Tough Shoes to Fill…
by Dave Fronczak
This year my fellow crew member, Kyle Point, and I conducted waterfowl banding operations in North-central North Dakota. This area has been a powerhouse for waterfowl banding in North Dakota since the 1930’s. However, banding stopped in 2018 and we were fortunate enough to revitalize the operation this year.
Without a doubt, waterfowl banding operations in this area was a challenge. I arrived mid-August to assess the area and pre-bait sites. Overall, the water level of the managed pools was very low due to a 4-year drought and a summer with little-to-no precipitation. Despite the low water levels, there were plenty of mallards to work with. However, after the first week, those numbers of mallards disappeared. This year we intended to inaugurate our new pneumatic air cannon system to capture ducks. However, we had to switch to swim-in bait traps because ducks were not coming to the bait piles as expected. Dumbfounded that ducks were not taking to “free bait”, we had to try something different.
After that first week, there were only a few areas with emergent vegetation that concentrated a good number of ducks. But, mallards were not interested what-so-ever in the bait traps. The light at the end of the tunnel came at the end of the operation, when we were finally able to get a good number of ducks on bait. With that, we called out the cavalry and made a successful shot over ducks with our new cannon system.
This year over 500 ducks were banded. Unfortunately, these numbers were minuscule compared to what were banded in the past. However, despite all our challenges, we felt confident that we did what we could with what we had. I would personally like to thank all the people that assisted us. Everyone was very supportive of our effort and wanted to see that this year was a success. Although, conditions for duck banding were against us, this year was successful and I am confident that the waterfowl banding program in this area will continue to do well in the future.