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Banding Together for Waterfowl

Migration Alert: Ducks and geese hitch a ride south on brisk Manitoba winds

Report posted October 18, 2011
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Brisk northwest winds in recent days have triggered a push of waterfowl out of Canada's southeastern prairie and into the Dakotas and beyond. A late, warmer-than-normal autumn has delayed the start of migration from this important nesting area. Now, though, it appears that many ducks and geese have "hitched a ride" on these favorable winds and begun their long southbound journey.

This reporter hunted in southwest Manitoba Oct. 14-16 with Scott Stephens and Bob Grant of Ducks Unlimited Canada. We focused mainly on puddle ducks using DU project marshes in the Minnedosa-Shoal Lake region. Birds and shooting were sporadic. Very few large concentrations of ducks and geese were seen trading cross-country and feeding in adjacent agricultural fields.

"We're in what I call 'the lull'," said Grant. "This is the period between when our local ducks have pulled out and birds from the parklands and boreal region show up. This new recruitment of ducks can occur any day, but so far they haven't arrived here in noticeable numbers."

Grant added that local ducks were present in large numbers until only a few days ago, so their departure is a very recent occurrence – good news for U.S. hunters in northern states.

While hunting ducks, we saw small feeding flocks of large Canada geese, cackling geese and snows/blues. Field hunters we talked to were enjoying fair to moderate success.

Grant, who lives in Neepawa, Manitoba on the eastern edge of the famed Minnedosa potholes region, said duck production this past spring/summer was "exceptionally strong." As reported in DU Magazine, the potholes were full of water, and surrounding upland cover was lush and offered good protection for nesting hens which, in turn, put forth a strong nesting effort. "We've seen many young broods coming off even in late summer," Grant reported.

Rainfall here has been scarce since early summer, and many shallow potholes have now receded or dried up. However, Grant, who has 25 years of managing ducks in this area, says most larger wetlands remain filled with water, and the stage is set for another strong nesting effort by the birds in 2012.

(Posted Oct. 17 by Wade Bourne, Editor-At-Large, Ducks Unlimited magazine)
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