We flew the waterfowl survey on Tuesday, December 22nd. Coincidentally, this flight was on the last day of Illinois’ central zone duck season. We had noticeable ice on several of the refuges, especially on the northern reaches of both the Illinois and Mississippi rivers. Duck numbers along the Illinois River (249,625) were similar to the previous week and still remained well above average for late December.
The central Mississippi River was a different story. Duck numbers dropped (~50%) along the lower Mississippi River from Quincy to Grafton; however, there were still nearly 300,000 ducks along the river this week. We just didn’t see the large concentrations of ducks at Swan Lake (Two Rivers NWR), Long Lake, Cuivre, Batchtown SFWA, Towhead, Delair NWR, or Ted Shanks CA. We are not sure where the ducks went, but they weren’t in their usually spots on the refuges. With the frigid weather arriving over the Christmas holiday, I suspect there will be fewer birds next week.
I forgot to grab my camera yesterday, so I had to use a couple of photos from past flights. We should normally be frozen solid by now, so I grabbed this photo of ducks sitting in the Cuivre Refuge back in December 2005. They were packed as tight as I have ever seen ducks congregate. The second photo is a straight down shot of ducks at Henderson County Conservation Area, near Oquawka, IL in January 2015. Enjoy!
Be careful out there and have a MERRY CHRISTMAS!
Illinois River Waterfowl Aerial Inventory – 12/22/2020