In April 2019, I spent two weeks on Prince Edward Island (PEI) working with wildlife biologists from Canada, Connecticut, and Maine to research Canada goose migration patterns. We were specifically interested in the North Atlantic Population of Canada geese (NAP), which winter throughout New England and utilize PEI as a migration layover area before making a final push to their breeding grounds in Labrador, CA.
The primary goal of our research was to capture and affix Canada geese with NanoTag backpacks, which have the capability of recording movement data for several years. This information can provide researchers with valuable knowledge about Canada goose migration patterns and breeding and wintering ground selection.
LRWC initially became involved with this project during its planning stage, when we were approached by the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (CT DEEP) to field test the newly developed NanoTag. We decided that our collection of Snow geese would offer the best comparison to Canada geese and attached the tags and recorded durability. Following this preliminary assessment, the NanoTags were deployed to PEI for utilization in the field.
Prior to 2010, PEI annually banded Canada geese by setting corn bait piles in potato fields and capturing geese via rocket netting. Our team had planned on utilizing this capture method, however, upon arrival, we learned that farming practices on PEI had drastically changed over the past decade. During this time farmers had transitioned over from a single crop to a double crop rotation, switching between planting corn or potatoes.
In 2018, PEI saw an early winter which resulted in the lost harvest of multiple cornfields. This created an abundance of leftover corn, making our bait piles less compelling to the birds. In response to this setback, we adapted our methods to bait near wetland habitat instead of agriculture fields and focused on midday loafing areas and roosts.
As we neared the end of the first week, we took our first shot and captured 15 birds, we deployed the Nanotags and the project was finally on its way. As we entered the second week, extreme wind, snow, and rain slowed our progress, but we tried to capitalize on the small openings of clear weather. While some attempts were more successful than others, we eventually began capturing and affixing Nanotags on geese on every outing and by the end of the trip we were able to deploy a total of 53 Nanotags.
I’m proud to have represented LRWC on this project, which supports and advances our mission to conserve waterfowl and wetland habitat. The chance to work with Canada geese, which are a part of our local ecosystem here in CT, really opened my eyes as to how magnificent these creatures are. While Canada geese often receive a reputation as being pests, working with these birds and experiencing them in a new environment really changed my perspective.
This post was written by Andrew Ocampo, LRWC's Director of Aviculture
Historically, the new year is approached with optimism for the future, a nostalgic look to the past, and a mindful reflection on the present. These three key elements are necessary to devise a healthy formula for opportunity and growth. When addressing environmental sustainability, whether it be referring to the longevity of an organization or its impact upon the community, the same three tenets can easily be applied. What are our accomplishments? What are we doing to ensure we continue this trajectory of success, and what are our obtainable goals for the future?
When reflecting on S. Dillon Ripley, and his legacy, it is glaringly apparent that the man had a vision that encompassed not just his penchant for waterfowl, but a holistic view of the environment and an execution of sustainable practice that was well ahead of its time. The fledgling stages of what would eventually become the Livingston Ripley Waterfowl Conservancy were the product of a young man’s deep fascination and passion for the natural world and all its inhabitants. At the age of 17, Dillon Ripley built his first duck pond in Litchfield, Connecticut. Several decades later, he would champion the effort to rescue the native Nene (Hawaiian) goose, becoming one of the first to propagate the Nene in captivity in North America. He is credited for assisting with the population rebound, after sending a small flock of geese back to the Hawaiian Islands for reintroduction into the wild. Today, LRWC pays homage to Dillon Ripley and his conservation accomplishments by maintaining a small flock of Nene at The Conservancy.
Dillon Ripley’s contributions extend well beyond Litchfield. During his tenure as secretary of the Smithsonian from 1964-1984, he transformed the museum into a more inspirational and less “stodgy” destination with the addition of several eyebrow raising attractions. In 1967, he had a 1920's carousel installed on the National Mall, much to the chagrin of many of Washington’s elite. Upon its installation, people flocked to the merry-go-round, paying twenty-five cents a ride. In the same year, he commissioned several men to produce the first Folklife Festival; an incredibly successful effort that brought our waning folk traditions from stale gallery displays to vibrant, living history. The New York Times described the endeavor best when it reported the mission was, “to let fresh air into our Nation’s attic”. Through Ripley’s 20+ years of influence, the Smithsonian Institute became an “Every Man’s” destination, with a growth of exhibits that a broad, diverse audience could identify with.
Today, at LWRC, S. Dillon Ripley’s responsibility to the local (and global) environmental community is still ever present. As illustrated during his lifetime, there is not just one permanent recipe that broadens interest and awareness; there are multitudes! From local, hands-on educational offerings that cover crucial topics such as water health and threatened species, to award winning distance learning courses that bring the conservancy into the international classroom. How about yoga with geese and cranes? Absolutely! A night prowl to listen for owls? Whoooo else? LRWC is upholding the vision and perception of their founder by continually expanding and innovating in an effort to draw in and engage supporters on as many levels as possible. By regularly building the latest “carousel” and waiting to see who climbs aboard, LRWC will uphold its mission and ensure a thoughtful and comprehensive evolution of sustainable conservation and stewardship. Happy New Year!!