Creating a waterfowl mecca - Update 1

Creating a waterfowl mecca - Update 1

This season we are working on creating a habitat perfect for attracting waterfowl. We will be posting a series of updates throughout the year to track and share our progress with you. Follow along to see how our honey hole turns out!

Our main goal is to create sustainable food sources on our property to create a habitat to attract and hold ducks, as well as habitat for the spring migration.  After doing a fair amount of research and help from the people at River Refuge seed I decided on 3 plants that would best suit my goals. Wild rice,  smartweed and American sloughgrass.  We are located in a region where wild rice should grow and reseed itself year after year. Smartweed and American sloughgrass provide tons of food and cover that ducks love.  All of these plants are considered natural vegetation and suitable for wetland restoration.

A pasture pond is the main area of focus for improving habitat. The pond is located in an overgrazed pasture that has cattle on it from June to November.  The cattle destroy most of the wetland material, however,  this year I was allowed to fence off the ponds. We have around 10 acres of seasonal wetland.  We are lucky to have irrigation at our disposal to create the right conditions to achieve our goals.  After the spring migration we lowered the water level in the pond.  I harrowed the exposed mudflats and planted smartweed and sloughgrass with a hand broadcast seeder at the end of April.  It is flourishing. Smartweed can be flooded once it has grown up a bit.  It produces thousands of pounds of edible seed for waterfowl.  The sloughgrass seeds are desirable to the waterfowl also and also provide cover.  At the same time I broadcast wild rice in the pond.  The pond depth ranges from 2 inches to 3 feet.  Perfect for wild rice.  I broadcast the seed by hand walking around the pond in waders.

Smartweed growing in waterfowl habitat restoration

On May 25th, I went out to observe the progress. The smartweed took off exceptionally well. I was not sure what the wild rice would look like but I noticed a bunch of grass like leaves floating on the water.  I consulted my experts at river refuge seed and they confirmed it was wild rice. Wild rice is impressive, in mid to late summer the shoots rise above the water and can reach heights of 6-10 feet. Once the rice seeds out, the seeds will fall in the water and provide seed for the following spring.

Wild rice growing in wetland restoration duck habitat

I can't wait to see this project come to fruition. I am sure there will be some unforeseen obstacles but so far, so good.

Next update July 1

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