In April 2019, I spent two weeks on Prince Edward Island (PEI) working with wildlife biologists from Canada, Connecticut, and Maine to research Canada goose migration patterns. We were specifically interested in the North Atlantic Population of Canada geese (NAP), which winter throughout New England and utilize PEI as a migration layover area before making a final push to their breeding grounds in Labrador, CA.
The primary goal of our research was to capture and affix Canada geese with NanoTag backpacks, which have the capability of recording movement data for several years. This information can provide researchers with valuable knowledge about Canada goose migration patterns and breeding and wintering ground selection.
LRWC initially became involved with this project during its planning stage, when we were approached by the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (CT DEEP) to field test the newly developed NanoTag. We decided that our collection of Snow geese would offer the best comparison to Canada geese and attached the tags and recorded durability. Following this preliminary assessment, the NanoTags were deployed to PEI for utilization in the field.
Prior to 2010, PEI annually banded Canada geese by setting corn bait piles in potato fields and capturing geese via rocket netting. Our team had planned on utilizing this capture method, however, upon arrival, we learned that farming practices on PEI had drastically changed over the past decade. During this time farmers had transitioned over from a single crop to a double crop rotation, switching between planting corn or potatoes.
In 2018, PEI saw an early winter which resulted in the lost harvest of multiple cornfields. This created an abundance of leftover corn, making our bait piles less compelling to the birds. In response to this setback, we adapted our methods to bait near wetland habitat instead of agriculture fields and focused on midday loafing areas and roosts.
As we neared the end of the first week, we took our first shot and captured 15 birds, we deployed the Nanotags and the project was finally on its way. As we entered the second week, extreme wind, snow, and rain slowed our progress, but we tried to capitalize on the small openings of clear weather. While some attempts were more successful than others, we eventually began capturing and affixing Nanotags on geese on every outing and by the end of the trip we were able to deploy a total of 53 Nanotags.
I’m proud to have represented LRWC on this project, which supports and advances our mission to conserve waterfowl and wetland habitat. The chance to work with Canada geese, which are a part of our local ecosystem here in CT, really opened my eyes as to how magnificent these creatures are. While Canada geese often receive a reputation as being pests, working with these birds and experiencing them in a new environment really changed my perspective.
This post was written by Andrew Ocampo, LRWC's Director of Aviculture