Migration Alert: Washington Waterfowlers Hoping for Late-Season Success

Dec. 30, 2020 – Pacific Flyway – Washington

© Michael Furtman

Following a week of heavy rainfall and even unusual skiffs of snow on north Puget Sound, ducks have spread out across much of western Washington, finally taking advantage of sheet water and foraging opportunities on agricultural lands.

Meanwhile, calm and unseasonably balmy weather in the eastern part of the state has some hunters scratching their heads and looking for birds.

“When it’s snowing in Bellingham and 50 degrees in Yakima, there’s something wrong,” reports a bewildered Matthew Wilson, statewide waterfowl biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. “The fall weather hasn’t even been all that cold in southern Alberta. Birds just trickled through, and there were no high-energy demands on the birds to make them move.”

Nevertheless, Wilson says hunting is improving in western Washington, specifically in Whatcom and Skagit Counties.

Rob Wingard, the department’s private lands biologist in that region, agrees.

“Up here, it’s all about the weather pushing birds off the bay,” he explains.

The weather forecast is calling for colder temperatures this week, and that will hopefully increase the birds’ need to feed and replenish their energy reserves.

“Winter is starting to set in,” Wingard notes. “We even had a little snow in Whatcom County. It was drier than everyone hoped for the first part of the season.”

In the southwest, hunting success on Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge north of Vancouver has closely matched that of Sauvie Island directly across the Columbia River in Oregon. Both locations started strong, but the action has tapered off since early December.

Some hunters are finding mallards, wigeon and cackling geese up in the Chehalis Valley, says private lands biologist Cyndie Sundstrom.

“But it’s been sort of a lackluster year; very strange, especially in Pacific County,” she observes.

Meanwhile, as in Oregon and Idaho, duck season will run until January 31 this year, so there is still plenty of time for the action to heat up. All three states also have late seasons for geese and veterans.