This year we have continued to trap and band wood ducks at Duck Creek to help with efforts to monitor the breeding population of wood ducks on our managed wetland areas. Peter Blums, a retired waterfowl biologist who has banded hooded mergansers and wood ducks at Duck Creek for the past 16 years, continues to be an integral part of our local banding effort.
In the spring Peter focused on the wood duck boxes, determining when the broods will hatch and then banding them before they leave the nest box. He uses special bands that allow the hatchlings to grow into them. When we receive the band return information at a later date, we can determine exactly where these birds are from and how old they are.
As summer rolls around, the trapping effort switches to capturing birds out in the swamp. In the past this has involved night-lighting by airboat and scooping up the disoriented birds off of the top of the water. Some of these birds are young of the year and have already been banded. Others are birds produced in natural cavities elsewhere in the basin. Another segment of captured birds come from outside Missouri and have just arrived to molt their feathers in the Mingo basin.
This August we are trying an additional approach to capturing birds during this late summer period. We are using swim-in traps. Several bait sites have been prepared and maintained in Pool 1 over the last month. As bird-use has increased we have erected enclosures around the sites and have allowed birds to move in and out of them freely. Over the last few weeks, we’ve begun to set the traps in the afternoons to capture birds that frequent the bait sites over the evening and early morning hours.
This spring Peter banded more than 700 hatchlings. In the last couple weeks we’ve banded an additional 40 juvenile birds and a handful of adults in the swim-in traps. Four more birds were recaptured hatchlings Peter banded earlier this spring. We expect our catch-rate to increase as we progress into August and the main molting period. Even then, the number of birds that we band will only be a fraction of the birds that are currently using Pool 1 and other flood portions of the basin.
Like you, I enjoy having multiple birds in the hand in the fall. However, I also find it equally rewarding to have live birds in the hand during the summer and releasing them, knowing that the information we collect will be helpful in managing the population on down the road.