GameKeepers Emag

Gamekeepers Winter 2015

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Mississippi Flyway might include managing shrubby habitat. If your property has large sections of flooded shrubs such as swamp mallow, willow thickets or best of all a button bush area, these can be an important component of late winter and early spring waterfowl. One point though; you do not want all of your impoundments in this condition. But if you have the acres, a small section of the flooded shrub habitat will attract late season birds such as mallards. As mallards are pairing, they tend to hang out by them- selves with the drake working overtime to make sure no other suitors are around the hen. Typically a nice log for the pair to sit on makes shrubby habitat a favorite haunt. Older birds and those in prime condition typically pair earlier and in turn will be the first to arrive on the breeding grounds in the Prairie Pothole Region. Well-conditioned birds year after year will produce the largest broods and with many hens and even drake mallards living many years, the payoff comes when they return to productive habitat they encountered along the flyway. 146 Imprinting Waterfowl after the Season continued Green-tree reservoirs, or what are referred to as a GTR, are another important spring habitat. Take note as this is one habitat to pay attention to. Draining of GTRs should occur well before leaf out in order to maintain the health of the trees. As is true in the fall, GTRs with a high oak com- ponent will benefit spring migrants but by February most of the acorns in the GTR have been consumed or deteriorated. However, no need to worry since spring is a time when waterfowl tend to increase their intake of insects. Snails abound and many insects such as dragonflies that laid their eggs on dried wetland soils or vegetation the previous sum- mer are now hatching in the flooded leaf litter. Even when the water has a layer of ice, the eggs will continue hatching and larvae are active. Small beetles and dragonfly larvae are all at home and active in cold water and as temperatures rise into the 50 degree range the insect hatch will also increase. With all this available food in spring, waterfowl impound- ments birds feeding on this site will have a smorgasbord of high protein insect larvae, many of which contain over 50- 60% protein, an essential component for reproduction. In addition to insects, waterfowl will find seeds from plants favoring aquatic environments; barnyard grass, Penn- sylvania Smartweed and many other species that are highly nutritious for waterfowl. In a nice mix like this you are basi- cally providing the steak and potatoes for migration. Insects are the protein (steak) and many moist soil plants are pro- viding both protein and carbohydrates. Moist soil impoundment habitat can typically be flooded longer into the spring than other habitats. Here you are Mallards begin pair bonding during late winter prior to spring migration. Even when the water has a layer of ice, the insect eggs will continue hatching and larvae are active. © Richard Hines © Richard Hines

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