Mayberry 2012

(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.

Mayberry looks like a lake.

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.

Here’s a photo of a shallow pond next door. This is what we used to see at Mayberry before the ponds were converted to permanent water.

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.

Thousands of waterfowl formerly used Mayberry as a significant winter feeding area.

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.

The good old days with shallow marsh and seasonl wetland habitat.

5 thoughts on “Mayberry 2012

  1. Time to get a new lease?

    I assume non-hunter state employees are managing the property? My experience hunting so far has been that the state of California hates hunters. Its really sad. Its either a case of no access, or managing the land for wildlife failure (or non-management).

    Why did the state want the land in the first place?

    • Jedi: I see why you would think that the problem is anti-hunter sediment.

      However, many of the people involved in the decision-making process were hunters. In fact, Ducks Unlimited designed the permanent marsh project. Members of their staff explained to us at the time, that the loss of the seasonal marsh would reduce over-winter use by waterfowl. It is possible that springtime breeding activity has increased, but there is no documentation of that. As tenants, who had sold for financial gain, we were not in a position to raise a stink, and still aren’t.

      The reason the State threatened to condemn the property was for the purpose of taking control over salt-water intrusion into the Delta – a legitimate concern during drought years. The permanent marsh project was not conceived until long after we sold out. And, we were adequately compensated, so I have no valid bone to pick with that action. My biggest disappointment is that there was little concern (by anybody) for the habitat value of the (very rare) seasonal marsh habitat that we had developed by ending the row crop cycle.

      It appeared to me that here was nobody willing to stand up and defend the value of the seasonal marsh to migrating wildfowl. Bureaucracy is often mindless and always cold.

      Grazing interests and political pressure seemed to overwhelm any support for maintaining the seasonal marsh. In the end, the seasonal marsh had the fewest supporters. Cattle interests had a strong lobby, Global Warming and subsidence were hot topics. The Federal Stimulus program came along about the time the project needed funds. Ultimately, it could be that the unusual funding program was a factor. I suspect it was, but have not verified that Simulus funds were involved. Without funding, the million dollar (?)(more or less)permanent marsh project may have gone away.

      Unfortunately, the funding arrived.

      Like I said before, I’m still grateful for the opportunity to call Mayberry our winter hangout.

      Unfortunately, the funding arrived.

      RF �Rich Fletcher Real Estate Broker 1568 Catalina Ct. Livermore, CA 94550 fax(925)605-3527 c(925)989-4372

      Rich’s blog: http://www.hunterlandowner.wordpress.com

      ________________________________

      • Perhaps hate was too strong a word, “mindless and cold” sounds more like it.

        Thanks for sharing the saga of Mayberry. Its always sad to lose good hunting ground, good luck on the bass. Beautiful shot of north peak/diablo and the foothills.

      • We’ll try fishing and hope that it makes up for some of the disappointment. Who knows, maybe some nice largemouth will pop up. R Rich Fletcher Real Estate Broker 1568 Catalina Ct. Livermore, CA 94550 fax(925)605-3527 c(925)989-4372

        Rich’s blog: http://www.hunterlandowner.wordpress.com

        ________________________________

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