The wooden boxes that rose from Belmont Lake in North Babylon on Saturday represent a beginning for ducks and the end of a Boy Scout's hard work.
Frank Ciuffetelli, Jr., 17, said the lake he's been coming to for "as long as I can remember" was the natural choice for his Eagle Scout project.
Hugging the shoreline of the lake and then an island within it, the Wantagh teenager led a group of five scouts as they pounded metal posts into the earth in knee-deep water and topped them with ten wood duck boxes.
Joe Brodtman, park manager of Belmont Lake State Park, said the project would "produce a habitat, hopefully for a new population of wood ducks."
Ciuffetelli, a senior at MacArthur High School in Levittown, brought several project ideas to Brodtman in September before they settled on duck homes.
With help from his father and troop leader, Frank, Sr., he secured monetary donations and supplies from nearly a dozen businesses and parents.
About 15 scouts assembled the 2-foot tall boxes over two days. A trial run in the backyard, however, revealed that the metal posts were weak.
Internet research revealed the missing element: u-channel posts -- the metal used for street signs. Royal Guard Fence Company in Westbury donated most of them -- about $700 worth.
On Saturday, with an assist from park staff in three rowboats, the boys waded in cold waters on a chilly but sunny day amid the orange and yellow leaves of autumn's final blaze.
"Who's got the level?" Frank Jr. yelled to the boat after they drove an 8-foot post down 3 feet. He ratcheted a bolt into the post and attached a "predator guard," a cylinder to keep snakes and raccoons from the nest. Then, the crew bolted the box to the post and moved on to the next spot.
"These guys are getting in the groove," said Brodtman.
Four hours after they began, they came ashore and looked at their finished work. Installation had been the easy part compared with planning and securing donations, Frank Jr. said, but the life lesson was in what it takes to complete a job.
"It really helped teach you how to be a leader, to get a group of people together and get something done," he said.