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Heartland Outdoors cover November 2017

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Duck Numbers

Aerial Waterfowl Inventory Blog

Tue, October 31, 2017

We flew the second regular season waterfowl survey on Thursday October 26th.  The flights were delayed from rainy weather earlier in the week.  I’m sorry to say we weren’t able to get the Mississippi River flight in this week.  Thursday’s winds were approaching 30 MPH gusts by 11a.m. and there was just no way to take that in the airplane.  Winds were gusting to 28 MPH all day long on Friday, keeping us out of the air. 

If you haven’t heard, our airplane is having mechanical issues so we are renting an airplane from a man in Canton.  The attached photos of us in Rueben’s airplane were from last week’s flight over Chautauqua NWR.  Chris Young just happened to be visiting the refuge last week and snapped a couple of photos for us.  We will likely be using this airplane for a couple more weeks until the Piper Arrow is ready to roll.  Thanks Rueben!

We estimated 203,275 total ducks this week along the Illinois River.  This estimate was 11% above the 10-yr average and 26% above last week’s numbers. The bulk of the birds were non-mallard dabblers including:  northern pintail, blue-winged teal, American green-winged teal, gadwall, and northern shoveler; however, the mallards are slowly starting to arrive.  There were even a few ring-necked ducks, ruddy ducks, and canvasbacks for you diver hunters.

I heard a report from the field that Emiquon lost some birds at sunset on October 26th.  I can’t verify that on radar due to a squall line that passed through the Illinois River valley about sunset on Thursday.  If we did lose a few birds, let’s hope it was just some American coots heading to warmer climates.  The northwest winds today and a low of 19 degrees tonight in North Dakota might just bring a few new birds into Illinois just in time for the central zone opener.  As you know, all of us duck hunters are eternally hopeful for whistling wings on a northwest wind!  Take care and be careful out there!

For more information about the waterfowl survey, check out our webpage at www.bellrose.org.  Stay tuned for more updates next week…….

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Aerial Waterfowl Inventory Blog

Tue, September 19, 2017

September 14th, 2017 – Aerial Waterfowl Inventory Blog
We flew the second teal flight on Thursday after the fog lifted around 11a.m.  Teal abundance actually dropped (5%) along the Illinois River compared to the previous week.  We lost about ½ of our blue-winged teal from last week, but American green-winged teal numbers nearly doubled.  I estimated 18,420 teal in the Illinois Valley from Hennepin to Meredosia; however, the total was 31% below average.  There is some weather hitting the prairies this weekend, but I’m not sure the wind is right to bring in new birds. 

A few ducks were using the central Mississippi River where I estimated 5,740 teal (5% below the 10-yr average).  Some people I spoke with this week were speculating the blue-winged teal have already moved through, and this week’s count of bluewings was low along the Mississippi.  Many areas of the Mississippi River from New Boston to Grafton were still dewatered to promote duck food plants, so there wasn’t an abundance of shallow water for the teal to muck around in. 

I hope everyone remembers that the early Canada goose season closes on Friday, September 15th.  Don’t forget that when the flocks of honkers start moving around this weekend! 
The attached photo shows some teal loafing along the shoreline/mudflat and a few American white pelicans hoping to find some stranded fish to feed upon.
For more information about the waterfowl survey, check out our webpage at www.bellrose.org.  Stay tuned for more updates next week……. 

September teal

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Ice pushed ducks out

Fri, December 23, 2016

What a difference a week makes! 

We flew the waterfowl survey on Wednesday, December 21st, and the survey locations along both rivers were almost entirely frozen. 

As the saying goes, “the ol’ lady is singing”.  Just as the Illinois Central Zone duck season closed, we lost 805,000 ducks compared with last week’s estimate of 1,148,990 birds.  Despite the ice, we still had a few ducks holding on.  The Illinois River had 127,625 total ducks which was 19% below average. 

Similarly, the Mississippi River had 215,970 ducks which was 32% below average.  Mallards comprise the majority of the ducks still hanging around, along with some common mergansers and common goldeneyes.  We also picked up a few Canada geese on the rivers where I counted 22,425 honkers on the Illinois River and 12,155 along the Mississippi.  Now that duck season is over in central Illinois, it’s time to shift over and field hunt Canada geese. 

This will be my last blog for the fall, and this week I chose a photo of the iced up Mississippi River.  This view is looking north towards Nauvoo, Illinois from just above the dam at Hamilton and Keokuk.  If you remember from last week, this section of the river held 160,000 canvasbacks.  They have all departed now for warmer climates.  The second photo shows a pocket of open water with some trumpeter swans, Canada geese, white-fronted geese, and mallards.  Enjoy!

Thanks for all your interest in the waterfowl surveys and for more information, check out our web page at www.bellrose.org

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

swan lake ducks geese

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