The Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife has conducted its annual midwinter waterfowl survey and recorded numbers identical to or lower than 10-year average figures, according to a DIF&W news release.
The survey is conducted at the same time each winter in every state in the Atlantic Flyway. DIF&W biologists Brad Allen and Kelsey Sullivan, along with U.S. Geological Survey biologist Dan McAuley, flew with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service pilot John Bidwell for nearly 40 hours to conduct the low-level survey between Jan. 4 and Jan. 16.
The team counted slightly more than 56,000 ducks and geese this year, a figure significantly lower than the 10-year average of 69,000.
Allen, the DIF&W’s bird group leader, said the total was likely low because of relatively mild, ice-free coastal conditions during the survey. In years when the survey is preceded by cold, harsh weather conditions, waterfowl become more concentrated along the coast and are more likely to be counted. During mild weather, waterfowl are either along the coast or dispersed in ice-free freshwater sites near the coast. The inland areas are not searched by survey teams.
This year 16,388 black ducks were spotted — a figure nearly identical to the 10-year average for the species.
Most disappointing, according to Allen, were the number of sea ducks seen. Fewer than 1,000 scoters were spotted. In addition, just 1,253 long-tailed ducks were surveyed. Although almost 15,000 common eiders were spotted, that number is by far the lowest recorded during the survey flights. The 10-year average for the species is 26,500.
While Maine’s numbers were relatively low, the DIF&W cautioned that the overall status of winter populations can’t be determined until Maine’s data is pooled with those along the Atlantic Flyway. Collectively, that data provides a relative index to the abundance of waterfowl species and their distribution along the flyway.
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