Midwinter waterfowl counts are up over '98

Canada geese count is highest since 1995

February 14, 1999|By Peter Baker | Peter Baker,SUN STAFF

Maryland's midwinter count of waterfowl showed substantial increases over last year in numbers of several duck species and the migrant population of Canada geese, which registered the highest numbers since 1995.

"The increase in Canada geese can be attributed to favorable nesting and brood rearing conditions and the continuation of the closure on sport hunting [Atlantic population] geese in the Atlantic Flyway," said John R. Griffin, secretary of the Department of Natural Resources.

The hunting season for migrant Canada geese has been closed in the Atlantic Flyway since 1995, after the number of breeding pairs had declined by 75 percent since 118,000 were counted in 1988.

While the resumption of hunting seasons is tied to a sustained population of 60,000 or more breeding pairs, this year's midwinter count of 396,700 geese is a positive sign. Last year's count was 275,100.

"It reflects the continued increase in resident geese and the continued excellent gosling production in Canada," said Larry Hindman, Waterfowl Project Manager for DNR.

The midwinter counts, which were taken from aircraft between Jan. 4 and Jan. 16, are unable to distinguish between resident, or non-migratory, birds and those that fly south from the breeding grounds in northern Quebec each fall.

As a result, Hindman said, the midwinter count no longer is crucial in management plans, which now rely heavily on breeding ground surveys.

But gosling production has been excellent for two successive years, and once the females from those year classes mature, pairs are expected to increase quickly and ensure a sustained recovery.

In the midwinter survey, the total waterfowl count was 881,100 compared to 665,800 last year.

Pub Date: 2/14/99

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