Well Happy Thanksgiving to everyone! We completed the survey on Monday, November 23rd. Duck numbers on the Illinois River dropped slightly (7%) from the November 17th count. We estimated ~397,000 ducks this week, which is still 37% above average for Thanksgiving. Most noteworthy were the number of greater white-fronted geese at Chautauqua NWR (10,000) and the impressive numbers of trumpeter and tundra swans (~2,500) along the rivers. If you have never seen these massive birds, search the corn fields around Havana and Pleasant Hill, Illinois to find them.
We estimated ~665,000 ducks along the central Mississippi River, which was >50% above average and 13% up from last week. Mallards jumped to just under 300,000 birds after the central zone of the Missouri duck season reopened (increased 26% from last week). Clarence Cannon (100,000 ducks) and Swan Lake (86,000 ducks) refuges are rivaling for the most ducks on the central Mississippi River. Diving duck numbers on Pool 19 increased as more canvasbacks and common goldeneye arrived. I had about 18,000 more canvasbacks and 4,000 more goldeneye this week than last.
We were fooled by a diving duck hunter on Pool 19. From about ¼ mile away, we saw the ripples of a few “ducks” on the water. I asked Mike to take us to see what species they were. As we approached, a gunner from a layout boat opened the doors and started waving “Hello” to us. He was a good sport as I snapped a couple of photos of him. To quote Robert W. Service: “He wore a smile you could see a mile,” or at least 50 yards for us in the airplane. Layout boats are low profile boats used by diving duck hunters on big water. Their use became common back in the 1930’s after sink boxes were banned for hunting ducks.
Once again, HAPPY THANKSGIVING and enjoy the 4-day weekend!