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Doing fowl deeds to fields
Migratory birds plunder farmers’ hay and grain ˙elds for dinner

followed by Farms’ support of birds studied

By DD BIXBY, Herald and News 4/24/08

   Migratory birds, such as geese, cause thousands of dollars worth of damage to farmers’ crops each year.
   Foraging migratory birds like white fronts and coots are among the bandits.
   Merrill-Tulelake farmer Steve Kandra farms next to national wildlife refuges and said foraging migratory birds, such as white fronts, Ross and coots, reduce his annual production by about one ton per acre.
   Their browsing affects not only the first cuttings of alfalfa, but also the second and third cuttings, he said. The damage to hay and alfalfa crops alone amounts to about $180 per acre, Kandra said, totaling between $15,000 and $18,000 for his 100 acres.
   For cereal crops, like wheat, which are experiencing record high prices, the damage could be around a $300 per acre loss, Kandra said.
   Tom Collom, district wildlife biologist with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, said the winter wheat fields are the “real ice- cream to geese,” adding that wheat fields and new seeding alfalfa fields see the worst damage.
   Important damage
   Dave Mauser, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist, estimated 70 to 75 percent of migratory spring geese were supported by agriculture.
   “It should be apparent to everybody that it’s the private lands that are supporting, for the most part, these spring goose populations,” he said. “Birds don’t respect property lines.”
   The latest figures for birds in the Basin included 280,000 snow geese, 238,000 white fronts and 52,000 coots.
   The Klamath Basin is a final staging ground for the white fronts along the Pacific Flyway — the north-south migratory bird route that stretches from Alaska to Patagonia on the southernmost tip of South America.
   Here, Mauser said, the white fronts fuel up for a non-stop f light to Southeast Alaska, where they usually have to wait about three weeks for the Alaskan tundra to produce any forage.
   “The food and energy they get here is pretty critical for that flight,” he said.
   During this northern migration, which lasts from May to late August, the white fronts have to build nests, lay eggs and raise a clutch just in time to f ly south again. The Klamath Basin also is a fall roosting site.
   Credit sought
   While the birds cause a good deal of damage, Kandra said he understands the role agriculture fields play in supporting the migratory fowl.
   “Feeding migratory birds is what I call a duty and a joy, an opportunity and an obligation,” he said.
   But, he added, he would like credit for what his fields are providing for wildlife. One way would include monetary compensation, but Kandra would be happy to change a common belief that agriculture is adverse to wildlife. Farmers’ help to the birds could instead be taken into account with water allocation, because water used for fields benefits wildlife.

Flocks of geese fly in to dine on Jim Aston’s pasture near Spring Lake on March 30.

Farms’ support of birds studied

Farmers, federal agencies begin Spring Goose Browse Study

By DD BIXBY, Herald and News 4/24/08


   To measure how much agriculture supports birds, farmer Steve Kandra and several other growers in the Spring Lake and Tingley Lake areas and a region just north of Lower Klamath Refuge, are participating in a study.
   In partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuges and local growers, the U.S. Geological Survey is conducting the Spring Goose Browse Study. The goal is to quantify how much forage is available to migratory birds and how much they’re actually grazing.
   Colin Tierney, a U.S. Geological Survey biological research technician, is the lone researcher gathering data from 20 fields, ranging in acreage from 10 to 100.
Forage types studied
   The study will look at five different forage types: Winter wheat, pasture, alfalfa, quack grass and wheat stubble.
   To do so, Tierney set up four 2-foot by 2-foot enclosures in each field. Two of the four enclosures are stationary and will measure how much is available per field.
   Tierney moves the other two enclosures every two weeks to measure how much is available in a two-week period. After two weeks, Tierney clips a quadrant — in alfalfa fields the entire 2- by 2-foot square — then brings it back to a lab where the samples are dried and weighed.
   Fields covered
   Tierney said he has visited testing sites in the mornings and seen almost entire fields covered with white fronts.
   The pastureland near the Spring Lake and Tingley Lake areas gets hit especially hard, because birds roost in the neighborhood, a typical occurrence for fields near waterways.
   The first enclosures were put up Feb. 21, which meant Tierney dug through two feet of snow in some fields. Tierney expected to be in the field gathering the final samples for about two weeks.
Study to last two years
   He said the study would last two years and span both spring and fall seasons.
   Local biologists and growers will have to wait a while for the study’s results.
   Until then, the spring staging site is nearing a close.
   Last week, wildlife biologists said they expect the birds to stay in the Klamath Basin for only another 10 days to two weeks longer before moving on.
   Mitigation tried
   This year, farmers resorted to typical mitigation management practices, which included an extra 15-day hunting period on Oregon land.
   White flags and “scareeagles” are still hanging around fields in hopes of deterring some of the winged feeders, but these kinds of tactics only work so long, said Tom Collum of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
   Collum said the ODFW has propane cannons that periodically make loud noises. But like most of these practices, he said they only work until the birds become accustomed to it. Kandra was equally ambivalent about scare-eagles.
   “ My experience is they’re good for a few days, but birds have a steep learning curve and they’re back in a few days.”
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