This article originally appeared in Wisconsin Waterfowl Association’s October, 2022 Newsletter edition.
Wild Rice plays a critical role for migratory birds in Wisconsin. Anyone who hunts wild rice knows the draw it is for ducks. Let me tell you from personnel experience, a rice bed is a good place to hunt ducks. WWA has been doing wild rice restoration for over a decade in Wisconsin. With high demand, and being at the mercy of Mother Nature’s bounty, some years it gets tough to find enough rice for all the potential restoration projects. This year, and into the future, WWA, WDNR and Great Lakes Indian Fish & Wildlife Commission (GLIFWC) are coordinating their efforts to prioritize high quality sites. This will get available rice were it is most beneficial among the leading organizations doing wild rice restoration.
The need is there, but the availability of rice is not always. Sometimes it’s a down year for production due to weather conditions affecting the water bodies where rice grows. The other main issue is availability to secure rice due to lack of vendors. There are very few individuals outside the native tribes that collect rice. WWA is looking to see how we can bolster this side of the equation, and that is where you, as our members, can become involved. If there is any interest in learning how to collect rice for WWA’s wild rice restoration projects, let me know. We are looking at getting additional boats in the water to see if we can increase the availability of green wild rice for restoration needs in the state.
Last week WWA sourced ~1,100 pounds of rice, which was then distributed to three sites. Powell Marsh in Vilas County, Crex Meadows in Burnett County and Collins Marsh in Manitowoc County all received wild rice that was locally collected in northern Wisconsin. All three of these sites were in their second or third year of seeding, which is important timing for establishing a healthy stand, and we did not want to miss a year. A host of other sites were planted under the guidance of GLIFWC and its member tribes, which were also deemed priority waters for restoration.
A past, successful seeding in Oneida County, where the rice is in transition from its floating leaf to emergent life stage. This stand filled in really nice and thick the following year.
Friday, September 16th was the annual blind brushing for the disabled accessible duck blinds on WWA’s Abrams property located in southern Oconto County.
Green Bay Chapter members from left to right: Cody Ferris, Mike Keeler, Logan Sincoular and Jeremy VanSistine, along with our future waterfowlers. Photo credit Doug Steiner.
WWA’s Green Bay Chapter maintains the three waterfowl blinds and five deer blinds on the property. A crew of Green Bay Chapter volunteers came out in force on the Friday before the youth opener to brush the blinds in for the season.
Cattails cleared and used for brushing the blinds. Photo credit Doug Steiner.
The blinds are available for public use on a first-come, first-served basis and include almost a mile of solid surface trails on the property which allow wheel chair access. The blinds are available for anyone to use, with a priority for disabled hunters. Please pack out everything you pack in!
Waterfowl blinds are spacious and allow wheel chair access. Photo credit Doug Steiner.
The blinds are located in the southern waterfowl hunting zone.
On May 5, 2022 Jason Spitzmacher, Doug Florio and Brad Miller, volunteers with WWA’s Valley Chapter, spent the day at Woodland School in the Kimberly School District with Girl Scout Troop #2275 building wood duck box kits.
On April 2, 2022, Steve Beach, Jason Spitzmacher, Pete Strenn, Kevin O’Brien, Dan Gill and Doug Florio, volunteers from WWA’s Valley Chapter, spent a nice early spring day placing wood duck boxes off the Big Cut on the Rick Novak property in New London.
There is always a brief time period where AWA work has to get done in March. Unfortunately, nature provides two cold fronts, and Spring goes into reverse. Despite the less than ideal weather, we braved the elements and tackled two big projects this weekend.
Out at the Bark River Unit of Paradise Valley Wildlife Area, a small group from Waukesha brush cut and cleared an area near the main parking lot. At first, the 20 mph winds were daunting, but after an hour they were almost a relief. There is still more work to finish up, but we got approximately a quarter of an acre cleared.
Ron Churchill, Chris Scheder and Nick Smart volunteered on a blustery March day with brush clearing at the Bark River unit.
On Sunday, the old mud motor purred along happily as it chewed through the newly formed 1/2” of ice on the water. Clouds of ducks took to the air over Rome Pond. Divers, tons or mallards, and even coot filled the ranks. As we pushed up into the Bark River, flocks of wood ducks were kicked up at nearly every bend. This is a special time of year at Rome, as the amount of life is always awe inspiring.
What was more impressive was the tally of over 25 boxes. All had hatches in 2021. There were over-achievers with a pile of shell fragments and evidence of multiple broods. Seeing the white gold along the bottom of the Bark River punctuates a job well done.
Shell fragments from the freshly cleaned wood duck box sink to the bottom of Rome Pond.
This article originally appeared in Wisconsin Waterfowl Association’s April, 2022 Newsletter edition.
Thunderstorms and heavy rain didn’t deter members of the WWA’s Green Bay Chapter from completing their wood duck nest box cleaning this spring on Saturday, March 5th on WWA’s Abrams Property project.
The wood ducks should be showing up in several weeks to start their yearly process of nest site selection. It is important to make sure that their nesting boxes are cleared of old nesting debris, songbird nests, broken egg shells and even the rogue mouse nest. Fresh wood chips were exchanged for the old debris and any needed maintenance on the boxes or replacement was completed.
A huge thank you to Green Bay Chapter members; Logan Sincoular, Jake Koebernik, Jeremy VanSistine, Doug Steiner and Bruce Urben for weathering the storm and completing the cleaning effort.
Twenty-four wood duck boxes are located on WWA’s 150+ acre Abrams Project site. Most are located over water or completed scrapes on the property. The boxes on Abrams property have been maintained for over ten years!
Nesting success is measured by the remnants of broken duck eggs and down lined nests. Eight of twenty-four (33%) boxes yielded successful wood duck or merganser hatches. Down slightly from 2021!
In addition, numerous songbirds, raptors and other wild birds were seen to have nested in the boxes this year. A sign that the wetland is healthy and sustainable.
Check out our store to see how you can obtain wood duck nesting boxes for the wetland on your property. Maybe you can see the “great jump” of new hatchlings in your own back yard.
Have a happy spring and enjoy watching as our migration returns in the coming weeks.
This article originally appeared in Wisconsin Waterfowl Association’s March, 2022 Newsletter edition.
You may have seen on our facebook page the completion of a couple of projects in the last two weeks. Conditions were ideal for access to these sites, allowing us to knock out a few projects this year. One had been waiting two years for Mother Nature to create enough frost for access. In contrast to last winter, when we had almost no frost, it was welcomed. Contractors also staged some stone for project work in St Croix County, which will be completed soon.
As we wrapped up our annual meeting this past month I summarized a few points of our habitat program (check out my full year in review here). WWA installed seven water control structures, most of these providing the ability to manage water levels, which ultimately allows for the management of vegetation. Vegetation management is a key to keeping your wetland healthy and attractive for wildlife.
In addition, we plugged/filled six ditches, which provide true hydrological restoration through the removal of surface water drains. These types of projects help raise the water in the system and support desired wetland plants, which provide many of the critical needs of wildlife. Many of these systems with functioning ditches are dominated with undesirable plants, which have reduced wildlife benefits. So by reversing the drainage, we are keeping shallow ground water levels more stable and mimicking the natural conditions of how the wetlands historically developed.
It was a terrible year for wild rice across the upper Midwest, from the drought conditions in northern Minnesota to poor rice production in Wisconsin. WWA did manage to secure 150lbs of rice, which was planted at Collins Marsh as part of trial program. A few sites, in cooperation with WDNR, were selected both in and out of the refuge area with anticipation to establish a wild rice bed for enhanced wildlife benefits.
Over the next month we should see lots of returning waterfowl and full breeding plumage, so get out and take a look.
We were informed this winter that a prescribed burn could happen at the Bark River unit, which we maintain as a part of our Adopt a Wildlife Area contract with WDNR. Water levels are down an easy foot. A new water control structure and carp barrier were added this fall, but the drought has left water levels low.
Based on the burn, we had to relocate many boxes from small unproductive potholes to the larger main body. With increasing willow growth, we have been finding the more secluded boxes being taken over by other species. Hopefully, we can begin to reverse this trend.
Finding wet mud was difficult and the auger had only six inches of clear ice at times. Some places had less than an inch near shore.