snakes from entering the boxes. When securely attached to a pole and combined with a properly placed nest box, these guards are considered to offer the best protection available against pole climbing predators (Bellrose and Holm 1994).

​As is readily noticeable with the nesting structures distributed by the South Carolina Waterfowl Association and the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, the wooden houses with the metal predator guard are the most common nest boxes seen in South Carolina.

 Should you have any questions about the Wood Duck Project, please feel free to contact David Wielicki. His contact information is below.

Office: 803-452-6001 ~ Email: contact@scwa.org

Pricing for SCWA Wood Duck Projects

Funding for the South Carolina Waterfowl Association Wood Duck Production Project is subsidized through local SCWA fundraising chapters. Landowners who wish to have nest boxes installed on their property must also support the project by making a contribution to the South Carolina Waterfowl Association.

Each year SCWA funds the operation of wildlife biologist field crews who install and maintain wood duck nesting boxes across South Carolina. Due to the cost of funding a two person field crew, there is a ten nest box minimum required for any nest box installation or maintenance project conducted by SCWA field crews. Wood Duck nest boxes can be purchased from SCWA and picked up at our Wildlife Education Center. The fees for nest boxes and field crew services are as follows:

Wood Duck Nest Boxes and Components

  1. Cypress Wood Duck Nest Box – $45.00
  2. Galvanized Predator Guard – $20.00
  3. Ten Foot Treated 4 x 4 Post – $10.00
  4. Wood Duck Nest Box Unit (post, guard, box) $75.00

SCWA Field Crew Services 

  1. Wood Duck Nest Box Unit Installation $120.00/unit (Ten nest box unit minimum)
  2. Wood Duck Nest Box Maintenance – $25.00/nest box (Ten nest box unit minimum)

​If you would like to purchase wood duck nest boxes or schedule a maintenance or installation project call the SCWA office at 803-452-6001.

Waterscapes – The Wetland Reserve Program

by Henry Brabham


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There was a heavy wet summer heat and we pushed out of the last swamp of the day. My cousin and I leaned against the work truck with sweat burning eyes and mud smeared clothes and viewed the wood duck boxes we just finished checking. It was a beautiful place even though she was hard on us. We stood in the late cool shade of two live oaks with great low limbs bending enough to step over. We rested on the limb under moss, and the leaves that rattled in the breeze, and talked … ducks! It was a natural wetland.

​The lily pad blackwater pockets sat warm and shallow around young bald cypress trees. Sharp white herons traded sides of the swamp mid-morning as we waded through beaver canals where the water was warm around our waist and cool black down around our feet, and then the water was all warm in the shallow flats of cypress knees. Under the oak we talked of a cold grey swamp with cupped wings of mallards coming like a staircase down through the trees, and early morning woodies whistling high up in three’s and four’s just over the tips of the trees. We had heard stories about this place. They used to call it “The Big fork” because the swamp split. On one side there was a deep canal running through the cypress trees to drain a field to be planted. The other side was a dry bed of hard mud and tufts of grass. through the dry grass between the trees, people could sneak onto the property to fish the canal leaving old rusted metal chairs and empty blue worm cups and beer cans. Now there is no canal, only long stick-legged birds searching for fish, ducks, alligators, floating grass with a bass steadying himself for a shiny ripple on the surface, and the lapping sound of dark water around the wide bottomed trees in a good wind. But, we didn’t hear about all this. We heard bout droves of ducks pouring into some WRP pond that used to be dry.

​I did not know much about WRP, which stands for “Wetland Reserve Program, and like any other waterfowler I wanted to know how to get droves of ducks, as well as the scenery that makes a slow morning enjoyable. I went to my county NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service) and they provided me with plenty of information on how to get started in the WRP.

​In the past ten years the Wetland Reserve Program has become the most popular and ecologically successful voluntary incentive-based wetlands re storation program in U.S. history. The funding for this program is made available by the Commodity Credit corporation and then implemented by NRCS.

​There are three program options offered by NRCS; short term 10-year cost-share agreement, mid-term 30-year conservation easement, and permanent easement restorations. NRCS provides financial assistance for landowners in the form of easement payments and restoration cost-share assistance. The lands that are enrolled mostly consist of floodprone restorable agricultural wetlands, and the cost per acre on a national average is approximately $1,100 for financial assistance and $75 for technical assistance with the average project size being 185 acres.

​For example, if a landowner has 100 acres of a dry Carolina Bay and wishes to participate in some kind of wetland restoration project he/she could contact their local USDA/NRCS office about the Wetland Reserve Program. The landowner would then receive a questionnaire referring to certain aspects of their land. The landowner may receive questions in the application such as: Has the wetland been altered? Is the ditch on or affecting the property line?

​Then, upon approval based on land value, which will be determined through NRCS, the project is underway. During the program the landowner continues to control access, recreational activities that are non-developed, the right to lease such recreational activities for financial gain, and can request the approval of other uses of the land that are determined compatible with the program’s conservation objectives. By becoming a part of the WRP a landowner and his/her community can benefit from improved water quality, reduced soil erosion, reduced flooding, improved water supply, and, as I have already mentioned, the benefit of improved habitat for wildlife.

​Landowners may sign up at their county NRCS office or USDA Service Center. During the year, NRCS will rank all eligible applications and submit them to the national office for funding consideration. You may also contact NRCS on the web at: http://www.nrcs.usda.gov

How Do You Grow Chufa For Ducks?

Chufa-storyChufa is a Spanish word that means “ground almond.” It is a type of nut-grass that produces a potato-like tuber under the ground that is usually grown for wild turkeys. Chufa is high in fat and protein and is an excellent food source for wintering waterfowl when flooded. Mallards and other dabbling ducks prefer chufa flooded at a depth of two to  eight inches while the diving ducks, such as ring-necks, redheads, and canvasbacks love it when flooded to depths over one foot. On Catahoula Lake in Louisiana, chufa supplied fifty-seven percent of the diet of mallards; sixty-seven percent for pintails, and averaged sixty-seven percent of food items eaten by wigeon, green-winged teal, blue-winged teal, ringnecks, canvasbacks, and lesser scaup. Researchers reported that chufa ranked tenth of all waterfowl foods in the United States and Canada, and ranked third in the Mississippi Valley region.

Chufa grows best in moist soil but does not do well on sites that are extremely wet or flooded during the growing season, it also commonly occurs in bottomland under stories and on exposed mudflats of seasonally flooded Catahoula Lake in Louisiana. The outer contour of the lake is dominated by chufa, composing up to eighty-five percent of the total vegetation. Good chufa tuber production depends on at least a three-month flood-free period during the growing season.   When properly fertilized with good weed management chufa can yield 4 to 7 tons per acre.

​Duck ponds which can be drained and planted during summer and flooded during winter provide excellent habitat for waterfowl. Chufa can be planted from April through July and requires 90 to 100 days to mature. Planting chufa from June 20 through July 10 will reduce weed and insect pressure to the plants.  Acquiring your tubers from a quality supplier such as Cypress Knee Chufa assures you of starting off right. Chufa grows best in sandy loam soil, but this hardy plant will grow even in hard clay. To plant chufa, either broadcasting or row-planting is acceptable. Whichever method you choose, spread fertilizer (13-13-13) at a rate of about 400 pounds per acre (depending on the fertility of your soil) and disk it in. Treflan, either granular or liquid, can be used as pre-emergent weed (grass) control. A clean chufa plot with little weed competition will produce greater yields than a weedy plot.  To control broad leaf weeds you can use 12 ounces of banvel per acre when the chufa is 8 inches tall.  Chufa also grows best in soils with a ph level of around 6.5.  Chufa yields can also be boosted by adding 1 ton of gypsum per acre prior to planting.

chufa1​Broadcast planting method: Chufa can be broadcast at a rate of about forty pounds per acre on the prepared seed-bed. Next, disk in to a depth of about one and one-half inches. Top dress the chufa with urea (200 lbs per acre) when the plants are about six to twelve inches in height.

​Row-planting method: Row plant chufa on a prepared seed bed as described above using a Virginia peanut plate (corn plates will not work). Plant in twenty  to thirty-six inch rows with a spacing of about 4.5 inches apart in 20 inch rows and 2.5 inches apart in 36 inch rows. Chufa tubers should be planted to a depth of  one to one and one half inches deep in the soil. Side dress with 200 pounds per acre of urea when the plants are six to twelve inches in height. Row planting produces a heavier yield than broadcast planting.   If you have wild hogs in your area you will need to fence in your chufa plots to keep the hogs out.  An important point to remember about chufa plots is that they should be planted every third year to avoid insect damage and ensure a good crop. Rotate planting crops such as corn, millet, or rice in other years.

​We don’t always recommend eating food planted for waterfowl but you really should give chufa a try.  It tastes like a cross between an almond and a coconut. Dating back to Ancient Egypt where it was first domesticated about 7,000 years ago, chufa has, in more recent years, been used to grow an acre each fall to fatten the hogs on because they helped make such tasty pork. Chufa also made tasty snacks for the farm family during the winter, and even bread was made from chufa. It was ground into a fine, powdery flour and substituted for half the flour in any bread recipe. In Spain, an elixir is served in health spas, pubs, and restaurants – a beverage that is reminiscent of coconut and pineapple.  Chufa tuber supplies are usually limited so make sure you place your order early with Cypress Knee Chufa by calling 252-585-8888 or visiting their web site at cypresskneeshufa.com.

​​Should you have any questions about Chufa please contact: 

David Wielicki – SCWA Executive Director and  Lead Waterfowl Biologist

Office: 803-452-6001 

Email: contact@scwa.org