Migration Alert: Migration Gaining Momentum in North Atlantic Flyway

Oct. 7, 2019 – North Atlantic Flyway Preview

© Michael Furtman

By Joseph Albanese

Cool, wet spring weather in the Atlantic Flyway appears to have delayed waterfowl breeding efforts, which in turn could impact the timing of the migration this fall. 

“It appears to have been a late hatch across much of the Atlantic Flyway this year,” explains Sarah Fleming, manager of conservation programs in DU’s North Atlantic region. “Reports from banding stations indicated that some biologists were observing ducklings (feathered but not yet able to fly) into August. The late hatch could result in a delayed migration for some species.” 

“Hunters are still likely to see good numbers of local wood ducks, mallards and black ducks,” Fleming notes. “We are just starting to see some migrants, such as green-winged teal, pintails, and wigeon, but they are in smaller numbers compared to last year at this time." 

Vermont’s Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge is located on Lake Champlain near the Canadian border. Refuge manager Jeff Sturm is pleased with what he’s been seeing so far. 

“Even though we haven’t had a big temperature drop yet, we’re seeing good numbers of ducks,” Sturm reports. “There’s plenty of green-winged teal, black ducks, and mallards around. Missisquoi just had its youth weekend, and the hunters scored well on wood ducks, mallards and black ducks.” 

In Massachusetts, James Junda, banding director at Cape Cod’s Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge, has been on Morris Island mist netting and banding passerine birds—and keeping an eye out for ducks. He reports that sea duck numbers have increased with the arrival of about 500 common eiders and white-wing scoters, along with a smattering of surf scoters. On the freshwater ponds, gadwalls, mallards and black ducks have recently arrived. Refuge Manager Matthew Hillman notes that hunting on the refuge will be managed on a permit basis this year, so check the refuge website for regulations at www.fws.gov/refuge/Monomoy/

Brandy Neveldine, DU’s regional biologist in New York, reports that the migration is starting to gain momentum in her area. “Canada geese were moving through all weekend, and some of the early migrating ducks have started to show up,” she says. “Partner reports from northern Montezuma Wildlife Management Area tell me things are currently slow on the duck front. There are decent numbers of wood ducks and teal currently, but not a lot of diversity yet.” 

Arctic breeding geese appear to have had variable production this year. “Breeding conditions for most Arctic-nesting geese were significantly better in 2019 than they were in 2018, with significantly less snow and ice cover,” reports Josh Stiller, migratory game bird biologist with New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation. “I spent two weeks on Baffin Island banding snow geese, Ross’s geese, cackling geese, and Atlantic Brant. Although snow conditions appeared to be good, we did not observe the ‘boom’ in production we were expecting, possibly because of predation.” 

Stiller reminds hunters to be on the lookout for banded brant as a five-year cooperative research project continues in the Atlantic Flyway. If hunters bag a brant with a red leg band and geolocator, please report the recovery to Stiller by phone at 518-402-8861. 

“We request that hunters mail us the geolocator so we can download the light data and learn more about brant productivity,” Stiller says. 

For more information about the research project, visit www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/115179.html.