Jason's Journal: Keeping a Balance at Emiquon

Pintail ducks often come to Emiquon to eat the seeds of smartweed.

March 2012 - As spring migration thrives here at Emiquon, I am always impressed with the number of waterfowl that continue to come back to our preserve. Peak numbers of ducks at Emiquon reach anywhere from 20,000 to 90,000 each year, in addition to the wetland birds and hundreds of thousands of geese. Last fall 17 species of waterfowl, including mallards, gadwalls, widgeons, green-winged teals and Canada and white fronted geese, all flocked to our preserve.

The large number of waterfowl that come to Emiquon is no coincidence. We have restored and continue to manage Emiquon to a place where diverse habitats and food sources are plenty and provide an incredible environment for waterfowl to flourish.

The preserve’s backwater lakes and bottomland forests are ideal places for waterfowl to rest and refuel. Emiquon’s wetlands provide waterfowl with the natural vegetation and aquatic invertebrates essential to their diet. Pintail ducks are known to come to the preserve for the seeds of the smartweed plants, among others. Invertebrate food sources such as damsel fly nymphs, worms, mayflies, beetles and snails, which are favorites of the hen mallards, can also be found at Emiquon. These invertebrates are also a necessary food source for female ducks preparing to lay eggs.

We’re proud to have such a diverse preserve that offers benefits to both nature and people. Our restoration efforts are attracting a high number of waterfowl, which provides us the opportunity to offer limited public waterfowl hunting. Our hunting program has just completed its seventh year, operating three days per week during waterfowl season. Hunters are selected through a daily drawing system. This past waterfowl season, Emiquon hosted 904 hunters who harvested three species of geese and 17 species of ducks.

In an effort to better communicate our hunting program, we are pleased to announce the launch of our new hunting web site at the end of this month. This site will offer information on our official rules and regulations, hunting dates and times, drawing locations and maps. Although decisions are still being made for the upcoming 2012 waterfowl season at Emiquon, information from this past season will be posted as a reference.

By offering waterfowl hunting opportunities, our goal is to demonstrate to other hunting areas along the Illinois River the benefits of diverse plant communities and the foraging habitat it provides waterfowl. We hope they will adapt these management strategies that offer these benefits and attract many birds.