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Duck Numbers

Sept. 16 Aerial Census

Sat, September 19, 2015

September 16th, 2015 – Aerial Waterfowl Inventory Blog

Wind and weather influenced the waterfowl survey this week; nevertheless, we did sneak in the Illinois River flight on Wednesday, September 16th.  We weren’t able to get to the Mississippi River due to gusting winds.  My tolerance for wind is minimal once it exceeds 20 mph. 

Those abundant blue-winged teal that dominated the waterfowl numbers on September 9th must have departed central Illinois on Friday evening (September 11th); however, I can’t verify this on weather radar due to a few isolated rain showers that were passing through at sunset.  Likewise, hunter reports from the weekend indicated poor success afield.  I estimated teal numbers at 30,495 along the Illinois River which was still 30% above the 10-yr average, but nearly 50% lower than the previous week. 

It looks like we picked up a few American green-winged teal, but lost the fickle blue-wings when temperatures dipped into the low 40’s over the weekend.  To the contrary, total duck abundance (55,155) was relatively high this week and was 51% above average for the 3rd week of September.  For more information about the waterfowl survey, check out our webpage at www.bellrose.org

I was glancing through the recent issue of Ducks Unlimited Magazine today and found an article by Wade Bourne on blind concealment.  I couldn’t agree more with Mr. Bourne’s comments - “when you think you have enough camo on a blind, add more.  You can never be too well hidden from the prying eyes of ducks.”  This couldn’t have resonated more with me as I reviewed a few photos from this week’s flight.  Hunters tend to think about concealment as they see the decoys and not from a duck’s perspective. 

blinds seen from above

Blinds and camouflage should be constructed so that the hunters cannot be seen from above.  And, the number one observation I make from the air is a boat stashed 50 yards from a group of hunters.  The hunters can’t see the boat nearby, but from a duck’s view, the boat stands out and likely flares birds from the decoys.  From the photos, you can see which group of hunters will likely harvest the most birds.

Good luck hunting this last weekend of teal season (September 19-20) and stay tuned for more updates next week ...

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Sept. 9 Aerial Inventory

Fri, September 11, 2015

September 9th, 2015 – Aerial Waterfowl Inventory Blog

We had a major influx of teal into the Illinois and Mississippi rivers this week.  The increase was likely due to the weather system that passed through the prairies over Labor Day weekend.  This week’s teal total (62,265) along the Illinois River was 143% above the 10-yr average (25,603).  Teal abundance along the Mississippi River nearly quadrupled this week and were estimated at 20,455 birds.  We are way ahead of normal for the second week of September with duck numbers 125% above average for the Illinois and 258% above average for the Mississippi River.  I even saw a few gadwall, American wigeon, and ruddy ducks on Wednesday’s flight. 

As nightly low temperatures in North Dakota dip into the upper 30’s and low 40’s over the weekend, I am sure we will see even more migrating ducks heading our way. 

Ducks undergo multiple feather molts at various times of the year.  Ducks even molt their flight feathers after the breeding season which renders them flightless for a few weeks during summer.  During this flightless period, a duck’s feathers are very drab and brown in color.  In fact, a drake mallard loses that brilliant green head during summer and resembles a female at this time of year.

For this reason most of the birds during the September flights appear as “brown ducks” from the airplane.  To estimate species abundance in September, I sometimes intentionally flush ducks from the water so I can see their wings and identify them. 

This photo from Wednesday’s flight shows the wing color and size differences in a few of the species I encounter.  You should be able to find blue-winged and American green-winged teal, mallards, northern pintail, northern shoveler, and maybe even an American black duck in the picture.  For more information about the waterfowl survey, check out our webpage at www.bellrose.org

blog ducks

Good luck teal and Canada goose hunting and stay tuned for more updates next week…….

Here is the Illinois River survey:
il09092015.pdf

Here is the Mississippi River survey:
ms09092015.pdf

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