The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries December survey was completed Thursday and here are the results, as reported by state Waterfowl Leader Larry Reynolds:
The 2.64 million ducks estimated on this statewide survey is over twice the November survey total of 1.21 million, is 18% lower than last December’s total of 3.20 million, and is slightly higher than the most recent 5-year (2.40 million) and long-term (2.55 million) averages. Despite relatively mild weather in the Mississippi Flyway, a significant migration occurred between the November and December surveys. The biggest change from November was the big influx of ring-necked ducks, especially in SE LA, but estimates for all migratory species increased from November except blue-winged teal and pintails.
However, the mallard estimate of 51,000 is the lowest on record for December, and all dabbling ducks except shovelers are below long-term December averages while scaup, ringed-necked ducks, and canvasbacks are well above long-term averages.
In NE Louisiana, the traditional cruise survey of selected habitats was conducted in November and December. In November, 240,000 ducks but only 37,000 (62% white-fronted geese) were counted with major concentrations of ducks seen in the flooded agricultural fields south of Grand Cote NWR, east of Ouachita WMA, between Bonita and Mer Rouge, and south of Vidalia in Concordia Parish. Gadwall (85,000), pintail (53,000), green-winged teal (40,000) and shovelers (36,000) were the most abundant species. This NE November survey count is the second highest since 2005, well above the 139,000 counted last year, and much higher than the 10-year November average of 135,000. However, the 36,000 geese were the fewest on record for this survey. Habitat conditions were very good across the survey area with far above average amount of flooding in the agricultural regions and water in nearly all backwater and forested wetland habitats.
In December, the survey crew counted 363,00 ducks and 199,000 geese (89% snow geese) on the same selected habitats, which was a 50% increase in ducks and over 6 times the number of geese seen in November despite relative mild weather in the Mississippi Flyway. Gadwalls (134,000), green-winged teal (77,000), mallards (65,000) and pintails (47,000) were the most abundant species, and this total number of ducks is the highest recorded in December since 2005. However, four December surveys in NE LA have been missed or incomplete due to weather, aircraft problems, lack of observers, or other difficulties since 2005, so comparisons with high, low, or average counts are suspect.
Highest concentrations of ducks were again seen in the ag fields south of Grand Cote NWR, between Bonita and Mer Rouge and south of Vidalia in Concordia Parish. Large numbers of geese were also noted near Grand Cote and Bonita/Mer Rouge, but also between the Ouachita River and Bayou Lafourche south of Bosco. Contrary to the November survey, snow geese made up the overwhelming majority of geese on this survey. Habitat conditions remain above average, but observers noted a noticeable decline in the amount of shallow flooding in some agricultural areas.
At Catahoula Lake, water levels were above management targets and rising due to precipitation and rising river levels. Diving ducks increased from 10,000 in November to 80,000 on this survey, but dabbling ducks declined from 13,000 in November when water levels were even higher, to just 3,000 on this survey. These counts are very similar to last December when 8,000 dabblers and 74,000 divers were counted, and the December 2013 survey, when 5,000 dabblers and 71,000 divers were counted.