KEEPING WATCH - HOW ABOUT THOSE WHITE FRONTS
HENRY COUNTY —
To read about Snow Geese scroll down to 3/4/2013 Mid-day, 3/5/2013 and 3/6/2013.
Note correction in 3/5 post is now in bold: One fox can cache 2000 eggs in a season not in a day.
There had to be over a thousand Greater White Fronts on the Winfield Avenue Borrow Pit early this afternoon along with Mallards and some divers and several hundred Canada Geese. Later in the afternoon many of the White Fronts left to feed and 6 Trumpeter Swans stopped in for a visit. The swans with their longer necks are apparently reaching deeper and finding snacks below the reach of the geese.
This site has been awesome this spring.
As a kid I never saw a White Front in Henry County and now they are vying for the top spot among the spring stop overs. As for fly overs, the last several days we have had an amazing flight of Snow Geese. It is almost enough to make a fellow forget that the traditional fall flocks are endangered.
3/12/2013 THE MINK MEETS HIS MATCH
First Wood Ducks of the season came into the Home Pond this morning, 2 drakes and 1 hen and on my birthday too! I'll take it.
Sitting at the window Joy began tapping on the glass and yelling to alert the geese that there was a mink lumbering out of the woods and heading for the pond. As the mink entered the water the geese quickly swam to get out and onto the shell ice that had formed around the patch of water kept open by the bubbler over night. She was surprized when Teddy, the cygnet swan that seems to have adopted us, made no attempt to escape from the water or the mink but rather lined out on the furry fellow in hot pursuit.
As Teddy jabbed repeatedly at the mink it was it's turn to now seek the safety of the ice. Reaching the edge the mink quickly crawled out and ran directly through the cluster of geese that had gathered on the ice. As the geese parted before him the mink showed no interest in giving chase. He was no longer looking for breakfast but was seeking to put some distance between him and Teddy.
Apparently the mink did not want to be on the west side of the pond so he made his way along the south edge a safe distance from Teddy, at least until he got to some open water. At that point Teddy renewed his attact and the mink headed up over the bank and back into the woods out of which he made his first appearance.
3/11/2013 MORE INFORMATION ON THE BANDED GOOSE
Doug McArthur, Wildlife Manager for the White Earth Indian Reservation, responded to my email wherein I sought additional information on the neck collared and leg banded Canada Goose visitor (Minnie) and the banded only geese that accompanied her to the Home Pond this winter.
Doug has been banding ducks and geese for 13 years on the Reservation. The geese he bands are local families to include the pair and their brood of goslings. On average he and three helpers band around 500 geese and 250 ducks a summer, which is pretty impressive for a 4 man team with only 10 weeks to get the job done. He did not say how they go about catching the geese but most likely they take full advantage of the flightless period of their annual molt. The crew’s yearly record is 968 geese and 567 ducks but that was under optimal conditions.
Doug notes the population of the geese on the reservation is healthy and generally stable. We trust the corn fed fat we put on them during their stay here, along with some grazing on the way back north, will have the birds in peak condition for nesting when they get back to their breeding grounds.
Doug points out that any geese with blue neck collars and white letters have come from the banding they do on the reservation. They put bands on all the birds they catch and collars on every adult female as well as on a few of the “young of the year” females. It appears we did a pretty good job of putting the pieces together earlier thinking the collared and banded goose was a female feeding with a banded gander and three young (banded) geese. (scroll down to 2/26)
Doug said the visual ID of the collar on the nesting females is a way to get information about survivors. I would encourage hunters to avoid shooting collared birds now that we know a blue collared goose is a successfully nesting bird from an Indian Reservation in the north of Minnesota. Keep in mind, Mom will most likely bring a batch back with her year after year. After all, she and the Gander know how it’s done. Maybe the Gander should be collared as well? We noted some additional leg banded geese on the Home Pond but we were not able to read the numbers.
Doug notes the local population of Canada Geese fluctuates with spring nesting conditions. A late spring with a late snow or a long period of cold wet weather will cause them to abandon the nest. He observes very few re-nesting attempts under such adverse conditions. The adults of failed attempts usually migrate further north to molt with the pre-breeders.
Goldeneyes and first of the season Buffleheads are on the Walmart Pond along with Canada Geese and Mallards today. The home pond is nearly empty. The Old Man sprung his Lady and they are together on the Hilltop Wetland. Buddy has taken up his position in the front yard where only Joy is granted safe passage now. Teddy is still on the pond. All the migratory geese and ducks are gone. First of the season is a personal note. It is the first Bufflehead I have seen this spring. No teal, grebes or Wood Ducks yet.
Joy, Grandson Riggs, Granddauther Keira and I all went birding today with the Iowa City Bird Club. I am waiting for the complete list of our sightings to be compiled. We started on the not so Muddy Miss in Burlington watching Ring-billed Gulls. From there we visited a cemetary off of Sunnyside in Burlington where everyone in our truck cab was able to add Whitewinged Cross Bills to our life lists.
You know it is a good day, even if it is raining on You, when You add a bird to your life list on the second stop. These birds love the seeds of the evergreen Canadian Hemlock trees that grow in the cemetary. From there we visited an ad hoc Turkey Vulture roost over in the Perkins park neighborhood where 20 vultures were sitting out the foul weather having successfully carried the message of their hope for more spring like weather as far north as Burlington.
Then it was back down into the river bottom where we spent the rest of the day admiring, a
Glaucus Gull (another first on our life lists) Canada Geese, White Fronted Geese, Snow Geese, Ross Geese (1 of the rare blue phase, another first), White Pelicans, Trumpeter Swans, Canvasbacks, Redheads, Scaup, Hooded Mergansers, Common Mergansers, Shovelers, Goldeneyes, Gadwalls, Great Blue Herons, Killdeer, a Snipe, Coots and several eagles before we turned around at 4:30 in the afternoon between Keokuk and Montrose and headed back north for home.
Keira indicated that the best part of the trip for her was the stop in Ft. Madison where she got to stand on a pedestrian foot bridge over the rail road track and watch three trains all passing under foot at the same time. The engineer on one of the coal trains waved to her as he disappeared beneath us.
Her greatest disappointment was missing out on seeing the Red phase Screech Owl duck back into a Wood Duck box he calls home down in Heron Bend Park across from Siemens south of Ft. Madison. (More to come)
3/8/2013 GADWALS ON HOME POND
1500 Canadas on the Home pond this A.M. along with two pair of Gadwals and a flock of Mallards. Yesterday there were 8 mature Trumpeter Swans sitting on the south facing slope of the corn field across the road and the Family of Six along with Teddy were sitting the pond. Mid afternoon the 8 in the field took off and circled the pond a couple of times. The Family of Six then took off to join them and the whole bunch headed north west. What a sight!
Earlier this week there were 4 Trumpeter Swans on the Winfield Avenue Borrow Pit long with several hundred each of the White Fronted and Canada geese. Well over a thousand geese in total. Several Canvasbacks and a couple of Goldeneyes had also stopped in.
On Wednesday Joy saw a nice bunch of Canadas on the Walmart Wetland, maybe 75 or so, sitting on the ice and working the edges.
3/6/2013 IT IS GETTING REALLY MESSY NOW
The situation in the arctic reminds me of the Green Fire Aldo Leopold saw in the eye of the dying wolf. In this situation the Green Fire is in the eye of the Arctic Fox. Without the fox, the geese and the lemmings strip the tundra. So far hunters in the states are proving to be a very poor substitute for the foxes in the Arctic. It is up to the natives to own the mess trapping the foxes is making in the north.
In effect it is the fox trappers who are over grazing the tundra by removing a natural, highly effective and selective predator capable of controlling the goose population. A predator who can respond quickly to changing environmental conditions by hicking up or cutting back reproduction in response to the available food sources. A predator that nearly took the Aleutian Geese across the threshold of extinction when it was introduced to the islands where they nested. The aggressive behavior of the Snow Geese and the specifics of the habitat where they nest allow them and the foxes to strike a balance.
The fox burying eggs for winter, like a squirrel burying nuts, would appear to be a more humane goose population control agent as well. At least until the busts and booms of the arctic leave the foxes with nothing to eat causing them to wander widely even as they strarve.
If fox trapping were to be managed to level off those busts and booms by keeping the goose and lemming and the fox populations in bounds on healthy tundra, it could be argued that humane trapping methods paired with appropriate limits on fox trapping driven by conditions on the tundra could be a win win situation. However, it must always be remembered that in spite of the best laid plans of man, weather is trump in the arctic requiring revisions without notice.
Currently the fox trapper responds to the fur market. The fur market responds to fashion. Fashion has little or nothing to do with the health of the tundra or the economic situation in the fox trapping communities at any given time. Can markets be trained to respond to the needs of the environment?
Arctic foxes gather and bury the eggs of Snow and Ross Geese for later use. There was a time when the geese could only nest on islands in the lakes up in Queen Maude Gulf Sanctuary because of the foxes. Foxes can still be trapped in the Sanctuary. Fox fur prices are going up.
Update: "Further, arctic foxes used cached eggs well into the following spring (almost 1 year after eggs were acquired)- a pattern that differs from that of carnivores generally storing foods for only a few days before consumption." http://lib.bioinfo.pl/pmid:17714265
Down along the west coast of Hudson Bay, where the Snow Geese are particularly abundant, one fox, depending on the consentration of the goose nests can cache up to 2000 eggs in one season. One fox trapper, depending on the area can trap 200 foxes in a season. Both numbers being conservative. Thus one fox trapper does more to trigger the alleged over population of Snow Geese than a small army of hunters can do to reign it in. I say the over population is alleged because if it was even half as bad, in the minds of the managers, as they make it out to be, there would obviously be no fox trapping allowed in areas where the geese nest and transplanting foxes would be under study.
QUEEN MAUD GULF:
Behavioural observations of individually-marked arctic foxes showed that they
took and cached 2,000-3,000 eggs per fox each year.
BANKS ISLAND: In “Foraging Patterns of Arctic Foxes at a Large Arctic
Goose Colony” GUSTAF SAMELIUS and RAY T. ALISAUSKAS report the following. (see link below)
"Arctic foxes took mostly eggs when foraging among geese, and most of these eggs (97%) were cached for later use. Adult geese and lemmings were taken in low numbers, and most of these foods (83% of geese and 75% of lemmings) were eaten immediately."
"While geese were nesting, each fox took on average about 1500 new eggs."
"Arctic foxes rarely killed or injured geese, and most
interactions between foxes and adult geese resulted in no
injury to foxes or birds."
"Twenty-six snowmobiles were purchased by the Bankslanders between the summer of 1967 and the fall of 1970." To be used to trap Arctic Foxes "The top trappers have been known to obtain over 900 foxes in a peak year, and even in low years manage to get over 200; with foxes bringing about $20.00 a pelt, it may readily be seen that potential income levels are high." Fur prices have gone up dramatically since then.
In January of 2012 "White fox pelts went for $200 — up from $40 in previous years. Francois Rossouw, with the territory’s Industry Department, said that kind of price for fox is unheard of.
In the mean time " The numbers of Western Arctic Lesser Snow geese have been steadily increasing since the 1970’s and the number of nesting adults has now increased to a population of almost 500,000." Recall the snowmobiles were purchased at that time.
If we balanced the books in the arctic and appropriately regulated hunting in the south there would still be Snow Geese visiting our refuges and landing in our fields and they would not be overly abundant in the arctic.
What is happening is not about managing the population of the Snow Geese, and it never has been. It is about the opportunity to pull out all the stops in the slaughter of the Snow Geese under the guise of saving habitat in the arctic even as fox trapping is destroying it. This ruse is having the effect of promoting hunting tactics in the south that are conscentrating the birds in massive flocks that fly helter skelter looking for large flat fields to settle in as they seek to avoid the hunters. The small family groups of the past are disappearing and with them their traditions which spread the geese over wide areas.
The loss of the Snow Geese at Port Louisa beginning in the 80's was the beginning. Now the trend has spread across the state until DeSoto Bend stands empty now.
I used to call for a closed season on the Upper Mississippi in the fall, thinking the areas that drain into the Missouri River were not being effected and certainly not DeSoto Bend. Now it is time to close the Snow Goose season state wide. The current mismanagement of the Snows must not be allowed to continue.
Remember the great flocks of Snow Geese that used to visit DeSoto Bend on the Missouri River in western Iowa? They are gone. Remember the Snow Geese that used to visit Port Louisa Refuge on the Mississippi River in the fall? They are gone. Remember the hundreds of thousands of Canada Geese that used to visit southern Illinois? They are gone. Remember the flocks of of Snow Geese that used to land on the prairie north of town in the fall? (Duane Thomas and I do.) They are gone. The folks in Texas are hosting a meeting to discuss the disappearing Snow Geese in Texas this week during a meeting of the Central Flyway. There are two things all these locations have in common. First no one knows why the geese have abandoned those areas but there is one thing they all agree on, hunting pressure could not have anything to do with it. (All of them but those Texan goose hunters which is a bit of a surprise.)
Let me explain a historical Snow Goose hunt in the fields visited by the Snow Geese flying out of DeSoto Bend. Fifty hunters get together scouting for great flocks of Snow Geese settling in a field. Once the geese settle the hunters crawl out into the field positioning themselves for a flush. When the birds come up so do the hunters teaching 10 thousand birds all at once that the area is high risk.
All of those geese that return to the refuge do so in an agitated state. Some are wounded and many are dealing with the loss of family members.The stress is multiplied among the 100s of thousands geese sitting on the refuge. All of the birds lose confidence that there is any safe place to feed or that the refuge is a good place to be. Then one day, much like a stressed hive of bees that has decided to abscond, the whole flock takes flight never to return. A refuge that used to be a national attraction is now a Snow Goose ghost town. The beehive is empty.
Why? Nobody knows? With the Canada's they blame it on global warming. With the Snow Geese they blame it on the stressors of over population along the western shores of the Hudson Bay impacting migratory behavior of the geese but they have limited banding evidence to support that theory. What evidence they do have suggests that the DeSoto birds came from Queen Maude Gulf where things are not quite so crowded. "Blame it on midnight, shame on the moon."
The one thing those who live off the hunters know is it cannot be the groups of fifty hunters shooting all at once into flocks of 10 thousand Snow Geese, creating mass hysteria among the birds and creating maybe hundreds of mourning families that will search all night calling out in the refuge seeking to hear the voices of lost family members. The pain and the suffering and the mourning caused by the terrorists must not be real or if it is, it must not matter. As in war the pain and the suffering of the enemy must not matter. The fact it does not matter to refuge managers but it does matter to the geese is the reason the refuges are standing empty.
To make it easy, let's just lump all the pain, panic, suffering and loss under the word stress. The geese are leaving because they are under stress. There now, that's better, isn't it?
Those who make their living off of the hunters know to avoid the issue of hunter induced stress or hunting pressure as they call it, because.... well because.... they are too busy promoting hunting the geese to take the time to understand the effects of what the hunters are doing on the collective consciousness of the geese. They can watch a flock circle and circle collectively making the decision to land but then fail to consider the impact of the hunters actions on the mind set of the flock as a whole. But now that the geese are gone they have more time to think about it.
So does this mean the geese cannot be hunted? No, but it does mean that where there is a reason to keep the geese visiting a refuge year after year there is a reason to consider the collective experience the geese are having during their stay.
If there are no adequate safe feeding locations on the refuge for the numbers of geese that visit then there must be safe feeding locations on safe travel ways leading away from the refuge and the opportunity for the geese to learn them. As has been pointed out repeatedly with stress experiments with rats, the majority of the geese must be able to see a way to avoid the shocks or they will literally become "sick" of their surroundings and leave, perhaps never to return. So long as they can successfully navigate the stress they will tolerate it.
Refuges are turning into ghost towns and the geese are becoming dangerously more and more consentrated as the managers of the Snow Geese fail to learn how to think and feel like a goose. When they master that then the wild geese will tolerate the slaughter much as domestic animals do. But wait, do hunters want to be the managers of the flock on the refuge or would they rather be terrorists driving the geese away? The evidence indicates the latter but with a glimmer of hope flickering in the Great State of Texas.
Did I say the goose was flightless? Last night I tried to place some corn for her on the pond as close as I could safely get to her on the rotting ice. I obviously got too close to suit her as she got up and walked away dragging her broken wing. But then to my surprise she took a few quick steps and took to the air!
I could not believe it, in flight she looked pretty good. Apparently the tendon that allows her to fold up her wing has been severed but the one that spreads the wing out is fully functional. I dumped the corn and walked quickly off the ice, sorry that I had scared her. By the time I got back into the house and over to the windows she was back with two loyal companions sitting on the ice but by then the swans had taken over the corn I dumped for her.
I guess I am going to have to leave it to her to come up and eat.
I have an injured flightless goose dragging a wing as she walks the ice on the pond. She flew in and out several times when she first drew our attention with her obvious wing injury. Apparently flying only made it worse. She has not left for weeks now. The opportunity for functional healing looks less likely over time.
On nights like tonight when all the other geese leave she is still here - but she is not alone. One or two family members stay to spend the night with her. One looks large enough to be a gander; maybe a son or maybe her mate? As the migrant geese clear out in a few weeks it will be interesting to watch how Old Split Tail and White Brow treat this grounded family and how the family members respond. If one of her companions is her gander we will be able to tell that immediately when territorial squabbles break out. At best spring will not be easy for the injured bird but then neither was the winter.
Of the two geese on the ice with her tonight, one did not take flight as I walked the fence at dusk to make sure no geese or swans were grounded and walking the wire trying to get back into the pond. The other bird did take to the air but then circled a few times and came back in as darkness fell.
I remember shooting some Snow Geese in an small family flock years ago and the wounded birds on the water cried out in such painful panic that the rest of the family came back in to become part of my daily bag. That was back in the late 60's when the fall flocks of Snows over the prairie north of town were more common than Canadas and the numbers of the snows were growing. Later they would not so mysteriously disappear. The real mystery was why no one cared, at least to me it was a mystery and it continues to be, but less so over time. More and more it is just plain sad.
State wildlife biologists and hunters have their favorite species. Years ago retired DNR waterfowl biologist Guy Zenner said he would not care if the last Snow Goose to fly down the Upper Mississippi was shot by a hunter empowered by an extended open season and a twenty bird bag limit. Nothing like that would every be said by him about Mallard Ducks whose family life fails to inspire.
Yes, that morning I killed the entire family of Snows and yes, it was a form of entertainment at the time. I did not need the meat, I needed to kill something and to strutt a bit about doing it. However, unlike the safe video violence of today that only messes with the mind of the operator the testimony of the life and death of the geese and my part in it had a powerful impact on me. The victims were real and they have become progressively more real to me over time.
Later my folks would divorce, and I wondered then and I wonder now, what is there about the love and the suffering of the geese that is more or less than our own?
Old Split Tail and his Lady Love (pair of Canada Geese) are standing on the deck rail again this afternoon. Their daughter from last year is with them, apparently paying attention and picking up some pointers on nest selection or perhaps simply enjoying the perch of her special status. Most everytime Old Split Tail lets out a hoarse drawl Love responds with a couple of clucks. The young Gal only listens. If a stange goose were to land on the rail Old Split Tail would immediately spring into action but what ever he is saying seems to be sufficient to insure that does not happen. In a few weeks he will being doing his best to clear the pond with the exception of White Brow and his mate.
The snow is curling off the metal roof on out over their nest box. The box is back under the eve but if one of the geese were to be standing on the deck next to it they could get clobbered when it lets go. I will trim the curl as soon as the visitors leave. A chunk just now broke loose and smashed into the deck rail on its way down. That sufficed to flush the youngster but the pair are holding their ground and surveying the situation.
For the second day in a row, this morning I heard a Cardinal singing.
Today the geese are arriving in larger flocks of 15 to 30 birds. We must have at least 600 as of 6:40.The only thing I can figure is the supplemental feeding that we do has left alot of geese still a bit hungry and the food in the fields is covered up with over 6 inches of the the white stuff so they are coming in early to be first in line to tank up.
The cardinals have been flocking to the ground beneath the feeders as of late. They are too nervous for me to count, bouncing around on the ground and coming and going lickety-split. The other day Joy and Riggs counted 50. I get too confused to continue counting, unable to determine who I have counted and who not, by the time I get to 25.
The Purple Finches and the Gold Finches have also been arriving in flocks.
Yesterday Steph mentioned briefly in the News that I do not believe we are getting the conservation bang for the buck that we need from the Conservation Board. Such stuff as excessive vehicle expenses, a bridge study, and yet another shower have all trumped expenditures for things like land aquistion, conservation easements, food plots, water quality monitoring and programs to identify and protect threatened and endangered species in our parks.
I hear too now about future plans to put more cabins in the park to be hooked up to the septic tank that was put in place to serve a one hole out house with a shower stall. It is going to look like a low rent version of a housing development before long.
We spent 40K to replace a 4 holer with a urinal with a unisex single occupancy one holer with a urinal. I have yet to see a line at the shower but there is a line now at the one holer during those times when the forth grade classes come to visit the park in the spring. But please, no more bathrooms, just better scheduling of the breaks perhaps. Unlike many of us old folks, the kids can hold it, even in the morning.
We are being asked now to fund the Iowa Water and Land Legacy Trust fund and I think We should however I also think we will need to watch it like a hawk. People are selfish by nature and that is why we need the fund and that is why upfront we must demand that our money is spent in the main for conservation purposes and then we must keep watch.
2/27/2013 THE MORNING COUNT
The average size of the flocks coming in this morning was around 9 geese and there have been over100 flocks. The small flocks make it easy to keep an accurate count. As of 9:10 we have yet to see the banded geese from Minnesota and we have tallied 949 visitors.
I am feeling pretty good about yesterdays estimate of 1000 visitors. This may seem like a lot of geese but keep in mind these birds will spread out to cover a lot of territory. It is over 500 miles to Tamarac refuge and another couple hundred to Delta Marsh and this across some of the best nesting country Minnesota has to offer. Put White Earth Minnesota in the center on Google Maps and then zoom in and out and scout around a bit to see what I mean.
It is 9:30 now and the visitor count is 1062. We are still watching for Minnie and... yes, there she is. On the bank already too. We must have missed her collar when she first came in.
1108 geese as of 9:55 and they are all staying put so far. Some times the early arrivals will catch a bite to eat and then take off. So far this morning they are content to sit down and tuck-in on the ice, which still covers over half the pond.
Joy said enough counting geese. The total at noon, 1212.
Iowa's Water and Land Legacy
The Senate bill for full funding of the Iowa Water and Land Legacy Trust Fund passed out of the sub-committee this morning. It is on its way now to the full Senate Natural Resources Committee.
Minnie (banded/collared Canada Goose from Minnesota) appears to be Mother Goose. With her is her Gander Sota (why not) and three goslings. All five birds are wearing leg bands and feeding together in a group with Sota who maintains their space and apparent status among the flock. Nobody pushes him around. Make that nobody unless it is a swan. If bad roads cancel our trip to Iowa City tomorrow maybe we can get a good count on arrivals. We have hundreds of geese of a morning but how far are we pushing or pulling 1000.....? It would be fun to know.
Swans: Lady and the Old Man showed up for the evening feeding. The 3 Red Heads and the Family of Six and Teddy are apparently all spending the night with Buddy.
SIGN THE PETITION NOW FOR FULL FUNDING OF THE IOWA NATURAL RESOURCES TRUST FUND. Iowa's Water and Land Legacy
804A is on the pond with family members again today.
On Google Maps I started with Mt. Pleasant and went from there to the Tamarac Refuge up by White Earth and from there to Delta Marsh on the southern end of lake Manitoba where geese had come to visit us in prior years. Laying a straight edge on my computer screen the points could hardly match up any better.
They have a successful nesting population of Trumpeters on the refuge. What are the chances that the Family of Six swans, on the pond again today, may have made the same trip? I see the Three Red Headed swans (see 2/21) and Teddy and Buddy but the Old Man and Lady are either hiding in the cove or I need to take a walk.
http://www.fws.gov/refuge/Tamarac/map.html This gives us a map of where Canada Goose Minnie (804A) spends her summers. I hesitate to call it her home since migratory birds have a home range that extends from one end of their travels to another. Notice the town of White Earth is just to the northwest of the refuge.
And this link gives us a close up of her nesting area.
The location of this bird (804A)from Minnesota is inline with the location in Canada where previous banded birds spotted at the home pond were banded (Delta Marsh, South end of Lake Manitoba. It is beginning to look like a travel way? :-) It will be interesting to see if the collared bird was reported at other locations on its way here. I have sent an e-mail to the White Earth Reservation to see what I can learn. Do a Google Map and scout the path and the surrounding areas. Great country.
2/23/2013 Update 2/25/2013
10 Trumpeter Swans on the pond this morning
The Family of Six, Buddy Teddy, The Old Man and his Lady.
As of late yesterday after noon there were hundreds of Canda Geese on the river between Oakland and Faulkners, an even larger mixed flock of Canadas and White Fronts on the Winfield Ave borrow pit which, with the help of the geese continues to have a patch of open water.
More info on the banded goose.
Band Number: 1038-74509 Collar: 804A
Location: TULABY LAKE, 15 E WAUBUN , MAHNOMEN COUNTY, MINNESOTA, USA
(COORDINATES: LAT: 47.16278; LON: -95.61111 )
COUNCIL - DOUGLAS E MCARTHUR
WHITE EARTH RESERVATION TRIBAL
P.O. BOX 495
35500 EAGLE VIEW ROAD
WHITE EARTH MN 56591
There are several banded geese on the pond. The one with a blue neck collar was first banded on Tulaby Lake in north central Minnesota. I can just imagine how tight the grip of winter must still be up there. We have been having difficulty seeing all the didgits on the leg bands so getting this band number might help us figure out some of the others that we have been looking at with the spotting scope. The banded birds are all hanging out together. They must be a family on their winter vacation. We wish them well and hope they have enjoyed their stay and will come back to visit us again next year.
I think all the swaws went out for some exercise today, with the exception of Lady, who has an injured wing and Buddy who spent the day in the front yard. Other wise the Family of Six, the 3 Rusty Heads (see 2/21) the Old Man and Teddy all took to the skies much to our viewing delight. We had over 1000 Canadas a little after 9 this morning and there after they tanked up and took off until we only had a few hundred by dusk. The days are just too long for them to sit still all day no matter how much it looks like winter. Most of the geese came up off the river from the south east this morning instead of from the Oakland/Faulkners area. We saw maybe 300 geese sitting on the river between Oakland and Faulkners this afternoon.
There was what appeared to be a much reduced flock of Canadas and White Fronts on the Winfield Ave borrow pit. However we could see there were geese out feeding in the field to the south east so no good estimate was possible. There were maybe 300 sitting on it when we drove by.
Brent Pond and Joy Lake are both completely frozen and quiet.
Update: Tonight as I fed the swans, throwing the corn into the water along the edge of the pond after the bulk of the geese have gone, I noticed one swan has become particularly comfortable with swimming right up to where I am tossing the corn into the water, even getting splashed occasionally. It's not Buddy any more, not Lady nor the Old Man, no, its Teddy the wild sickly cygnet that I followed up and down the river for days checking on him, worried about his haggard appearance; the cygnet that one day then just happened to drop in out the sky and stay, as his brood mates and "Mom" flew away.
Teddy leaves now occasionally, flying out with the Old Man or on his own and several times we thought, we have seen the last of Teddy, but he is here now and first in line at the Shore Line Diner.
Joy says it is just Teddy's way of saying thank you. I am tempted to muse, that says something more about Joy than it does about Teddy. But then again, how better would a swan say thank you? The geese on the pond, the finches and the cardinals at the feeder, all, thank us by being with us, coming to us, very much like our children and grand children thank us by living out their lives with obvious friendly enthusiasm as we spread the board of our love and support before them. We ask nothing more from them and recieve that without asking and in so doing we find ourselves infected with their thanksgiving in response to which we spontaneously thank them for receiving our offerings.
Thank You for Being here.
When Teddy brings his appetite for living to the shore and recieves our offering with trust and enthusiasm he is indeed saying thank you, as too are we, in every golden kernal of corn we toss upon the water.
2/21/2013 Morning and early afternoon.
9 swans came in this afternoon just after Joy and I got back from Iowa City; The Family of Six and three adults with rusty heads. It took several tries but even the new guys figured it out after four or five passes. One of the parent birds from the Family made it the first try and then kept calling to the others from the ice along the west bank. He acted like he was going to take off and re-join the others when it appeared they were considering going down on the river instead. But then they circled back once more and worked their magic in a moment of still air.
The reddish heads on the new guys comes from working iron rich soils looking for seeds and tubers in the muddy bottom. In shallow water the swans will work the bottom with their feet pumping up a boil of muddy water and then search the bottom of the dished out depression for food and grit to then repeat the process. It is a bit like a submerged gold panning operation I suppose. This habit yields tubers buried deep in the mud in the bottoms of wetlands and in the process uncovers spent lead shot which the swans ingest making them among the most vulnerable of species to lead poisoning.
There have been well over a thousand geese on the Home Pond today since we got back from Iowa City about 1 PM. There were certainly hundreds of geese sitting on the Winfield Avenue Borrow Pit, mostly on the ice, as we went by in the predawn dim before sunrise on our way north this morning. I am told Joy Lake is frozen tight and quiet. We saw 18 Canada Geese grazing along the river bank between Oakland and Faulkners coming home.
I wonder, where will everybody be tomorrow? Will they be able to keep some open water on the Winfield Ave BP? Will we go back to the winter pattern with geese roosting below Oakland on the rocks and on shelves of ice and then coming to visit the Home Pond for breakfast?
It is hard to get good counts on the home pond as the geese continue to be restless coming and going and dreaming of spring. A pair was on the deck again this afternoon eyeing the nest box. They are getting brave now holding their ground on the railing as I stand maybe 8 feet away looking out the glass door.
A Canada Goose with a blue neck collar showed up today. We reported it and wait now to learn more about this bird.
We have a hybrid Canada/Domestic goose on the pond with orange feet and some orange on the bill. This is not all that uncommon as I suppose we have seen a dozen or more over the years.
The white Call Duck continues to be a regular as does the Ring Necked Duck.
Well by the time Joy and I got to the sand pit there was no sign of the swans this morning. We certainly enjoyed their visit and can only hope we made a favorable impression on them as they certainly did on us.
Tally for today.
21 Canadas on Walmart Wetland
Brent Pond: 22 Canadas and 4 Mallards
Winfield Avenue BP. 1000 Canadas, 60 White Fronts, 16 Redheads and 100 Mallards
Joy Lake: 60 Canadas, 70 White Fronts, 90 Mallards and 62 diving ducks, to include at least one pair of Canvasbacks and a couple of Redheads with rest being scaup.
Old Rome Sand Pit: 10 Canadas, 21 Mallards on the water and 65 Canada's in the air
Ideal Sand Pit from the road: 1 Canada, 100 Mallards, 3 Gulls, 60 fly bys
Several large flocks of geese were observed to be on the move and the geese on the home pond are restless. Once again a pair of Canadas have taken their position on the rail on the deck above their nest box.
Up date: 5:20 PM
250 White Fronts joined the swans in the cornfield late this afternoon north of the Old Rome Sand Pit.
25 Canadas have discovered the corn at Joy Lake.
The 23 swans were still on the Old Rome Sand Pit this morning along with over 300 Canadas and about 30 White Fronted Geese. When we got home a flock of thirty White Fronts flew over the Home Pond arriving with some Canadas and then as the Canadas came in the White Fronts turned to go south. Were these geese from Rome? Maybe the White Fronts heard the weather forecast. Teddy continues to enjoy the bed and breakfast of the home pond once again bringing the total to 24 Swans.
There continue to be hundreds of Canadas if not a thousand on the Winfield Ave. Borrow Pit and no geese on the Brent Pond and Joy Lake.
Last night, while watching swans feeding in the field north of the sand pit, I saw 60 turkeys in the river bottom corn field. That is the first time I have seen a large flock of turkeys for several years.
I also ran on to a covey of 10 quail. What a delight that was. I only wish it happened more often. With the exception of those who monitor and maintain populations of pheasant and quail on their property in the county, I would offer that both need a break to be given time to recover. It brings to mind an article I read in the New York Times awhile back lamenting the low population of pheasants in Iowa. The article paints a picture of hunters walking through good habitat for hours and only seeing 2 birds and shooting one of them.
When I hunt morel mushrooms on my place the rule of thumb is to not pick any of the first ten I see and then to leave 10% of all those I find there after. It just makes sense. The hunters did not shot the second pheasant they saw that day not because they were concerned about the low population but because it flushed out of range. We can and must do better than that and I know there are landowner/sportsmen/conservationist in Henry County who are taking good care of their pheasants, quail and turkeys.
Unfortunately we fail to manage public hunting acres as well as these top notch private landowners manage their own land. It makes the case for conservation easements on land instead of an outright purchase. We do not need more public land with unlimited hunting and minimal management, we need more land under the management of the best private conservation land owners
The first order of business in conservation must be maintaining the populations and the diversity of life. When a conservationist/sportsman/landowner is maintaining habitat, feeding in extreme situations as required and then too skimming the cream off the top of nature - not attempting to shoot her heart out - he approaches being a premier predator. When he also limits trophy hunting seeking to maintain in the deer herd the genes he most admires and does the same in the management of forest trees he is over the top. Turning folks loose on public hunting land with a gun is on the order of turning them loose in our parks with a chain saw.
Not everyone needs to be a hunter but everyone does well to appreicate the value of the best conservationist who are.
Of course You do not have to be a hunter to be an awesome conservationist. There are folks who find it is quite enough to watch and feed the birds. Some take to the woods walking with a camera, binoculars or the hand of a grandchild. Others walk alone in silent awe bearing an unspoken prayer of thanksgiving for a world overflowing with the bounty of life and taking home a committment to disciple their consumption as a natural result.
The greatest waste is to have the opportunity to observe and celebrate the life around us and to waste it.
23 Trumpeter Swans on the Old Rome Sand Pit this morning at 6 AM. Approximately 100 Canadas as well
30 Canadas on the river between Oakland and Faulkners, 25 of them packed unto a small island of ice anchored near the shore.
Brent Pond was quite.
Maybe a thousand geese many huddled together in tight groups on the Winfield Ave Borrow Pit making counting, even estimating difficult.
4 Candas and less than 10 Mallards on Joy Lake. We scared off maybe 25 Canadas later in the morning when we fed.
750 Canadas on the Home Pond at 2 PM. Teddy is here too making the total count this AM for migratory Trumpeters on the ground in Henry County, 24. Let me know if I am missing some.
5:30 PM Update: Joy just called from Rome. She has located some more of the swans in the field to the north of the sand pit and reports a flock of maybe a thousand geese there too.
6:00 PM: Rome: Joy reports watching all twenty swans rise up out of the corn field and fly across the road to land on the Old Rome Sand Pit where they immediately began frolicking in the water, dipping, bathing, rolling, flapping and generally having a good time. I see an early AM trip in the offing for tomorrow.
She also checked on the Winfield Avenue Borrow Pit which she discribed as being covered with geese and Joy Lake which was empty.
The geese have left the Home Pond for the night.
7:00 PM: Joy just got home. She said the geese in the field across the road from the Old Rome Sand Pit went north to roost. She also counted even more swans (24? total) but it was getting dark and she was excited.
A Snow Job.
The post and the end of this article is well worth reading. It documents a scientific study that shows arctic foxes cache (bury for future use) the eggs of Snow Geese and Ross Geese at the rate of 2 to 3 thousand per fox per year. I have also talked with biologist up along the west coast of Hudson Bay (an area where some claim Snow Geese are over populated) who have also reported in personal communications that one fox trapper can take something on the order of 200 foxes in a year. So let's do the math. 200 foxes per trapper times 2500 eggs per fox equals 500,000 eggs not being scrambled by foxes per fox trapper.
Now consider that this year I observed among thousands of Canadas only 5 Snow Geese on Joy Lake. Those were the only snows I saw land in Henry County this fall. I am glad to report I also did see a couple of small flocks fly over but nothing two hunters couldn't bag. We had one Ross on the home pond. Also consider that the bag limit on Snow Geese on the Upper Mississippi Flyway is 20 Snow Geese per hunter per trip to the freezer.
I saw one Ross Goose this fall. These little geese have never in my life time been abundant on the upper Mississippi. They are a smaller version of the Snow Geese and the bag limit on them is also 20 per hunter. Why? Because hunters can't tell them apart from the Snow Geese. When we first started introducing Trumpeters Swans, Ducks Unlimited was opposed to the idea because they knew their hunters would not be able to tell swans from Snow Geese either. Turns out they were right and the proof hangs from the ceiling in the Nature Center at Oakland Mills. Of course anyone who wants to tell them apart can.
When I was a kid the peak population on one day for Snow Geese on the Port Louisa Refuge up by Lake Odessa was repeatedly well over 5000. Since that time the peak population as fallen into the single didgits. No scientific research was done to decisively determine what happened. Snow drifts, sooo apparently the biologists figured the Snow Geese had drifted too - to the west.
There is no question the entire population of Snow Geese flying down the Mississippi in the fall could have drifted across Canada and disappeared into the great flocks to the west that come down the Missouri River and on west but there is no banding evidence that they did.
There are just some facts on the ground that indicate that human behavior has been gravely mismanaged and therefore the tradition of the Fall Flocks of Snow Geese flying down the Upper Mississippi is being extirpated.
Another factor is that there are significantly more hunters per acre of wetland in the east than in the west. More hunters and precious few geese with a ridiculous bag limit is the receipe for the disaster that is happening.
So why have the fall flocks of Snow Geese been ignored? The DNR has an aversion to setting limits below what the USFWS allows for birds that do not nest in Iowa. A DNR waterfowl biologist I spoke with assured me that if the last pair of Snow Geese to ever fly down the Upper Mississippi in the fall are shot by a hunter with a bag limit of 20 he couldn't care less. If someone wants to save those birds let the USFWS do it.
The trouble is the USFWS does not recognize the Upper Mississippi Flyway as a seperate population for Snow Geese and since there are too many white geese nesting in Canada and too many foxes being trapped so the geese are no longer confined to the islands but are reproducing abundantly in the sedge meadows along the lakes the USFWS has pulled out all the stops giving the goose hunters in the west an opportunity to slaughter the birds on a scale similar to what the market hunters indulged in years ago.
Keep in mind I am saying the fall migration of Snow Geese on the Upper Mississippi is in peril.
As for the goose hunters, I have yet to talk to one who would not shot a snow goose during the fall season if they had the chance.
The conservation of the fall migration of the Snow Geese does not fall on the conscience of the hunter nor the DNR nor the USFWS nor the public who has been snowed by those listed above. The conservation of the tradition of the Fall Flocks of Snow Geese, that used to out number Canada Geese at Port Louisa, has fallen through the cracks.
Now for the good news, spring fever, if not spring itself, is upon us and there may be thousands of Snow Geese pass our way over the next couple of months. These will in the main be birds that migrated down the Missour and further west last fall and have then looped around to come up the Mississipp,i some deep into Iowa, before turning west.
Here's hopin' we ge a chance to see in the spring a migration the likes of which we should be seeing in the fall.
The post below has some great pictures too.
If the Snow Geese are over populated in some areas then let's start with closing the trapping season on the Artic Foxes in those areas and protecting the nesting and migratory traditions both in the north and the south that have a tendency to disperse rather than to consentrate the Snow Geese. With those measures in place, constant monitoring and adjustments should suffice to control human behavior to the benefit of the Arctic Ecosystem and thus to the benefit of the geese and all the rest of us who have a vested interest in it.
If You are a hunter consider the responsibility You have on the personal level for the conservation of waterfowl and pheasant and quail and turkeys and deer and all the species You hunt for that matter. When ever You go hunting, hunt like You are the wildlife manager entrusted with optimizing the population of the species You are hunting on the area where You are doing the hunting, because in fact, that is just what You are.
We can have an awesome population of waterfowl winter in this area arriving after the crops are out and leaving before they are put in, if We are willing to consider the experience We are creating for the birds while they are here. It is up toYou, are You going to scare them away or thoughtfully create an environment they will want to return to year after year.
What will it be?
2/15/2013 8:00 AM
Just got a call from grandson Riggs. He reports there are twenty Trumpeter Swans (well swans any way) on the Old Rome Sand Pit. Joy and I are on our way to check it out.
Just got home. The swans were gone by the time we got there. We cruised the neighborhood and talked to folks who reported seeing twenty swans in the area on Tuesday. Looping back to the sand pit we saw some patches of white off in the corn field across the road to the north. With the binocs we were able to make out eight swans split up in pairs. All the swans appeared to be bright pure white adults. We then counted 236 Canada Geese on the Old Rome Sand Pit.
Back to the by-pass borrow pits, the Brent Pond was open but no waterfowl were observed there this morning.
The Winfield Avenue borrow pit had over 1200 Canadas, 12 White Fronted Geese and two Canvasbacks.
Joy Lake held 5 Canada Geese and 1 Mallard.
We drove the river road at Oakland and did not see any waterfowl.
340 Canadas are on the home pond. (still feeding)
When we first stopped at the Winfield borrow pit right a thousand of the geese were spread out in the corn stubble to the east in a long flock running from north to south. It made counting easy. They all decided to take flight at once moving directly from the cornfield to the water below. That display made up for missing the swans at Rome.....well almost anyway.
8:30 AM Making the rounds this morning I observed over 500 geese on the Winfield Avenue borrow pit and on Joy Lake I saw 8 geese along with 10 Canvasbacks. There were also 10 geese on the Walmart Wetland. All geese were large Canadas.
Grandson Riggs reported 10 mature Trumpeter Swans on the Old Rome Sand Pit late yesterday afternoon.
Joy needed to spend the night in Iowa City. Apparently Buddy missed her. When I got up this morning to feed he was nowhere to be seen. On my way down to feed the horses in the river bottom I decided to walk the fence around the pond to see if I could find him. As it turned out I did not have far to walk. By the time I was half way down the drive I spotted him, over the fence, behind the truck, sitting in the middle of the gravel road, there was Buddy.
I opened the gate and made a display of my ability to walk through the opening. He pretty much ignored me. So I hopped in the truck and drove it up the hill to the house thinking Buddy would follow. If Joy had been in the truck there is no question he would have but he obviously was not interested in following me anywhere. So I went back down and grabbed the bicycle out of the fence (the one I use to go fly/riding with Amy De Goose) and keeping it between Buddy and I, I began making half circles around him, seeking to work him through the gate. Nothing doing.
If Joy had been there all I would have to do is to give Joy a hung and then hurry away and he would follow me anywhere, wings spread and head high, seeking to give me a thrashing. But seeing Joy did not come home with me last night and not seeing her about on her usual early morning rounds this morning he had apparently decided she flew off and there was nothing left to fight with me about. So after avoiding my attempts to herd him through the gate a couple of times he just took off and flew down to land in the field.
So I went on about my chores and then got ready to go get Joy. As I left I checked on Buddy and he was still there, sitting in a grass waterway. If he would just stay put until I got back with Joy I knew she could call him in. But with hundreds of geese coming and going from the pond on a warm day and a gentle south breeze offering an easy lift off to parts unknown but a complicating tail wind for landing back on the pond, I figured Buddy might end up on the river somewhere.
Joy was dressed and all ready to go home by the time I got to the hospital. She had the nurses and their aides buzzying about Buddy by the time I arrived. I had called ahead and she had been busy since I hung up making sure everyone knew she was ready to check out and go home to rescue her swan.
On the way home we enjoyed watching the Iowa City geese getting their exercise. The sand pit behind the bowling alley completely frozen over now, they were rising up off the Iowa River. Beautiful!
As our journey home was coming to a close we slowed to a crawl and began scanning the river bottom for Buddy. Patches of snow made him difficult to locate. Then Joy piped up in excitement, there his is. I could not believe the confidence in her voice as there was no white patch in the fields that looked decisively like a swan to me. I began a rapid scan of the field disappointed that I was not the first one to spot him. It turned out there was a good reason. Buddy was not in the field but on the other side of the road standing in the neighbor's yard.
I stopped the truck and Joy got out to greet Buddy. He spread is wings, held his head high and trumpeted his delight with seeing her. Together they walked up the drive both of them obviously happy they were together again.
We now have two of Mom's cygnets on the pond, Tedgy and Ted. Yesterday I saw Mom with her one remaining cygnet in tow, swimming along not far behind the Family of Six on the river at Faulkners.
Over a thousand geese came in for breakfast early but only 350 stayed for dinner and by 2:30 this afternoon there were less than 100 left as the temperature topped 45 degrees. Joy enjoys watching the little Ring Necked Duck color up.
We have seen some Snow Geese and a Ross Goose this year but we rarely mention them as hunters and the DNR have a "default management plan" in place to extirpate the migratory tradition of the fall flights of Snow Geese that used to fly down the Upper Mississippi when I was a kid. That is another good reason for the Joy Lake Refuge and a thousand more just like it to pop up but so far we have had very limited opportunities to help out the Snows.
300 on the Home Pond
500 on Winfield Ave. Borrow Pit.
12 on Joy Lake
200 on the Old Rome Sand Pit.
0 on the river between Oakland and Faulkners
What with the high temp near 60 on Tuesday everybody got restless. The population of geese on the pond dropped from well over a thousand to just over 200. As the temperature dropped back to even a bit below normal their numbers have quickly built back up again. With the rain the river came up several inches removing ice shelves and covering the sand and rock bars forcing the birds to find alternate roosting locations. I have been down with a bug but plan to do some better scouting tomorrow. At the home location travel lanes appear to be much the same. The other evening I watched flocks passing over Oakland heading on to the west, northwest.
Teddy (the sickly juvenile swan that I kept watching on the river as he lagged behind Mom and his two siblings before he dropped in at the home pond) appears to be settled in. Even during the warm spell he set tight. He is acting and looking much better now, often standing on one leg while actively preening. I am still feeding him (and any other over nighters) along the shore in the early evening so they do not have to compete with the geese when they come back for breakfast in the morning.
As to what was ailing him, it is hard to tell. Since one of the parent birds is missing the odds are stacked that either lead poisoning or a hunter are to blame but statistics only establish probabilities, not facts. Joy finds it amazing that Mom brought him by and he dropped in alone to stay until he feels well enough to leave. Having raised and released birds that we have so thoroughly enjoyed it is easy to think there may be connections where there are none. What ever the cluster of causes, he is here and he is getting better and that is what matters. It is nice now that I do not have to keep scouting the river to be sure he is still up and about, which is much more difficult when the ice is out. I have not located the rest of his fam for serveral days.
The Old Man went for a fly and ended up grounded on the wrong side of the fence when he came back. The old boy must have lost his touch as he has not flown for weeks. I worked him around to a "crossing" at the north end of the pond and he figured out how to get over the low fencing there all by himself. What with the drop in the temperature his flush of spring fever has subsided and he has stopped pacing the inside of fence seeking to find a way to get his flightless Lady up to their wetland nesting area. It was his Lady's trumpeting and his reply from an unusually distant location that called our attention to him being outside the enclosure. Swans working the fence attempting to get back in are at risk from predators, especially young birds and especially from coyotes. Buddy is a tough guy but a coyote working him against the fence at night would not be good so it was good she kept up the call and we heard his reply.
Visits from the Family of Six Trumpeters continue to be a regular occurance and they are spending the night again tonight.
The lone Ring Necked Duck is still showing up on a daily basis.
Buddy, the young free flying bachelor swan who just refuses to leave, was sitting up against the back door this morning with his feet tucked well up into his feathers. Beads of ice clinging to his feathers gave further evidence he wanted to come in for a warm visit. As I have mentioned before, he thinks the world of Joy (can't fault him there) and that puts me on his hit list. I still like him, but he has taught me very well not to trust him. So I called up the steps to Joy to encourage her to see if Buddy wanted to come in and warm up. As soon as she opened the sliding glass door he quickly accepted her invitation.
The geese have been coming in as usual this morning inspite of the fact that the open water keeps getting smaller. 75% of the geese are now sitting on the ice. This helps to demonstate the dynamics of their priorities. It seems safety first, food second and open water third but each one certainly plays a part. Fail to meet these in a fashion meaningful to the geese and they will be looking for somewhere else to go.
The story below demonstates what happens when for one reason or the other waterfowl managers fail to pay adequate attention to the needs of the birds. The birds at the fairgrounds tell the story while talk of global warming provides the cover.
Some (late migrating?) Canada Geese stopped on the river south of the Home Pond. They took off a little after 5 and headed W-SW. I am guessing there were 400 of them. They left in flocks of a hundred or more. ( Update: The geese sitting on the sand pit behind the bowling alley as you come into Iowa City on the first exit that goes past the air port have been thinning out as the open water keeps getting smaller. However many thousands there were there are now several thousand less. I see some, and I suspect many more, have gone to sit on open water in the Iowa River. I wonder if the flocks mentioned above came from there. They certainly appeared to be just passing through.)
There were several hundred geese sitting in the riffle at Oakland when Joy and I came by on the way home late this afternoon. They blended with the rocks so well it was hard to estimate their numbers. Suffice it to say, several hundred but I would not argue with someone who ran the count up to a thousand or more.
I was able to get a better count on geese leaving the Home Pond with flights starting right a 5pm and going on till it was nearly dark. Total count was 2100 with a significant % of them heading down the river. At first they would veer off to the SE but then some would swing around and head up river, and vice versa. Therefore while I am comfortable with the total, the % of birds going down river was caught better in the numbers for the 22nd.
Amy De Goose sat with me at the bottom of the drive way as I counted the geese this afternoon. She likes to get out and graze the grass in the ditch while I count; it tastes so much better than what grows in the yard. She often sits by the gate across the drive waiting for us to come home. She could fly over it but she knows she is not supposed to and doesn't (so far and then with one exception).
We took Amy to Fairfield last fall to meet with some school children. We put her behind a two foot high fence of inch mesh wire. The kids could step over it and Amy could have flown over it and gone to the pond but everyone behaved very well and stayed on their side of the fence. This allowed the kids to feed Amy dandelions over the top. Amy will not let a dandelion bloom in our driveway. Maybe there is a business opportunity there.
I can put Amy on a low stool with towels spread about and she will sit there all night and into the morning. We got this idea from a little Nene Goose (from Hawaii) we had years ago who decided, all by herself, to sit on a stool beside an ornamental fire place. She would also come to the door at night asking to be let in so she could take her place. A Lesser White Fronted goose then decided to join her for a while. It was fun while it lasted. Amy however, is more like a kid who is never quite ready for bed but once I put her on the stool she stays put.
Amy likes to fly along with me when I am riding on the bicycle but she seems hesitant of the call of the wild and will not join with other geese in the air. She also avoids striking up a conversation with them. She does not like to fly far by herself. Still tonight, after watching the big show she was obviously hyped-up and so as I walked up the drive she hung back for a while and then took off and flew 10 feet over my head to land 50 feet on up the hill. I am sure there was a message in that gesture but I am not at all sure what it was. I have been studying Canada Goose language for years but I am still a novice. I know some times they speak the language of family, and sometimes the language of friendship and some times the language of welcome and so on. But I am also sure they think that for the most part I only babble.
As we (Amy and I ) were geese watching three Trumpeter Swans also flew by. Since Teddy (see 1/22 below) is on the pond again now I figured it was Mom and Teddys two brood mates flying by but it was too dark to do anything more than count them.
I caused a bit of a stir recently when I saw the family of six swans fly into a section of the river bottom and then later saw the family of four for the first time (for me) at Oakland. I figured something had happened to one adult and one cygnet. And so began a story I will share when the last chapter is finished.
The geese were slow to start moving this morning and then broke loose in large flocks. Their route from Oakland to the home pond once again was centered pretty well over the bottleneck at Faulkners. Flocks of 40 to 100 geese filled up the pond in a hurry and made accurate counting too difficult and sloppy to be of much value. Looks like well over a thousand.
One Great Blue Heron was standing in shallow water among the geese at Oakland. I slowed down too much for his comfort and he took off heading down river.
I did not see any swans between Oakland and Faulkner's. However when I got home the family of 6 were on the pond along with Teddy and Buddy, the Old Man and his Lady. I will watch for Mom and her two cygnets to show up at Oakland later today.
The family of 6 swans left the Home Pond just before noon. A half hour later Joy and I, taking the long way to Iowa City, got to see them fly by Faulkner’s at 12:20. They were heading down river when we got there. We were both surprised they did not settle on the open water up at Oakland.
In the bright noontide sun they all looked bright white making it difficult to pick out the young birds. Since they were heading back in the direction of the Home Pond we pretty much expected them to be back on the pond by the time we got home this afternoon.
The other abbreviated family of three swans, Mom and her brood of two, were still on the river at Oakland. Joy was particularly glad to see them. All 10 free flying Trumpeter Swans wintering in the area were accounted for!
This afternoon we got home just a couple minutes after 5pm and departure flights of geese from the pond were already in progress. We divided the count between geese heading down the river to where ever and those going up the river toward Oakland. A total of 940 geese left the pond in 73 flocks with 670 Canadians in 43 flocks heading toward Oakland and 270 in 30 flocks heading toward Geode or beyond.
Keep in mind that back in the early days when lots of Canada Geese wore leg bands we could readily determine that the birds wintering with us came from as far north as Lake Winnipeg in Manitoba and as far east as Schaumburg Illinois. We are blessed with wintering geese that will be spread out over thousands of square miles of wetlands and lakes in the north to nest come spring.
When most of the geese had left I scouted the pond looking for the family of 6 swans. They have not returned. We will watch for them tomorrow. Teddy (the sickly swan) is still here and what with the geese and the other swan family gone he took a special interest in the late dinner I offered. I was relieved that no trip across the ice with a bucket of corn in the dark of night was necessary.
There continues to be 10 swans on the pond this morning. One of them is a wild cygnet that has been in a weaken condition for over two weeks now. He belongs to a family of 4 consisting of 3 cygnets and one parent I call Mom. Mom and two of the cygnets were on shallow open water just below the Oakland riffle bottom feeding this morning. Hopefully they will not ingest any lead sinkers.
The other cygnet, now named Teddy, after Teddy Roosevelt who too had a sickly childhood, is on the home pond tighly tucked in on the ice. He has not moved all morning. I spread corn on the ice and along the edge of open water last night seeking to make sure he got an opportunity to get something to eat. We could see swans moving around in the dark during the night but we could not be sure if Teddy was finding food. Tonight I will make several more corn piles on the ice if I can do so without frightening the other swans who spent the night again last night.
During the day there is considerable jabbing that goes on as both the geese and swans seek to maintain their space while feeding. Teddy is not up to holding his own in that environment.
Over the last couple of weeks I have walked along the edge ice of the river several times trying to keep track of Teddy. I would first see Mom and the rest of the fam but he would be nowhere in sight. It would be great if he stays with us now until he gets well. However, if I must go back to walking the ice at least it will be easier now as it thickens up.
The geese came down from Oakland to the Home Pond to feed again this morning. There are probably 6 or 7 hundred here now. As the river ice continues to close the geese and swans are bunching up at Oakland creating a great opportunity to stop by and appreciate them. On the way home from Oakland this morning I looked off to the right and saw there was a flock of seven flying over the river along side me. I had to speed up to thirty five to keep up with them and as we approached Faulkner's access I sped up to forty but could no longer keep up with them. By the time I was up the hill and to the right they were half way through the bottleneck. I stopped to watch as they flew on closing in on the Home Pond.
Earlier on the way to Oakland I stopped on the Hickory Ave dirt to watch as flock after flock winged their way across the river bottom heading for a breakfast of whole kernal corn to fill their bellies and keep them warm. The dirt road thawed just enough for someone to rut it up and now it might as well be a path over bolders.