Migration Alert: Birds Arriving Right on Time in Virginia

Nov. 12 - Atlantic Flyway
By Kyle Wintersteen, WF360 Atlantic Flyway Migration Editor

Virginia waterfowlers can feel free to get excited: Ducks are on the move, and November 16 is shaping up to be the perfect weekend to reopen the season.

"I think the migration is likely ahead of schedule with the cooler fall weather we've been having," says Ben Lewis, Waterfowl Project Leader for the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. "We've received reports of scaup, wigeon and teal, and increasing numbers of mallards and black ducks. Strong numbers of ducks are already here, so now we just need them to stick around until the season reopens."

Ducks are arriving as far south as Virginia Beach, where Ducks Unlimited member Erinn Otterson hunts Back Bay and the James River.

"At least one member of our hunting group has scouted every night for the past week, and we've seen a strong increase, especially among puddle ducks," Otterson says. "There are nice flocks of wigeon and pintails around, and still quite a few teal from a big push in late September. Divers are still pretty limited though. Normally we see a lot of redheads early followed shortly thereafter by bluebills, but they've yet to materialize."

Neither Lewis nor Otterson reported any major movements of Canada geese, but on November 6 the Pennsylvania Game Commission announced "a sizable number" of migrant geese arriving at the Middle Creek Wildlife Management area. Presumably they're a cold snap away from setting sail for Virginia.

Virginia's wood ducks and resident mallards had a "fair to average" breeding season, according to Lewis, and both he and Otterson report strong remaining numbers of local mallards.

"I think that helped hunters do fairly well in our early October season, mainly shooting wood ducks," Lewis reports.

Hunters and waterfowl may have to contend with less available water.

"Habitat conditions are probably average to slightly below average right now," Lewis says. "We have been pretty short on rain lately and it doesn't take long for our wetlands to dry out."

Still, things are looking up in the Old Dominion.

"I expect an average to pretty good season for the rest of the year," Lewis predicts. "Hunters should keep their fingers crossed that we keep getting the right kind of weather—up north to drive birds south and here to keep them moving."