We had a great day for the waterfowl survey on Tuesday, November 17th. The winds weren’t excessive, and we even had some cloud cover part of the day. I prefer to fly with some cloud cover because the direct sunshine and the sun’s reflection off the water aren’t blinding me on overcast days.
I know this is starting to sound like a broken record, but we really do have a lot of ducks around for mid-November. Illinois River duck numbers (427,525 total ducks) were 48% above average and up slightly (11%) from last week. The same goes for the central Mississippi River with 589,460 total ducks, which were up 36% from average and up 32% from last week.
It seems the ducks are switching refuges as more water is becoming available on the landscape. For instance, Chautauqua NWR has been slowly adding water, and the ducks have found it. I estimated over 100,000 ducks on the South Pool of Chautauqua this week and white-fronted geese were abundant was well. This contrasts with Emiquon, which usually holds a big slug of birds. Emiquon Preserve was partially dewatered this year to reset the marsh cycle; as a consequence, most of the moist-soil vegetation out there is high and dry. I only counted 1,300 ducks on the “Big E” on Tuesday. The big winner for the upper Illinois this week was Douglas Lake with over 70,000 ducks. Most of those birds were on the eastern side of Douglas Lake, which is what I call the Rice Pond refuge.
On the lower Mississippi River, the Cannon refuge keeps making headway with new water and duck numbers jumped to over 62,000. The Shanks refuge operated by Missouri Department of Conservation had over 66,000 ducks on Tuesday morning, with a healthy mob of green-winged teal (14,500) concentrating on the lower end of the refuge. And of course, Swan Lake at the confluence of the Illinois and Mississippi rivers was still hovering around 100,000 ducks. I have witnessed hunters posting pictures of diving ducks around the internet over last week. We indeed had an influx of lesser scaup (34,000 which doubled last week’s count) on Pool 19, and even a few common goldeneye made their way into the central Mississippi River.
I know the general public has been enjoying Illinois’ mild weather over the last couple of weeks, but the waterfowl hunters are needing a change. Right now, it is taking some big winds to get the ducks to move around a little. Otherwise, it is stagnant out there in the duck blind. Here’s to the HOPE of blustery weather to come!
Good luck to Illinois deer hunters as they embark on the first half of shotgun deer season, hopefully everyone will stay safe!