Curlew is Britain’s largest wader and was once common throughout the UK, which hosts around 25 per cent of the international population.
Duck nest tubes are a quacking success
Duck nest tubes are a conservation success story, says Sophie Stafford and according to data collated by BASC and the Waterfowlers’ Network.
Since 2021 members of the shooting community have been playing a vital role in an international citizen science project set up by the Waterfowlers’ Network in 2021.
The duck nest tube project aims to monitor the breeding success and usage of artificial nest structures, such as nesting tubes, nest boxes, and breeding baskets.
BASC’s project primarily focuses on the installation and monitoring of nest tubes, through which we hope to improve the breeding success of wild mallard populations across their flyway.
The results are in
In the first two years of the project (2021-22), we have received data on 400 nest tubes across 93 sites in the UK, detailing some promising results.
To date, we have recorded an occupancy rate of 46% overall, and of those occupied, over 90% hatched successfully.
In both 2021 and 2022, first year nests had slightly lower occupancy and success rates than the above figure, but this is normal so don’t lose hope in your first year!
Why build a duck nest tube?
Citizen science projects such as this, rely on you, the shooting community – or anyone with an interest in conservation – to help ensure that they are a success and have a positive, sustainable impact.
Despite having increased from the 1960s-2000s, breeding mallard populations are in decline, dropping by five per cent in the last ten years. It is vital that we do something now to mitigate any further losses for the species.
Although the duck nest tube project focuses on mallard in the UK, we do see several other species occasionally using the structures, including coots, moorhens, shovelers, gadwall, mandarins and teal.
To support the continued sustainable shooting of mallard, we must protect our wild populations. This means implementing effective conservation methods and collecting data to help us better understand mallard breeding success and how we can help.
Crunching the numbers
In addition to collecting data on nest occupancy rates and the hatching success of different duck species, we also record information on various environmental factors, such as:
- Habitat type
- Surrounding habitat features
- Habitat management
- Predator control
The more information we gather, the more we can understand about how successful duck nest tubes are as a conservation method, plus the factors which may have a bearing on this success.
Build your own
If the duck nest tube project sounds like something you’d like to get involved in, it’s very straightforward. Here’s what you need to do:
- Make and install mallard nest tubes
- It’s best to do this before the breeding season starts in March to avoid disturbing any mallard or other birds that may already be breeding at the site. You can also contact your BASC regional office for help with installation.
- Record information about the site and nest usage
- The easiest way to do this is to number each nest at the site and keep a notebook where you can record which species are occupying which nests and whether any eggs have hatched (success is determined by at least one egg hatching). You can do this by observing from a distance with binoculars and checking for eggshells in the nest at the end of the breeding season – but don’t throw they them away, place them back in the nest to attract birds the following year.
- Submit the information at the end of the breeding season
- Finally, at the end of the breeding season (late July/August) make sure to submit your data and keep an eye out for our annual results.
Duck nest tubes - regional round up
From schools, to colleges, to moorland groups and wildfowling clubs, BASC teams from around the country have been working tirelessly to help get more duck nest tubes up across the UK. Below is a taste of some of the work that’s been going on.
BASC regional officer Rob Newton spent a day installing duck nest tubes with Tracy Johnson from the Nidderdale Moorland Group and some of the ‘keepers from various Nidderdale Estates. The nest tubes were sited on a variety of upland and low ground ponds.
Game and wildlife management students at Reaseheath College made their own duck nest tubes after spending a day learning about why they are important, how to construct them and where best to site them.
Members of the South Humber Area Joint Council (SHAJC) and BASC took part in a workshop to build and install tubes on several ponds and lakes surrounding Burton Salmon.
Students at Askham Bryan College worked together at a workshop led by BASC North to build 30-plus duck nest tubes.
Thirty-one pupils from St Bega’s C of E School in Eskdale built bird boxes, duck nest tubes and planted trees at an event hosted at Muncaster Castle. The children were also treated to owl flight displays during the day, which was organised by Muncaster staff and BASC.
BASC East regional officers Ryan Darby and Mal Greenleaf attended the Fenland Wildfowlers Association AGM. As well as discussing various shooting and wildfowling topics, they introduced the duck nest tube project to members, including an interactive session on building the tubes.
Twenty year five pupils from Thorney Island Primary School in West Sussex took part in an outdoor education experience which saw them build duck nest tubes, go on a bug hunt and learn about the different birds and mammals that inhabit the island. A total of 16 duck nest tubes were built during the day, which was organised by Chichester Wildfowlers Association and BASC.