Friday, February 5, 2010

Winter in the Delta

With the honey bees tightly clustered in dry hives, consuming enough honey to maintain warmth, I often venture out the Delta back-roads to get in some winter bird watching. The Arkansas Grand Prairie and Delta region is the winter home for much of North America’s waterfowl. Large numbers of ducks, mainly mallards, from the central provinces of Canada winter in the wet agricultural fields. Here, the waterfowl find an ample supply of grain spilled by mechanical harvesting. The birds also derive considerable amounts of protein from mollusks and earthworms. Snow geese converge by the thousands on fields of winter wheat, where they pull the tender, green plants, roots and all, from the soil. Covering the ground, the white snow geese and their color phase of the same species, the blue goose, appear as dirty snow. All wildlife has four habitat requirements: food, water, space, and cover. The Delta provides plenty of food and water, and the space is wide open for miles on end. While most wildlife needs escape cover in which the creatures may flee into protective woods, the waterfowl employ their sense of sight, gregarious behavior, and use of sentry birds to protect themselves from predators.

Click on today’s picture to see a trumpeter swan, a rare find in this area. The trumpeter is the largest waterfowl in North America and the largest swan in the world. I observed this single swan feeding on aquatic plants in a flooded rice field along with Northern Shoveler ducks. This arctic visitor was the first trumpeter I’ve found in the wild. Farmers often close drain pipes in levees surrounding level fields to allow the area to flood in the winter. While the flooded fields provide winter habitat for the waterfowl, the birds serve the farmers by sifting weed seeds from the mud. Good winter-time nutrition leads to greater reproductive success for the waterfowl. Nutrition is, likewise, being seen as being of great importance in managing healthy honey bees.


  1. Thats pretty neat Richard i didn't realize farmers flooded fields so readily in the mid-west with the intentions on allowing the birds to rid the seedbed of unwanted wild tares.

    Very neat and intriguing concept, simple field practice of flooding winter ag fields and benefits the wildlife so very much. Wow, it's done a little bit different in North Carolina usually to the demise of certain species.

    Usually farmers just clean cut around their fields during the off season, ridding millions of acres across the state of early successional habitat which bobwhite quail and rabbits rely on for child rearing.

    Then, during the crop season, the defoliants used on the cotton crop kill groves of quails while they are still in their eggs by weakening the egg's shell.

    All about producing Beautiful Cotton and sadly enough our quail and rabbit population has plummeted quickly to extreme lows, especially the bobwhite quail populations in the last 10 years due primarily to this practice.

    And to make the entire scenario even more depressing the local and regional biologists state the decline has to do with habitat depletion. Wow!!!

    All i can do is simply try to gain the appropriate education in my studies to hopefully one day implement appropriate changes.


  2. The trumpeter swan is a beautiful bird. Thanks for an informative post.