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A Swiss-Army Knife, the Weather, and Wetlands:

Aug 07, 2014

The other night I sat outside in the shade and enjoyed the cool breeze and pondered the weather, the function of a good multi-tool like a Gerber or Swiss-army knife, and their relation to wetlands. Bear with me for a minute and I'll highlight the linkage between these three potentially unrelated topics.

Fair Weather Report

Overall, I'd have to say this summer's weather has been pretty darn good. Statewide this is reflected in the good to excellent crop conditions for 84% of the state's corn and 76% for the state's soybeans. If we reflect a little about the past couple years, we can't say that this is the norm. In southeast Missouri, during 2011 we had the big flood, followed by drought that extended through 2012. Last summer's weather shifted gears again back to a wet period and then we had one of the coldest winters since the late '80's.

Diversity of Wetlands

With the seasonal ebb and flow of water, wetlands are naturally diverse. During hot, dry summers conditions can get bone dry. Different plants might germinate due to the shift in soil moisture and there might be less aquatic habitat available for fish, frogs, and other water birds. On the flip side, after a hard rain water sprawls out of the ditches and across the flats and depending upon the time of year all sorts of critters can use the flooded conditions. From one year to the next and even one spot to another, in a wetland, conditions may vary.

Embedded in the Renovation

One aspect of the renovations at Duck Creek that we have tried to incorporate has been wetland diversity. Throughout Units A and B we have enhanced the topographic diversity by restoring sloughs across the units. These aren't really large features. They only encompass 8% of the total 1,000 acres, but I think they are kind of cool.

Plant Response

Over the last couple years we've seen them go from bare dirt to shallow channels dotted with floating plants or sloughs skirted with a fringe of lush aquatic vegetation. Some of these species have come from natural germination of seeds in the seed bank or those deposited by foraging and defecating ducks. Other plants were given a head start by being propagated and planted by Department staff. Overall, we've been very pleased with progress the plants have made.

Fish Sampling

These plants point towards another positive. The vertical and horizontal structure provides shade, cover, and food for a host of critters. In my last post, I mentioned all of the bugs that can be seen this summer by slowing down and taking a look. Over the last month, we've taken a closer look in another direction. We wanted to see what kind of fish and amphibians were feasting under the water and between the plants on all of these bugs. After setting out nets overnight and pulling them the next day, we were able to get a snapshot of this underwater community.

Overall, we were able to catch 25 different species of fish using these shallow sloughs. Most were only a couple inches long, but their presence highlights another group of species that is contributing to the overall diversity of these wetlands. Interesting enough, last year we did a similar sampling effort and were able to document two species of conservation concern, the lake chubsucker and flier. This year we were able to document six species of conservation concern, which included bantam sunfish, starhead topminnows, brown bullhead, and pugnose minnow, along with the same two species found last year. Now this doesn't mean that Units A and B are going to be the next location to pull a master angler award winning fish. However, all of these species prefer clear, calm water with extensive aquatic vegetation. These are good indicators that habitat recovering from the wetland construction and that a wide range of species have access to a diversity of habitats.


Now here's my connection to the multi-tool. If you're out camping or working in the field, it is helpful to have a tool that provides a variety of functions. You never know what you might encounter and might need to get the job done. Sometimes you need the pliers, while other times you need the knife. Heck, after lunch it might be good to use the toothpick every now and then. There is no doubt about it, the weather is and will be variable. From one year to the next this will alter wetland conditions. By providing a range of habitats across the area from dry to wet, a variety of species will be able to find what they need during most years. Finding fish in our restored sloughs, which is only a small part of the area, doesn't negatively impact food for fall waterfowl, but adds another function to our wetlands. So in the same way a multi-tool is helpful in handling the uncertainty of field work, wetland habitat diversity helps us manage the unknown of what next year's weather will be.


Looking For Critters
Looking For Critters
Periodic sampling help biologists gain insight on what species are using habitats. Here fisheries and wetland biologists sample fish and amphibians.


Aquatic Community of a Restored Slough
Aquatic Community of a Restored Slough
Restored sloughs provide added diversity by creating another niche for submergent and emergent plants to thrive in at Duck Creek.


Starhead Topminnow
Starhead Topminnow
Starhead topminnows are species of conservation concern that prefer clear and calm water habitats with dense vegetation in southeast Missouri.


At Greenbriar they’ve been making progress clearing debris, pouring the head walls on some water control structures, and prepping for the dirt work.  The corn crop in Pool 2 is growing.  It is a little weak in places, but it is providing the soil disturbance we need to set back the beaked sedge.  In Unit A the distribution channel is flooded for teal like last year.  There is a little water in the oxbow on the southern half of 15 and 22 has been receiving water over the last two weeks.   

Technically, you can bow hunt the north end of Pool 1 up to the water’s edge.  However, due to Pool 1 being a waterfowl refuge the gate the north road will be closed after October 15th so you might have a little extra work ahead of you. 

What progress has been made in the Greenbriar unit? How is the corn crop looking in Pool 2? Which units in A and B units have huntable water for teal?

can you bow hunt the north end of pool 1 after Oct 15

So far we haven’t spotted any teal.  Last week we spotted some shorebirds using the recently flooded mudflats and a group of pintail in Unit A.  This along with reports of teal and some shovelers at other wetland areas indicate that early fall migration has begun…even though the heat index doesn’t quite feel like it.

Any teal on duck creek yet? Estimate?

Ah, gotcha.  Yes, the dozer was filling in some low spots in 16 before the several days of rain last week.  The tricky part is that the lowest spots are the first to get water and the last to dry out. We're trying to address things where we can and when we have the chance.

What I was asking about the high ground in 16 and 18 was not about pushing water higher in those units. I was asking if any plans were in place to push some of the high ground dirt in 16 and 18 on the west high side toward the deeper east side of those two units. With a bulldozer on site I was hoping that would be the case. Any plans to do just that?

This year access to 53 will be the same.  Hopefully, in the future we will be able to have a footbridge put in place.  As far as pushing water further up on the high ground to the west side of 16 and 18 that isn’t possible. The levees are located on the contours to distribute the most amount of shallow water habitat.  By adding more water to the pool on the west side would cause water on the east side to be too deep. During the last couple of years we've planted wheat on this higher ground and the geese have keyed into so we have tried to capitalize on the space we have for different opportunities.  Thanks for the questions.

Yes, doves, teal, and rails could possibly be taken during a hunt on Duck Creek during teal season as long as you are properly licensed with a migratory bird hunting permit and small game hunting permit.  If the distribution channel is vacant of other parties, a paddle or walk up this corridor to jump shoot birds would be legal. Currently, you couldn’t paddle all of the way up. Water is being added to the channel and at some point it should be deep enough to float except for the last quarter of the northern most part of channel. Another thing to consider is that you’ll encounter vegetation in channel about halfway up as the water becomes shallower. Paddling further might be a challenge.  That being said, sounds like fun day in the marsh with several different shooting opportunities. 

Any progress with access to 53 in B Unit? A footbridge or culvert along the road would be great? I noticed the bulldozer at the corner of 16. Last year I noticed the west side of 16 and 18 had little or no water. Any plans on pushing the high ground east in 16 and 18?

Can doves be taken during a teal hunt at duck creek? Also I've considered doing a float type hunt for teal. If the marsh is empty can I legally put a canoe in at the head of the distribution channel and float through hoping to jump shoot teal. Could I do this and is it deep enough? Thanks!

Yes, we’ve got corn food plots scattered around Unit A, Unit B, and Pool 2 and they are growing. Last week the contractors were clearing debris at Greenbriar, but I believe the rain earlier this week has probably slowed them down for a bit.

Were there any food plots planted in B unit? How is the corn crop looking in pool 2 and A unit? Any progress in the Greenbriar unit?

In the last couple weeks we had begun to address some of the spots that are lower than desired. Unfortunately, the rain this week has set things back again. 

Another great article!!! Have any plans been advanced in filling in or leveling several of the deep spots in 15, 18, and 16 in Unit A?

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