Waterfowl Breeding Survey 2015 – Ducks Up, Ponds down.

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Photo Credit – USFWS

 

Despite the low turn out of breeding pairs in U.S. Prairie Pothole Region, the bumper crop of waterfowl from 2014 returned to Canada in record numbers.   The 2015 survey results report an all-time record high 49.5 breeding ducks – 43% above the long-term average.

Hello folks, and, as always, welcome to Waterfowler.com.

Despite the mild winter, early spring and lack of precipitation across the waterfowl breeding range, pond counts of 6.3 million were only 12% below the 2014 survey totals. The U.S Prairie Pothole Region was hardest hit by the drier conditions but spring rains have recharged many of the areas since breeding waterfowl passed the area.

In short, waterfowl hunters will be treated to another outstanding year of waterfowl numbers. Pintail and scaup numbers remain below the long-term average and continue to be a concern.

2015 Survey Results By Species:

Mallards: 11.6 million and 51% above the long-term average.

Gadwall: 3.8 million and 100% above the long-term average.

American Wigeon: 3.0 million and 17% above the long-term average.

Green-winged Teal: 4.1 million and 98% above the long-term average.

Blue-winged Teal: 8.5 million and 73% above the long-term average.

Northern Shovelers: 4.4 million and 75% above the long-term average.

Northern Pintails: 3.0 million and 24% below the long-term average.

Redheads: 1.2 million and 71% above the long-term average.

Canvasbacks: 0.76 million and 30% above the long-term average.

Scaup: 4.4 million and 13% below the long-term average.

Black Ducks: (Eastern Survey Area): 541,000 and 13% below the long-term average.

With the first early waterfowl seasons less than two months away, it’s never two soon to begin planning your epic waterfowl adventures for 2015.

Click here to download the detailed breeding survey from FLYWAYS.US

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Waterfowl Habitat Update – June 1, 2015

N723 beached for a night's stay in a lodge. Photo Courtesty of USFWS, Nick Wirwa

N723 beached for a night’s stay in a lodge. Photo Courtesty of USFWS, Nick Wirwa

The 60th annual spring Waterfowl Survey is nearing completion and habitat conditions vary greatly across the nesting region in North America at this time. Aerial and ground crews have experienced a number of weather delays this year and some crews are racing across flight transects to collect data.

Hello folks, and, as always, welcome to Waterfowler.com.

Drier conditions prevail across most of the breeding areas in the United States. The lack of snow that fueled a very fast snow goose migration did little to recharge wetlands in Montana or the Dakotas. The Coteau region and eastern North Dakota had much better conditions but waterfowl numbers are down on those areas and nesting pairs have traveled north to areas where habitat conditions are better. Survey crew condition to report that the number of drained wetlands continues to increase across the survey area at an alarming rate.

In Canada, conditions range from good to excellent in eastern parts of the country to fair in the southwestern areas. In Nova Scotia, Ontario and Quebec, conditions are similar to last year and production expected to be near normal.

Smaller wetlands are drier in Northern Manitoba and Saskatchewan but permanent wetlands remain good. Duck numbers appear to be better than normal and this is not unexpected because of dry conditions in the Dakotas. Southern Manitoba is reportedly similar to last year with duck numbers good in most areas and other areas reporting record numbers of waterfowl.

Southern Saskatchewan is slightly drier than last year but the bulk of wetlands remain full, or nearly full. In southern and central Alberta it is drier in the south but Parklands remain good with duck numbers high. In Northern Alberta and the Northwest territories, conditions are drier in the south and near normal in the north. Mallard, Pintail Shoveler and Widgeon numbers were up in the boreal region with sea duck numbers lower than normal.

In summary, duck production will see a slight bump in Canada this season due to poor habitat conditions in the United States. Duck numbers in North Dakota appear to be down 25% across the state and down 40% in South Dakota.

CRP enrollment continues to decline in the U.S. Prairie Pothole region. North Dakota alone has suffered a net loss of 1.6 million acres since 2007 and the Farm Bill capped enrollment at 24 million acres – down from 26.8 million acres in 2013 and the lowest since 1987.

A recent study by North Dakota Fish and Game found that 10,330 wetland basins will have a gas well within 110-yards of them by 2020. Which will significantly impact duck production, clutch-size, and duckling survival rates.

The crash of duck production in the U.S was not unexpected, as habitat conditions swing like a pendulum from poor to excellent. What is important to remember that during dry years it is easier to plow wetlands and in the future, when water returns, the wetland will not.

As politics become more partisan and volatile in our nation, one thing is clear the road to sound environmental policy that favors habitat protection, enhancement and good duck production will be extremely rocky – unless hell should freeze over and our elected officials spend more time searching for common ground that differences.

As we await the final publishing of the 2015 Waterfowl Habitat and Breeding Survey (which is usually released the first week of July), waterfowl hunters and can read detailed pilot and survey crew reports at FLYWAYS.US
Until our next update, cross your fingers for good duck production in the northern parts of the Prairie Pothole Region (PPR).

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Migration Update – May 12, 2015

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The Spring Waterfowl Survey is underway and participants are celebrating their 60th year of collecting waterfowl breeding data. The Spring Survey is a cooperative effort of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, the Canadian Wildlife Service, and state, provincial, and tribal agencies – where participants cover more than 2.1 million square miles of the northern United States and Canada to access the status of primary duck nesting areas in North America. In short, it is the most extensive wildlife survey in existence and an epic adventure indeed.

Hello folks, and, as always, welcome to Waterfowler.com.

It’s that time of year again. Ducks are busy getting bust, and wildlife officials have embarked on data collection efforts to determine the season lengths and bag limits for the 2015-20126 waterfowl season. Without their efforts, the waterfowl season would not exist.

The past few years we have encouraged our members to stay up to date on nesting conditions for their respective hunting areas over at FLYWAYS.US – where their website features real-time reporting from aerial and ground crews as they venture across the continent counting ponds and breeding pairs of ducks. This season is no different – we can’t promote their reporting enough. The news and imagery are just what waterfowl hunters need to stay informed and in touch with our great resource. So, get over to FLYWAYS.US today and celebrate the 60th year of great science with them.

In other off-season news, Issue #23 of Waterfowler.com Journal is already in production and will feature an absolute plethora of great duck and goose hunting stories. If you missed our last two digital issue, don’t worry – our back issues remain online indefinitely and you cant catch up on your reading anytime at over at ISSUU.   If you are interested in supporting the continuation and frequency of our publication by becoming an advertiser, you can call us anytime at 815-337-8300.

While avid duck and goose hunters often spend the majority of the office season pursuing other outdoor adventures and fishing, we remind our readers that local and state organizations are always in need volunteers to conduct conservation and restoration projects during the spring and summer months. Participating in one of these great programs not only promotes good stewardship of the resource, it also is a great way to meet other hunters in your area. If you haven’t already done so, volunteer for a wetlands project in your area today.

Until our next update, step outside and enjoy the great outdoors!

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Migration Update March 20, 2015

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The spring snow goose migration is moving along at a rapid pass as spring weather spreads to the Central and Mississippi Flyways. In the past 30-days, snow goose numbers at Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge have soared from zero, to 643,000 on 3/11 and back down to 210,758 on 3/18.   Habit conditions have also varied greatly as the refuge was 95% frozen just three weeks ago.

Hello, folks, and as always, Welcome to Waterfowler.com.

Timing the spring snow goose season is risky business. Each spring mid-continental light geese push to the edge of the snow line and run the gauntlet north to their breeding grounds.   This year, limited amounts of snow cover and a quick spring thaw have opened a fast-track migration deep into the northern prairies. Continue reading

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Migration Update – Jan 31, 2015 – Snow Goose Report

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Special Youth waterfowl seasons in the south wrapped up this weekend and marked the official end 2014-2015 General Waterfowl season. While the fat lady has sung on duck hunting across the nation, the song of the light goose can be heard in portions of the Central, Mississippi and Atlantic Flyways. Light goose hunting under the Conservation Order is underway and another season of epic population control is already underway.

Since the passing of the Arctic Tundra Habitat Emergency Conservation Act in 1999, the waterfowl hunting community has done their best to reduce the population of mid-continental light geese and protect fragile nesting areas on the tundra. Despite the extend hunting season and significant increase in the total annual harvest, the Conservation Order has only slowed population growth — not reduced it.

Light geese, being a very adaptable species, have expanded their breeding range inland, away from damaged coastal regions, and continue to increase their population size. Since 1999, spring snow goose hunting has evolved into a multi-million dollar industry that is expected to continue growing for years to come. Continue reading

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Migration Update – October 8, 2014

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The first of October arrived and along with it the first significant cold front of the autumn season. Temperatures in the Northern Great Plains, the Great Lakes and the New England states dropped an average of twenty-degrees over the weekend and prompted a flurry of waterfowl activity in the northern tier.

The first push of divers hit the Great Lakes Region on Saturday and Sunday. Large bodies of water that were barren the previous weekend were now host to early flights of red heads, ringed-neck ducks, ruddy ducks, limited numbers of canvasback and scaup, along with a deluge of coots.

The majority of these early diving ducks are in eclipse phase plumage and lack their easily identifiable white bodies and contrasting head colors. Waterfowler.com reminds our readers to take extra caution in areas where canvasback are present and positively identify birds before shooting. Harvest mishaps are preventable if you take the time to identify your target. Continue reading

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Migration Update – September 30, 2014

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The general waterfowl season is underway in various northern states and hunters are reporting a great start to the season despite warm temperatures.  As a cold front moves south this week from Canada, temperatures will begin to feel more autumn-like in the north and waterfowl activity is expected to increase as the front passes.

Hello folks, and, as always, welcome to Waterfowler.com.

The autumn season has arrived and along with it a host of options for the avid outdoorsman.  While ducks and geese are the center of the universe for the hardcore waterfowl hunter, statistically speaking, over 85% of duck and goose hunters participate in other outdoor activities.

From deer and big game hunting to upland hunting and fall fishing, the autumn season is a celebration of renewable resources and grand sporting traditions. Continue reading

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Migration Update – July 29, 2014

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New early teals seasons for the upper Mississippi Flyway.

The count down is on for resident Canada goose and Dove seasons in many states – and the start of hunting season is just over 30-days away.  That’s right, a mere month away.   As we ramp up for the coming season, and another record year for duck production, issue #22 of Waterfowler.com Journal is in production and slated for a September release to celebrate the arrival of another hunting season.

The 2014 off-season has been quite productive for both waterfowl and waterfowl management.  Duck numbers will reach another record this season and in response to those numbers a number of states in the Upper Mississippi Flyway will host in their first early teal seasons this year – including Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa and Minnesota.  Waterfowler.com encourages our readers to consult their state regulations for details and to participate in these experimental seasons.  Of course, during teal-only seasons, species identification is paramount and wood ducks can be easily mistaken for teal during the early season before waterfowl molt into colorful breeding plumage.  Waterfowler.com reminds our readers to hunt safe, hunt legal and take extra precaution with regard to species identification.

While some government agencies continue to work hard to improve quality-hunting opportunity for sportsmen, the polarization on Capitol Hill continues to put politics before good policy for sportsman. Much to the disappointment of the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) and sportsman everywhere, the Bi-Partisan Sportsman’s Act of 2014 died a horrible death on the Hill, thanks to ongoing political shenanigans.  Despite the bill having overwhelming support from both sides of the aisle, the bill was destined for failure long before the it was put to a vote and amended to death in order to insure it’s failure.  In short, the block was the result of long-term political maneuvering, as the bill’s sponsor, Senator Kay Hagen (D-NC), is running for re-election this November and allowing Hagen to take home a win to North Carolina sportsmen would be in direct opposition to the GOP’s goal to win a majority in the Senate this fall. Continue reading

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