Like much of the rest of the country, New York waterfowlers have been dealing with unseasonably warm temperatures and a lack of precipitation this fall. While this has slowed the pace of the waterfowl migration substantially, many early-season species have lingered where good habitat is present. Canada geese are also numerous in many areas.
“I’d say overall we’re dry across the state, most marshes are down considerably, and we need some consistent rain for that to change,” says DU Regional Biologist Matthew Wagner. “Duck numbers seem to be low so far overall. Wood ducks and green-winged teal are starting to head south, but you can still find them in many areas. Canada geese have really shown up in the last two weeks and are present in growing numbers across the state.”
“Mallards and black ducks are still scarce as temperatures and consistent south winds haven’t pushed many our way yet, which isn’t unusual for this time of year,” Wagner continues. “Wigeon, gadwalls, and pintails are hit or miss depending on where you are. Some divers are beginning to show up, specifically bluebills.”
In the North Country, where Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River straddle the Canadian border, Captain Ben Roggie of Black River Valley Outfitters has been enjoying some good hunts this season. “It hasn’t been terrible, but it hasn’t been great either. Certainly not as bad as last season, which was the worst I’ve ever experienced,” Roggie notes. “The temps have been up and down, and so have bird numbers. We’ve had a pretty good season on teal and woodies because the warmer weather has kept a lot of those birds in the area.”
Canada geese are plentiful in his area, but Roggie says that with a one-bird daily bag limit, very few hunters target them specifically. He reports that divers are starting to stack up on big water, including good numbers of scaup and long-tailed ducks as well as some goldeneyes.
“We’re starting to see some of those later migrants, but the problem is if we don’t get some good cold fronts over the course of the next two to four weeks, we are just going to have the same birds. They will get stale,” Roggie says.
Wagner agrees but remains optimistic. “Overall, I’d say we’re a bit behind our normal migration numbers, but if we could get some rain, cold weather, and north winds that could change quickly.”
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