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An “abundance of non-mallard dabblers” & lower river water levels: Weekly INHS aerial waterfowl survey

An “abundance of non-mallard dabblers” and lower river water levels, as well as a good number of ducks for this time of the year, are among the things noted by Joshua Osborn in his blog off the Illinois Natural History Survey’s weekly aerial waterfowl survey.

Pintails float on Long Lake, as well as some American white pelicans in the lower right. Credit: Joshua Osborn/Illinois Natural History Survey
Pintails float on Long Lake, as well as some American white pelicans in the lower right.
Credit: Joshua Osborn/Illinois Natural History Survey

Joshua Osborn observed in his blog off flying the aerial waterfowl survey for the Illinois Natural History Survey:

The overabundance of water that plagued the IRV earlier in the fall is certainly not a problem anymore.

I am pretty sure that also connects with this observation, too:

We’re fortunate to have an abundance of non-mallard dabblers around this late in the year so I took the opportunity to take some photos this week.

Click here for details on the aerial waterfowl inventories and the long history of them. Click here for the home site for the Forbes Biological Station; click here for the Facebook page of the station.

The overview and blog of the latest aerial waterfowl survey by Osborn, a waterfowl ecologist for the INHS-Forbes Biological Station, is below:

INHS Aerial Waterfowl Inventory Blog - November 30, 2021

We flew the waterfowl survey on Tuesday, November 30, 2021. The overabundance of water that plagued the IRV earlier in the fall is certainly not a problem anymore. Levels along the Illinois River were 7.3’ in Havana and 15.1’ in Henry at the time of takeoff on Tuesday morning. It looks like those who have the ability and desire to dewater to dabbling duck depths have done so in the past couple of weeks. I estimated ~344,000 ducks along the Illinois River this week, which was similar to last week’s estimate and 45% above the 10-yr average for this river. Although still above their 10-yr averages by species, I observed fewer pintail, gadwall, and shoveler in the IRV this week. I also observed slightly more mallards here; suggesting either a change in distribution of birds on the landscape as water levels and hunting pressure change and food is depleted, or a slow trickling out/in of non-mallards and mallards, respectively. Probably a little of both. I estimated ~540,000 ducks in the central MS River this week, slightly above (+4%) the 10-yr average. “The king” showed up on Pool 19 this week and added to the growing raft of divers near Montrose. I estimated 51,000 canvasbacks in the raft of nearly 80,000 divers in this location. Mallards were significantly below the 10-yr average (-31%), whereas non-mallard dabbling ducks all remain above their respective LTAs for this river.

We’re fortunate to have an abundance of non-mallard dabblers around this late in the year so I took the opportunity to take some photos this week. I hope everyone enjoys these. These pintails were tucked in with some mallards and pelicans along the bank of a refuge near St. Charles, MO. The mallards, ringnecks, and teal in the woods at Two Rivers NWR provide a good example of why it can be difficult to get an accurate estimate of birds in the flooded timber. Take note of the way the birds space themselves, particularly the pintail, and think about that the next time you’re setting up a large decoy spread.

For this week’s survey numbers and more information about the aerial surveys, visit www.bellrose.org.

The survey results are below:

IL113021 (1).pdf

MS113021.pdf