Migration Alert: Despite Warm Temps, Northeast Waterfowlers Reporting Success

Nov. 13, 2020 – Atlantic Flyway – Rhode Island, Delaware, Connecticut, New Jersey

© Michael Furtman

While you might not be able to tell by looking at the thermometer, we are about halfway through November. Temperatures significantly above average have marked the season so far, but that hasn’t put a damper on the quality of hunting many folks are experiencing at the top of the Atlantic Flyway. 

“We’re seeing a ton of sea ducks. This may be the most white-winged scoters and longtails I’ve ever seen,” says Jarad Luchka, of Big Game Waterfowl in Rhode Island. Eiders are also present in good numbers on Narragansett Bay. “I’ve seen more eiders in full plumage so far this year than I did all last season.”

The salt isn’t the only story in the Ocean State, with solid numbers of wood ducks headlining the early season. Luchka notes that most of them blew out on the last cold front, but there are still some woodies around for those who like to hunt the small water. And with the way things have been going, some may even work their way back north.

Just across the border in Connecticut, freshwater ponds are holding good numbers of ducks, including both divers and puddlers. Luchka has found a pocket of ringnecks, and he plans to take advantage of them while he can. “With the predicted warm weather, I think they should stick around for another week or two—at least until the next big blow,” he says.

The coastal zones of New Jersey seem to be a little behind the curve, with some ducks having passed through already and replacements yet to make an appearance. But reinforcements are on the way, and more birds will hopefully arrive in time for the upcoming opener. 

 “Pintails and wigeon are starting to show,” says Larry Metzger, of Limit Outfitters, who is hopeful more black ducks will start showing up too.

Goose action is starting to ramp up as well, but far from its peak. “There’s a fair amount of geese around, but not what it could be,” Metzger notes.

“Buffleheads are on the bays now,” Metzger adds. When it comes to the other divers, it’s still a waiting game. “The broadbills aren’t here yet, but they don’t usually show until Thanksgiving.”

Just to the south, a mixed bag of waterfowl has descended on Delaware. Included among the recent arrivals have been some rare visitors: sandhill cranes.

“I heard them and ran outside,” explains Al Dager. A confused flock of 40 or so cranes were fighting 50 mph winds, which pushed them directly over the goose calling legend’s house. “I grabbed my camera and got video of them passing.”

Wayward cranes aren’t the only birds that have shown up in the First State, with pintails, gadwalls, wigeon, mallards, and black ducks arriving in good numbers. It has also been a banner year for teal and wood ducks.

Geese are another bright spot, with the first greater snows of the season arriving early. Canada geese are also plentiful in spots. “I’ve got about an acre and half of corn near my house,” Dager says. “There have been about 500 honkers in there regularly. It’s going to be a great season.”