While driving around, one is likely to see “large bird houses” hanging from trees or mounted on posts near wetlands, rivers, or ponds.
These “large bird houses” are put out primarily for nesting wood ducks and are more commonly called “wood duck boxes.”
To learn more about wood duck boxes, a coalition of local conservation and civic organizations are sponsoring the 16th annual Carver County Youth Wood Duck Box Building Day Saturday, March 14 at the Burns Excavating Shop, 3470 Co. Rd. 21 in Mayer.
Activities will run from 9 a.m. until noon, with a free lunch provided by the Watertown Rod and Gun Club.
The event is designed to introduce local youth to wildlife conservation by having them build a wood duck box with their family.
More than 200 wood duck box kits will be available for families to assemble for free. There is a limit of one box per child, or two per family.
Other activities include archery shooting, a duck identification station, and a laser shooting game.
Representatives from the US Fish and Wildlife Service will be on hand to go over the proper placement and annual maintenance of the boxes with each participant.
Groups sponsoring the event include: Lions Clubs (Waconia, Watertown, and Lester Prairie), New Germany Fire Department, Mayer Baseball Club, Watertown Rod and Gun Club, Minnesota Deer Hunters Association (MN River Chapter), Hamburg Hunt and Fish Club, Minnesota Waterfowl Association (Big Ducks Chapter), US Fish and Wildlife Service, Ducks Unlimited (West Carver and Crow River Chapters), Lester Prairie Sportsmen’s Club, B.M. Braun Company, and Burns Excavating.
Wood ducks and boxes
Wood ducks are what biologists refer to as a cavity nesting duck. Historically, they nested in natural cavities formed in large trees; however, where large trees are lacking, the use of wood duck boxes are a viable alternative to natural cavities.
Besides wood ducks, other cavity nesting birds using the boxes include hooded mergansers, screech owls, and American kestrels.
Prior to erecting a box, a layer of wood shavings, ideally cedar, should be put into the bottom of the box as nesting material.
The hen then lines the nest with down feathers that she plucks from her body before she lays about a dozen eggs, which are incubated for about a month before hatching.
After the eggs hatch, the ducklings spend less than a day in the nest. When it is time to leave, the hen flies to the ground below the nest, where she calls up to the ducklings.
The ducklings then launch themselves from the hole, which looks a bit like popcorn flying out of an old-fashioned popper. It is quite the spectacle to witness, and the ducklings are unharmed by the fall.
The hen then leads the ducklings quickly to the safety of a nearby water body, such as a river, wetland, or lake.
Just like your house needs a good spring cleaning, so do wood duck boxes. They should be cleaned each year prior to the spring migration of wood ducks back into Minnesota.
Now is the time to get out and take care of this, since it is often easier to clean them while the water is still frozen.
During cleaning, one should remove all of the old nesting material from the previous breeding season. This includes old wood shavings, down feathers, and egg shells.
Sometimes one will even find unhatched eggs; just be careful to not break these open as you will not appreciate the odor.
Once all the old material is removed, put in new wood shavings and also inspect the house for any other damage. During the winter, squirrels and mice also frequently use the boxes, so you will want to make sure to remove any mess they may cause.
DNR Bow Hunter Field Day Test scheduled
A Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Bow Hunter Education Field Day Test will take place Saturday, March 28 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Grace Bible Church, 300 SW Cleavland Street, Silver Lake.
For more information, contact Jim Richardson, Instructor, at 612-636-7214.
Prairie Archers steak/shrimp dinner Sat., March 15
Prairie Archers will have a steak/shrimp dinner at the Dodge House in Lester Prairie Saturday, March 15 from 5 to 8 p.m.
Reservations need to be called in before 6 p.m. Friday, March 14 to either Jim Richardson (320) 395-2721 or the Dodge House (320) 395-2877.
The steak and shrimp combo costs $13; steak only is $11; pork chop is $10; six shrimp is $9; or a ribeye is $15.
Each meal includes baked potato, tossed salad, bread, dessert, and coffee or milk.
Litchfield man new DNR parks & trails committee member
From the DNR
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Tom Landwehr, Metropolitan Council Chairman Adam Duininck, and Greater Minnesota Regional Parks and Trails Commission Chairman Al Lieffort have appointed seven new members to the committee that advises on the use of Legacy Amendment funds for Minnesota’s state and regional parks and trails.
The new members are:
• Brook Maier, White Bear Lake.
• Whitney McKinley, Saint Paul.
• Timothy Mitchell, Saint Paul.
• Pete Royer, Litchfield.
• Asha Shoffner, Minneapolis.
• Joel Stedman, Marine on Saint Croix.
• Patrick Stieg, Savage.
The purpose of the Parks and Trails Legacy Advisory Committee is to promote and coordinate implementation of the 25-Year Parks and Trails Legacy Plan. The plan guides the use of the Parks and Trails Fund, created after voters approved the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment in November 2008.
The Parks and Trails Fund receives 14.25 percent of the three-eighths percent sales tax revenue that may only be spent to support parks and trails of regional or statewide significance. The committee does not recommend the allocation of funding for specific projects. The 25-Year Parks and Trails Legacy Plan can be found at: www.legacy.leg.mn/funds/parks-trails-fund/plan.
“The Parks and Trails Legacy Advisory Committee plays a critical role in helping us achieve the vision Minnesotans have for use of Parks and Trails Legacy funds and create an accessible, equitable, integrated system of state and regional parks and trails in Minnesota,” Landwehr said.
The committee is comprised of citizens and professionals who bring diverse perspectives on outdoor recreation. Members convene six times a year at locations across Minnesota. More information about the committee can be found at: www.legacy.leg.mn/ptlac.
Committee members are appointed for two-year terms and may serve up to three consecutive terms.
Cancer survivor will battle decline in
From the DNR
Longtime conservationist and cancer survivor Kevin Lines knows a thing or two about beating the odds. Doctors told him in 2012 that he needed a bone marrow transplant to survive.
Now he’s back to work taking on a project that aims to reverse the trend of declining pheasant populations in Minnesota. Lines started Feb. 23 as pheasant action plan coordinator for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, where he’ll oversee development of a four-year plan to increase and enhance habitat and hunting opportunities in Minnesota’s pheasant range.
Lines, a lifelong hunter and angler who grew up in Milaca and now resides in North Branch, is no stranger to conservation work. He spent decades with the DNR and more recently, with the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR).
“I really appreciate this opportunity from DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr to get back into the conservation game,” Lines said. “We’re really suffering from a loss of habitat, primarily grasslands. Despite the scope of this problem, this new plan will help us make measurable progress over four years.”
The action plan to be released this spring will be based on recommendations from the first Pheasant Summit convened Dec. 13 in Marshall. The event brought together Gov. Mark Dayton and 300-plus hunters, farmers and conservation experts, including those from Pheasants Forever and other organizations. They generated potential solutions to the plight of pheasants, whose numbers have declined significantly in recent years and are an indicator of landscape health.
Leading that effort is a steering committee of representatives from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, BWSR, the Minnesota Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts, Pheasants Forever, Minnesota Farmers Union, Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation, and the business group Hunting Works for Minnesota.
The committee is charged with providing overarching guidance as recommendations from the Pheasant Summit are developed and implemented. Landwehr will be convening the first meeting on Friday, March 6.
“Accelerating our loss of grassland is the recent expiration of hundreds of thousands of acres in Minnesota that had been enrolled in the federal Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), which retired marginal cropland from production,” Lines said. “In our way forward, we need to preserve the grasslands we have, expand private land conservation programs, prepare for the next farm bill, acquire more public land, accelerate habitat work on state and federally owned wildlife lands, as well as educate people about the importance of grassland.”
He noted that pheasant populations have shown a clear correlation to the amount of land in the CRP program.
Lines can build upon success from his 38 years of conservation work. He was the DNR’s wildlife lake designation coordinator and subsequently supervised the north metro wildlife area. For a decade, he served as the agency’s farmland wildlife program consultant, giving him intimate knowledge of wildlife habitat in the pheasant range.
In 2000, he started as conservation easement section manager with BWSR, and was its main representative to the DNR during the development of the agency’s long-term pheasant, duck and prairie plans. Lines’ leadership at BWSR helped protect more than 100,000 acres through the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, thousands more acres through easements in the Reinvest in Minnesota program, and helped leverage millions in federal funds for wetland restoration.
“Because 95 percent of the property in the pheasant range is privately owned, we must work closely with landowners, as well as maximize the habitat we have on existing wildlife management areas,” Lines said. “It’s implementing what we heard at the Pheasant Summit.”
CO weekly report
From the DNR
• CO Brian Mies (Annandale) checked anglers. CO Mies gave a law talk at the Cokato firearms class. CO Mies investigated a dumping case and inspected aeration system permits.
• CO Todd VanderWeyst (Paynesville) continues to document fishing shelters and litter issues for removal deadline. The officer took care of road kill deer calls. Fishing enforcement and ATV registration issues were addressed this week as well as training and administration duties.
• CO Mitch Sladek (Big Lake) worked fishermen and marked fish houses on area lakes. He followed up on a number of littering issue. He answered a number spring turkey hunting question.
• CO Rick Reller (Buffalo) spent most of the week checking anglers and monitoring possible litter problems on the lakes as ice shelters start to come of the for the removal deadline. Reller also worked some commercial enforcement and checked on possible sand blanket violations on local lakes. Enforcement action was taken for snowmobile registration, littering, angling without a license and allowing illegal operation of an ATV by youth.CO Steve Walter (Waconia) monitored fish house removal on area lakes. Anglers werechecked all week with the crappies still biting very well. Game farm inspections were completed.
• CO Chelsie Leuthardt (Prior Lake) continued angling enforcement, snowmobile enforcement and fish house compliance checks. Fishing pressure has dropped off drastically with the slower bite and the fish house removal date coming up fast. Leuthardt investigated two solid waste/litter dumps in her area which included the disposal of nearly 20 paint cans in a state park area. She wants to remind citizens that numerous local hardware stores, as well as many county entities, will take used paint cans and other solid waste for free. Those paint cans were disposed of at a local hardware store for free, and that service would have also been available to whoever disposed of the paint cans in the park. Enforcement action was taken for angling without a license in possession, improperly marked fish house and no fish house shelter tag.
• CO Vang Lee (ELCOP) checked anglers in Mound station and investigated a littering complaint at Harrison Bay. He took a complaint on littering in Robbinsdale and answered questions on firearms safety classes in the Hmong community. He also participated with the Asian Outdoors Heritage youth ice fishing event at Bald Eagle Lake along with the Commissioner.
• CO Jeff Denz (Willmar) educated ice anglers about needing a new angling license as of March 1st. He followed up on litter complaints and conducted commercial inspections. Denz also followed up on trespass complaints.
• CO Nicholas Klehr (Litchfield) checked ice fishermen and fish houses that were out, checking around them for litter. Time was also taken to attend the Cedar Mills Rod and Gun Club meeting to answer questions from the members. Aeration Systems were also checked during the week. Snowmobile enforcement was worked on the river since that is the only area to drive snowmobiles in the area.
• CO Jen Mueller (Hutchinson) reports fishing activity was slow with the cold temperatures. She took a call of a strange smell coming from some fish houses and a large coyote in the Glencoe area. Mueller also attended training in St. Paul and Camp Ripley during the week.
• CO Brett Oberg (Hutchinson) instructed new division armorers at Camp Ripley. Time was also spent returning calls regarding trapping and coyote hunting. Aeration inspections were also completed.
Question of the week
From the DNR
Q: I heard that National Invasive Species Awareness Week is in February. What can I do to prevent the spread of invasive species when I’m out on the trails this spring?
A: Whether you are hiking, running, biking, or riding your horse or off-highway vehicle, it’s important to make sure you don’t accidently move invasive species from place to place. The “PlayCleanGo: Stop Invasive Species in Your Tracks” campaign offers these simple steps to help prevent the spread of invasive plants and animals:
• Arrive with clean gear.
• Burn local or certified firewood.
• When horseback riding, us local or weed-free hay.
• Stay on the trails.
• Before leaving, remove mud and seeds from your gear.
• By following these steps, you can help protect your favorite recreation spot from invasive species.
Laura Van Riper, DNR terrestrial invasive species coordinator