Migration Alert: Central Flyway in Bullseye of Early Winter Weather

Oct. 9, 2019 – Central Flyway – Canada

© Michael Furtman

Waterfowl hunters in the upper reaches of the Central Flyway have their eyes on an early round of severe winter weather predicted to hit the Great Plains states over the next two days, while in Prairie Canada ducks and geese are already on the move.

In Alberta, there was a significant migration of waterfowl out of the Peace River country on Monday and Tuesday, reports Trevor Manteufel with Top of the Flyway Outfitters, as a cold front sent temperatures plummeting and brought strong winds out of the northwest.

“Little Canada geese, white-fronted geese and sandhill cranes have pushed through, while the swans have really moved into the area,” Manteufel says. “We still have decent duck numbers and I’m curious to see what happens with our goose numbers over the next few days.”

The weather forecast calls for calm winds and nighttime lows in the 20s the remainder of this week, which is the perfect recipe for ice on the region’s water bodies, but the weather is expected to moderate, at least in the short term.

“I wouldn’t be surprised to see another push of ducks and geese after we get through this little cold stretch. The weather where these birds are staging to the north of us isn’t all that different from what we’re experiencing in the Peace River region, so we’re not quite at the end of the migration yet,” Manteufel says. “It’s been a good season, and I was impressed by the number of juvenile white-fronted geese and lesser Canada geese that came through. They should provide some good hunting for folks farther down the flyway throughout the fall and winter.”

In Saskatchewan, guide Spencer Proulx believes the migration is near its peak, with strong numbers of snow geese, large Canada geese and mallards all having moved into the prairie pothole country.

“Our Canada goose numbers have been pretty good all season, but the arrival of mallards out of the north has really helped, as we’ve lost a number of our local gadwalls, wigeon and teal in recent days. Roughly 90 percent of the sandhill cranes have moved out too,” Proulx says. “With a change in our weather and some freezing temperatures, I’d expect to see the mallards and geese really start to concentrate on what water we have.”

With wind gusts as high as 50 mph and a mix of freezing rain and snow, large portions of North Dakota and South Dakota are expected to get an early taste of winter over the next few days. As much as two feet of snow is currently predicted to fall in portions of both states. While the snow may be short-lived (temperatures next week should inch back into the 40s and 50s), the combination of a howling northwest wind and deep snow will certainly be enough to get birds on the move.

Look for a migration report next week highlighting the impact of this winter storm on the U.S. portion of the Prairie Pothole Region.