Game and wildlife management students at Reaseheath College in Nantwich have built and installed desirable residences for mallard ducks in a bid to help boost the native population.

Historically the mallard has been one of the UK’s commonest wild ducks but its numbers have decreased over recent years and it is now on the Birds of Conservation Concern Amber list, indicating moderate concern for the species. The main problems faced by the mallards are nest predation, habitat loss and climate change.

Level 3 Diploma students have stepped in to help by constructing tube shaped duck nests which are now installed on poles in the college’s lake, ready for the breeding season. The safer design and siting lessens the chance of predation and disturbance.

The students learned about the problem and ways of solving it from experts at the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC). They joined Gavin Howe, BASC’s North West Regional Officer, for a day on campus learning how the special design can boost the ducks’ breeding success, how to construct the nests and where best to site them. They then identified potential sites and installed some of the nests they had built as part of their course assessment.  Additional nests will be put up at other sites nearby.

Gavin Howe explained: “We build duck nest tubes to give a helping hand to mallard. Nest tubes offer security and protection from the elements and elevate nests off the ground.

“The success rates from ground nests can be quite low as mallard nests are often destroyed before the eggs have chance to hatch. This is for a number of reasons including predation, trampling from livestock and disturbance from dog walkers.

“These tubes have been shown in other countries to significantly boost fledgling success. This project is aimed at learning more about the breeding success of mallard in the hope we can boost the population. Now is the perfect time to put them up, before the breeding season starts in March.”

The nest training day was part of an ongoing partnership between Reaseheath’s Countryside Department and BASC which gives students hands-on employability skills.

Additionally, last month, a student group joined BASC experts at WWT Martin Mere Wetland Centre in Lancashire, where they were tested on their wildfowl identification and shown how to identify different species by their calls, silhouettes and plumage.

Course Manager Alex Pendlebury said: “Our courses are aimed at producing the next generation of countryside mangers and conservationists. It’s important that our students are industry-ready when they leave college. Learning from specialists such as those employed by BASC is an important part of this process and I’d like to thank BASC for supporting us with these two very relevant and enjoyable events.

““The nesting tubes are very eye catching and are a great way of engaging the general public in conversation. They provide an ideal opportunity for us to demonstrate the meaningful conservation work which gamekeepers and land managers carry out on a day to day basis.”

Game and Wildlife Management student Daniel Wellsbury-Ault said: “Building a tube shaped nest only took us 30 minutes once we’d learned how to do it. This might seem like a small step but it’s an important part of the big picture. If more people get involved, together we can make a really big difference to the success of the breeding mallard population.”

BASC is calling on the wider shooting and conservation community to consider building and installing duck nest tubes.

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