Wood Duck

Wood duck  (photos by Gerry Beetham)

Harwich native Jeremy Wiley recently assisted local wood ducks and Harwich Conservation Trust (HCT) by installing two waterfront nestboxes at Cornelius Pond Woodlands, a 15-acre HCT preserve and walking trail destination. His volunteer work to attract wood ducks helps support the ecological health and biodiversity of Cornelius Pond. Wood ducks are a colorful, uncommon, cavity-nesting duck species that prefers large standing dead trees (called snags) in wooded swamps or pondshore habitats. They will nest in specially-designed nest boxes installed at small, quiet kettle ponds, such as Cornelius Pond.

Formerly decimated by hunting in the 19th century, their populations have gradually recovered, thanks to dedicated management efforts. Those interested in adding wood duck boxes to their property should consult their Town’s Conservation Administrator or Natural Resources Department for guidance and/or approval on installing a nestbox and post in a pondshore setting. Wood ducks are extremely shy creatures and spook easily, so it’s best to watch for them at a distance with binoculars.

Jeremy and Tyler walk the wood duck boxes and post into Cornelius Pond Woodlands

Jeremy and Tyler walk the wood duck boxes and post into Cornelius Pond Woodlands

Jeremy, a new HCT volunteer, built the wood duck boxes as part of a larger woodworking project that also includes building nestboxes for bluebirds and other songbirds. With the help of his son Flynn, he is assisting HCT and the Town of Harwich by building and replacing the old bird nest boxes at the Thompson’s Field Conservation Area. Jeremy is a woodworker by trade and owner of Cape Cod Woodcrafters, currently studying at MassArt and North Bennet Street School for Furniture Design. Inspired by his love of birds and sustainable design, he saw an opportunity to help, upcycling old nest box materials into new weather-tight boxes.  

“The Town of Harwich has been and continues to be a huge part of who I am. It’s a town that carries a strong sense of community. When Flynn my 4-year-old asked me if we could put new birdhouses in the park, it was hard to tell him “no.” In all honesty, as much as HCT feels benefited by our work, it’s been an amazing bonding experience for the two us. An endeavor filled with valuable life lessons every step of the way, it’s something he’ll be able to look back on for some years to come. I firmly believe in the principles of giving back in whatever way you can, and for us, they’re more than birdhouses,” said Jeremy.

Jeremy's setting up nestbox“Jeremy’s outstanding work is representative of the dedication and attention to detail that all HCT volunteers have. We are very fortunate to have so many talented volunteers,” said Tyler Maikath, HCT Outreach and Stewardship Coordinator.

The 28 nestboxes for bluebirds and other songbird species that Jeremy is replacing are among the 100 total nestboxes that HCT volunteers have been monitoring and managing since 2006 at five conservation areas across Harwich, including town-owned Thompson’s Field and Texeira Conservation Areas, and HCT’s Robert F. Smith Cold Brook Preserve, Cornelius Pond Woodlands, and Muddy Creek Headwaters Preserve. Year in, year out, these nest boxes successfully support nesting tree swallows, bluebirds, chickadees, titmice, house wrens, and more.

To learn about HCT volunteers engaged with songbird citizen science, click here.

To learn more about building your own nestboxes, click the links below:

Carolina wren

Eastern bluebird

Eastern screech owl

Wood duck