Outdoor Corner: Ducks, Lac Macgloire and pea crops
for Smoky River Express
I had the pleasure of finally meeting a “new” neighbour, John Strokappe and family at a recent benefit dine and social evening held for the Rene Hebert family who tragically lost most of their home in a fire. Many individuals, along with the Strokappes, were there at the function to help out. Those individuals will certainly be identified in other articles and by other writers in this paper, and out of fear of leaving someone out, I’ll leave it at that.
Some in the area will probably more readily recognize the name “Sweetgrass Farms” if they don’t already know the Strokappe family. In recent years they purchased many of the assets and land of three former farm operations in the area north of Donnelly Corner. I was happily surprised to discover that their attitude to wildlife was strikingly similar to those of most of our neighbourhood. As evidenced by their presence at this fundraiser for one of their neighbours, their philosophy about ducks and the Lac showed similar altruism to all life forms.
Recently, the Strokappes have sown some alfalfa into land adjacent to the shore of Lac Macgloire as feed for their sheep. Mr. Strokappe’s concern was as to when they could safely cut the hay without disturbing the duck eggs along the shoreline and adjacent sown alfalfa acres. I deferred his question to Fish and Wildlife (780-624-6405) but I offered the observation that in the case of my alfalfa crop near Frank Lake, I chose to harvest about July 15 to maximize hay quality and to avoid destroying nesting birds. And, the period after July 15 allowed for regrowth for cover for birds and feed for ungulates for the winter as long as there wasn’t too much snow. Officer Van Hulbert of the Peace River Fish and Wildlife detachment echoed this advice and further advised, for those that weren’t aware of it, that Lac Magloire is a bird sanctuary and could not be hunted within ½ mile of the shoreline. Officer Hulbert also advised that sometimes nests can be moved but a risk existed of the duck abandoning the nest once the nest was moved.
“Some farmers simply cut around the nest leaving the hay in the vicinity of the nest to stand, but predators, such as coyotes, instinctively check out clumps of hay that aren’t mowed and destroy the eggs anyway,” concluded Officer Hulbert.
Leaving the nest where it seems to be the best policy.
Even more striking than the Strokappe’s concern for nesting ducks was their present practice of seeding peas. Mr. Strokappe indicated that they were planning to sow nearly 1,000 acres of peas this year after several relatively successful crops on his land in recent years. The desirability of this crop in a rotation and the benefit to the land aside, John, (I hope I can talk to him on a first name basis henceforward) expressed to me no real concern about the impact of migratory fowl on his crop of peas in recent years. He did express the need for timely harvest of the crop to avoid damage to the crop by waterfowl. “You need some kind of rotation and peas have worked good for us so far. It makes up about 20 per cent of our total acres planted,” concludes Mr. Strokappe.
Post harvest I have witnessed tens of thousands of geese and ducks landing on their harvested pea fields unmolested by hunters like myself. “We don’t allow hunters to shoot birds on our land,” observed son Hank.
Having had a direct interest in farming myself since I was 14 years old when I got my first quarter section to rent from my neighbour while using my dad’s machinery, I have always maintained that farming and wildlife do not have to be mutually exclusive. Retaining some bush on farm land, while it is a practice being abandoned en mass in this area, seems to be re-establishing itself in the U.S. where recent lucrative government programs are strongly encouraging farmers to retain shelterbelts and wetlands. (The CRP – the Conservation Resource Program – but about that another day).
In the all too short evening spent talking with this family which has been involved in veterinary medicine, the practice among other things, of caring for diseased and injured animals, it is transparent that their concern for animal and bird life goes well beyond their having made part of their livelihood from it. Dr. John Strokappe, Dr. Jan Strokappe and sons Hank and Ben, a very belated welcome to our neighbourhood and my your family prosper and thrive for many years to come. Your presence and farming practice is a striking example of the old cliché, “Live and let live.”
Lac Magloire in late March, despite an extremely dry summer in 2009, has recently surge back as a staging area for thousands of ducks, geese, and swans. Water levels remain good despite a reduction in the weir on the West side of the Lac.