Scouts construct nesting boxes for wood ducks

When it came time for 16-year-old Ian Afseth, a Naperville Boy Scout from Troop 889, to start his Eagle Scout project, he wanted to do something to help area conservation efforts.

When a project became available at the Forest Preserve District of Will County to construct and install wood duck boxes, Afseth jumped at the opportunity.

Afseth’s Eagle Scout project consisted of planning, fundraising, construction and installation of wood duck boxes at Isle a la Cache Preserve in Romeoville.

Boy Scouts from Troop 889 and conservationists from the Forest Preserve District of Will County install polls that cedar wood duck boxes will hang from at Isle a la Cache Preserve in Romeoville.

With declining wood duck habitat in northern Illinois, the boxes provide important nesting areas and offer shelter for wood ducks year after year.

“Wood ducks usually perch in hollow trees and the houses mounted on poles attempt to mimic their natural habitat,” said Afseth.

Wood ducks like to nest in hollowed out trees adjacent to streams (hence their name), ponds and marshes surrounded by woodland areas. They are often mistaken for mallards that are much more common in northern Illinois waterways. Their diet is estimated to be 80 percent plant based, consuming seeds, fruits, insects and anthropods.

Wood duck on the DuPage River. / Photo courtesy Jo Lundeen

With the help of 20 Scouts and parents from BS Troop 889, Afseth coordinated the building of both the cedar wood duck boxes as well as tin cones which are mounted below the cedar boxes to protect against predators and rodents. While adult leaders sawed the wooden boards into pieces and drilled the entrance holes, Scouts sanded and assembled the boxes.

In June, members of Troop 889 gathered at Isle a la Cache Preserve in Romeoville with Forest Preserve Conservationists to install the wood duck boxes. They knocked poles into the ground, bolted the cedar boxes to the poles and wrapped tin cones below the boxes.

Ian Afseth, with a tin cone in hand, leads Scouts from Troop 889 into the wooded marsh at Isle a la Cache Preserve in Romeoville.

“I definitely learned a lot during this project,” said Afseth. “Planning and modifying a design for the duck house, getting it approved by the right people, sending out advertisements, fundraising, and finally leading the Scouts in construction was a very similar process to many facets of the business world.”

Troop 889 is no stranger to conservation projects. They have worked on removing invasive trees and recreating fish habitats.  The Troop camps out nearly every month.

A map of Isle a la Cache Preserve in Romeoville displays the location where each wood duck box will be installed.

“Being outdoors has taught me to appreciate the smaller things in life, the wildlife and nature, and the value of making good memories with others. It has inspired me to help conserve the environment,” said Afseth. “I would like to thank Troop 889 and Jason Buss and Renee Gauchat of the Forest Preserve District of Will County for giving me the idea and permission to serve the county,”

After Afseth graduates high school, he plans to study electrical engineering in college.

“I first became interested in electricity while working at a Boy Scout summer camp, where I taught the electricity merit badge. Being in the Boy Scouts has also taught me how to effectively communicate with and lead others, making me lean more to career positions that entail group management.”