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Banding Together for Waterfowl

Migration Alert: Atlantic Flyway Hunters Ready to Roll

By Kyle Wintersteen
  • photo by Michaelfurtman.com
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By Kyle Wintersteen, Atlantic Flyway WF360 Migration Editor

Many Atlantic Flyway waterfowlers kicked off the hunting year with resident Canada goose and early teal seasons in several states, while others are eagerly anticipating the main event in the upper end of the flyway. New York often provides a good indication of what the season will hold in states further down the flyway. 

"Locally produced puddle ducks are gathering on wetlands with abundant food resources to fuel up for migration," says Sarah Fleming, DU's regional biologist in New York. "Thanks to abundant spring and summer rains, waterfowl production was likely high because of abundant wetland habitat. Large groups of mallards and wood ducks are being observed on local wetlands, and New York residents have also been reporting movements of molt-migrant Canada geese over the past two weeks. That's helped early-season goose hunters find good success."

Diver hunters should note that the first major movement of scaup traditionally occurs during the first full moon in October; this year that's on October 18. There's also added excitement for the two-bird limit for canvasbacks, and goldeneyes—the Atlantic Flyway's fourth most plentiful duck just behind mallards—were up significantly in the eastern survey area. 

Farther south, in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina, the first big flights of blue-winged teal are making their way south on early cool fronts. "Maybe we got an early push, but I'd say overall the bluewing migration has been on par with any other year," says Doug Howell, waterfowl biologist for the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission. "The challenge with bluewings is they seem to show up in different places every year and stick around for just four or five days." Howell also reports limited numbers of other early migrants, including wigeon and pintails
Overall, many Atlantic Flyway waterfowlers like what they see for the coming season, especially compared to last fall when drought conditions had many hunters scrambling just to find water. Assuming cold weather arrives on time this fall, this season could be the best in years in the region.

Kyle Wintersteen is a freelance writer and passionate waterfowler who has hunted the Atlantic Flyway for two decades. Wintersteen will provide hunting and habitat reports for the Atlantic Flyway throughout the 2013-2014 waterfowl season.

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