RIDGWAY-"I wanted a more tangible way that our company and employees could help FSG Elementary School than just a cash donation," said Paul Stilwell, President of Elk County Powdered Metal, Inc."So we decided to help the 4th grade at the elementary school in Ridgway put together wood "Duck Boxes" this Friday as a service to the community and Clarion River corridor."

Wood ducks, buffleheads, barrow's goldeneyes, common goldeneyes, hooded mergansers, and common mergansers are cavity-nesting ducks. They build nests in abandoned woodpecker holes and natural tree cavities caused by disease, fire, or lightning. Duck boxes may attract other cavity-nesting birds such as kestrels.

Travis Wingard. The Master of Waterway Conservation for the Penn State Extension Office for the twelve-county PA Wilds Region also teamed up with Stillwell and his crew to give a short presentation on wood ducks in the local region. From easting habits, migration patterns, and even their distinctive call, the students enjoyed the presentation and peppered Wingard with questions throughout his presentation.

Elk County Powdered Metal employees volunteered to work on a Sunday to cut the hemlock pine boards into six easy to assemble pieces based on plans from the Ducks Unlimited organization. On the interior outward-facing board, they placed a small strip of wire mesh so that when the ducklings are ready to leave the nest, they can climb up the interior and make their way out. There is also the ability to remove one side of the box for easy clean-up between nesting seasons, so the boxes can provide a safe nesting environment for many years.

"Cavity nesting ducks do not carry nesting materials," said Wingard, "so it's important to help them out by placing four to six inches of wood shavings in the bottom of the box to help them establish the nest."

Once a cavity-nesting bird starts using a constructed box, observers will likely see many broods raised over the years. Nesting sites for these birds are limited in number. When they find a suitable nesting site, there is an excellent chance they'll return in the following years.

The boxes will be placed up and down the Clarion River corridor by the Boy Scouts and maintained by them. Every year in the fall, after the nesting season has completed, or in the winter, volunteers will clean out old nesting material from the box and replace it with a fresh layer of wood shavings. This annual cleaning needs to be part of the long-term maintenance commitment to ensure a safe wood duck nesting area.

Elk County Powdered Metal employees Paul and Lou Stillwell, Joe Costanza, and Scott Weidow, in addition to making the cut hemlock pieces, were also on hand to assist the students in actually assembling the boxes with screws. While the students could not use the initial drilling bits, they each had a hand using the screw-guns to place the final pieces. Teams of students became competitive and were racing each other to see who could get the first box completed. There were many shouts of laughter and enjoyment, and everyone got some sawdust on their faces and in their hair as the process took place.

The FSG Elementary School, especially the 4th-grade class, wants to thank Paul Stillwell and his employees for this great activity and break after two weeks of taking state assessment tests. The students were all smiles as they saw their creations after completion that just started out as six pieces of wood.

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