by local birdwatchers and wildlife photographers, and we see many area users during the spring and fall. We also attract an interesting assortment of year-round birds, including sandhill cranes and bald eagles that have successfully reproduced on our area. Area users often report their sightings to CACHE (Conservation Area Checklist), an online database run by The Audubon Society of Missouri where wildlife professionals and the public can access information for conservation areas statewide (to learn more about CACHE, visit www.mobirds.org). This database can be a useful source of information on the timing of migration events from year to year.Local organizations like the Missouri River Bird Observatory and the Columbia Audubon Society have helped us by assisting with bird counts, leading groups of students on bird watching trips, monitoring purple martin houses for nesting activity, and observing bird use of habitat that has been impacted by a management action.
Columbia Wastewater Eagle Bluffs CA is unique amongst our wetland areas due to its partnership with the City of Columbia. Wastewater in Columbia initially is treated at the City of Columbia Regional Waste Water Treatment Plant (CRWWTP). This is a mechanical waste-water treatment facility that provides primary and secondary treatment of waste water. The effluent from the CRWWTP is then discharged to the City’s Wetland Treatment Units. These facilities provide additional secondary treatment to the effluent utilizing cattails to remove nutrients from the waste water. Once it has passed through the constructed wetland system, the water is sent to Eagle Bluffs CA for use in wetland management. This invaluable resource accomplishes multiple goals, it is an efficient use of water for both entities — MDC gets water at no cost, and the City turns a byproduct into a tool for wetland management that has paid benefits to the local community hundreds of times over. Because of this water, we are able to moist-soil manage the area during the summer months without running our pumps, improving the value of the wetlands for wildlife dramatically while saving the Department the cost of higher electric bills.
Waterfowl hunting season is one of the busiest times of the year on a wetland area. For 59 days, our areas are almost exclusively used by waterfowl hunters as North American waterfowl populations complete annual migrations to their wintering grounds. Hunters try their luck at one of our intensively managed areas in a lottery-style draw system. Area staff start their days as early as 2 a.m. to be prepared for prospective waterfowl hunters.
Many of our waterfowl positions are “wade and shoot,” and have shallow water so hunters who don’t own a boat can still find opportunities to hunt. Prior to duck season, we make sure to create areas free of vegetation for wade and shoot hunters, as well as provide open water for migrating ducks to land. We also provide duck hunting blinds for disabled and nondisabled hunters alike, and maintain them each year for use. This includes repairing any damage, removing pests like wasps and hornets, and disguising the blinds using grass mats and tree limbs.
Our partner organizations are also busy during duck season. Delta Waterfowl recently helped bring area youths to our 2012 youth hunt weekend. Missouri Waterfowl Association has had a long-standing partnership with the Department to provide waders for youth hunters to borrow at many of our intensively managed wetland areas. Many of the Department’s wetland areas have some wetland habitat that has been restored by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and are supported financially to assist with the cost of pumping during duck season.
We run weekly duck surveys either by ground or by air to provide hunters with an estimate of our duck population, as well as contributing to nationwide surveys like the mallard migration network (visit mdc.mo.gov/node/2614 to learn more). These numbers help hunters decide which areas to hunt, and provide researchers and managers with information about migration and duck harvest numbers (for more information on waterfowl hunting on conservation areas, visit mdc.mo.gov/node/303).
Throughout the hunting season we are still watching our water levels and pumping activities closely, focusing on the preferred feeding depths of different waterfowl and wildlife species.
There are many moving parts and changing priorities for wetland managers. Shifting patterns of area use, weather, rainfall, and hydrology add to the challenge. Our goal remains the same, however; we manage a much-reduced resource to provide the best possible habitat conditions and make our areas as user-friendly for as many people as possible. The instruction manual for wetland management gets rewritten each year, but that’s part of what makes the job fun.