Shifting ducks, similar numbers

We had to tweak the waterfowl survey a bit this week because my pilot, Mike Cruce, had prior commitments later in the week. In addition, we also had to avoid the rain event moving through the Upper Midwest on Tuesday, and the excessive winds gusting to 26+ mph on Sunday and Monday afternoons. Due to all the above distractions, we surprised many Illinois River duck hunters on Sunday morning (November 8th), and our earlier than normal arrival on Monday morning (November 9th) spurred the curiosity of the Mississippi River hunters.

Total duck numbers (386,060) along the Illinois River really didn’t change much (up 4%) from the November 3rd survey; however, the ducks did shift around to different refuges. The South Pool of Chautauqua NWR has a little more water on it this week and the ducks, especially green-winged teal, have found it. Also, it appeared the ring-necked ducks that usually reside on the Barkhausen Unit of the Cuba Island complex at Sanganois SFWA moved about 8 miles north to Jack Lake on Grand Island, where I estimated 25,000 ring-necks, commonly referred to as “blackjacks”.

The central Mississippi River numbers (447,430) this week jumped about 80,000 ducks when compared with the November 3rd estimate. This was a 22% increase from last week and was 39% above average for the second week of November. I don’t really think there was a major migration event between the surveys, but a reflection of the hunting pressure as Missouri’s north and central zone duck seasons opened on Saturday, November 7th. All those ducks that were loafing on the private duck clubs were forced into the refuges to avoid the hunting pressure.

I was unable to get a decent photo of ducks for my blog this week. Sorry about that – excessive winds made for a turbulent flight. Winds gusting above 25 mph are NOT conducive to waterfowl surveys.

Good luck to you hunters, and hopefully everyone will stay safe!

Illinois River Waterfowl Aerial Inventory – 11/8/2020

Central Mississippi Waterfowl Aerial Inventory – 11/9/2020

inflated windsock
The inflated windsock at Pekin Airport just after sunrise let us know it was going to be a “bumpy ride” in the airplane on Monday morning.
aerial view of Illinois River valley
A birds-eye view of the Illinois River Valley on Sunday morning.