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Ecology and Management of Islands, Peninsulas and Structures for Nesting Waterfowl

Waterfowl Nesting Structures Used at the Pipestem Dam Project

Robert J. Martin
Corps of Engineers
Pipestem Dam and Lake
Jamestown, North Dakota

In June of 1980, the North Dakota Game and Fish Department and the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center released fifty-four yearling giant Canada geese (Branta canadensis) at the Corps of Engineers Pipestem Dam and Lake Project. This flood control, recreation, and fish and wildlife resource project is located three miles northwest of Jamestown, North Dakota. Since the water level fluctuates dramatically during spring runoff (twenty-six vertical foot rise in 1979), natural nesting sites such as islands are not always available in the spring for the returning geese. Therefore, the Corps had to provide artificial nesting sites to establish a resident goose flock at the project.

In 1980, the Corps erected several fiberglass nesting tubs on metal poles along the Pipestem Lake. In 1981, the Corps built and placed several wooden floating nest platforms on the lake. Since giant Canada geese normally do not reproduce until they are two or three years old, no reproduction was noted on the project during 1980 and 1981.

In 1982, a pair of released geese successfully nested on one of the wooden floating platforms. Other released geese also successfully nested on natural sites on and near project lands.

In 1983, the Corps designed, built, and placed several PVC pipe floating platforms on the lake. No goose nesting was observed on the plastic floating platforms in 1983; however, the released geese did return to the project and successfully nested on the wooden floating platforms and also on natural sites on and near project lands. The Fish and Wildlife Service released thirty giant Canada goslings on the project during July. Additional fiberglass tubs were erected along the shoreline and in ponds on the project during the fall.

During the winter of 1983-1984, the Corps cooperated with the Stutsman County Wildlife Federation and Arrowwood National Wildlife Refuge in a flax straw bale nesting program. Eighty large round flax bales were banded with plastic and placed on the ice on local sloughs. In the spring, the bales dropped into the slough submerging about half the bale. Both geese and ducks were observed nesting on these sites.

In 1984, no geese were noted using either type of floating platform; however, ducks did successfully nest on them. A released pair of geese successfully nested on a fiberglass tub. Also an additional seven nesting pairs of geese were observed on and near the project. During the fall, additional nesting tubs were erected on the project. Instead of using the fiberglass tubs, thirty-six inch wire tree transplant baskets (the same as used on the plastic floating platforms) were placed on metal poles. The baskets are much lighter and less expensive than the fiberglass tubs. The wire baskets also allow the flax straw to dry out better.

In 1985, a pair of released geese successfully nested on a fiberglass tub and other geese also nested on natural sites on and near project lands. A mallard successfully nested in a plastic floating platform.

In 1986, a pair of geese nested in a fiberglass tub successfully which was located about one hundred yards from the water. Another pair also nested in a fiberglass tub that was located in a pond on the project.

In 1987, the Corps designed, built, and placed two floating nest platforms made from flotation logs and wire baskets. No goose nesting was observed on these platforms; however, three pairs nested on fiberglass tubs located in ponds on the project. Many geese were noted nesting near the project.

The Pipestem Project plans to continue using all five types of nesting structures thereby giving the returning geese and ducks a "choice" of nesting sites on the project.

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