(Note: For those who are not familiar with Mayberry, that’s what we call our Sherman Island duck club. We owned it for years and sold it to the State (under threat of condemnation) in the ’90s. Since that time we’ve been in a lease agreement with management of the property our responsibility – until about four years ago. That’s when California decided to put a new program into place. We still have a hunting lease, but do not manage the property. This update may interest those who have followed my duck hunting and property management stories on this blog.)
The Mayberry transformation is complete. There is no longer any habitat that is prime for dabbling ducks and wading birds. The property has been changed from a shallow-water seasonal wetland to a deep-water marsh inhabited by tules (hardstem bulrush) and cattail, but very little wildlife. Yes there are a few river otters, fish and blackbirds, but a census of wildlife would show a fraction of the inhabitants from just a few years ago. To be fair, it is a fact that the bulk of migrating waterfowl have not reached the area yet, so things will get better.
I’m on the outside looking in, but the way I understand it, the primary purpose of the ongoing project at Mayberry is two fold – study the subsidence of delta islands and also evaluate carbon sequestration associated with the dense stands of tules and cattail. It is hoped that covering the land with water will stop the sinking of the islands by reducing oxidation of the highly organic soils. And, that a study of tules and cattail will provide insight into ways to improve air quality and reduce global warming trends.
These are lofty goals, but the losses associated with this study are by far more clear, to me, than the gains.
During my last three trips to Mayberry, I’ve not spotted a duck on the ponds, not even a coot. The closest I’ve seen to a duck has been a cormorant that landed on the water. The good news, I can take my fishing rod out with me on opening day of duck season.
There is still hope for some waterfowl activity, but it’s sketchy. I’ve been told that there are a couple pair of honkers using the property and the shallow seasonal ponds next door hold quite a few ducks that could possibly flyover Mayberry. Maybe ducks will begin to use the property as the waterfowl migration arrives, but there is very little food for them.
The sad part of the story is that 300 acres of great duck and shorebird habitat has been destroyed. It’s too bad that at least some of the property wasn’t left as seasonal marsh. It would have been a nice compromise and it would have allowed for more use by migratory waterfowl – both game and non-game. Or better yet, they could have left the seasonal marsh in place and converted 300 acres of cow pasture to marsh. I guess the pasture was too valuable.
The bottom line is that management of the property in is the control of others and I have been blessed with great opportunity to hunt there for many years, so no matter what happens, I will always be thankful that my partners and I have had such incredible good fortune.