Early duck estimates up 3X over 2013

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A few days before the East Zone season opener for ducks, there’s good news about early migrations of waterfowl in the state. The estimate of 3.13 million ducks from the 2014 survey of central and south Louisiana is over 3 times last November’s estimate of 1.02 million, over twice the most recent 5-year November average of 1.36 million, and over 50% higher than the long-term average of 2.0 million.

In fact, this is the first November estimate to exceed 3-million since 1995, when an estimated 3.43 million ducks were seen on the same surveyed areas. Aerial observations to determine population estimates in northwest and northeast Louisiana are being conducted by LDWF this week and we’ll get you those numbers are soon as they are finished in the next day or so. Those numbers are also expected to be good.

It appears the very cold temperatures in the northern Central and Mississippi Flyway states last week created conditions favoring migration of ducks into Louisiana’s coastal habitats earlier than in recent years, and the much higher-than-average numbers of gadwalls, pintails and especially ring-necked ducks were largely responsible for the high overall estimate. Along with the flocks of scaup in the coastal bays, which we typically don’t see until December or January, hooded mergansers and buffleheads were also noted in southeast Louisiana in numbers more typical of January rather than November surveys.

The 144,000 ducks counted at Catahoula Lake on this survey was lower than the 154,000 seen last November despite the apparent earlier migration and far more ducks estimated in coastal habitats this year. Inopportune rainfall, and impeded drainage of runoff from shoaling in some areas of the lake created difficulty in maintaining low water levels during the drawdown period. Consequently, there was poorer moist-soil plant production and thus reduced foraging habitat for migrating and wintering ducks. Water levels at the time of this survey were approximately the same as last November’s survey, but lower food production is likely responsible for the fewer ducks using the lake.

The information above and chart below were compiled under the direction of LDWF state waterfowl leader Larry Reynolds.

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