By Wade Bourne, WF360 Mississippi Flyway Migration Editor
Game on in Michigan! A surge of cold air blew through this state this past week, and new ducks and geese arrived with it. Hunting action is improving, and numbers of waterfowl should increase to peak in the next couple of weeks.
This news comes from Barbara Avers, waterfowl and wetlands specialist for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. This past Wednesday (Oct. 23), Avers polled DNR biologists and management area staff to get the latest on the migration status throughout the state.
"For reference purposes, Michigan is divided into three regions: the Upper Peninsula (U.P.), the northern Lower Peninsula, and the southern part of the state," Avers explains. "We see a lot of weather and temperature differences from the U.P. down to our southern border, and our waterfowl migration typically progresses in stages down through these regions."
Avers says this past week has seen a notable increase in the number of diving ducks (lesser and greater scaup, redheads and canvasbacks) in the Mackinaw Straits area of upper Lake Michigan. Also, freezing temperatures and the season's first snow in the U.P. has started pushing mallards down from this region into lower Michigan. Avers says that most wood ducks and blue-winged teal have left the U.P.
"Also, we've had high numbers of Canada geese in the U.P., but now these birds are shifting southward, "Avers adds. "The migration of Canada geese is definitely underway as more honkers are showing up in the northern Lower Peninsula and the state's southern regions."
According to Avers, wood ducks are still abundant in southern Michigan, but their numbers are beginning to decline. Blue-winged teal are mostly gone now, but greenwings are still plentiful, especially in the Saginaw Bay area.
Avers has heard reports of growing numbers of divers on Saginaw Bay, although these reports are unverified. "We don't fly aerial surveys here, but we do fly surveys on Lake St. Clair. In fact, a survey was flown there Tuesday (Oct. 22), and it showed that the diver migration there is just beginning. There were very few ducks on the U. S. side, but there were around 35,000 on the Canadian side, mostly canvasbacks and lesser scaup. I'd say the peak buildup of ducks on Lake St. Clair is about two weeks away."
Overall, Avers says a new push of ducks has entered the state this past week, and Canada geese have shifted southward. Hunter success on management areas (mostly in southern Michigan) has increased this week, reflecting this movement. In addition, "Canada goose hunting has been great in Michigan so far this season," Avers says.
The forecast calls for another front to slide through Michigan this weekend, followed by a weak warming trend next week. The long-range forecast calls for a significant cold front and freezing temperatures the first week of November. Avers says that each new weather system should bring more ducks and geese to Michigan hunters as the season moves forward.
Wade Bourne is the Ducks Unlimited Magazine editor-at-large, former DU-TV host, avid waterfowler and conservationist. Bourne will provide habitat and hunting reports for the Mississippi Flyway throughout the 2013-2014 season for Waterfowl360 and the DU Migration Map.