Saturday, October 5, 2013

Observe waterfowl nesting islands on trail

Trumpeter swans take flight at Crex Meadows.
A number of flowages at Crex Meadows host islands perfect of nesting waterfowl. You can spot a few of those rookeries by hiking the North Fork Flowage Trail.

To reach the trailhead, from the County Roads F and D intersection, head east on County Road D. In about three miles, turn left onto East Refuge Road. Just north of the junction with N. Fork Dike Road, park at the lot on the road’s east side for the Upper Phantom Flowage Trail. Walk north on East Refuge Road and take the first jeep trail heading right/east to North Fork Flowage.

The out-and-back trail runs about 0.75 miles round trip to a boat landing on North Fork Flowage’s northwest shore. This mileage includes the walk along East Refuge Road to the trailhead.

From the boat landing, you’ll see islands to the southeast in the middle of the flowage. Crex Meadows regularly burns the islands’ vegetation to ensure they remains grassy rather than covered by woody brush. This creates a better environment for waterfowl nesting.

Predators such as raccoons, skunks and foxes will feed on eggs or hatchlings in rookeries. The islands, however, provide protection against such predators. Ducks and geese mainly use the habitats as rookeries.

Find out about trail guidebooks available in the Hittin’ the Trail series.