Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Notes from a goat watcher

Although my attention is usually focused on the coast, this week I'm thinking about goats. Yes, goats. They were herded onto a small, urban park on the Anacostia River to eat the tangled, thorny vine-covered vegetation dominating the Kingman and Heritage Islands Park. A company called Eco-Goats rents the goats by the herd for this purpose. With the help of some excellent Conservation Biology graduate students at UMD (Holla to Annette Spivy, Syrena Johnson, Kate Ortenzi, Liz Schotman, and Whitney Hoot!) as well as Smithsonian botanist Norm Bourg, I set up monitoring plots in the goat-grazed site and several similar control sites to see what the goats are actually eating.

Initally, the plots were dominated by a suite of invasive and noxious plants: Japanese honeysuckle, Asian porcelainberry, and poison ivy. Observations of the goats browsing showed that they will eat all of these. Stay tuned for more results. For now, here are some photos and punny observations from Whitney about the goats:

Notes from a goat watcher:

- When I arrived, the goats were grazing near the fence, where their water buckets are placed. Unfortunately, this is to the west of out plot; I did not see any goats enter our plot area.

- I counted 31 goats, but that is a rough estimate. They are cute, but also creepy. I would look down to write in my notebook, look up and they'd all be staring at me. They get stuck in vines and trip sometimes. I laughed. They did not. Goats don't joke. But they do kid.

- I watched the goats for about 15 min before they all left the area for a while. They headed around the path to the southernmost tip of the island; I walked from one end of the fence to the other, but couldn't see them, so went off to flag one control plot. Came back about 30 min later; still no goats. Flagged the other control site. Came back 20 min later and the goats had returned. So, the goats do bugger off. It is possible that I disturbed them. They were definitely aware of me. But they did come back.

Whitney Hoot
M.S. Candidate in Sustainable Development and Conservation Biology
M.P.P. Candidate in Environmental Policy