We made it back into the air on Tuesday, December 15th following a couple of nights with temperatures in the low 20’s. Consequently, ice returned to many areas along both rivers. Total duck numbers remained 50% and 43% above average along the Illinois (240,805 ducks) and central Mississippi rivers (554,885 ducks). Mallards were the dominant species encountered and represented 74% of the total ducks along the Illinois River and 60% of total ducks on the Mississippi River. Northern pintail, green-winged teal, and ring-necked ducks were still plentiful in many locations. The North Zone duck season in Illinois was closing as we were conducting the survey, and the Central Zone season will close on December 22nd. Despite the ample number of ducks, ice and poor hunting success have prompted many duck hunters in the northern half of the state to pack it in for the year. Many reports suggest it was a poor duck season at best along both rivers. Maybe goose hunters will have better luck as we head into the frozen winter season.
We witnessed a spectacular sight at Ted Shanks Conservation Area in Missouri on Tuesday. As we viewed this flock of mallards and northern pintail, a young bald eagle decided to buzz the flock. Eagles often fly low over flocks of waterfowl looking for sick or injured birds to prey upon. This eagle parted the flock of ducks much like Moses parted the Red Sea back in Biblical times (Exodus 14). Fortunately for the ducks, the eagle failed to snatch a bird.
Be careful out there!
Illinois River Waterfowl Aerial Inventory – 12/15/2020