Dusky Canada Goose Nest Island Maintenance: Nestigations the Sequel That Strikes Back

I feared that I would be on the team to maintain this particular nest island. After Nick and I dragged our poke boats through the dried up (former) beaver slough and paddled to the pond I remembered immediately that this was the nest island Melissa and I had encountered during our portion of monitoring. The last time I was at Dusky camp the wildlife team had to monitor the artificial nest islands to ensure that they were floating properly in the Copper River Delta ponds for the Duskys (Dusky Canada Goose). After monitoring them we needed to determine which islands required maintenance, it would not make sense to visit an island that was in perfect condition. We determined which islands required maintenance based on data collected from nest island monitoring. An ideal artificial nest island has sweet gale on top to provide aerial cover from aerial predators, a middle layer that is intact and is floating in water and not on shore or on the ground (due to a dried up pond) and at the bottom anchors that are attached and without twisted cables. But from what I remembered on this island the anchors were not the issue but the vegetation. To be specific it was impossible for this island to provide aerial cover since the vegetation had slipped off somehow and then floated about 20 meters away from middle fiberglass layer of the island. I thought it was amusing until Nick and I approached the island for maintenance.

To the right is the island and about 20 meters away is the vegetation that has slid off.

From what we noticed it would be impossible to try to lift the heavy vegetation from the actual pond. It easily weighed over 100 lbs. Therefore, we decided to work with what we had and detached the island from its anchors and guided it to shore. Once there we dug up mud from the bottom of the pond and sweetgale from shore. In order to dig up sweetgale there is a greenthumb strategy to be taken into account. When you encounter a group of sweetgale at first they seem to be individuals growing about and minding their own business. Yet if you start to dig and follow their root systems a large group of sweet gale can be a single

Above is Nick channeling his inner sweet gale while transporting the plants on the poke boat.

plant. They have multiple rhyzomes that form several branches (think of strawberries) that shoot out from the ground. So when you dig up a plant you might just be digging a branch without a root system (even though it was underground)! It takes multiple tries and given that this island had no soil as well we had to dig up dirt carpets of sweetgale and transport them to the island. Usually we put them on the poke boats and paddle with our flora passengers (I felt like the Lorax except a steward of the sweet gales!) but in this case we had to carry these heavy root balls and carpets to the island. After hours of labor and care we ended up having a pretty sweet island!

This particular island was an extreme example of the state of some of these nest islands. For the most part the islands I have helped maintain only require revegetation. Although maintenance was more labor intensive I really took delight in this process. It reminded me of invasive species removal work I did in the past. It also reminded me when I was younger and I would help my grandfather and mother prune the citrus trees, tend to the tomatoes and herbs, and plant (at the time it was tiny) the avocado tree. Except in the case of  artificial nest island maintenance it is a bit more extreme gardening, we have to deal with the natural elements and other variables (I did not need to poke boat when I was gardening in the city). The maintenance is not over yet and throughout the next few weeks we will be maintaining the remaining islands. For the Duskys!

PS. The featured image has our finished island!

A clear example of a successful nest! The goslings had recently hatched.

Hillary Chavez
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