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

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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.

Receding Wetlands

We Can Do Something About Our Receding Wetlands

Conservation Groups Work Together

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 More and more wetlands across South Carolina are being restored and enhanced because of conservation groups such as the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) and the partnerships that they form with other groups to accomplish their goals. SCWA and NRCS have joined SCWA’s Wood Duck Production Project and the NRCS Wetland Reserve Program in a partnership to broaden and enhance their goals to restore as many wetlands as possible each year.

​SCWA Waterfowl Biologists believe this partnership will be a great success, With the demand for hard timber fiber increasing, there is less and less natural habitat available for breeding wood ducks. Whereas wetlands many years ago were drained for agricultural purposes, the NRCS provides a service to the landowners to re-establish these once existing wetlands. Such reestablished wetlands are excellent sites for the Wood Duck Production Project, because they provide food sources as well as good brood rearing habitat. Wood duck nesting units installed on these sites not only provide the hens with quality nesting cavities, but also several other species of cavity nesting birds such as Carolina wrens, warblers, great crested flycatchers, eastern bluebirds, and hooded mergansers.

​This partnership began this spring of 2003 with several projects in Bamberg and Dillon Counties. Some of the projects consisted of removing drainage tiles that were installed years ago to drain low water pockets in fields. Other projects received a more advanced restoration that included dikes with water control structures used for planting food for waterfowl to be flooded in the winter. All of the projects received a suitable number of nest boxes according to acreage and density of plant growth.

​Over the past 20 years the Wetland Reserve Program has become the most popular and ecologically successful voluntary incentive-based wetland restoration program in U.S. history. The funding for this program is made available by the Commodity Credit Corporation and then implemented by NRCS.

​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 flood prone restorable agricultural wetlands. However, many types of drained or altered swamps have been enrolled in WRP. If a landowner wishes to participate in some kind of wetland restoration project, he/she should call their local USDA/NRCS office and ask about the Wetland Reserve Program. The landowner would then receive a questionnaire referring to certain aspects of their land. Then, upon approval (based on land value), which will be determined through NRCS, the project is underway.

​If you have an area that you think may support wood ducks and would like to learn more about obtaining wood duck nesting structures, please call SCWA Waterfowl Biologist and Executive Director, David Wielicki at (803-452-6001). If you are not already a cooperator of the Wood Duck Production Project, please call to find out more about becoming involved with the largest wood duck project in the nation.

via South Carolina Waterfowl Association.

Managing for the Wood Duck – Guidelines to Maximize Your Habitat

Depending on whom you ask, you might be told that as long as you have woods and water, you’ll have wood ducks. While this may be true, it is important to follow some guidelines to maximize your habitat’s carrying capacity for the wood duck.

​Nest box programs of some type have been utilized for nearly a century to help restore original wood duck numbers that were threatened by habitat depletion and market hunting. Because of these programs, wood ducks now use a wide range of wetland habitats for breeding. Since wood ducks are a forest-inhabiting species, wooded sites should be selected for management programs when available.

​Areas selected for breeding wood ducks should include both plant and animal food resources. Plant foods are necessary for fat deposition prior to egg laying and as an energy source for the incubating females and breeding males. Invertebrates are the primary source of protein and minerals for eggs. Wood ducks typically utilize a 6-month period for laying eggs, beginning as early as February and as late as July.managing-WD-box

​Those wishing to manage for wood ducks should consider the following points in making general assessments of food resources and quality of foraging habitats. Wood ducks utilize a wide variety of foods and therefore probably do not select specific plant or invertebrate prey species. Because of this, diversity and abundance of plant and invertebrate foods in wetlands is critical. Vegetative structures such as leaves and stems should not be considered in assessing plant food availability. Instead, seeds of plants are optimal for the wood duck, such as acorns. Because wood ducks are predominantly surface feeders, foraging areas should be shallow, contain large amounts of shallow water edges, or have substrates for invertebrates near the surface. Aquatic plants can provide both seeds and substrates. Man made impoundments should maximize the amount of shallow water edge by increasing the irregularity of wetland margins or by constructing islands.

​While size of the managed area does matter, if adequate food is available, larger numbers of birds can use the area. Nesting cavities in the form of dead trees or nesting units can help to boost numbers as well. One last thing to remember is the location of managed areas. Potential disturbances should be minimized. Breeding success and attainment of the wood duck’s high reproductive potential requires not only food resources but also disturbance free habitats. Wood ducks are particularly sensitive to human disturbance. To minimize this threat, managed sites should either be developed in areas of low human activity or closed to use during the breeding season.