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Mallards, blizzard impact and ice: Aaron Yetter’s latest blog off aerial surveys


The Ted Shanks Conservation Area as seen during the aerial survey.
Provided by Aaron Yetter/Illinois Natural History Survey

Aaron Yetter wrote this phrase, “non-mallard ducks have headed south for warmer climates,” in his latest blog off doing the aerial waterfowl survey for the Illinois Natural History Survey. Hunters would probably do well to heed some of his advice in his blog this week, especially since winter is forecast to return next week.

Click here for much information about the aerial surveys and, more importantly, about the Stephen A. Forbes Biological Station, located along the Illinois River on Chautauqua National Wildlife Refuge near Havana. Established in 1894, “it is the oldest inland field station in North America and one of nine field stations of the Illinois Natural History Survey. The Frank C. Bellrose Waterfowl Research Center is housed at  the Forbes Biological Station.”

Here is Yetter’s latest blog:

November 30, 2018 – Aerial Waterfowl Inventory Blog

We flew the waterfowl survey on Thursday, November 29th. So much for thawing out! Many of our wetlands were >90% iced over. It has been a roller coaster ride this fall. Last Sunday’s blizzard (Nov. 25th) and subsequent frigid temperatures froze most of the refuges again along both the Mississippi and Illinois rivers. The ducks were found in very concentrated clusters on small patches of open water. Most of the non-mallard ducks have headed south for warmer climates; however, we still have a bunch of mallards along both rivers. I estimated about 144,000 mallards along the Illinois River and 441,000 mallards on the Mississippi. These numbers were 11% below and 69% above average for late November, respectively. It looks like we might thaw out over the weekend with warmer temperatures and rains; however, I believe it will be short lived, as our low temperatures will plummet into the teens again late next week. I am trying to be optimistic about duck hunting opportunities with a lot of the season left, but these mallards have been here for a while and are becoming increasingly hard to hunt. That said I had a few friends that shot limits of mallards today after cutting a big hole in the ice. To be successful, I think we will need to try different approaches and decoy spreads in the coming weeks. If you are a diver hunter, I believe the canvasback migration has passed us. I counted very few canvasbacks (18,300) on Pool 19 yesterday, and reports of canvasbacks on the upper Mississippi River Pools 4–13 are slim.

This week I decided to put up a couple photos of the ducks packed into the ice. They include Emiquon Preserve, Swan Lake (Two Rivers NWR), Cuivre Refuge, Clarence Cannon, and Ted Shanks. Good luck and happy hunting out there, and be careful battling the ice! For more information about the waterfowl survey, check out our webpage at www.bellrose.org. Stay tuned for more updates next week…….