LITTLE CREEK, Del.- Some spring cleaning is under way in Delaware, even though it is not spring just yet.
State Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control staffers are cleaning out nesting boxes for wood ducks around the state. But the process isn't just about wood ducks, because the ducks aren't the only ones using the nesting boxes.
It's a situation that's allowed DNREC to study part of Delaware's bird population with real depth. Wayne Lehman and Shane Sapp are out in the Little Creek Wildlife Area. They're checking on its many nesting boxes.
"While we're cleaning out the boxes," Lehman, DNREC Fish and Wildlife Regional Manager for Kent County, said. "We're finding that screech owls are in the boxes."
Lehman says they find the owls in 15 to 20 percent of the boxes. At this time of year, Lehman goes around on and off for a month cleaning boxes, looking for owls.
"Some of them are really remote. So, at times it can be a time-consuming project."
Lehman says in the mid-20th Century wood ducks faced a serious lack of places to nest in Delaware. So the state started putting up these boxes. It didn't take long for staff to notice how many owls they were finding.
"In about 1992 we started collecting data on them by placing leg bands on the birds," Lehman said.
On this day he finds an owl in one of the boxes.
"We captured a red-phase screech owl and checked it and weighed it."
It's another data point in a process that's giving DNREC a lot of information on the birds.
"We're trying to put together a long-term study of screech owls, life history, home range and nest box fidelity," said Lehman.
And with the info on this bird collected, it's time to move on. Lehman says there are about 150 of these boxes in Kent County alone. And he has to get to all of them before the middle of the month.
You can get a wood duck nesting box for your property and help DNREC in this project.
Plastic wood duck boxes are available to the public for purchase for $30 through the Division of Fish and Wildlife's regional wildlife offices in each county. For more information in Kent County, call (302) 284-1077, or in Sussex County, call (302) 539-3160.
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