Day 30: Friday – We are halfway through

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It seems like it takes a long time for duck season to get here every year, but it doesn’t take long for it to pass. Today is the halfway mark of the season for 2019-20. It’s been good so far, but we need some more new ducks to finish things off in style.

The last couple of days have been slow. It’s hit or miss right now. The coming change in the weather may help get us a push down here. The Arkansas Game Commission flew it’s December survey earlier this week. This is a brief review of what they saw (for the latest Louisiana estimates, you can check one of our earlier posts).

Geese numbers topped ducks in Arkansas’s delta region  with an estimated nearly 1 million light (lesser snow and Ross’s) geese and about 158,000 greater white-fronted geese in the Mississippi Alluvial Valley (the Delta). By comparison, the observers estimated 898,656 total ducks in the Delta, exactly half of which were mallards (447,083). Duck population estimates in the Arkansas River Valley totaled just over 20,000, including 11,000 mallards.  The Delta mallard population estimate was much lower than the 2009-2019 long-term December average of over 650,000. Similarly, total duck population estimates fell well below the long-term average of over 1.2 million. However, mallards typically make up about 56% of all ducks during December surveys, and this month’s mallard percentage was only slightly lower than this long-term average. Observers saw more than half of the mallards in the Delta in the Cache, Black-Upper White and Little River survey zones and, like in November, many of these ducks were in the northern portions of these zones.

Mallard hot spots were limited to portions of southern Jackson and western Craighead Counties along with Big Lake National Wildlife Refuge and Big Lake Wildlife Management Area. Estimates for all ducks and mallards in the Arkansas River Valley were slightly lower than normal and about average, with the highest mallard and total duck estimates in the West Dardanelle, Petit Jean and Point Remove-Plumerville survey zones.

“Generally, ducks were not widely scattered across the landscape,” said Luke Naylor, the AGFC’s waterfowl program coordinator. “The north Delta had relatively more habitat than portions of the Delta farther south, but overall habitat availability – that is, flooding – appeared somewhat limited. Habitat conditions also were declining in the Arkansas River Valley before and during the survey period.”