Blue-winged teal moving on, some pintails: Latest aerial teal flight by INHS and some habitat notes

The latest aerial teal flight, including the PDF files, by the Illinois Natural History Survey shows blue-winged teal moving on, but more northern pintails showing up; and Joshua Osborn does a quick breakdown of habitat conditions.

SHARE Blue-winged teal moving on, some pintails: Latest aerial teal flight by INHS and some habitat notes
Wonder how hard it is to identify ducks at 130 mph? Here’s a mix of blue- and green-winged teal and northern pintail observed from the air on Chautauqua National Wildlife Refuge. Credit: Joshua Osborn/Illinois Natural History Survy

Wonder how hard it is to identify ducks at 130 mph? Here’s a mix of blue- and green-winged teal and northern pintail observed from the air on Chautauqua National Wildlife Refuge.

Joshua Osborn/Illinois Natural History Survy

Joshua Osborn flew the latest aerial teal flight for the Illinois Natural History Survey on Thursday. That is it until the the weekly aerial waterfowl surveys begin in mid-October.

He noted some pintails starting to arrive and that “blue-winged teal seem to be moving on past us now.” But he also noted, “Luckily there are plenty of green-winged teal slipping in behind them.” Teal season in Illinois ends Sunday.

He has an interesting paragraph at the end of his overview on current habitat.

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.

Here is the overview of the latest aerial teal flight by Osborn, a waterfowl ecologist for the INHS-Forbes Biological Station:

September 23, 2021 – Aerial Waterfowl Inventory Blog It was a windy week, but we managed to squeeze in the last teal flight on Thursday, September 23. We estimated 10,130 blue-winged teal (Spatula discors) along the Illinois River Valley (IRV), 9% below the 10-yr average (11,164). On the Mississippi River blue wings held strong at Two Rivers NWR (Swan Lake) and the Nauvoo-Ft. Madison stretch of Pool 19. These two areas made up 76% of blue wings on the MS (3,365) which was 50% higher than the 10-yr average (2,252) for this portion of the survey. After staying consistent for a couple of weeks, blue-winged teal seem to be moving on past us now. Luckily there are plenty of green-winged teal slipping in behind them. Green-winged teal numbers (17,935) are right on par with the 10-yr average for the Illinois River (18,642) and more than double the 10-yr average (3,276) along the Mississippi River (7,460). I honestly thought the cold nights we’ve had this week would have pushed more of the blue wings south. I’m all-too glad to be wrong about that. Comparing this week to last, I did observe more northern pintail filtering in along both the Illinois (+119%) and Mississippi (+263) Rivers. Attached is a picture that hopefully shows just how difficult it can be to identify species at 130+MPH from >300ft AGL. Keep in mind, the camera was zoomed in and we targeted this flock specifically for this picture. I finally had a chance to do a quick look at our habitat scores for this fall. Overall habitat on both the upper and lower stretches of the Illinois River is average-slightly above average. The clear outliers are Clear Lake, Chautauqua NWR, Hennepin/Hopper, and the Emiquon Preserve. Habitat in most of the remaining backwater lakes is average-below average. There is some food production out there in places, but it’s either a mud ball or an early-growth blanket along much of the river. Conditions along the MS are better and above average for the most part. Keithsburg, Louisa, and Henderson all look primed and ready for water. Lotus and SAV looks great at Arthur Refuge, Nauvoo, and Montrose; the best coverage in years according to A.Yetter. Hopefully that will translate into a longer stay for the divers this fall, especially the canvasbacks. We missed the biggest push of them between surveys during 2020. Most of the refuges near the confluence of the rivers all have plentiful food this year. According to data from our recent sanctuary project, that should translate to more ducks in the area!

Here are the PDFs of the flight:

IL092321.pdf

MS092321.pdf

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