Flooding Up at Mayberry 2009

The ten- inch siphon is running with three weeks to go until duck season. It takes a while to flood up about 150 acres of ducks ponds with a ten inch siphon pipe, maybe as much as two weeks. After a while, we may have to start up our second siphon, a twelve incher, but first we’ll check to see how it’s going with just the smaller of the two. We also have a four-in syphon that is generally used to maintain the water level once the ponds are flooded.

The ten- inch has several outlets to fields, but right now our main objective is to flood our main duck pond. We start up the siphon using  a rotary air pump that sucks the air out of the pipe. As the air pressure in the pipe drops, water rises in the river-side pipe and eventually it spills over to fill up the down flow side of the pipe. When all the air is out of the pipe, we open a flapper valve on the end of the pipe and the water flows in an attempt to equalize the pressure, which would never happen unless the entire island floods.

Nearly twenty years ago we installed the two siphons pipes and they run out into the fields about three hundred yards. The pipes are a more efficient way to move water than using a ditch (in the delta), but they must be set up properly with vents or they will shut themselves off. The twelve-inch siphon is the same as the ten-inch, but the extra two inches in diameter increase the volume of flow dramatically – you can do the math.

Rob (my brother who makes these decisions) has labored to make major habitat changes this summer. Mayberry is responding, but the full benefit of the manipulations will not be observed for a full year or more. Here are some of the methods he’s used to manage the plants – upland and wetland.

1.) Aerial spraying of herbicides. The purpose of the aerial spraying is to kill large dense patches of cattail and tules that are unmanageable. When we quit growing corn at Mayberry, the cornfields became our main duck ponds and there were no cattails or tules on the property. We worked hard to get some started, but now they have taken over.

effects of arial spraying

2.) Ground spraying of herbicides. Using an ATV with a tank and sprayer on it, my cousin Wes has used a ground attack to finish off what the aerial spraying did not kill – mostly in the upland areas. His spraying has killed Bermuda, frag mites and black berry bushes.

berry bush killed by the ground attackThis berry bush was killed by the ground attack.

3.) Chopping with a tractor and asparagus mower. Chopping is the best way to create pathways through the property to facilitate pheasant hunting in the upland and duck hunting in the ponds.  Chopping reduces the height of the wetland plants allowing the pond water to show better. This is especially important in the early season. It also is used to manipulate plants into doing what you want. For example, chopping smartweed and watergrass will cause it to grow shorter with more seed heads. Chopping cocklebur and then flooding will kill them. 

Farmall and chopper cropped and resized

4.) Plowing with a large tractor and disk. Although plowing creates difficult walking, a limited amount of plowing creates pathways and habitat diversity. We expect that the plowed areas will produce plants that prefer soft soil for germination. One of these plants is Johnson grass which is prefered for pheasant cover. The birds like to hide in it, but the dogs have no trouble hunting in it. Sometimes it grows so tall that we can’t see the pheasants fly out while we are standing in it. In the duck ponds the plow knocked down the dead cattail and tules creating trails and giving us better access for finding downed birds. We also expect the plowing to impact the plants that will succeed next year as we drain the ponds, but we won’t know what that is until that time.

Here are some photos.

syphon pipe 10 inch cropped and resizedThe half-inch metal pipe connects to a rubber hose leading to the air pump. Once the ten-inch pipe is void of air, the valve is shut and  the pump is disconnected.


flapper valve cropped and resizedThe flapper valve rotates 90 degrees inside the pipe. The pipe was originally installed with a gate valve, but the flapper valve is an improvement.

dead burmuda reduced

The above photo shows Bermuda that’s been hit by the ground attack.

The pond bottom of our main pond is covered with fat hen and swamp timothy. Here’s the fat hen, a good duck food that has staying power.

fat hen cropped and resized

Here’s an example of the swamp timothy. It’s a preferred food, but doesn’t last through the season.

swamp timothy croppedThe swamp timothy produces large quantities of seeds and grows best on open pond bottoms where there is no competition from tall plants. The aerial spraying eliminated all the competing plants and the swamp timothy came on strong. Later the fat hen flourished and grew over the top of much of the swamp timothy.

This next photo shows two generations of smart weed. On the left is the older generation that germinated before the aerial spraying. Although it was not hit by the aerial spraying, it suffered from the following flood up. It is ready to collapse to the ground. Before we knew what smartweed was, we used to call it red weed. On the right side of the photograph is the second generation of smart weed. It is in the process of maturing and producing seeds.

smartweed cropped and resized

In this next photo you can see how the various manipulations are creating diversity in the wetland  habitat.

pond bottom diversityThe aerial spraying has set back the dense cover, the chopping has reduced that height of the plants and plowing has softened the soil and opened it up. The water is rising and it will be exciting to see how the ducks respond.

upland habitat responding to manipulationIn the upland, the various activities are creating a smorgasbord of feed and cover for pheasants. The dying Bermuda should give way to more broadleaf plants that provide a better place for pheasants to survive.

One thought on “Flooding Up at Mayberry 2009

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