Monday, January 16, 2012

Cool Video of an Eagle Owl in Flight

Chris Simon of Signal Mountain Country Club sent out a link to a really cool video of an Eagle Owl this morning.  Click on the link below to see it.  Thanks, Chris.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Building Mallard Duck Nesting Tubes

 Now that we have successfully launched our Harrison Bay Eagle Cam Project we have turned our attention to yet another environmental conservation project.  Several weeks ago Bill Greene and Mitch Sivley approached me with the idea of building and installing nesting tubes for mallard ducks.  Mallard ducks tend to nest on the ground or in small patches of grass above the water level but this nesting habitat leaves them vulnerable to predators.  Bill and Mitch have been instrumental in our environmental stewardship program for many years so I was very happy to see them taking the lead on improving our environmental stewardship program.  I told them to put together some ideas and pricing and we would go from there.

Bill researched different nesting designs and found one at  that was inexpensive and looked like it would work well.  After some discussion, we made some slight modifications to the design that we thought would work better and allow the nesting tubes to last longer and be easier to maintain.

One of the main changes that we made to the project was using PVC pipe for our support for the nesting tube.  The PVC was a more readily available material around the maintenance building and would cost less to use. 

The nesting cradles are made to hold the 36" long nest tubes.  A section of 2" PVC is used to connect the cradle to the post which will be driven into the ground.  We used a 1.25" tee in the middle of the cradle with two sections of pipe extending each direction to reach 36".  On each end another tee was used to which we reduced each end to accept a 3/4" electrical conduit 90 degree fitting.

This is the final product of the nesting cradle.  After a few trials Mitch and Bill determined that it is best to run the wire which will be used to secure the nesting tube to the cradle through the piping before you glue them all together. 
Once the nesting cradle was completed they used four different colors of paint to camouflage the piping.

Built, camouflaged and completed nesting cradle and support tube.

The structure of the tube is made up of a 7 foot long section of common 3 foot tall coated garden fencing with 2" x 3" spacing. The first three feet of the fencing is rolled into a tube and secured with hog rings or wire ties.

Once the center tube is secured the remaining 4 feet of wire fencing is covered with a 2-3" layer of material.  We used pine straw but you could use flax straw or a common straw to your area but it is discouraged to use hay as it degrades rapidly and will not serve well over the long haul.

After the layer of pine straw was spread out over the remaining wire fencing, the previously constructed tube was rolled up over the pine straw.  This creates a cylinder of pine straw which is small enough for the mallard duck to get into but not for larger predatory birds to reach and harm them.  The end of the wire fencing was attached with hog rings and the nesting tube itself was complete.

The nesting tube was placed in its nesting tube cradle and the two were secured together with the wire bands that were run through the pipe in the beginning.   Ready for installation.

The first part of the installation process was to drive the steel posts into the ground.  The nesting tubes need to be about 5 yards out from the bank and needs to be at least 3 feet from the water surface.  We were able to acquire some 8 foot "U" Channel road signs from Don at the State Park.  Bill and Mitch then used a post driver to set the posts in the lake bed.

The 2" support tube is attached  to the post with bolts so that it will be easy to remove and perform maintenance on.

Prior to being installed on the posts the nesting tubes are filled about 2/3 of the way full with a combination of flax straw and broom sedge harvested from the surrounding area.  This will serve as the bedding for the nesting tube to keep the eggs safe and warm.

Once ready the tubes are brought out to the post and glued in place.

Finished product ready for some homeowners.  The project is really easy, we made and installed all the nesting tubes in two days.  The materials cost us about $35.00 per nesting tube and will be a great addition to our conservation program.  Bill has ordered some hatchlings which we will raise at the maintenance building for a few weeks and then introduce to the pond.  These ducks should return to this "home" pond to raise their young.
This is a very simple project to do and complete and will provide suitable, safe housing for waterfowl.  Anyone who wishes to get more information about this project or has any questions about it please let us know. 

We will have follow up posts on this project as we go forward.

Great job Bill and Mitch!!!