Midwinter survey shows increase in Canada geese

OUTDOORS

February 01, 1994|By PETER BAKER

Larry Hindman, waterfowl program director for Maryland's Department of Natural Resources, was talking statistics, reviewing the numbers gathered during the Midwinter Waterfowl Survey completed Jan. 16.

And while the total numbers of waterfowl counted in the survey were comparable to last year, there were categories that were especially significant -- either because they noted improvement or, at first glance, seemed to show decline.

"The total number of waterfowl counted was 549,800, basically the same as last year's 546,100," said Hindman, who started the cooperative survey with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Jan. 3. "But waterfowl were distributed somewhat differently [this year] due to the ice conditions.

"Most ponds were frozen. Open water was limited to areas on the rivers and bays, and in a good part of the state, we had snow cover during the survey, with the exception of Eastern Shore south of Elkton."

The ice and snow restricted birds to areas near open water, where they could easily be seen, rather than spreading them in wooded swamps or creek backs.

"Typically, when you have those conditions," Hindman said, "your dabbling ducks numbers go up, and that is what we saw."

Mallards, for example, were up to 52,500 from 44,400 last year, and black ducks were up almost 3,000 to 21,600.

But what the survey also showed was an 11 percent increase in Canada geese, which Hindman said is largely due to a favorable hatch last summer in northern Quebec.

"Throughout most of the survey units, the numbers [of Canada geese] were either equal to or greater than they were last year, with the exception of the Chester River, which I believe was the only unit that showed some decline," Hindman said.

Even with a shortened season, Hindman said, hunting success was about 40 percent higher this year than last, with a picking house survey in Queen Anne's and Talbot counties showing a ratio of .8 immature birds to each adult bird killed. The .8-to-1 ratio is 10 times higher than last year and an indicator of population distribution.

"The highest ratio [of immature to adult birds in the kill] we have had in recent years was 1983, and I think that was 1.8," Hindman said. "But in eastern Canada, in the Maritime Provinces, the age ratio for this hunting season was 1.2."

Typically, more birds are killed out of the population farther north as they migrate south, and Hindman said he was hoping to get a Maryland ratio of 1 to 1 or above.

A ratio of 1 indicates that 50 percent of the birds killed are immature. A ratio of .8 represents 40 percent juveniles. A higher ratio of immature birds killed means more adults will return to breed the next spring in Quebec.

Hindman said the midwinter survey was completed before the influx of large numbers of Canada geese that were forced south from their wintering grounds in states north of here by cold weather Jan. 18.

While the survey showed an increase in mallards, it showed a decline in some other species of ducks.

"The early migrants, like gadwall, widgeon and teal had moved out with the cold conditions, so we didn't pick up many of those," Hindman said.

Diving ducks were down overall, with the largest decline in numbers among scaup, which were off to 50,400 from 78,100 last year.

But canvasbacks were up 9,000 over last year.

"We saw more canvasbacks this year, and there were more on the Eastern Shore, which was encouraging," Hindman said.

WATERFOWL SURVEY

The following is a two-year comparison of select species covered by the midwinter survey of waterfowl in Maryland. The survey was conducted between Jan. 3 and Jan. 16 by the Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

DABBLERS

Species .. .. .. .. .. ..1993 .. .. .. ..1994

Mallards .. .. .. .. ...44,400 .. .. ..52,500

Black ducks .. .. .. ...18,800 .. .. ..21,600

Gadwall .. .. .. .. .. . 1,500 .. .. .. ..300

Widgeon .. .. .. .. .. ..4,300 .. .. .. ..500

Grn wngd teal .. .. .. .. .800 .. .. .. ..300

Pintail .. .. .. .. .. .. .800 .. .. .. ..100

DIVERS

Species .. .. .. .. .. ..1993 .. .. .. ..1994

Redhead .. .. .. .. .. ..2,600 .. .. ...1,200

Canvasback .. .. .. .. .37,700 .. .. ..46,700

Scaup .. .. .. .. .. ...78,100 .. .. ..50,400

Ringneck .. .. .. .. .. .6,400 .. .. .. ..500

Goldeneye .. .. .. .. ...1,900 .. .. ...3,400

Bufflehead .. .. .. .. .17,500 .. .. ..11,400

Ruddy duck .. .. .. .. .24,600 .. .. ..15,500

GEESE

Species .. .. .. .. .. ..1993 .. .. .. ..1994

Snow goose .. .. .. .. .43,300 .. .. ..53,600

Canada goose .. .. .. .234,400 .. .. .260,300

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.