Several baby wood ducks were hatched at Lake Granbury this year thanks to a teenager whose successful Eagle Scout project provided safe, cozy nests across the reservoir.
In 2019, Robert Irion worked with the Brazos River Authority to install 15 wood duck nesting boxes.
During the first breeding season, 12 were used, surprising everyone.
Kyle Lewis and Robert Irion
“My parents and I were hoping to have at least three boxes used this first year,” said Irion, a senior at Plano West Senior High. “So, having 12 boxes used and one box used twice was a great surprise!”
BRA Lake Granbury Project Manager/Program Coordinator Kyle Lewis said he views Irion’s project as a “huge success.”
“I think that’s incredible for the first year they are out for 12 of the 15 boxes to be used,” Lewis said. “I had told him if he could get five of the 15, it would be successful.”
Irion said his advisor originally suggested building duck boxes as his Eagle Scout project because he enjoyed hunting, and his family often visited their lake house on BRA’s Lake Granbury in Hood County.
Nesting boxes are a great way to provide a place for wildlife to raise their young. Wood duck females typically build nests in tree cavities near wetlands, according to Ducks Unlimited. Unfortunately, in many areas, wood ducks have difficulty finding suitable natural nesting sites.
“Wood ducks in Texas are an important aspect of the wildlife community,” according to a report by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. “Their uniqueness makes them valuable not only to hunters but also to birdwatchers or people who seldom encounter the exquisite beauty of this “native” Texan.”
Lewis said it is very important that anyone on the reservoir who sees a nesting box avoid disturbing them in any way. Each one of Irion’s nesting boxes includes a plate that reads:
Do Not Disturb
Wood Duck Nesting Box
Placed with permission of Brazos River Authority
2019-2020 Eagle Scout Project
“We want the public to enjoy them, but from a distance,” Lewis said.
Irion didn’t just make and place the wood duck nesting boxes. He took it a step further.
“Throughout the COVID pandemic, my parents and I were able to spend a lot of time out at the lake due to remote school and work. I was able to observe and document every stage of the wood duck nesting process,” he said. “All of the boxes have been cleaned out and are ready for the 2021 nesting season. I am excited to see how many boxes will be used in this upcoming season.”
Irion said had he known so many boxes would be used this first year, he may have considered placing more boxes. Nesting begins around March and can extend through July, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Since becoming an Eagle Scout, Irion has been accepted to the four colleges. He said his top two choices are Eckerd College in St Petersburg, Florida, and Texas A&M Galveston, both of which provide excellent marine biology programs.
Becoming an Eagle Scout is the highest level of achievement or rank one can attain in the Boy Scouts of America. Since 1912, the Eagle Scout rank has represented a milestone accomplishment, recognized across the country.
Requirements include completing at least 21 merit badge requirements over a period of at least three years. The Eagle Scout Project is the last requirement for the revered rank, demanding extensive planning, project management, fund-raising, and volunteer direction. Before the rank is awarded, the Scout must pass an oral exam before a panel of adult leaders.
According to the Boy Scouts of America website, it’s not just an award. Achieving the rank of Eagle Scout is a state of being that continues throughout a lifetime. Some famous Eagle Scouts include former Presidents Gerald Ford and George W. Bush, Bill Gates, Neil Armstrong, and Sam Walton.
“I have stayed active in my troop, assisting other Scouts with their Eagle projects, but with COVID, there have been fewer in-person activities,” Irion said. “This summer, my father and I are going on two Boy Scout high adventure trips. The first is Northern Tier in Minnesota for a weeklong canoe trip through the boundary waters between Canada and the US. Within five days of returning, we are headed to Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimarron, New Mexico for a two weeklong backpacking trip. My parents and I continue to visit (Lake Granbury) almost every weekend, even though it’s too cold to take out the boat. I still fish around the dock and spend most of my time outside. We enjoy escaping the busy city and relaxing at the lake, something I will miss when I am at college.”
Left the nest
- Robert Irion