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Migration Alert: Good teal opener expected in Louisiana

Report posted September 9, 2011
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Teal are arriving in south Louisiana, but not in peak numbers by any means. Some seasoned waterfowlers worried that Tropical Storm Lee would scatter teal and make for sparse hunting. Fortunately, birds did not scatter and it seems as if a current cold front up north may be pushing more teal into our area. We expect a good opening teal weekend depending in the area, with all areas seeing more birds in the next few weeks. 

Agricultural and Wetland Habitats

Due to spring flooding, many farmers in Atchafalaya Basin were unable to plant soybeans or rice this season. Conservation-minded farmers have allowed their fields to grow up in natural grasses, plants considered weeds in some years, in an attempt to have some form of duck food in their fields this winter. This is wise on their part as natural-grass management, also known as moist-soil management, is one of the better habitat management strategies for wintering waterfowl. If water conditions are managed correctly (key depth is six to 10 inches and never more than 18 inches), we expect these fields to support an abundance of waterfowl. 

Most landowners with pumping capabilities in the Atchafalaya Basin will not pump until closer to regular waterfowl season. However, the tropical storm brought as much as 10 inches of rain to the area, and most landowners who caught rainfall are fully flooded for waterfowl season. This may be a little early, and they run the risk of depleting food resources before the regular season begins, but it will make for a great teal season.

In the rice fields of the coastal prairies, initial crop harvest is approximately 80 percent complete. Farmers who are attempting a second (ratoon) crop have already re-flooded their fields. However, a lower percentage of farmers are attempting a ratoon crop this year because of the severe drought and lack of water this summer. The flooded rice fields on the landscape will support some teal, but not as much as natural marsh habitats to the south. Standing stubble can discourage waterfowl use, but this will become less of an issue later in the fall after stubble has had a chance to decompose.

Coastal Marshes

Most coastal marshes have low water conditions and high salinities, especially those without water control. Low water conditions are beneficial to teal, and as a result marshes tend to hold more teal than croplands early in the season. The high salinities, however, have decreased the abundance of submersed aquatic vegetation. Food availability will play a major role in where teal concentrate in the upcoming weeks. Marsh units with water control that have received rainfall generally have high food abundance and should see lots of teal in coming weeks. And even if these units do not have a lot of food now, rainfall collected from Tropical Storm Lee can spur submersed aquatic plant growth even as late as middle October.

Field Report provided:

Alicia Wiseman
DU biologist
Louisiana Field Station

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