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March Mania

Fifth annual Habitat Day held near New London

Joe Ridler, left, helps Taden Heck, 5, with the construction of a wood duck house March 5 during the annual Habitat Day event at Prairie Woods Environmental Learning Center near New London. The event is sponsored by Prairie Pothole Chapter of the Minnesota Waterfowl Association. (Tribune photo by Ron Adams)

A total of 98 wood duck houses were built during the fifth annual Wood Duck Habitat Day held the morning of March 5 at Prairie Woods Environmental Learning Center near New London.

The event was sponsored by the Prairie Pothole Chapter of the Minnesota Waterfowl Association and was attended by an estimated 60 groups of people -- families, friends, clubs, etc.

Prairie Pothole Chapter members were on hand to help with construction of the houses.

Troy Heck, chapter president, said the annual Wood Duck Habitat Day "is a way to give back to the community."

Chapter members also see it as a way to "grow the wood duck population" across the region.

Each wood duck house that provides "nesting" shelter for a brood of wood ducks -- ranging anywhere from 7 to 33 ducklings -- boosts the survival rate by nearly 75 percent, according to Heck. He said without proper shelter for nesting -- including a predator guard -- the duckling survival rate is about 20 percent. When wood ducks nest in a properly installed house with a predator guard, the survival rate jumps to about 95 percent.

"We try to educate people on the best practices of a wood duck house," said Heck, "and how to install it."

Participants in last weekend's event came from across the west central region, including Willmar, New London, Spicer, Sunburg, Benson, Atwater and Granite Falls, as well as from Baxter and Clearwater. Two houses each were registered as going to the Baxter and Clearwater areas.

Heck said chapter members do a follow-up survey later with participants to see if they did put the house up and if the wood ducks used it. "We keep tabs on the location of where these houses are going around the region," he said. "And if they are being used."

Participants were charged just $10 per house, with a predator guard -- a definite savings over the usual price of $35 per house and $15 per predator guard.

"It gives us a chance to focus on youth education," said Heck. "To get the next generation involved in conservation."

Sharon Bomstad

Sharon Bomstad is the features editor at the West Central Tribune in Willmar, Minn., and is the editor of the newspaper's Live it! Magazine. She has been an employee of the West Central Tribune for more than 35 years.

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