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Perhaps I am showing my inexperience here, but this is a 
question/complaint I have heard voiced many times by birders in 
conversation that I have never heard a satisfactory explanation for.

"Moist soil management" is the term I have heard used to describe the 
seasonal drying and flooding of wetland areas, and it seems this 
technique is what leaves us birders flustered as we go to search for 
rails/bitterns/ducks in the summer months and come away with hundreds 
of Dickcissels in grassy fields and a few Great Blue Herons in 
thigh-deep distribution channels.  The reason this technique is used is 
to allow plants to mature to feed migrating birds, many of which are 
ducks.  Makes sense.

But what I don't understand is why this practice is used so extensively 
when areas that are wet year-round produce seemingly just as much food 
for waterfowl.  The best example I can think of is Squaw Creek NWR-- 
the wetland units are productive in the summer for bitterns, moorhens, 
rails, etc-- but still host huge flocks of migrating (and actively 
feeding) waterfowl.

My basic question is-- if marshes that host breeding marsh birds in the 
summer allow for (apparently) just as much waterfowl in the spring and 
fall, then why not manage more areas to have favorable breeding 
conditions since ducks aren't hurt? I can name at least ten examples of 
areas I have gone-- Ten Mile Pond, Otter Slough, Grand Pass, Bob Brown, 
Swan Lake NWR, etc. etc. etc. that dry up most of what they have in the 
summer, but very few examples of places that don't.

I have a feeling that it cannot be that simple and there is something I 
am missing, but I would like to know why. I know that not every wetland 
unit can be wet year round, but it seems as if the vast majority of 
units are managed with MSM, and in my (very) limited personal 
experience, I haven't seen the benefits to ducks, rails or other birds.

I do not intend this to be a knock on MDC or FWS, I would just 
genuinely like to know why these practices are carried out and if their 
benefits have been shown in studies or in anecdotal cases.

Phil Wire
Kirksville, Adair Co.
[log in to unmask]



Mike Brady wrote:


>MTC CA in St Charles County used to be a great wetland   area to 
bird.Cant 
>say I have much desire  to drive   to many spots to bird around St 
Louis or MO 
>anymore but still  make a point to go to MTC  3 or 4 times a 
year,mainly late 
>spring and  summer looking for nesting black-billed cuckoos and various 
>herps(did actually  find a nesting pair of bb-cucks there in 2000)
>Have seen the slow  but steady "drying" out of the area for several 
years 
>now.Least Bittern used to  be a for sure bird there.Havent seen one 
there for a 
>long while now.It  also played host to nesting Hooded mergs and 
pied-bill grebes
> Basically there has been no obvious sign at all of any kind of  
>spring/summer wetland manangement at MTC  for at least 4 years  
now..Any pool that has had 
>water in it recently has been from    rainfall.Many of these dry up by 
the 
>end of June and remain dry untill  spring rains return.The drought 
conditions 
>the last few years definitely took  its toll on many of the  wetland 
cells at 
>MTC also
> Due to the lack of permanent water vegetative succesion has set in  
big time 
>making for some ausome dickcissal and common  yellowthroat habitat but 
less 
>than ideal bittern,shorebird and duck  habitat
> 
> I did see a couple of somewhat new wood duck boxes this summer  but 
the one  
>time wetland cell they were in was dry.Dont get me  wrong,still  a good 
place 
>to bird.Fantastic for yellow-billed cuckoo and  willow 
>flycatchers.Orioles,chats and yellow warblers can still be seen with 
some  ease but the great marsh 
>bird  birding it once offered has been absent for  a long while 
now.Pretty sad 
>really
> 
> With the the large plantings of sunflowers this year have to wonder  
if the 
>mangement plans for MTC may be shifting away from wetland/duck habitat  
and 
>more to a dove hunting/upland game spot
> 
>-Mike Brady
>
>
>
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-----------------------
Phil Wire
Truman State University

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