Migration Alert: Northeast Waterfowlers Hope for Strong Finish

Jan. 7, 2021 – Atlantic Flyway – Northeast

© Michael Furtman

Duck season is winding down, with precious few days remaining before the season closes on the last Sunday in January. But the late season is always productive for hunters just outside New York City, as ducks, brant, and geese finally descend on their traditional wintering grounds.

“The brant are in peak numbers. The divers are approaching peak numbers. Puddle duck hunting has been good when there’s some weather,” explains Larry Seaman III, a third generation bayman who guns the waters of the western South Shore. His bags have recently been filled with black ducks, mallards, broadbills, and brant. “The geese have been hit or miss due to a lack of ice cover. When there’s snow or ice, we’ve been getting them on the bay.”

A highlight for many hunters has been the abundance of sea ducks.

“It’s been the year of the eider,” says Captain Chris Spies of Elite Long Island Outfitter. In addition to eiders, good numbers of white-winged scoters and long-tailed ducks have been present on the waters surrounding Long Island. The North Shore is holding solid numbers of white-winged scoters, while eiders and longtails have dominated the South Shore.

Puddle duck hunting has also been productive. “I had three or four thousand ducks in my fields until the full moon,” says Captain Phil Gay of East End Waterfowling. Phil speculates that some of the ducks have moved back north, but there are still plenty of puddlers in the agricultural fields he manages on the South Fork. Divers have begun to make appearances at his water blinds, with some canvasbacks showing up in area ponds.

According to recent forecasts, the polar vortex is expected to split in two, dropping temperatures and snow throughout the Northeast in the coming weeks. Hopefully, the temperatures will be cold enough to lock up the smaller inland bodies of water and push all the puddle ducks out on the salt, giving hunters a stellar end to an interesting season.