Migration Alert: California reports indicate good numbers and habitat

Report posted November 22, 2011

Mendota Wildlife Area

Mendota waterfowl numbers have been above average for the early season. The average through the third weekend in November is 2.34 waterfowl/hunter compared to 1.56 a year ago. Green-winged teal numbers appear to be down with only 15 percent of the harvest to date compared to 21 perecent at the same time last year.

Unfortunately, Mendota Pool, the wildlife area  water supply, was drained Nov. 15, and is expected to be down until the end of January. By mid-December the majority of the wildlife area may be ideal green-wing teal habitat, but without rainfall a large amount of the area may be mudflat by January.

Tulare-Pixley and Kern NWR’s

Everything is flooded ahead of schedule, and habitat conditions look great for foraging waterfowl across the Tulare Basin.  20,000 birds estimated with the majority of the species being  gadwall, shoveler, green wing,  and cinnamon teal.

San Joaquin Valley- Los Banos

Areas are 95 percent flooded with optimal habitat conditions, though forage fields are not flooded at this time.  Bird use is stable to increasing, with more day time use during non-shoot days.  Watergrass fields are getting high use earlier than usual.  Harvest is up over last year with better average’s from hunters, and  mallards are the number one bird in the bag.  Water availability will be key to maintaining optimal habitat conditions throughout the season for foraging waterfowl.

Sacramento Valley

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s early November surveys reported more than 1 million ducks and 319,000 geese on the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge Complex alone.  This includes more than 577,000 pintails and 269,000 white-fronted geese. 

The mid-October survey reported more than 412,000 white-fronts in the same area but the geese are spreading out as more harvested rice fields become available throughout the valley.  Rice harvest was 2-4 weeks behind schedule due to a late spring and cool summer and many harvested fields are just now being flooded. 

Large numbers of white-fronts are also present in District 10 on the east side of the valley.  Wigeon, green-winged teal, and white goose numbers are increasing but we are still waiting on the bulk of those birds to arrive. 

Hunter success was good in October but has been relatively poor in most of November, particularly on the east side of the valley.  Expect that to change as more migrants and stormy weather arrive and birds start dispersing from the west side refuges.  If the weather gives us some help and brings wind, rain, and fog, this should be a great hunting season.

San Francisco Bay

There are lots of pintail and shovelers at Eden Landing near Hayward in the South Bay. Quite a few teal, scaup, mallards, and ruddy ducks in the North San Francisco Bay, though canvasbacks haven’t come in high numbers yet. 

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