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Migration Alert: Hurricane Isaac's Aftermath

Sept. 24, 2012
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More than two weeks after Hurricane Isaac made landfall, the impacts are still clearly visible along the Louisiana and Mississippi Gulf coast. The resilient residents of this region are actively cleaning up and rebuilding damaged homes, businesses, and infrastructure, a process which for some may take several months. As a return to normalcy continues, waterfowl hunters are wondering how the hurricane may affect duck numbers throughout the region this fall.

"Hurricane Isaac was a large, slow-moving Category 1 hurricane, which produced a storm surge in excess of 10 feet in some areas, covering the coastal marshes of southeastern Louisiana and Mississippi with salt water," says Jacob Gray, a Ducks Unlimited regional biologist in Louisiana. "Generally, only areas immediately adjacent to bays or open water sustained marsh loss, but the saltwater intrusion throughout the marsh led to diminished or stressed vegetation."

Wintering waterfowl along the Gulf Coast rely heavily on aquatic vegetation such as pond weeds and widgeon grass. It's this rich, abundant resource that attracts waterfowl to these coastal marshes. As Hurricane Isaac's storm surge pushed salt water into freshwater coastal ponds, this delicate waterfowl food resource was significantly reduced in many areas. As the salinity decreases and temperatures cool, however, some of this submersed aquatic vegetation may recover before waterfowl arrive this fall. 

"These coastal marshes have evolved with storm surges. While the impacts are magnified today by widespread loss of habitat, waterfowl will still utilize affected areas," Gray says. "The key ingredient in the recovery process is time. A lot will depend on what happens in the next two months, and how fast areas that suffered saltwater intrusion return to their normal salinity."

Gray adds that it's hard to predict how waterfowl will respond to changes in habitat conditions this fall. "Each storm impacts the marsh a little differently, and environmental conditions before and after the storm can dramatically impact forage production and how waterfowl will use the marsh," he says. "As with every waterfowl season, we will just have to wait and see how it plays out."

Current migration reports from Coastal Louisiana:

Monday, Sep. 24, 2012
Nebo, Louisiana
J. Nunez reported Peak numbers
Time: Early morning
Weather: Sunny
Temp: 61-70 degrees
Wind: 5-10 mph 
Comments: Teal have been great in the mornings

Sunday, Sep. 23, 2012
Cut Off, Louisiana
G. Bruce reported Increasing numbers & migrations
Time: Early morning
Weather: Sunny
Temp: 70+ degrees
Wind: 5-10 mph 
Comments: Me and 3 buddies hunted the wax Saturday and Sunday. Easy limits both days. Tons of BWT in the area. 

Friday, Sep. 14, 2012
Slidell, Louisiana
E. Warren reported Increasing numbers & migrations
Time: Early morning
Weather: Sunny
Temp: 61-70 degrees
Wind: 5-10 mph from Northeast
Comments: Saw couple small groups of blue wing teal this morning scouting. Birds steadily moving in.

Find migration reports in your area.

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