Mystery Object Investigation Concludes

Mystery object on South Trail © Marian Pierre-Louis
Mystery object on south-side trail © Marian Pierre-Louis

Stony Brook regular Marian Pierre-Louis was enjoying a walk on the Pond Loop Trail in mid-January when she spotted something unusual hanging in the trees. Unsure as to what it was, she snapped a photo and headed back to the Nature Center. After showing the image to the sanctuary staff, she inquired about the object’s origins.

Unfortunately, we had no definitive answers to give her! We had no idea what this mysterious “birdhouse” was, nor had we ever seen it. So, in our February 2019 e-newsletter, we solicited our readers for any information or theories they could give us.

In the end, the best explanation we received came from Perry Ellis, a teacher naturalist at Mass Audubon’s Blue Hills Trailside Museum:

“I’m not sure of the size of your metal ‘birdhouse,’ but I vaguely remember seeing this design during my youth in the seventies and eighties,” Perry told us.

“From the sixties to the eighties, people experimented with making Wood Duck boxes out of metal stovepipe. The idea was that the house was essentially predator-proof, since raccoons and other predators can’t grip bare metal and can’t use metal shears to get inside. Materials like hardware cloth would be put on the inside surface of the box so the ducklings could climb out. The problem with this design was the interior of the nesting box could get too hot, cooking the eggs inside and, sometimes, the incubating mama duck too.”

We greatly appreciate Perry’s response. There’s always something new to learn, and we’re eager to be a part of the dialogue!

Got a photo, observation, or question of your own?

We love hearing from Stony Brook visitors! If Marian’s story of discovery inspired you to share your own, please send it to us. We may feature it in our e-newsletter or on this blog!

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