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Waterfowl numbers down

IMG_1043 ldAsk most any birder or waterfowl hunter how many ducks they have been seeing this winter and the answer is fewer than normal.  I throw my vote in with that lot as well.  The numbers on our ponds have been really low– just like the water level.

A male Hooded Merganser.  Photo by L. Dillon

Recent surveys by wildlifers confirm the low numbers of waterfowl.  Pre-season surveys in the northern United States and Canada indicated last spring’s duck population was at an all-time high of 48.6 million birds. But the number of ducks and geese in Oklahoma during the first week of January appeared to be lower compared to the same period in 2012, said state Wildlife Department personnel who participated in the annual Mid-Winter Waterfowl Population Survey conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. However, the reason for the lackluster numbers is not necessarily due to the overall bird population.

“This year, Kansas, Nebraska and Oklahoma seem to be in the worst shape, as far as habitat for tealwaterfowl,” said Terry Liddick of Spearfish, S.D., a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service pilot-biologist who flew a survey aircraft this winter in Oklahoma.  That isn’t news to those who pay attention to waterfowl numbers.  Read almost any edition of ODWC’s biweekly Waterfowl Report this season, and the most prevalent words have been “poor,” “low” and “below normal.”

Blue-winged Teal photo by L. Dillon.  Click to enlarge.

Wildlife personnel spend about 50 hours in two small aircraft as observers from Jan. 7 to Jan. 14, flying low and slow across Oklahoma to count waterfowl and other migratory birds.

Josh Richardson, migratory bird biologist with ODWC,  surveyed western areas of Oklahoma.  He reports fewer ducks and geese this year than he has in recent years. His preliminary numbers this year are about 40 percent less than his survey results from last year.  Another repercussion from our ongoing drought.

At least our short-term weather pattern is holding more moisture in the air and creating some conditions that can produce some rain.  Pray for rain.

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