Two words characterize the Mississippi Flyway now–COLD and FRONT. And not just your everyday little chill in the air. The red-headed weatherman here in eastern Iowa–Kaj O’Mara, who’s quite good, but looks young enough not to be out after the street lights come on–is calling for a 50-degree drop in temperature over the next 24-36 hours. So, so long, blue wing teal. Goodbye to many of the wood ducks still vying for what little water remains throughout the Hawkeye State. And hello to the first good push of Canadas, grey ducks, widgeon, sprig, and mallards, with–I hope!–a few green-wings thrown in there for good measure.
A major early winter storm, complete with 45 mile-per-hour N/NW winds, is expected to dump from six to 12 inches of snow in the Red River Valley of North Dakota and into northwestern Minnesota into Friday morning. Chances are, given the forecast, the uppermost portions of the Mississippi Flyway will lose some birds, but it’s far too early in the season for hardy mallards and Canadas to be going much of anywhere. The snow shouldn’t stick around long–the ground’s still far too warm–and there should be some good hunting immediately following the storm as birds venture back out to feed.
From Plymouth, Wisconsin, between Green Bay and Milwaukee, Rig ‘Em Right pro-staffer JJ Wolf just returned this morning from North Dakota, and is eager to get afield in home state. “We were on the south side of Devil’s Lake,” Wolf said. “Lots of mature birds this year. Not just brown ducks; it was easy to pick out the greenheads. And more pintails than I’ve seen in the 14 years I’ve been going up there. Good numbers of cacklers, too, and increasing numbers of blues and snows from Canada.” No grey ducks (gadwalls) this year for Wolf and his crew, though. “Gadwalls always make our ‘odd’ duck, along with the mallards,” Wolf said. “Not a one this year. Didn’t even see one.”
Nearer to home, Wolf reports high-flying flocks of migrating Canadas coming into the area. “The teal are still here,” he said. “Great numbers of wood ducks, too. And the local mallards. And I’m hearing reports of divers–redheads and bluebills–on the Bay of Green Bay in Dorr County.”
Forty-five minutes west of Minnesota’s Twin Cities, Avery Pro-Staffer Eric Wolf tells me “this weather system just hit us overnight and this morning. It’s been in the high 70s and low 80s until recently. The birds here are pretty stagnant,” he said. “We do have solid numbers of Canadas and good numbers of ducks–mallards, teal, and wood ducks. Tonight and tomorrow, though, I expect to see some divers coming into the area. Our first real push of bluebills and ringnecks. In fact, some buddies just called to say they’re getting the diver rig ready for this weekend!”
Iowans and those to the south continue to play the waiting game, now that early teal seasons are over. The regular goose season opened on 29 September here in the Hawkeye State, and my people from Highway 380/218 east to the Mississippi River are coming out with mixed reviews. One buddy from the Maquoketa area says his group shot eight honkers both Saturday and Sunday gunning a pasture loafing pond. Another crew killed three; another killed five. Locally, we did have an excellent hatch of resident Canadas–however, with all the cornfields coming out early, pinning a flight or two down right now is a dicey proposition.