DU’s Freeze Out Lake Waterfowl Workshop

Workshop introduces participants to local ecology and waterfowl

Recently, Ducks Unlimited hosted a unique waterfowl workshop near Great Falls, Montana. The workshop was held at Freezeout Lake Wildlife Management Area (WMA) and included employees from DU Natural Resources Conservation Service, and other wildlife and environmental partners across Montana. Freezeout Lake is a prime nesting ground for waterfowl and other wildlife, making it a favorite for birding hobbyists and ideal for the waterfowl workshop.

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The day started off early with some bird watching and identification throughout the WMA. By the end of the day, the group achieved a species count of 52 different birds sighted in the area. Viewers got a chance to learn about different waterfowl species and talk with biologists about the birds.

Workshop participants had the opportunity to see the incubation process first-hand by flushing out nests and candle the eggs. Egg candling is a neat and observational process of holding the egg at the end of a dark tube towards sunlight to determine its stage of incubation. A freshly laid egg is light and see-through, whereas an egg with veins present or a dark solid presence tells the viewer the egg is far along in its incubation process. A short informational discussion was held concerning duck nest success and the effects predatory mammals, such as fox and coyotes, have on nest success.

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The last major section of the workshop was an outdoor display and lecture of the various aquatic invertebrates in the Freezeout Lake ecosystem. Group members observed these invertebrates up close, including species of crustaceans, insects and flies, such as damselflies. The discussion led to how important these invertebrates are to migrating and nesting waterfowl as an important source of protein and other nutrients. The discussion sparked interest in duck diets and waterfowl food sources.