Maryland Wood Duck Initiative

Chapman State Park in Charles Co. overlooks the Potomac from the Mount Aventine manor house (1840) across from Mason Neck and Gunston Cove on the Virginia side.   The region on both shores is steeped in colonial history – George Mason, George Washington and shad fisheries. Its 2,200 acres of forest provide a dramatic reminder of the great woodlands that once cradled the Potomac tidewater.

In 2007, MWDI initiated a nesting program at Chapman with 6 boxes. There is an excellent wetland (totaling perhaps 25 acres) that lies at the base of the forest separated from the Potomac by a very narrow strip of land. Production has ranged from 26-34 ducklings annually except last year when only 17 hatched from 2 nests with only 4 boxes considered functional.

Initially, most boxes were situated along the west side of the wetland intended to be monitored by boat (one box is on a small seasonal wetland just off the river).   This barrier land is subjected to incredible stress from the Potomac on flood tides and storms. All sorts of trash, lumber and debris is collected in, over and against the natural dike. Inspecting the boxes was becoming unwieldy. After the residue was observed from hurricane Irene, it was decided that a change was necessary. A plan was adopted to remove the existing boxes and install new ones on the forest side of the wetland if accessibility could be obtained.

In early March, 2012 the Marsh Trail (.7 mile) was inspected by Cliff Brown and six sites were selected and two river boxes were removed. The Trail was “challenged” with some huge deadfalls, encroaching stickers and small trees. A plan was discussed with Steve Youngkin (MD DNR) and then reviewed with Pat Bright (MD DNR) whereby MWDI and the Friends of Chapman would clear the trail and get the boxes installed.

On March 18, MWDI volunteers Jerry McCarty and Claiborne Ashby came from Belmont Bay in VA and removed 3 of the other river boxes. One already had an active clutch of 12 down covered eggs so it was left (see picture below).