Studying the habits of resident geese

Residents of District 69 may have noticed there appear to be more Canada Geese than usual along the waterfront.

  • Aug. 10, 2012 2:00 p.m.
Volunteers round up Canada Geese to count and tag the birds.

Volunteers round up Canada Geese to count and tag the birds.

Residents of District 69 may have noticed there appear to be more Canada Geese than usual along the waterfront.

That perception is true, say members of the The Guardians of Mid-Island Estuaries Society, but it doesn’t mean there are more geese in the area overall.

That’s because, from mid-June to mid-July, Canada Geese have been undergoing a feather moult — a period when they shed their old flight feathers and grow new ones.

During this time they move out of upland areas away from the water to spend their flightless period along the waterfront, where there is less threat to them from predators.

For the span of a couple of weeks during the above period, nearly the entire population of Canada Geese in the Parksville-Qualicum area is spread out along the waterfront.

The moult is the best time to get an accurate estimate of local population size as the geese are nearly all in the same area and easily accessible to surveyors.

The Guardians of Mid-Island Estuaries Society — a non-profit organization working in Parksville-Qualicum estuaries impacted by Canada Geese — have taken advantage of this period to conduct a local population count and to mark over 100 geese in Craig Creek estuary.

This year’s count, from Little Qualicum River estuary to the Nanoose Bay estuary, performed by the Guardians in concert with volunteers, tallied 1,043 resident Canada Geese.

This number is very similar to the 1,023 geese counted during the 2011 moult.

Both of these counts are down significantly from a 2007 moult count performed for the same area, in which 1,300 geese were counted.

This decrease is a hopeful sign that yearly addling programs in both estuaries, in addition to local hunting efforts, have succeeded in reducing the number of geese in the area over the past five years.

During this year’s moult, the Guardians organized a roundup of Canada Geese in Craig Bay.

With the help of a number of volunteers, Canada Geese from Craig Bay were rounded up into a fenced area in Craig Creek estuary where over 100 of them were marked using a flexible white neck collar and a USFWD leg band.

Marking has also been performed in the Englishman River and Little Qualicum River estuaries since 2008, and through followup periodic monitoring has provided a great deal of insight into how the resident Canada Geese use the area, including their nesting habits and movement patterns through the year.

During the moult, Craig Bay has been consistently frequented by over 300 geese, the vast majority of which are not marked and so have no prior information associated with them.

Through regular periodic monitoring, the newly marked geese will give the Guardians information on where these Craig Bay geese go after the moult, whether they stay near the city, mixing with the geese from Englishman River estuary, or if they move further afield out of city limits.

Geese marked in this year’s roundup are now all along the waterfront, along with geese marked in the other two estuaries, and will be moving back inland shortly as they finish their moult.

As the Guardians are constantly looking for more information about the movement of these geese, members of the community are encouraged to report any collars they see.

A re-sight form is available from the Guardians website, along with more information about resident Canada Geese, the estuaries and the society itself, at http://www.guardiansmie.org.

Public participation in reporting marked geese is greatly appreciated and extremely valuable to the project.

 

— Submitted by the Guardians of Mid-Island Estuaries Society (GMIES)