November 29, 2012
Geese Everywhere; Duck Numbers Good Up North
By Michael R. Shea
Atlantic flyway ducks are working south with peak numbers over central New England, while geese seem to be nearly everywhere. A deceiving knot of Canadas in eastern Connecticut gave me fits on Monday; what I thought were a few dozen turned out to be a few hundred.
As you can see in the video, I was hunting out of a new layout boat, fully grassed, with an Avery Power Hunter layout blind in the cockpit. Low to the water and powered by an electric trolling motor, it’s a deadly rig. At around 2 p.m., I was able to setup just 200 yards or so from the birds. An hour later when I popped a shot, all hell broke loose: A huge raft of geese lifted and came over the decoys, 20 yards off the water, before turning down river.
Seeing more coming, I let the first wave pass to see if the second group would decoy. I turned on the camera, and when it was clear they we’re leaving town, I let it fly. It should have been an easy double (the birds were closer than they look through the video camera’s wide-angle lens), but hey, nobody’s perfect.
While geese numbers are high from southern New England through the mid-Atlantic, it’s still a little early there for ducks. Farther north, around the Great Lakes, upstate New York, and northern New England, however, November has been a pretty good month.
Linda Ziemba, wildlife biologist at Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge between Rochester and Syracuse, NY, said peak duck migration came around the second week of November, but there are still plenty of birds in the area. “At the peak we had over 25,000 ducks, primarily mallards, ringnecks, and greenwing teal,” she said. There are still good numbers of mallards, ring-necks, and widgeon. Ziemba estimated there are 10,000 Canadas and 10,000 snow geese using the refuge this week.
Further south in Pennsylvania, things have mostly stalled out, said Avery Pro Staffer Bryn Witmier. Geese numbers seem to be steady, if not dropping off some, and there’s been no new influx of ducks. “Northern New York is starting to get froze out. It will take that to see a good push down here,” he said.
Down in inland North Carolina, birds are just starting to show up, said Greg Walmsley, assistant refuge manager at the Pee Dee National Wildlife Refuge. The staff ran a survey last week and counted about 1,000 birds, including a few hundred mallards, couple hundred ring-necked ducks, and 150 or so Canada geese. “We actually have had some shovelers for about a week and that’s relatively early. There’s also a handful of black ducks, probably had a few widgeons, and of course a lot of wood ducks, which are always attracted to our many oxbows and beaver ponds.”
Walmsley said refuge numbers usually peak during the second week of January. “Right now things are about average,” he said, “maybe a little ahead of schedule for the typical November migration.”