Father, son spruce up duck boxes at Bill Mason centre

DUNROBIN – This spring, a father and son duo in Ottawa, Ont. volunteered to clean up duck nest boxes at the Bill Mason and MacSkimming Outdoor Education Centre.

Bill McMullen is an active volunteer at the centre. He says the centre’s outdoor coordinator, Kevin Wallace, needed someone to clean out the nest boxes — a task usually completed by students from Nepean High School and West Carleton High school.

The two schools’ partner with Ducks Unlimited Canada to form the Ottawa Wetland Centre of Excellence. However, their usual year-end wetland projects could not go forward due to the ongoing pandemic.

“[Kevin] needed the waterfront wood duck boxes cleaned out for the season, so I volunteered,” said McMullen. “I like to get my children involved in nature and conservation initiatives whenever possible, and so this was a great way to get Liam involved.”

The process of cleaning the boxes was carefully planned out and executed, with twelve boxes in total placed over several acres of land. Some boxes are stationed near ponds, while other border the Ottawa River.

“We mapped out every nest box, numbered them and provided a detailed account of their contents with an image for Kevin Wallace. We used a small ladder, a clamp to hold open the door of the box, and gloves to remove the old content,” McMullen said. “Some of the contents included unhatched wood duck eggs, a deceased wood duck chick, lots of feathers, screech owl pellets and more. We added a few inches of fresh shavings to the cleaned box and re-secured the door.”

Brian’s son Liam has been recognized as an official Ducks Unlimited Wetland Hero for his efforts. He is actively involved in conservation and wishes to help preserve existing ecosystems as well as educating others about their importance.

“I’m looking forward to seeing the nest boxes used again for new generations of wood ducks and other species, especially eastern screech owl,” said Liam, who has also done presentations with local Kindergarten classes on wetland critter identification.