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Aaron Yetter’s waterfowl blog: Blackjacks and other nuggets from an early aerial survey

Aaron Yetter flew the aerial waterfowl surveys earlier than usual, but, as usual, he came up with nuggets for his blog, this time blackjacks.

A birds-eye view of the Illinois River Valley on Sunday morning. Credit: Aaron Yetter/Illinois Natural History Survey
A birds-eye view of the Illinois River Valley on Sunday morning.
Aaron Yetter/Illinois Natural History Survey

Aaron Yetter’s latest blog off the weekly aerial waterfowl survey for the Illinois Natural History came early.

As usual, there were nuggets. This time what caught my eye was the mention of blackjacks.

Click here for the listings of aerial surveys by the Illinois Natural History Survey. Keep up with research updates and aerial surveys at the Forbes Biological Station Facebook page.

Here is Yetter’s latest blog:

November 10th, 2020 – Aerial Waterfowl Inventory Blog

We had to tweak the waterfowl survey a bit this week because my pilot, Mike Cruce, had prior commitments later in the week. In addition, we also had to avoid the rain event moving through the Upper Midwest on Tuesday, and the excessive winds gusting to 26+ mph on Sunday and Monday afternoons. Due to all the above distractions, we surprised many Illinois River duck hunters on Sunday morning (November 8th), and our earlier than normal arrival on Monday morning (November 9th) spurred the curiosity of the Mississippi River hunters.

Total duck numbers (386,060) along the Illinois River really didn’t change much (up 4%) from the November 3rd survey; however, the ducks did shift around to different refuges. The South Pool of Chautauqua NWR has a little more water on it this week and the ducks, especially green-winged teal, have found it. Also, it appeared the ring-necked ducks that usually reside on the Barkhausen Unit of the Cuba Island complex at Sanganois SFWA moved about 8 miles north to Jack Lake on Grand Island, where I estimated 25,000 ring-necks, commonly referred to as “blackjacks”.

The central Mississippi River numbers (447,430) this week jumped about 80,000 ducks when compared with the November 3rd estimate. This was a 22% increase from last week and was 39% above average for the second week of November. I don’t really think there was a major migration event between the surveys, but a reflection of the hunting pressure as Missouri’s north and central zone duck seasons opened on Saturday, November 7th. All those ducks that were loafing on the private duck clubs were forced into the refuges to avoid the hunting pressure.

I was unable to get a decent photo of ducks for my blog this week. Sorry about that – excessive winds made for a turbulent flight. Winds gusting above 25 mph are NOT conducive to waterfowl surveys.

Good luck to you hunters, and hopefully everyone will stay safe! For more information about the waterfowl survey, check out our webpage at www.bellrose.org. Stay tuned for more updates next week…….