A waterfowl survey conducted by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) the week before duck season opened in the state’s west zone found large numbers of waterfowl overall and good wetland habitat conditions along coast.
“The estimated 1.62 million ducks on this survey was 20 percent higher than last November’s estimate of 1.34 million, was slightly higher than the most recent five-year average of 1.5 million, but was still 20 percent below the long-term average of 2 million,” said Larry Reynolds, LDWF waterfowl survey leader. “Rain is needed in many areas, but overall our waterfowl habitat is looking pretty good.”
Habitat conditions are generally excellent along the coast in southeast Louisiana with good water conditions and greatly increased submersed aquatic vegetation present in many areas. Large concentrations of ducks were noted in the Caernarvon and Delacroix areas where thousands of blue-winged and green-winged teal were observed, and at the mouth of the Mississippi River at Delta National Wildlife Refuge and Pass-a-Loutre Wildlife Management Area, where pintails and gadwalls dominated the counts.
Southwest Louisiana received much-needed rainfall last week, with three to seven inches falling across much of the region. Water levels in many marshes remain well below normal, and some areas where large numbers of ducks are traditionally surveyed are mostly dry. Large concentrations of gadwalls were noted in the far southwest corner of the state south of Sabine Lake and on the Rockefeller Refuge, and large groups of bluewings were counted northwest of White Lake.
The LWDF surveyed 209,000 ducks on Catahoula Lake, the largest estimate since 1999 when 370,000 were counted. During the last two years, Catahoula Lake has been flooded much deeper than the management target level because of heavy rainfall, providing relatively poor habitat for ducks. Last November, only 7,000 diving ducks were counted on the lake. Water levels have remained more favorable this fall, and combined with dry conditions elsewhere in central and northeastern Louisiana, Catahoula Lake is holding far more ducks.
Only 10,200 ducks were counted on the northwest Louisiana survey, primarily on the lakes, oxbows, and fields along the Red River and upper Toledo Bend reservoir. This year’s estimate is higher than last November’s survey of 5,250 ducks. As in other parts of the state, the severe drought has reduced waterfowl habitat in this region. The largest concentration of ducks observed in this year’s survey was on managed moist-soil impoundments near Loggy Bayou.
The duck season in Louisiana’s west zone, which includes the entire coastal region, opened on November 13. “Reports from public hunting areas along the coast show exceptionally high success rates,” said Bob Dew, DU’s manager of conservation programs based in Lafayette. “Some public areas harvested greater than 4.7 birds per hunter per day. This is more than twice the success rate from last year. Good numbers of blue-winged and green-winged teal, pintails, and gadwalls have been reported by most hunters.”
Louisiana’s east zone will open on November 20. Hunting prospects in this region are not as favorable because of extremely dry conditions. But waterfowlers who are lucky enough to have a place with water may have a great start to the season.
DU Migration Map Report
D. Simoneaux reported Peak numbers of Puddle Ducks near Rayne, Louisiana
Submitted: 11/18/2010 3:52:54 PM
Time: Early morning
Temp: 61 - 70 degrees
Wind: 15 - 20 mph
Wind Direction: from Southwest
Pecan Island marsh-more ducks than previous years-grays and teal. Large groups everywhere south of Lil prairie. Geese in fields north of Kaplan and a field of spoonies. Field south of Rayne holding ducks also. Wood ducks and teal along bayous. Good season opener with more ducks seen than in many years.
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