Migration Alert: Bird Numbers Holding Steady Across Prairie Canada

Oct. 5, 2017 – Canadian Prairies

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Photo © Avery Outdoors

Waterfowl seasons have been open for more than a month across Canada, where hunters have enjoyed good success on both ducks and geese.

Alberta

The first major cold front of the season just pushed through the Peace River Country of northern Alberta, where large numbers of migrating waterfowl are staging on the region’s expansive grainfields. The change in temperature brought a large influx of Canada geese from the north, but also pushed white-fronted geese and pintails out of the region.

“Early October is usually when we see specks and pintails check out, so this was nothing unusual,” says Trevor Manteufel of Top of the Flyway Outfitters (http://www.topoftheflyway.com). “We still have plenty of local ducks in the area and are waiting for the big push of mallards from the north.”

A wet fall in 2016 followed by above-normal precipitation this past spring delayed crop planting, which Manteufel says has led to a later harvest this fall. There is plenty of waterfowl food in the region, and hunters have been taking full advantage of opportunities to decoy ducks and geese in the fields.

“It’s been a very good year so far, but I’d put the pace of the migration a little behind what we normally see,” Manteufel says. “The weather forecast for the next week shows nighttime lows in the 30s and highs in the 60s, which isn’t going to spark a major migration anytime soon.”

Saskatchewan

Conditions are much different in east-central Saskatchewan, where hunters report the light goose migration is at least two weeks ahead of schedule and dry wetland conditions are likely impacting duck concentrations.

Tony Vandemore recently arrived at the Habitat Flats Central Prairies Lodge near Yorkton, where he discovered good numbers of Canada geese, sandhill cranes, and light geese in the area.

“The lesser Canada geese and snow geese arrived early, but the migration has slowed a little since,” Vandemore says. “We’re expecting clear skies and a good cold front this week, which I hope will get the birds moving again.”

Vandemore adds that the number of mallards and other puddle ducks in the area appears to be down compared to recent years, which he attributes to poor wetland conditions. “The water levels are way down, with several sloughs dry in places where I’ve always seen water,” he says. “That’s the scary part to me, looking forward to spring and the next nesting season. This area could use some precipitation.”

Manitoba

The weather has been mild at Oak Hammock Marsh near Winnipeg, where thousands of migrating waterfowl stage during the fall. The marsh is currently holding around 5,000 ducks, 4,000 snow geese, and more than 20,000 Canada geese.

Jacques Bourgeois with the Oak Hammock Marsh Interpretive Centre, which monitors the waterfowl migration during fall and spring, says the area has had “a pretty glorious fall” so far. “The weather has been very nice, the area’s crops are out for the most part, and the ducks and geese are feeding in the fields, although they are often coming back well after dark,” he says.

Similar to Saskatchewan, Bourgeois believes that migration is running about two weeks ahead of schedule, particularly for snow geese. With no foreseeable change in the weather pattern on the horizon, the birds likely won’t be looking to move anytime soon.

“We have not seen a lot of hunter traffic in the area, but we are hearing good reports from the field,” Bourgeois says. “With the nice weather and a steady trickle of birds from the north, I don’t see this changing.”

John Pollmann is a freelance writer from Dell Rapids, South Dakota, who is an avid waterfowler and conservationist. Pollmann will provide hunting and habitat reports for the Central and Mississippi Flyways throughout the 2017-2018 waterfowl season.