Wildlife Wednesday: Who's Wading for Waterfowl?

Sarah Topp Sarah Topp
Last weekend, MUCC’s On the Ground event took place on the water at one of Michigan’s seven Wetland Wonders, the Pointe Mouillee State Game Area. Zach Cooley, the DNR wildlife biologist for the area, coordinated with Drew YoungeDyke and me to host an OTG volunteer event for mallard duck nesting structure restoration. A great turnout of many new and some returning volunteers dedicated their Saturday to waterfowl.
Volunteers Jay Al-Qalyuby and Paul Wise finish putting up a new mallard duck nesting structure Volunteers Jay Al-Qalyuby and Paul Wise finish putting up a new mallard duck nesting structure
A brisk morning on Lake Erie with temperatures below freezing didn’t faze our volunteers.  The group was still prepared to get in the water to improve and install mallard nesting structures.  I hadn’t seen these structures before, so it was a great learning experience for me! The mallard nesting structure consists of a double layered, wire tube with straw stuffed between the two layers; it’s about 4ft in length and 1.5ft in diameter. These straw-stuffed wire tubes are then secured to a tall, metal tripod that is positioned deep into the muck; so that the tube is just a couple feet above the water.
As a group, we completed maintenance on twenty mallard nesting structures and placed ten new structures. We split up into three crews in boats and two crews on foot. The three boat crews covered the Vermet, Humphries, and Long Pond Units while the two foot crews maintained and replaced wood duck boxes in the Humphries, Lautenschlager, and Walpatich Units.
The Urban Redneck Archery crew installs a new wood duck box The Urban Redneck Archery crew installs a new wood duck box
Ten wood duck boxes were relocated and twenty more were cleaned out and filled with wood chips. Also in the Vermet Unit, cattail seed heads that were collected over the winter by some Pointe Mouillee trappers were spread to encourage re-vegetation after spraying pesticides for phragmites. Consisting of 4,040 acres, Pointe Mouillee SGA is one of the largest freshwater marsh restoration projects in the world. We improved waterfowl habitat for a total of 2,085 acres; that’s half of the game area!
Each spring, it takes Zach and the seasonal technician two days to do the work our volunteers did.  This was the first time the game area’s DNR had recruited volunteers to help with the nesting structure maintenance. Zach stated “We are very happy with the turnout and the amount of work we got done in 3 hours.” I couldn’t agree more; a lot of work was done in a short amount of time by these people so eager to help out.
I continue to be amazed by the drive each person has to get outside and give back to their public lands. Returning volunteer George Fenlin attended for his third OTG event just this year! Adam Schroeder and Dustin Trotter volunteered again and brought their buddy, Will Emeigh, further promoting Urban Redneck Archery and a chance to scout out some great bowfishing and waterfowl locations.  Paul Berger and his twin teens, Gabrielle and David, have had a lot of success hunting waterfowl in the area and took this opportunity to give back.
Paul, Gabrielle, and David Berger add straw to an existing structure Paul, Gabrielle, and David Berger add straw to improve an existing structure
Besides, I can’t imagine any better way to spend my Saturdays. The sun was brightly illuminating each wave of the brackish marsh water; a perfect day to be out on the water.  I was outright captivated by the numbers of waterfowl flocking, fleeing, and flying around us as we coasted through the channels from one structure to the next.  Geese took off in one direction, mallard ducks slapped their feet fast across the surface of the water and took off in another, then mergansers, mute swans, canvasbacks, and so many more; my eyes were fixated. They were uncountable! That’s just how they should be, innumerous; and this event will help to keep them that way until next spring.

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