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Migration Alert: Arctic Blast Brings New Birds into Kentucky 

Jan. 8, 2014 - Kentucky
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Blowing snow and near-record cold temperatures swept across the central United States on January 5, and reports from around Kentucky verify some movement of new waterfowl into the state with this front.

For example, a friend hunted on January 2−5 at the mouth of Hickman Harbor adjoining the Mississippi River in far western Kentucky. Back at work on Monday (January 6), he reported, "Hunting was extremely slow the past four days, but my partners are hunting today, and they had 29 ducks by mid-morning, including a mix of mallards, canvasbacks, ringnecks, and a couple other species. They're seeing a good push of migrators. It looks like the weather up north has finally brought us some new birds."

Rocky Pritchert, migratory bird program coordinator with the Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife Resources, agrees with this assessment. "I'm hearing reports of a good push of Canada geese into our state in the last couple of days, particularly in the Henderson Sloughs and central-state areas," he says. "We actually have some Hutchinson's geese [small Canadas] on our fishing lakes here at our headquarters [in Frankfort]. We haven't seen this in a long time. It's a good indicator." 

Pritchert has also received reports of increased numbers of Canada geese in power plant areas along the Ohio River and on horse farms in the Bluegrass region. Hunting for Canada geese and white-fronted geese in Kentucky continues through January 31.

According to Pritchert, duck numbers across Kentucky are about average for January. "The last count we had at the Ballard County/Boatwright Wildlife Management Area (WMA) complex tallied 110,000 ducks, mostly mallards," he says. "Henderson Sloughs WMA was holding 6,000 ducks. The Ohio and Mississippi rivers have been high, and we probably have more ducks in lowland backwaters that we're not counting."

Reports from other hunters tell a story of sporadic success. Hunting for diving ducks on western Kentucky's big lakes has been fair to good since Christmas. Hunting success on flooded cornfields in the Ballard County area has been hampered by night feeding. Large flights of predominantly mallards are coming in late, feeding in the dark, and then departing at dawn.

The current hard freeze undoubtedly has ducks stacked up wherever they can find open water. Hunters who can find a concentration of birds are faring well while other hunters are struggling. The long-range forecast calls for a warm-up by later this week, with daily high temperatures climbing into the 50s, accompanied by southerly winds. Ducks, especially, should respond to these conditions by becoming increasingly active in their search for food. With new birds in the state and a thaw coming, the outlook is for better hunting conditions going into the weekend.

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