Ready and Waiting

by Carl Strang

The parking lot marsh at Mayslake Forest Preserve holds many muskrat mound houses this winter.

Two large mounds are plainly visible in the north end.

In each of the past two breeding seasons the only Canada goose nest on the preserve has been on a muskrat mound in this marsh. Thanks to presence and absence of leg bands, I know that it has been a different pair each year. Both nests were successful. Three seasons ago the muskrats had only bank dens, the water was shallower, a pair of geese nested on a low, exposed island, and the preserve’s pair of coyotes waded out and killed the incubating female and got her eggs.

Here are 3 more mounds in the center of the marsh.

With so many potential platforms this year, there is the possibility that more than one pair will nest there.

Add one more in the south end.

It’s not a big marsh, though, and an aggressive pair of geese may be able to keep others out. I’ll be interested in seeing what develops.

For the moment, Canada geese still are in their winter pattern. I have not followed them as closely this winter as in past years, but clearly more roosts have stayed active and more birds have hung around in this milder season. I checked out the Blackwell roost earlier this week, and found that though the geese continue to use it, the water has been drawn down.

Most of the roost area is in mudflats.

This is not simply the result of low precipitation.

The gate has been removed from the dam. There are plans to enlarge the zone of marsh-edge vegetation.

This could be a good place to see migrant shorebirds later in the spring.

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