By John Pollmann, WF360 Central Flyway Migration Editor
The Arctic air mass bearing down on the northern plains this week has waterfowl on the move in Kansas, following the first significant migration of ducks and geese into the state this season.
Matt Farmer with the Kansas Division of Wildlife, Parks & Tourism (KDWPT) says that Canada geese and mallards began showing up in the central part of the state last weekend, and birds have continued to arrive in the days since.
"It is the first major push of big Canada geese this year, and there seem to be a lot of mallards around," Farmer says. "Typically, we see these birds by Thanksgiving, so they're a little behind schedule, but only by a couple weeks."
Waterfowl counts on many state wildlife areas mirror Farmer's observations, including those conducted at Cheyenne Bottoms, where more than 100,000 ducks and geese are utilizing the area's shallow wetlands.
Colder temperatures this week threaten to freeze smaller water bodies, but Farmer believes that if the state can escape heavy snow, many ducks and geese will hold tight.
"As the shallow water freezes, the birds tend to concentrate on sand pits and other deeper water bodies," Farmer says. "And typically we have a bit of a warm up toward the end of December, when ducks and geese will trickle back in from the south."
That's good news for hunters in central Kansas, who are waiting for the second split of their duck season to reopen on December 17. The duck season remains open in other zones, including in the southeast corner of the state.
Between 30,000-40,000 ducks (mainly dabblers) are using Neosho Wildlife Area this week, and roughly the same number of birds can be found at Marais des Cygnes Wildlife Area south of Kansas City.
KDWPT wildlife biologist Jacob Coulter says that bird numbers at Marais des Cygnes have remained pretty consistent over the past week, but are starting to increase with colder weather setting in.
"The first snow flakes are falling today, and there are lots of birds in the sky—a lot of snow geese flying high and heading south," Coulter says. "But I've also been watching flocks of mallards dropping from way up high and settling on the refuge."
Hunting activity at Marias des Cygnes has remained high throughout the week, Coulter says.
"There were a lot of hunters out there today," he says. "I hope they had good luck."
John Pollmann is a freelance writer from Dell Rapids, South Dakota, who is an avid waterfowler and conservationist. Pollmann will provide hunting and habitat reports for the Central and Mississippi Flyways throughout the 2016-2017 waterfowl season.