A special treat in the fall at Goose Pond is to see swirling clouds of mallards above recently picked corn fields. This was Maddie’s first fall of seeing this amazing sight and she could hardly believe these large flocks were comprised of the familiar mallard! Mark and Sue have seen clouds of mallards hundreds of time but always enjoy watching them.
Mallards are an easily recognized duck and the most abundant breeding duck in Wisconsin and at Goose Pond. The Department of Natural Resources estimated the 2014 statewide spring population at 159,000 individuals.
In early May, 45 pairs of mallards were found on a waterfowl pair count at Goose Pond compared to an average 35 pairs. On a beautiful summer evening in early June, eight mallard broods were observed on the pond. Waterfowl biologists believe that 15-20% of the females have to be successful in hatching a nest to maintain the mallard population. Populations can increase with higher nest success rates and this year we would not be surprised to have at least 15 mallard broods on the pond.
The abundant restored prairies and ideal brood habitat help increase in the local mallard population. Goose Pond is mostly covered with arrowhead, a plant that provides excellent cover and feeding conditions for broods. By mid-June the dense arrowhead cover prevents a good count of waterfowl broods.
Mallards are a target species in Wisconsin and are partly responsible for the US Fish and Wildlife Service providing millions of dollars of “duck stamp” money to Wisconsin to acquire national wildlife refuges like Horicon Marsh National Wildlife Refuge and waterfowl production areas like Schoeneberg Marsh Waterfowl Production Area adjacent to Madison Audubon Society’s Erstad Prairie. The North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) also has provided millions of dollars to Wisconsin and hundreds of thousands of dollars to acquire wetland habitat and associated uplands at Goose Pond Sanctuary.
The Federal Migratory Bird Conservation and Hunting Stamp (Duck Stamp) sells for $25 and they will go on sale July 1 at US post offices across the nation. This year, the stamp features a pair of ruddy ducks. Since 1934, $671 million has been raised nationwide for conservation purposes, with $6.78 million coming to Wisconsin. Duck Stamps are required to hunt waterfowl, but bird watchers are encouraged to purchase duck stamps to help raise money for the protection of waterfowl habitat. At Goose Pond, we purchase duck stamps as a way to support the public lands that we bird watch on!
Photo by USFWS Mountain-Prairie, Flickr Creative Commons