Posted by: coastlinesproject | September 26, 2011

Tropical storm Phillipe not yet a threat to East Coast. Cape Cod Seashore Historic Use Designation, How the Monomoy Branting Club Solved one of the East coast’s Biological Riddles.

Attached is a piece about the Monomot Branting Club.Thanks to OH and CWR for submitting this piece. Sorry it is so linear!

 

¾ol. XLIX] 

1932 I PHILLIPS, 

T/• Eas•’n 

Brant 

Goose. 445 

FLUCTUATION IN NUMBERS OF THE 

EASTERN BRANT GOOSE. 

JOHN C. PHILLIPS. 

IT is not often 

that a shooting 

club 

keeps 

records 

which 

are of 

any particular 

interest 

from the ornithologist’s 

viewpoint. How- 

ever, the Monomoy 

Brant Club of Chatham, 

Massachusetts, 

has 

proved 

an exception 

for it has 

kept a faithful log from 1863 

until 

the present 

time. 

This log is a mine 

of information 

on the habits 

of sea 

fowl, the 

psychology 

of sportsmen 

and all that pertains 

to that windy 

neck 

of sand. I doubt 

if it can 

be duplicated 

anywhere. 

A few years ago the five neat volumes 

of these 

records 

were 

loaned 

to me by the present 

Secretary 

of the Club, 1VIr. 

G. C. 

Porter, and I read them through 

with real delight. The father of 

the Club was 1VIr. 

Warren Hapgood 

of Boston, 

at one time the 

very active President 

of the Massachusetts 

Fish and Game As- 

sociation. From 1863 to and including 

1909 all of the shooting 

was 

done 

in the spring, 

and practically 

the whole 

bag consisted 

of 

the American 

or Eastern 

Brant (Branta 

bernida 

hrota). After that 

time spring 

shooting 

was abolished 

by law in Massachusetts. 

feel 

that some 

summary 

of this log should 

be available. 

At the present 

time 

when 

so 

many 

of our sportsmen 

and 

others 

are worried 

over the wildfowl 

situation, 

the extraordinary 

natural 

fluctuation 

in numbers 

of Brant gives 

us food 

for thought 

and 

demonstrates 

the remarkable 

power 

of recuperation 

in one 

species, 

at least. 

The Brant cannot, 

of course, 

be compared 

directly 

with any 

other of our wildfowl 

in this respect, 

for this species 

occupies 

most peculiar 

niche 

in relation to its natural and human environ- 

ment. 

In the first 

place 

it is strictly 

limited in winter 

to ice-free 

waters 

in the southern 

extension 

of the range of the eel grass 

(Zostera 

marina). North of Cape 

Cod the winters 

are too severe 

and south 

of Pamlico 

and Core 

Sounds 

in North Carolina 

eel 

grass 

does 

not 

grow. Indeed 

it is noticeably 

dwarfed 

in this 

southern 

limit of its’ 

Auk 

446 rmmr, The 

Eastern 

Brant 

Goose. [Oct. 

range. Brant will eat widgeon 

grass, 

sea lettuce and other foods 

if 

they have 

to, but in the long 

run they appear 

dependent 

on Zostera. 

Since 

these 

birds occupy 

vast open spaces 

of water and have 

the habit of packing 

into large 

flocks, 

they are very diffleult 

birds 

to 

bag in large 

numbers. 

And since 

they have, 

with other 

geese, 

a rela- 

tively long life span, they can stand poor breeding 

years better 

than the shorter-lived ducks and teal. 

Such things as pollution by mineral oils or a failure of the eel 

grass 

crop 

through 

poor 

seeding 

years, 

or changes 

in the salinity 

of 

the water may have direct and important influence 

on the well- 

being of this species. We appear now (1931-32) to be passing 

through a period of serious 

Zostera shortage on the Atlantic 

Coast. 

It has 

long 

been 

known 

that during 

certain 

years, 

or sometimes 

for several 

years in succession, 

very few young Brant are reared. 

This fact is, of course, 

easily 

apparent 

because 

the young of the 

year are very conspicuous 

owing 

to the presence 

of white edging 

on 

the ends 

of the wing coverts 

and secondaries. All Brant shooters 

are familiar with these 

marks 

of immaturity. If one 

plots a curve 

based on the number of Brant taken on the Monomoy flats by 

this Club from 1862 to 1909, one is struck by the astonishing 

irregularity of the graph. Although the conditions 

were fairly 

constant, 

in so far as food and persecution 

are concerned, 

I find 

several peaks of abundance, 1867, 

1873, 

1876, 

1887, 

1890, 1891, 

1901 and 1906. There was a notable scarcity 

in 1865 and a very 

low period from 1877 to 1886 

with other low points 

in 1895, 

1900, 

1903, and from 1906 to 1909. 

I find this note in the log for 1882: “We feel more and more 

every year that if things continue 

for a few years more and the 

birds grow fewer and fewer every year, in ten years there will 

not be birds enough 

to render 

Brant shooting 

a sport at all.” 

Yet in 1887 there is the following: 

“Never a greater 

number of Brant passed 

this Point.” “This 

admitted by all hands.” “Four million (estimated) 

went North 

between 

March 25 and May 2.” And during 

this year the records 

show 

that about two-thirds 

were young 

ones. Of course 

one must 

not take the figure four million too literally, for anyone 

who has 

attempted to estimate 

flocks 

of large birds knows 

that the tend- 

Vol. XLIXl 

ency 

to over-estimate 

is a nearly 

universal 

failing 

among 

observers. 

A figure 

about ten percent 

of this would 

probably 

bo nearer 

the 

proper 

mark. 

In regard to actual numbers, 

it may be said that continuous 

flocks 

of Brant five to seven 

mile• long, 

and closely 

packed 

have 

often been 

noted in Barnegat 

Bay, New Jersey 

at one time. l•Ir. 

Charles 

A. 

Urner 

of 

Elizabeth 

City 

actually 

counted 

• m••.• a 

eighty 

thousand 

on 

Fe•b•ary 

22 _ 

_ 9•y gather- 

•-•-]•u•it would be unsafe 

without 

‘ further figures 

to put the whole 

population 

of the Eastern 

Brant at anything 

over one-third 

of a 

million birds. In proportion 

to their numbers, 

however, 

com- 

paratively 

few are shot, 

and protection 

in the spring 

has been 

of 

great bonefit 

to the species. 

Referring 

to the records 

we find that again in 1890 and 1891 

there was good shooting, 

and there were enormous 

numbors 

of 

Brant in the Bay so that there 

seems 

to have been 

a complete 

re- 

covery 

after the long 

cycle 

of depression 

from 1877 

to 1886. 

The year 1909 

was the last year during 

which 

spring 

gunning 

was allowed 

and from that time to the present 

the records 

are in 

no way comparable. 

Very few Brant stop at l•Ionomoy 

during 

the autumn flight and in the old days it was never considered 

worth while to “rig” for them at all except 

in the spring. 

It is only fair to say that factors 

other 

than relative 

abundance 

entered 

into the size of an annual bag and when these 

are clear 

cut they are noted in the table to follow. Young Brant decoy 

much 

more easily 

than old birds, and when 

few young 

ones 

were 

shot 

during 

a whole 

season, 

it is fairly good 

evidence 

that not many 

were pre•ent. 

The spring 

arrival 

of Brant at Monomoy 

may be said 

to begin 

about 

the second 

week 

in March, although 

sometimes 

they arrive 

the first week. Usually only a few spend 

the winter there, but 

sometimes 

a good 

many do. The main concentration 

is between 

l•Iarch 25 and April 20, and as a usual 

thing the Bay is nearly 

empty 

of birds 

by April 25. In exceptional 

years, 

and especially 

when there are plenty of young 

birds, 

a few linger 

on into l•Iay. 

The young 

birds 

are said 

to be in less 

of a hurry to leave 

than the 

old ones. 

Auk 

448 PHILLIPS, 

The 

Eastern 

Brant 

Goose. [Oct. 

Something 

should 

be said here about methods 

of shooting 

at 

Monomoy. Previous 

to 1860 the shooting 

was entirely in the 

hands 

of native gunners 

from Chatham 

and Orleans. Oceasionally 

an outsider 

was 

invited 

for a week, 

but the living was 

so 

hard that 

the sportsmen 

rarely came a second 

time. Mr. Hapgood 

records 

that in 1862 they shot 375 Brant in nine days, while single 

shots 

• •_•whieh bagged 

from 

thirty 

to forty 

birds 

were 

not uncommon. 

l•-oba•ere often 

taken 

on the spring 

flight 

on the 

Chatham 

flats. 

Boxes 

wer•-•16•m•the•an•rl-ba•md. 

these 

bars 

were 

erossed 

by 

the 

birds 

in 

going 

to 

and 

from 

their 

feedin 

gr•mmds•. 

-• 

No wooden decoys 

were used but each year wing-tipped 

Brant 

were saved 

alive and a flock of live deeoys 

gradually 

built up. 

The shooting 

was 

nearly 

all done 

on the water, 

the floeks 

swimming 

up to the bars, 

often 

in dose 

formation. The few native 

gunners 

had things 

very much to themselves 

and the Brant were not un- 

duly disturbed 

on their feeding 

grounds. The eombination 

of live 

deeoys 

with the Brant little disturbed 

by other 

shooters 

made 

large 

bags 

possible 

in the early years. 

In 1862 

a conflict 

of rival native faetlons 

opened 

a way for the 

organization 

of a club, and a group 

of sportsmen 

built a shanty 

which was used 

first in the spring 

of 1863. 

Wooden decoys 

seem 

to have been introduced 

about 1880 and 

gradually 

replaced 

live decoys. Shooting 

on the wing took the 

plaee 

of “pot” shooting 

and the birds beeame 

wilder. By 1896 

the live decoys 

had nearly gone 

out of use. 

Another 

change 

oeeurred 

when the feeding 

ground 

between 

the 

flats 

and 

Nauset, 

the “channel,” 

was 

filled 

with sand 

washed 

in by 

the breach 

through 

Nauset 

Bar. This happened 

in 1887 

and was, 

for a time at least, disastrous 

to the shooting 

since the Brant 

did not have to fly over the places 

where 

the boxes 

were located. 

Many other changes 

in the geography 

of the flats followed 

and 

sedge 

grass 

began 

to grow 

up near some 

of the old boxes. In 1886 

the three clubs, Providenee, 

Manchester 

and Monomoy were 

merged. 

I present 

the following 

summary 

for what it may be worth. If 

it shows 

nothing 

else, 

it does 

point 

to the marvellous 

recuperative 

power 

of this 

speeies 

after 

periods 

of great 

searcity. 

Vol. XLIX'[ 

19•2 J PHILLIPS, 449 

450 PreLLits, The 

Eastern 

Brant Goose. 

Auk 

[Oc•. 

vo,i•:•x 

] Pm•,•,•es, The •astern Brant Goose. 451 

Auk 

452 PHILLIPS, 

The 

E•t½• Br$•t 

(•oo,•½. [Oct. 

We do not yet know what causes 

the destruction 

of young 

birds 

during the bad years. The few meteorological 

tables 

that I have 

been able to gather show monthly average 

temperatures 

for far 

northern 

posts 

like Upernavik in West Greenland, 

but they give 

no indieatlon 

that them is any correlation 

between 

a severely 

cold 

summer 

and scarcity 

of Brant the following 

spring 

on the Ariantie 

Coast. More than likely a sudden 

severe 

storm eomlng 

at the 

time of year 

when 

the young 

am still delicate 

may account 

for great 

losses 

in otherwise 

normal years. Such storms 

might not affect 

the mean 

monthly 

temperatures 

in the Arctic at all, yet they might 

kill directly 

or cut off the food 

supply 

of the downy 

young. 

I may be permitted 

before 

leaving 

these 

records 

to mention 

the 

names 

of the Cape 

Cod residents 

who made 

this club possible, 

and 

who contributed so much to the comfort and entertainment of the 

visitors 

from the city. The names 

of Alonzo 

Nye and David B. 

Nye, George 

Bearse 

and “Washy” (Washington) 

Bearse 

were 

famous 

in their day. 

In the fourth volme of the ‘l•eeords’ there appears 

the follow- 

ing notice 

of the death of Alonzo 

Nye, who was greatly loved by 

at least two generations 

of sportsmen. 

“In memory 

of Alonzo 

Nye, born August 

15th, 1823, 

died Sep- 

tember 13th, 1899 aged seventy-six 

years. Born, lived his life 

through, and died at Chatham, Massachusetts. 

About him in 

boyhood 

lay the marshes, 

flats and beaches 

of Monomoy, 

the best 

ground 

in New England 

for shore 

birds 

and wildfowl. Naturally 

the boy and his gun kept steady 

company; 

he grew 

up, sturdy, 

sure 

of hand, 

keen 

of eye, 

patient, 

observant. 

Familiar 

to him was 

the long whistle 

of the beetle-head, 

the doe-bird’s 

soft trill, the 

eronk of wheeling 

brant. This land of marsh 

and sand 

flat, the 

sea 

always 

at hand, 

rising, 

falling, 

in its strange 

tides 

and currents, 

with all the myriad denizens 

of land and water, this was 

Lon Nye’s 

home. Here he came 

to manhood, 

knowing 

the play of the tides, 

the strength 

and change 

of the winds, 

knowing 

each 

bird by flight 

or call, its coming 

and going, 

its feeding 

grounds 

and habits. May 

we not call 

him a typical 

native 

New England 

sportsman? 

He was 

one of the founders, 

and the first president 

and resident 

member 

of the Monomoy 

Branting 

Club, and as such 

we, its younger 

mem- 

bers 

of today, owe 

him and pay him our loving 

remembrance, 

our 

Vol. XLIX] 

perpetual 

gratitude. Those 

associated 

with him in the formation 

of the Club are shown 

in the Club Log, faithfully and accurately 

kept from the beginning 

up to’ 

the present 

day. Let us remember 

too 

the hundreds 

of 

city 

men 

to whom 

he has 

given 

glimpses 

through 

his magic 

glass 

at the ways 

of plover 

and brant, and to whom 

the 

short, happy days in the sea breeze, the crisp sunshine, 

have 

brought new youth, fresh strength, 

and awakened 

love of God’s 

best gift, the great outdoors. Of these, 

many famous 

and great 

became 

his friends 

and companions; 

and shall 

we not believe 

that 

he who 

was 

the friend 

of the great, 

had in himself 

a touch 

of great- 

ness? Surely in his simplicity, 

his faithfulness, 

his instinctive 

know]edge 

of nature, lay something 

that we may all reverence. 

At all events 

he was helpful 

and faithful to our Clnb always, 

and 

identified 

with its growth and prosperity 

even during the last 

years 

of his 

life, when 

age 

had lessened 

his 

practical 

usefulness. 

We 

younger 

men lived to see 

the firm hand tremble, 

the clear eye 

grow dim, the sure foot that had trodden 

thousands 

of miles 

of 

marsh 

and fiat, stumble 

weakly 

at a tangie 

of marsh 

grass 

or fail 

him utterly at a shallow 

channel. Time and its changes 

flowed 

over him till at last death came, 

and he passed 

from us. We now, 

his Club 

mates 

and 

friends, 

waiting 

behind 

bid him Godspeed 

over 

the nnlmown waters, into the calm and sunshine 

of the eternal 

morlling.” 

Wenham, 

Maas. 

 

 


Responses

  1. For those that might want to more easily read the above article go to:

    Click to access p0445-p0453.pdf

    And you can either view it as an article format or download for later viewing or printing.

    cw rice


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Categories

%d bloggers like this: