Tag Archives: duck

Migration is for the “birds”…Resident Geese present new challenges for managers

The Canada Goose has long been a recognizable member of the waterfowl flotilla bobbing up and down on Maryland’s many lakes, rivers and ponds. From early childhood we are taught about the winter migration of waterfowl “flying South for the winter” and back North to lay and hatch their young.
As the years past and the occasional nesting pair became nesting flocks, one couldn’t help but wonder if the popular saying failed to make its way to the geese. Year round populations of geese have become a common occurrence in Maryland, going from neat to nuisance for many citizens.
 
The Resident Goose:
 
This new emergence of non-migrating geese have created a new term in the wildlife management community, the now infamous “Resident Goose”. These resident geese do just that, reside year round on area water bodies, lawns, golf courses and crop fields. If unharrased, they often roost in the same place night after night and utilize food sources in the immediate area day after day. With a mature goose defecating nearly a pound a day, the damage begins to mount in those areas. Problems including high nitrogen levels in water bodies, damage to crops, landscapes and ball fields from overgrazing, as well as the health hazards attributed to human interaction with their waste.
These geese begin nesting in late February and March with eggs hatching sometime in late April. Average clutch sizes range from 3-6 eggs with females reproducing after 2-3 years of age and sometimes getting very aggressive in defense of their nests during this time period. Sometime in late June to mid July these geese go through a 4-6 week molting period in which they lose their flight feathers and are stuck to the ground with the rest of us. This process goes on year after year with potential ages of resident geese reaching sometimes over 20 years.
These older resident geese have become very wise to the tricks of the hunting community, taking up residence often in uphuntable areas within the urban fringe. Golf course ponds, homeowners association stormwater management areas, local government water features and even tops of buildings often become preferred habitat; see attached video below.
 
Management Options:
 
There are a multitude of available management options that may be able to address your individual goose issues, not all of them work as advertised, but non-the-less some do work. Your basic goose control methods are broken down into the following:
  • Harassment (dogs, people, sound cannons, etc.)
  • Exclusion (Habitat modification, fence construction)
  • Repellents
  • Lethal (hunting, flightless round-up, egg addling)
Resident goose management can be a very complex and delicate issue, an issue which is just now beginning to make its way to the level currently experienced by suburban deer managers. An entire article can be written on each of the above methods, and we will most likely get into them more in the near future. If you would like more information on your goose management issues feel free to contact Patriot LWM at 240-687-7228 or visit us at www.patriotlwm.com/wildlife-control/.
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Maryland DNR Announces 2011 Midwinter Waterfowl Survey Results

Release from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources:

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) have released the results of the 2011 Midwinter Waterfowl Survey. Each winter, pilots and biologists from the two agencies count ducks, geese and swans along Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay shoreline and Atlantic coast. In January 2011, survey teams observed 640,700 waterfowl which is lower than the number of waterfowl observed in January 2010 (787,100).

“It is important to remember that the Maryland survey results are ultimately pooled with results from other states to provide a measure of the distribution and population of waterfowl wintering in the Atlantic Flyway,” said Larry Hindman, DNR’s Waterfowl Project Leader. “The survey is conducted in a coordinated manner across the Atlantic Flyway states to provide an annual index of the population size for important waterfowl species like black ducks, Atlantic brant and tundra swans.”

This decline is largely due to the observance of fewer Canada geese and snow geese along bay shoreline habitats. Large numbers of geese likely went undetected at inland locations, which are not covered by the survey. However, wintering Canada geese (397,700) remained high and their numbers were bolstered by geese pushed south by the cold temperatures and heavy snow cover in areas north of Maryland.

Overall, greater numbers of ducks were counted in 2011 (199,300) than last winter (173,700), mainly attributed to higher numbers of mallards (55,600) and canvasbacks (43,600). In addition, exceptional numbers of gadwalls were observed on the submerged aquatic vegetation beds on the Susquehanna Flats.

“Cold weather and the associated heavy snow and ice north of Maryland contributed to higher duck numbers in the Chesapeake,” Hindman said.

The Midwinter Waterfowl Survey has been conducted annually throughout the United States since the early 1950s. The survey provides information on long-term trends in waterfowl.

Species 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011
Mallard 39,700 55,500 58,300 34,200 55,600
Black Duck 13,800 23,000 24,900 22,500 22,900
Gadwall 1,400 3,000 2,800 2,000 6,400
Widgeon 400 800 500 300 200
G-W Teal 3,300 4,600 1,400 600 600
Shoveler 100 600 400 100 100
Pintail 500 2,000 800 500 1,200
Total Dabblers 59,200 89,500 89,000 60,100 87,000
Redhead 1,100 11,900 12,400 3,400 4,700
Canvasback 13,700 40,100 51,300 26,400 43,600
Scaup 25,700 140,000 51,600 43,500 29,700
Ring-neck 900 2,100 1,700 900 1,600
Goldeneye 700 800 1,000 600 300
Bufflehead 12,000 18,400 15,900 13,700 7,500
Ruddy Duck 19,800 19,700 23,600 13,400 16,500
Total Divers 73,900 233,000 157,600 102,000 103,900
Scoters 2,100 2,900 2,900 900 200
Long-tailed Duck 500 400 400 200 400
Mergansers 1,700 4,300 8,900 10,600 7,700
Total Ducks 137,400 330,100 261,000 173,700 199,300
Brant 500 1,400 800 1,000 1,500
Snow Goose 46,600 108,000 61,200 78,600 28,200
Canada Goose 285,700 373,100 498,200 519,500 397,100
Tundra Swan 8,700 11,700 14,200 14,000 14,400
Total Waterfowl 478,900 821,500 836,900 787,100 640,700

DNR 2011 Midwinter Waterfowl Survey Results – Click link for full article

Constructing a Future: Wood Duck Boxes and You

Maryland is home to a rich variety of waterfowl species. We’ve all seen Canada geese honking their way from pond to field. Some of them endure the winter migration, and some of them are year-round residents who call Maryland home. Ever seen a wood duck? Well, much is the same with wood ducks, arguably the most beautiful duck native to North America.Wood ducks nest in tree cavities near water and utilize wetlands as their home to raise their young. Unfortunately, as urban sprawl occurs, more and more of these wetlands are being destroyed, limiting the wood duck’s habitat and success in Maryland. Don’t lose faith. A lot is being done to bring the population back to where it once existed. You can become part of the effort too, and it doesn’t take much.

Wood ducks suffered a serious decline in the late 19th century for a variety of reasons, including habitat loss and market hunting for their meat and plumage.  Because of the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, market hunting was ended and measures were enacted to protect remaining habitat. Wood duck populations began to rebound in the 1920s, and the development of the artificial nesting box and its implementation by Federal and State governments and local wildlife enthusiasts in the 1930s began providing an additional boost to wood duck production. The hope was that the ducks would utilize the “cavity” characteristic of the boxes to nest. The ducks did, and they made an astounding comeback. Nesting sites are only half the battle, though. Woods ducks also require wetland habitat that provides them with shelter, food, and protection from predators. If you have a wooded stream or pond on your property or if you live along a Chesapeake Bay shore with woods nearby (which is alot of you!), you may be able to attract wood ducks simply by constructing a nest box.

Building a wood duck box is simple, inexpensive, and there are plenty of plans you can find online that detail designs, placement, etc. Do your homework.
The Maryland Wood Duck Initiative, an all-volunteer effort,  aims “to enhance Maryland’s wood duck population and to generate a greater appreciation of the wetland habitats in which they live by advocating and demonstrating the merits of a “best practices” approach in managed nest programs.” State agencies like the Department of Natural Resources, conservation organizations like Ducks Unlimited, and companies like Patriot LWM are other important resources for anything wood duck related and are more than happy to  provide you with information and help develop your wood duck plan.

So, now for some more timely information. What are wood ducks doing right now in Maryland? Wood ducks nest from April to June, so right now is a great time to get your nesting boxes built, or cleaned out if you already have boxes (if you’re anything like me, you’re tired of being cooped up in the house and are itching for a reason to get outside and do something).  Add a few inches of wood shavings (don’t use sawdust because it can suffocate the ducklings) for nesting material, attach the boxes to poles (don’t forget the predator guards!), and place them around forested areas near the water for when they arrive. You’ve now become a part of the effort! The rest is up to the ducks.

A few professional tips:

  • Females often search for a nesting site early in the mornings; therefore try to face the opening of the box towards the east so the opening is more visible from morning rays of sunlight.
  • Try to avoid facing the opening towards the prevailing wind for the area as this will cause undo stress on the nesting birds.
  • Limit the amount of underbrush under the boxes to reduce predator access to the poles.

 If a wood duck finds your box suitable for laying eggs, in about 1 month 9-12 eggs will hatch and, within 24 hours, the ducklings will use their sharp claws to climb to the nest box entrance and fall to the ground or water.  Once on the ground, the female will lead the ducklings to the nearest body of water (they won’t come back to the nest, don’t take it personally). Wood duck young can fly in about 60 days from hatching; meanwhile, their mother looks after them and protects them from harm*courtesy of Maryland DNR*.  It’s always a good idea to check your nesting boxes once during the nesting season to clean them out and add new nesting material. Besides doing some housekeeping, a visit during the nesting season will show if your nesting boxes have been productive and improve the odds of the box being used again during the season.

So there you have it. You made an effort and it didn’t take much, did it? Enjoy the feeling that comes from conservation, and share it with a child – they are our future conservationists. And every time you catch a glimpse of a wood duck’s beautiful iridescent plumage or hear their unmistakable “ooo-eeekk” squeal echo through the woods or across the water, consider it a “Thanks.”

If you’d like to get a fully assembled wood duck box and predator guard contact Patriot LWM at 240-687-7228.