1. Migratory Birds
Brignatine's first Goose flock consisted of seventy (70) pinioned adult birds obtained from Blackwater Refuge in 1953. These birds were kept penned until February, 1956, when they were transferred to Missisquoi Refuge. This was a decoy flock; a substantial increase in usage of refuge areas by flight geese occurred while this flock was maintained. There was no known nesting from this flock.
From November, 1957, to June, 1958, seven (7) separate releases, totaling 99 geese, were made on the West Pool. Sixty-three (63) were hand reared immature birds. Four (4) were paired adults and 32 were mixed flocks of adults and immatures. One mixed flock of 19 geese and one adult pair were pinioned; the remainder were temporarily wing-clipped before their release. No nesting occurred in 1958 but in 1959 six pairs of geese reared broods totaling 15 young. None of the pinioned birds nested. Although hatching success was low, the number of birds nesting was exceptionally good considering that a majority of the immature birds were too young to produce broods in 1959 (26 of the 63 were goslings of the year released in 1959 while others were only one year old).
Low fertility was the principal factor in hatching success. Of the 19 eggs in the 4 nests which were located, 9 were infertile and 10 hatched. Two of the nests were on muskrat houses and two were on small grassy islands along the dike.
No evidence of migratory behavior has been shown by the 78 free flying geese.
In 1960, 7 broods produced 32 young. The known nests were located on the small islands within the impoundments.
During the winter of 1960-1961, a flock of 125 remained in the refuge. In February these birds began to leave the flock and pairs were observed seeking nesting sites. The first actual nesting female was observed on March 25.
The following list shows the 1961 nests or eggs located and their success or failure. Natural nests are indicated by a "yes" in the column headed "Natural" -- a "No" means the nest was on an artificial device.
As shown in the preceding list, 13 broods were successful reared, and the total young produced was 61.
The "Round -up" of June 22, 1961 took 56 goslings which were banded and released. On June 23, a brood of 5 goslings was observed. These birds were not banded and were only in the Class I-B age group.
The favorite location of nesting sites was the South-west corner of the East Pool, between the Cross Dike Structure and the boat house. This area has several small and two (2) large islands. The entire area is approximately 300 yards square. There were 7 nests in this area and all were successful. It was interesting to note that none of the geese in this area exhibited any aggressive home range behavior either to man or other geese. The total distance between Nests 5-7-14 was less than 125 feet. One Nest, #14, was built by the goose that laid on platforms listed as 3-16-17. This goose was accompanied by 2 ganders all Spring but when she had made her nest, both males abandoned her. She raised her brood of 2 goslings alone. She started her incubation as soon as she laid her eggs, as examination of unhatched eggs revealed fully developed embryos which possibly would have hatched with a few more days incubation.
The birds preferred to nest on islands and most nests were on the Western sides of the islands. The favored elevation above the water was 15"-30", and most nests were within 3 feet of the shore.
Two types of man-made nesting sites are now in use on Brigantine. In 1958, William Forward put into use 24 half-oil-drum nesting islands. This consisted of a 55 gallon oil drum cut in half, with the sharp edge rolled over. These cans were then filled with enough gravel to hold them down, and holes cut in them to facilitate drainage. The rest of the can was filled with either waste from a shingle mill, long fibrous cedar saw waste, or natural dried vegetation. These drums were not refilled in 1961, and it is unknown if they were rechecked previously. In 1961, a pair of geese utilized one of these drums located in the West Pool, just west of Doughty Creek, near the upland. This barrel was filled with a variety of dead vegetative material. The level of material was approximately (8") below the top of the barrel. The clutch consisted of 5 eggs which were successfully brought off. This was one of the few pairs of geese which exhibited any aggressive behavior toward intruders, either man or other geese. The nearest goose nest to this one was over half a mile away. The other aggressive birds were nests 2 & 8.
The other device was a wire basket 4'x3'x6" made of reinforcing iron and chicken wire, filled with hay, as recommended by Patuxent. As described, this rig was completely unsuccessful. The cost of each nesting platform was nearly $19.00. In our pools, the height of 30" was ridiculous, as the wind got under it and blew out the filling. Those which we placed lower to the ground retained their filling, and one of these low ones was used by a pair of geese. However, the action of the goose on the nest caused the eggs to work down through the 14" of filling to the wire, where they cooled from below and the clutch was lost. Other usage was limited to one goose which utilized 3 platforms, laying one egg on each of them and abandoned them all.
This type of platform will attract geese as demonstrated by usage this year. In order to insure successful hatching of the eggs, a solid layer of either masonite or tarred paper, covered by several inches of gravel, should be used first, then covered with a foot or more of old vegetative matter. The solid material should have holes in it to promote drainage. The Dwarf Spike rush, pulled by feeding ducks, shows great promise as a filler as it has high matting characteristic.
Care must be taken in selection of sites for nesting platforms so that a natural site is not usurped.
In 1962, a dozen #4 Wash Tubs, filled with pea stone and vegetation, will be tested, as well as the nesting platforms and drums, which will be revamped, giving us a variety of devices to insure adequate sites for all nesting geese.