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Migration Alert: Mild Conditions Delay New York Waterfowl

Oct. 17 - Atlantic Flyway
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By Kyle Wintersteen, WF360 Atlantic Flyway Migration Editor

New York is a point of convergence for numerous waterfowl species migrating from Quebec, Ontario and points further northeast. Therefore, when peak numbers are reported from the Empire State, it's cause to rejoice throughout the flyway. Unfortunately, that day has yet to arrive, but reports of the first geese and early migrating duck species are encouraging.

"So far, relatively warm temperatures throughout much of New York have resulted in few large movements of waterfowl," says Sarah Fleming, DU's regional biologist in New York. "However, the state has started to see small movements of migrant Canada geese. Other noteworthy arrivals include Atlantic populations of northern pintails, which breed primarily in Quebec."

A few blue-winged teal remain, while greenwings have arrived sporadically since last month. And Fleming reports the appearance of limited numbers of wigeon and gadwalls, which tend to show up well ahead of migrating mallards. Diving duck species are another story.

"Divers remain relatively absent across New York," Fleming reports. "They won't move into the region until we start to see substantially colder weather in the north and west."

According to long-term forecasts, frigid temperatures are not anticipated anytime soon. Temperatures are expected to hover near 60 degrees for the next seven days as far north as Buffalo, dipping merely to 50 degrees thereafter.

Despite the mild weather, many hunters have managed to do fairly well. Seasons recently opened in the north and southeast zones, where hunters have taken advantage of excellent local duck production and the first northern arrivals.

"Bags have primarily consisted of local wood ducks, mallards and black ducks, with a few wigeon and gadwalls mixed in," Fleming says. "A youth season was also held in the western zone, and many kids experienced great hunts. Large flocks of green-winged teal and pintails were reported, and a lot of kids took some of the remaining blue-winged teal."

The western zone's regular season opens October 26.

"If temperatures remain above freezing with minimal frost, I expect western zone bags to mimic those seen in the north and southeast," Fleming predicts. "Wetland conditions are good to excellent throughout much of the state, so I anticipate that New York will hold a lot of waterfowl later this year, but they will likely be spread out."

Kyle Wintersteen is a freelance writer and passionate waterfowler who has hunted the Atlantic Flyway for two decades. Wintersteen will provide hunting and habitat reports for the Atlantic Flyway throughout the 2013-2014 waterfowl season.


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