Invite wintering wood ducks to your environment with a nesting box

A brightly colored male wood duck. Photo: USFWS National Digital Library

A brightly colored male wood duck. Photo: USFWS National Digital Library

Live along the water? Why not invited beautiful feathered friends to your environment. Wood ducks are one of the most colorful ducks in North America. Breeding males showcase an unbelievable combination of colors including a red bill and eyes, a metallic purplish-green crested head, black cheeks with thick white stripes, a maroon chest and rump, black and blue wings, dark yellow sides, and a white belly. The drab grayish-brown females are most easily recognized by their white eye ring and crested head.
Another distinguishing characteristic of wood ducks is their habit of nesting in Florida. Few species of ducks do this.

In Florida, wood ducks begin laying eggs in cavities during late January. They prefer cavities located within a half mile of permanent water bodies. They like cavities in large trees that have clear access to a large entry hole, and shrubs nearby to offer protection for newly-hatched ducklings.

A pair of wood ducks with the more drably colored female in the foreground. Photo: USFWS National Digital Library

A pair of wood ducks with the more drably colored female in the foreground. Photo: USFWS National Digital Library

In areas with few large cavity trees, nest boxes can provide alternative locations to nest. Nest boxes intended for wood ducks should be made of natural wood: cedar is a good option because it weathers well. Boxes should be mounted with the entrance hole 6 or more feet above the ground or the surface of the water (if placed over a pond or swamp). Nesting hens will appreciate you placing some cedar wood shavings in the bottom of the box to serve as nesting material. Adding a predator guard below the nest box will greatly increase the chances the hen and her eggs/ducklings don’t get eaten by snakes or raccoons.

Click here to download nesting box instructions:woodducknestinstructions

It’s best to have nest boxes in place before egg laying begins, which is right about now: late January. However, it’s never too late in the year to put up a new nest box. A box put out later in the year may be useful for a late-nesting hen. Many females have more than one brood during the long nesting long season which won’t end until late summer, so opportunities exist for a nest box installed later in the year to get used.
Wood ducks were given their name because they spend much of their time in wooded swamps, ponds, creeks, rivers, and freshwater wetlands. They prefer bodies of water that have 25-50% open water with 50-75% vegetative cover (a mix of shrubs, emergent plants, and trees) where they can hide and feed.

Wood ducks are sometimes called the “acorn duck” because of their fondness for these treats that fall from oak trees. They have a special preference for acorns from water oaks, laurel oaks, and shumard oaks. They also enjoy duck weed, smartweed, waterlily, seeds from many sedges, rushes, and grasses, as well as fruits from native trees and shrubs and occasionally invertebrates (spiders, insects, snails, crawfish).

Several adaptations differentiate wood ducks from other waterfowl and equip them for life in both woods and water. Well-developed toes and claws allow them to grab onto tree branches while perching. The placement of their legs near the center of their bodies allows them to walk on land more gracefully than most other ducks. Their broad wings and long wide tail increase maneuverability while flying to their cavity nest.

To learn more about wood ducks and what you can do to provide habitat for them, click here

Holly Ober – holly.ober@ufl.edu is an associate professor and Extension specialist in the Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation. Her research covers wildlife ecology, habitat management, and identifying creative ways to cope with nuisance wildlife.

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Take a Guided paddle tour Western Lake and enjoy lunch at the Red Bar with Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance

westernlakeDates/time: Feb. 18, March 19, April 23, May 12 – 9 a.m. – 1 pm.

The Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance (CBA), in partnership with Northwest Florida State College, announces the spring season of its popular eco-tourism initiative, Eco Adventures of Walton County.

Explore Western Lake and take a lunch break at the Red Bar Restaurant in Grayton Beach. This kayak trip will take you on an eco-adventure of South Walton County’s rare coastal dune lakes. Experience the diversity of wildlife and habitats as you paddle from the freshwater entry point to the lake outfall on the white sand beaches of the Gulf of Mexico. This tour is led by the local and avid eco-tour guide Dave Posey.

Moderate to high exertion level, depending on wind conditions.  Participants are asked to bring plenty of water, forecast compatible clothing and personal comfort items (i.e. sunscreen, bug spray, etc.). Kayak rental included in the cost of the tour.

Space is limited to 8 participants. Minimum of 3. Location: Meet at the Boathouse at Watercolor, 34 Golden Circle, Santa Rosa Beach, FL 32459. Fee: $70 per person

Discover Roads Less Traveled offers visitors and local residents extraordinary opportunities to explore, discover, and learn about the pristine natural resources that make Walton County unique. Descriptions of the tours being offered are available online at www.basinalliance.org by clicking the Eco Tours information box. Registration is available by phone at 850-200-4160.

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Walton county fishing report for Jan. 29

breamFishing is good

Choctawhatchee Bay area: Trout bite still on with a few big ones being reeled in.

Bream and crappie biting on the river.

Click here for fishing forecast

Bay and river report brought to you by Copeland’s. “Where the locals shop and the tourists are welcome.”

Click here to find out more about Copeland’s.
Copeland’s Gun and Tackle Shop
17290 U.S. Hwy. 331 S
Freeport, Florida 32439

(850) 835-4277
Store hours:
Mon. – Fri.: 6 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Sat.: 6 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Sun.: Closed

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Evening tour, reception, and fundraising event at Alaqua Animal Refuge Feb. 11

alaquahorsesAlaqua Animal Refuge invites you to be our guest on February 11 for an incredible evening celebrating you, animals, and how you can make a difference in their lives.

The afternoon begins at 4 p.m. with a special tour of the refuge, filled with lots of animal interactions.

At 5 p.m., join us in the horse barn for an appreciation reception. Visit with like-minded people, meet local animal heroes, law enforcement supporters, and our honorary guest Vicky Gaetz – a powerful animal advocate, wife of Senator Don Gaetz and mother of Representative Matt Gaetz.

Our VIP presenters, Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) Florida State Director, Kate MacFall, and Grey2K USA Executive Director, Carey Theil, begin their special presentation at 6 p.m.

The evening is free of charge, but you must register so Alaqua knows how many guests to expect. Each guest will receive a bag loaded with goodies, including their 2015 Hunks and Hounds calendar.

To register click here

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Learn about the eastern gray squirrel at Topsail Hill Preserve State Park Feb. 7

squirrelDate/time: Saturday February 7, 1 – 2 p.m.

Topsail Hill Preserve State Park would like to invite you to learn about our most widely seen rodent, the Eastern Gray Squirrel. Come learn what an important part of the ecosystem these squirrels play. Enter the park through the main gate and the staff will direct you to the park’s clubhouse, entry fee is $6.00.

Topsail Hill Preserve State Park is located at 7525 W. Scenic Highway 30A, Santa Rosa Beach, Florida 32459. For more information, call (850) 267-8330. ::MAP::

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American roots music concert at Camp Helen State Park lodge Feb. 7

camphelenlodgeThe Friends of Camp Helen State Park are hosting a Saturday concert series. The concerts will be held in the lodge from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m.

On Sat., Feb. 7, Camp Helen presents the New 76ers, a Tallahassee trio of young singers/songwriters/musicians. The 76ers have appeared on many stages throughout the south. With a sound like Neil Young, Allison Krause and Tom Petty, this family of performers has a “collective respect for acoustic and electric music,” one that depends on their Southern musical heritage.  Their mission is “to give love through their music.” Learn more about the 76ers at acoustichappiness.com

Come join in for a unique series of concerts featuring the best American Roots musicians touring the country today. This impressive series of indoor concerts at Camp Helen’s historic log cabin style lodge is sponsored by Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection and the Friends of Camp Helen State Park. The series is hosted by Lucky Mud.

Free admission into the park, with donation requested. Donations will go directly to the Friends of Camp Helen State Park to be used to benefit the park’s resource management projects and interpretive programs. Refreshments available. Call 850-233-5059 for more information.

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Volunteers needed for oyster shell bagging Feb. 9

The Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance is looking for volunteers to help bag oyster shells on Feb. 9, 2015 from 9 a.m. – 12 Noon.

You will be bagging at the South Walton Center of Northwest Florida State College, 109 Greenway Trail, Santa Rosa Beach.

RSVP to Rachel Gwin at (850) 200-4173 or gwinr@nwfsc.edu.

What to bring/wear: Wear clothes and close-toed shoes that you don’t mind getting dirty. Bring sunscreen, snacks, a water bottle and a hat. Water and gloves will be provided.

What you will do: You will be bagging recycled oyster shell for use in future oyster reefs.

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Choctawhatchee Audubon Society programs and events for February 2015

CAScolorlogo5 Feb: Monthly Meeting and Program:  “A Green Fire – a presentation of Aldo Leopold’s Land Ethic” by Professor Emeritus Don Baltz, Louisiana State University.  This Green Fire DVD explores the life and legacy of famed conservationist Aldo Leopold and the many ways his land ethic philosophy lives on in the work of people and organizations all over the country today.  The film shares highlights from Leopold’s life and extraordinary career, explaining how he shaped conservation and the modern environmental movement.  It also illustrates Leopold’s continuing influence, exploring current projects that connect people and land at the local level. Meet urban children in Chicago learning about local foods and ecological restoration. Meet ranchers in Arizona and New Mexico who maintain healthy landscapes by working on their own properties, and with their neighbors, in cooperative community conservation efforts.  Meet wildlife biologists who are bringing threatened and endangered species, from cranes to Mexican wolves, back to the landscapes where they once thrived.  And learn how Leopold’s vision of a community that cares about both people and land ties all of these modern conservation stories together, and offers inspiration and insight for the future.

The meeting will be held in Room 130 of the new Student Services Building at Northwest Fla. State College. Socializing begins at 6:30 p.m., and the program begins at 7 p.m. Admission is free and open to the interested public. Call Gary Parsons at 850-678-1461 for more info.

13-15 Feb: Annual Retreat to the Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge at Ellisville, Mississippi. Meet this rare and magnificent bird on a guided tour of the refuge, and then engage in general birding in this ecologically interesting and beautiful location. For more information, including lodging info, call Margaret Benner at 850-678-6665.

28 Feb: Bird Walk: Join local ornithologist, Alan Knothe, for a bird walk to the Okaloosa County Landfill and FWB Spray Fields. Tour the most productive birding area in S. Okaloosa Co. with a seasoned expert. Expect to see raptors, waders, ducks, and wintering songbirds.  It is common to see more than 50 different species of birds in a single morning at this unlikely-sounding spot. Bring binoculars, good walking shoes, water, and sunscreen. Meet-up is at the parking lot of the Coach and 4 Restaurant at 1313 N. Lewis Turner Blvd. at 7:30 AM. Call Alan at 850-208-1780 for more info.

For more information about future events, and birding in general, visit their website at www.choctawhatcheeaudubon.org  or find them on Facebook at Choctawhatchee Audubon Society.

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Take a guided paddle tour of Western Lake with Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance

greategretwesternlakeDates/time: Feb. 10, Feb. 26, March 10, March 31, April 14, April 28, May 7, May 19
- 9 – 11:30 a.m.

The Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance (CBA), in partnership with Northwest Florida State College, announces the spring season of its popular eco-tourism initiative, Eco Adventures of Walton County.

Explore a coastal dune lake of South Walton County! This kayak tour will take you around Western Lake; one of the larger lakes of the coastal dune lake systems. Experience the diversity of wildlife and habitats that define these unique lake systems. This tour is led by the local and avid eco-tour guide Dave Posey. Moderate to high exertion level, depending on wind conditions.  Participants are asked to bring plenty of water, forecast compatible clothing and personal comfort items (i.e. sunscreen, bug spray, etc.). Kayak rental included in the cost of the tour.

Space is limited to 8 participants. Minimum of 3. Location: Meet at the Boathouse at Watercolor, 34 Golden Circle, Santa Rosa Beach, FL 32459 Fee: $60 per person Discover Roads Less Traveled offers visitors and local residents extraordinary opportunities to explore, discover, and learn about the pristine natural resources that make Walton County unique. Descriptions of the tours being offered are available online at www.basinalliance.org by clicking the Eco Tours information box. Registration is available by phone at 850-200-4160.

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Take a guided hike to Campbell Lake at Topsail Hill Preserve State Park Jan. 31

campbelllakesmDate/time: Saturday January 31, 1-2 p.m.

Coastal dune lakes are extremely unique and rare worldwide. Come join us as we hike through some of Topsail’s best ecosystems culminating with a stop at Campbell Lake. This is an approximately 3 mile round trip hike on a paved surface. There are restrooms and water at the halfway point. Entry fee into the park is $6.00 per car, the hike will leave from Tram Stop 1 in the day use parking area.

Topsail Hill Preserve State Park is located at 7525 W. Scenic Highway 30A, Santa Rosa Beach, Florida 32459. For more information, call (850) 267-8330. ::MAP::

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