Migration Alert: Mid- and South Atlantic Flyway Preview

Sept. 22, 2018 – Atlantic Flyway – Mid- and South Atlantic

Photo © Michael Furtman

By Ken Perrotte, WF360 South Atlantic Flyway Editor 

Whenever ducks and geese migrate south from northern latitudes this fall, they should find generally favorable wetland conditions throughout much of the mid- and south Atlantic Flyway. DU regional biologist Jake McPherson reports that despite a dry period in June, late spring and summer rainfall was generally above average in Maryland and Delaware. This facilitated good plant growth in freshwater marshes in upper portions of Chesapeake Bay tributaries. 

“All the rainfall that we have received is a bit of a catch-22,” McPherson says. “When you get a lot of rain, it benefits the upper tidal areas, especially those with stands of wild rice. In lower tidal waters, too much rain can be a problem. It flushes a lot of sediment into the waterways. This can impact the growth of submersed aquatic vegetation (SAV).”  

Nevertheless, McPherson believes habitat conditions are generally promising for this fall. Dabbling ducks will benefit from increased moist-soil plant production, but McPherson is hesitant to predict how divers will fare on Chesapeake Bay until SAV surveys are completed. 

The Delmarva Peninsula is Canada goose central in the Atlantic Flyway. Production among Atlantic Population Canada geese was extremely poor this spring, mainly due to an exceptionally late spring thaw on the birds’ Canadian breeding grounds. Waterfowl managers are currently reviewing whether harvest restrictions are warranted for Atlantic Population Canada geese this fall.  

Across the bay and further south in Virginia, DU regional biologist Emily Purcell notes that wetland conditions are generally good despite unusually wet spring and summer weather. Some habitat projects have been impacted by high water, but in areas where water levels could be managed, moist-soil plant growth and crops are looking good. 

The landscape in North Carolina and northern South Carolina is saturated following Hurricane Florence. “It dumped a ton of rain there, and we’re working with our partners to minimize the impacts on some of our public hunting areas,” Percell says. “The Carolinas had a good growing season with a lot of moist-soil and crop production. Waterfowl may be more dispersed, but there should be plenty of food on the landscape to support them.” 

As always, the ultimate success of waterfowl hunters in the middle and southern portions of the Atlantic Flyway will be heavily dependent on weather. “If migratory stopover areas to our north experience early cold temperatures and snow, we should see our fair share of birds this fall,” McPherson says.

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Ken Perrotte is a freelance writer and editor based in Virginia’s Northern Neck who hunts waterfowl throughout the Mid-Atlantic. Perrotte will be providing habitat and hunting reports for the Altantic Flyway throughout the 2018-2019 waterfowl season.