Connecticut mid-winter survey finds fewer ducks along Atlantic Flyway migration route (update)

Jan 17th, 2012 | By | Category: Birding, Wildlife

Scientists say they’re especially concerned about a national decline in one duck species — the scaup — which may be linked to habitat change. The latest Connecticut scaup count was 1,000, down from 5,400 last year.

For more on this story, visit: Connecticut mid-winter survey finds fewer ducks along Atlantic Flyway migration route | The Republic.

from the DEEP:

2012 Midwinter Waterfowl Survey Results

            Staff from the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) conducted the annual Midwinter Waterfowl Survey the week of January 2, 2012.  The survey is conducted throughout the Atlantic Flyway, and is used as an index of long-term wintering waterfowl trends.  The Atlantic Flyway is a bird migration route that generally follows the Atlantic Coast of North America and the Appalachian Mountains.  In Connecticut, the survey is conducted from a helicopter and a census is obtained from the coast, the three major river systems, and selected inland lakes and reservoirs.

Survey conditions for the 2012 Midwinter Waterfowl Survey were relatively poor.  The weeks preceding the survey were unusually mild, and most inland bodies of water were not frozen.  The Midwinter Survey is designed to obtain an index of wintering birds that have been pushed to the coast when inland waters freeze.  When inland waters are unfrozen and open, waterfowl are distributed in many areas that are not surveyed.  Further, flying conditions on the day of the survey were less than optimal with heavy, gusty winds and strong sun, making for difficult survey conditions.

The total number of ducks observed during the survey – 15,893 – was well lower than the 22,926 counted in 2011.  This is in agreement with the general paucity of waterfowl on the coast that many hunters were reporting.  The puddle duck count of 4,567 was in concert with the recent five-year average of 4,734, but well below the record 6,661 counted in 2011.  Puddle ducks, which are typically found in fresh shallow marshes and rivers, include the mallard, American black duck, American wigeon, and gadwall.

Following a recent trend, many puddle ducks were observed in urban sanctuaries, often associated with supplemental feeding activities.  “The Department discourages citizens from feeding waterfowl for a number of reasons, including increased risk of disease transmission and potential for poor nutrition,” said Rick Jacobson, Director for the DEEP Wildlife Division.  The Department has published a brochure, “Do Not Feed Waterfowl,” that outlines the potential hazards of feeding waterfowl. It is available on the DEEP’s Web site at www.ct.gov/dep/lib/deep/wildlife/pdf_files/game/NoFeedWF.pdf.

The scaup count was one of the lowest in the past 15 years. Scaup wintering numbers in Connecticut continue to be lower than historical counts.  The decline in the Continental scaup population continues to be of concern for biologists nationwide.  Habitat changes on the scaup’s breeding grounds in boreal regions of North America may be a factor in the long-term decline of the population. Mergansers were less abundant than what was observed in 2011 and under the five-year average.

Atlantic brant numbers were higher than in 2011 and above the recent average. Canada goose counts were once again high for this survey.

          Connecticut Midwinter Waterfowl Survey

                     Results for Major Species*

 

Species                                2012                   2011           Five-year Avg.

Atlantic Brant                    1,700                 1,600                   1,300

Black Duck                          2,100                 3,500                   2,700

Bufflehead                         1,200                 1,200                       900

Canada Goose                  4,100                 3,800                   3,500

Canvasback                                0                     100                       100

Mallard                                2,000                 2,600                   1,800

Merganser                             900                 1,100                   1,400

Mute Swan                            700                     700                       800

Long-tailed Duck                 300                     600                       300

Common Goldeneye         800                 1,000                       700

Scaup                                   1,000                 5,400                   3,000

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* Rounded to nearest hundred

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