Atlantic Waterfowl Migration Reports

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Name: Brian Rhodes

Location: Bradford, Rhode Island

Notable Weather Changes/Differences This Season: Much colder than normal, way more snow!

Winter Snow Summary: Much more snow then we are used to here on average.

Season Water Conditions: Most fresh water was frozen for the better part of the season. Good hunting was on the salt water.

Overall Feeding Conditions: Cut fields, salt marshes, tidal flats.

Duck Numbers Compared to Previous Years: Duck numbers seemed to be around normal. Lots of brant around this season.

Goose Numbers Compared to Previous Years: Goose numbers seemed to be down a little.

Notable Duck Migrations: Lots of birds pushed through in December but thinned in January due to extreme low temps and snow and ice.

Notable Goose Migrations: Same goes for the geese!

Overall Hunting Report: It was a good season if you could get to the salt or find open water. Sea duck numbers were good throughout most of the season but started to thin towards the end of the season in January. Overall it was another fun and safe season!

Name: Michael Bard

Location: Syracuse, NY

Notable Weather Changes/Differences This Season: Similar to the previous season, temps started off hot through September and into October. The cold and snow arrived in later November putting ice on the water which remained and only grew throughout December and January. There was never any kind of warm up, so the snow continued to build up and pack down as well.

Winter Snow Summary: The snow really started coming heavily in early December and never let up. Besides the traditional lake effect snows, several storms rolled over the area and we were measuring snow in feet for the later part of the season through the end.

Season Water Conditions: Water levels were very high in early October, then coming down with a few short periods of slight flooding in later November. Freezing temperatures caused a lot of ice to arrive in early December with several areas freezing up.

Overall Feeding Conditions: Fair, many farmers were well behind on harvesting their crops this fall some the first push of migrating birds due to late September and early October rains. By mid-November most crops were off and conditions improved until early December with freezing temps and snow made accessing many fields difficult and ice prevented access to many shallow water aquatic food.

Duck Numbers Compared to Previous Years: Puddle duck numbers appeared to be similar to last season, while many species of divers appeared in greater numbers.

Goose Numbers Compared to Previous Years: Resident numbers seemed to similar to last year and migrating numbers were also similar to previous years. Snow geese migrating south though the area were up this fall.

Notable Duck Migrations: The largest migration of mallards that I noted this past season was late November and into early December.

Notable Goose Migrations: The main goose migration this season happened through early November, however similar to most other seasons the geese seem to continue to trickle in and out through early December.

Overall Hunting Report: Duck hunting was good for those who were putting in the time, however those hunting traditional spots may have come up shorter than usual. Goose hunting continued to be good this year with more and more hunters participating.

Name: Ron Zega

Location: Albany, NY

Notable Weather Changes/Differences This Season: Lots of moisture throughout the season this year, plenty of water filled seasonal swamps, and provided a plethora of areas for ducks and geese to feed and loaf away from persistent hunters. Temperatures were similar to last year, except that our winter cold snap came earlier in December and stayed! Never really warmed up and pushed the birds right out of our area.

Winter Snow Summary: We have been getting pounded with snowstorms in eastern NY this season. Fortunately most of the storms were right at the end of the hunting season, but they did reduce the effective hunting season by a week or two. Significant snowstorms have been continuing throughout the post season as well.

Season Water Conditions: Water conditions were high at the beginning of the season, and remained high throughout much of October and November. We still had high water conditions to deal with into December, and arctic temperatures froze many areas as soon as the levels came back down.

Overall Feeding Conditions: Feeding conditions were good overall, farming practices have remained the same over the past few years, providing ample amounts of waste grains from harvesting practices. Corn, wheat and soybeans were the staples in the local waterfowl diet this season.

Duck Numbers Compared to Previous Years: Duck numbers were similar to last year, but slightly down in my opinion when compared to the long term average.

Goose Numbers Compared to Previous Years: Goose numbers were also comparable to last year’s levels, as well as to the long term trend.

Notable Duck Migrations: We had a large migration of puddle ducks descend on our area in early December, but our good fortune was very short lived, the cold weather that brought them down stayed with us, and pushed the birds out in a matter of days. We had a few other decent flights of mallards in mid to late December, but they were nothing like the first wave in size comparison.

Notable Goose Migrations: The Canada geese came to New York in big numbers in late October once again, and we were fortunate to enjoy their presence for a good while. We had another nice flight of geese in mid December, which provided some excellent shooting for the last part of our season.

Overall Hunting Report: Overall, hunting was productive and steady in New York, but the good times were short lived. The way the weather went this season, beginning very mild in the first part of the season, and turning frigid and snowy in a very short time period, forced the bulk of the birds to cut their time spent in the Empire State way down, and surrounding states benefitted.

Name: Kenny Gray

Location: Chestertown, MD

Notable Weather Changes/Differences This Season: Wow, what a year for the weather! We had a freeze early in December which is rare for this area, then a short warm up and re-freeze in January. Temperatures literally where changing everyday with a 10 degree swing between days. This changing of the weather seemed to bring in new birds with every swing, which in turn made for some great hunting in the region.

Winter Snow Summary: While we did get hit with two decent snow falls (decent for Maryland, nothing compared to PA or NY) the snow really didn’t seem to play a factor in this year’s success. In years past, heavy snowfall could mean birds being locked down for a couple of days but this year it didn’t seem to make a difference.

Season Water Conditions: Water conditions for this year varied based on the water you were hunting. With a good freeze early in the year, the smaller roost ponds and creeks froze up early, and pushed birds out to the big rivers and lakes but then a warm up opened things back up for a couple of weeks and in turn created some great hunts. One the larger rivers and lakes, the temperatures never dropped low enough for long enough to do any real damage and with the smaller bodies of water freezing early this areas held large concentrations of both ducks and geese for most of the season.

Overall Feeding Conditions: Feeding conditions seemed to be typical of every of year, dark geese started early on the cut corn and moved to the beans later in the season as the corn fields were running out of food. Light geese seemed to concentrate on the wheat and other cover crops, occasionally hitting the corn fields when conditions were right.

Duck Numbers Compared to Previous Years: While the last couple of years we have seemed to have a lower than number of ducks, this year things seemed to pick up. This I believe is based on the two hard freezes we had and birds that haven’t had to push as far south seemed to stop for an extended period before moving on.

Goose Numbers Compared to Previous Years: This year’s goose numbers seemed to be up along with the duck numbers. I believe this is because of conditions in the north and birds having to push further south earlier than normal.

Notable Duck Migrations: Two major migrations this year, one being the week before Thanksgiving and the second around the third week of January.

Notable Goose Migrations: Other than our typical end of October/ Halloween migration, the key to this year was that we seemed to have new birds coming in every week. Unlike years past when we would have two or three secondary migrations after our first major push, this year literally we seemed to have new birds every week.

Overall Hunting Report: If I had to give this year a grade, I would actually put it down as an A-/B+. It started off with a good dove season, the Canada goose hunting was excellent, the duck hunting was above average for our area and the rut seemed to have a couple of extra days in it. Could have killed a band or two or maybe another B&C buck, but all in all it was a pretty good year. Any year hunting with friends and family is a good year, but this year we also go to introduce not only a good group of youth to the sport, but also had a large then normal group of older men and women that got out for the first time and are not hooked for years to come.

Name: Sean M. Fritzges

Location: Abingdon, Maryland

Notable Weather Changes/Differences This Season: Weather this season was no comparison to last in my opinion. Last season we saw extremely wet conditions from the start of early resident season throughout the entire AP season, so much rain and wet snow that crops were still standing in late December. This year crops were harvested during late summer/early fall due to dry arid conditions. Wet conditions held off this year until early December which also brought in the first hint of cold air which subsequently has stayed all season. Hardly any rain to speak of this season, matter of fact, I hunted more blue bird days than ever before this year alone. This past Thursday, 27 January brought eight inches of snowfall with loud and dangerous thunder and lighting. Snow with thunder and lightning….crazy weather this season for sure!!!

Winter Snow Summary: Snow this season was off and on. Since the first week of December we’ve had several snow showers but not anything which amounted to anything significant. Our largest snow storm was approximately seven inches in the upper Chesapeake Bay region this past week. The lower shore was hammered during one storm where fifteen to eighteen inches was recorded. Although not much snow in the upper region, the cold air surly kept the snow lingering around for several weeks.

Season Water Conditions: Water conditions were consistent this season with average high and low tides ranging from +1.0 to +2.0 in highs and lows. This is a normal year considering no major storms reached our area. Ice was significant this season due to the arrival of cold air the beginning of December. Ice flow and frozen river conditions are still present.

Overall Feeding Conditions: Feeding conditions this season were favorable in our area. Canada geese continue to feed in cut corn and soy bean fields while also feeding in winter wheat fields. I’ve also noticed geese feeding in wet marshy harvested hay fields mainly on dairy farms. The dry weather conditions this season have kept feeding fields from molding and spoiling. Corn and bean areas are still palatable to hungry migrating geese.

Duck Numbers Compared to Previous Years: After speaking with many other friends and local hunters, it seems the duck numbers have increased this season. I’ve heard of many bag limits filled this season while hunters were taking full advantage of opportunities on public lands as well as private areas around the bay. I was privileged to accompany friends on two puddle duck hunts this season with great success. One hunt was on private property and the other on public land. Both hunts were full of action with five and four man limits on each outing. Last season was not as entertaining in the duck blind. Ducks last season seemed to hold tight during to the “fowl” weather and the abundance of hunting pressure. I viewed more success pictures this season than last.

Goose Numbers Compared to Previous Years: Goose numbers this season compared to previous I would have to say are up!! I continue to view thousands of migrating Canada geese in my region which is located in the mid to upper Chesapeake Bay region on the western shore. Goose numbers are however very area specific. I mean this by… can see and watch hundreds of birds surround a particular area day after day whereas head down the road and across the river only to see a few groups of birds. Also, farmer complaints are up! The largest complaint I here is the fed’s not allowing the hunters to hunt the geese when their in their prime of certain areas. My farmers would applaud if the AP season was stretched into late February. This is when the majority of the migrating birds will converge on our region. Many crop fields will be lost or damaged and shortened at this time of the year.

Notable Duck Migrations: This season has brought an indeed increase in diver ducks to the Chesapeake Bay. I’m fortunate enough to earn a full time living on the waters of the entire Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. I can’t remember a season in the past with the total large numbers of diver ducks in our region. I know several die hard sea duck hunters who made full advantage of the high numbers of ducks making for many successful hunts on the big waters.

Notable Goose Migrations: Canada goose migrations continue as I type. Just this morning I was off to work traveling the back roads on Maryland’s Eastern Shore as I noticed thousands of migrating geese covering and hovering farms to feed and to rest before they continue their journey south.

Overall Hunting Report: WOW!!!! What a season it was and how fast it flew by. It seemed like yesterday I was cutting and gathering blue stem switch grass for blind and pit maintenance. Overall hunting report……It’s all good!!! I can honestly say no days were wasted. Any day afield with family and friends is better than work or sitting home on the couch. The sounds of honking geese and the sight of cupped wings are therapeutic and far better than any doctor’s prescription in my opinion. I hope everyone had a great and safe season. Even my slow days were successful days!!!

Name: Marshall Starkey

Location: Baltimore, Maryland

Notable Weather Changes/Differences This Season: The most notable changes in the weather from this year to last was how cold it got as early as it did. We had icy conditions before Christmas for the first time in recent memory. Most small ponds and impoundments were frozen for the bulk of the third split of the AP goose season.

Winter Snow Summary: We have only had a few storms that had accumulating snow this year, mostly small amounts. The snow stayed on the ground throughout the latter part of the season as the cold weather never let up.

Season Water Conditions: The season started with average to a little above average water conditions, but as winter came calling we experienced ice earlier than usual. By Christmas there was ice on some of the rivers and in the bay. Many small ponds and impoundments remained frozen through the rest of the season.

Overall Feeding Conditions: The various agricultural fields in the region held a large number of birds throughout the year, mostly cut corn, soybean, and winter wheat fields.

Duck Numbers Compared to Previous Years: This year was a great year for ducks in our state, both puddle and divers. The mid- winter count had over 30,000 ducks on the Susquehanna flats, the most in many years.

Goose Numbers Compared to Previous Years: As the season wore down I think there were more geese on the eastern shore than last year.

Notable Duck Migrations: The divers showed up in force about a week before Christmas, and the gunning was excellent. Very good numbers of canvasbacks, blackheads, and some redheads.

Notable Goose Migrations: Every time our neighbors up north got hammered with snow we got a fresh batch of birds in our area within a few days. The last day of the season I saw as many geese on the shore as I have ever seen.

Overall Hunting Report: While many declared this to be a banner year for ducks in Maryland, my Canada goose hunting was hit or miss. The birds were there, but success wasn’t as consistent as in years past. The last two weeks of the season proved to be the best gunning of the year.

Name: David Rearick

Location: Butler, PA

Notable Weather Changes/Differences This Season: The weather was strange again this year. We went from unseasonably warm with rain to cold and snow overnight. Following a major snowstorm, the temperatures dropped into single digits locking up water quickly and sending the migration further south.

Winter Snow Summary: Snow conditions went back and forth frequently from feet to inches and back to feet during a week long period. Snow cover has been consistent since early December.

Season Water Conditions: Water was low most of the season, but not too low to allow ample hunting opportunities on the water.

Overall Feeding Conditions: Feeding conditions were good all year. They decreased some when we have periods of freeze-thaw and freezing rain, but overall I would say they were very good.

Duck Numbers Compared to Previous Years: Low, it was the weakest year on duck numbers I have seen in some time.

Goose Numbers Compared to Previous Years: Normal, there seem to be less resident geese, but overall the count seemed pretty consistent with last year’s numbers.

Notable Duck Migrations: Early December a large migration hit the area and less than a week later they were pushed out by heavy snowfall and freezing water.

Notable Goose Migrations: It seemed to be a slow migration and finally peaked quickly. I wouldn’t say there were any notable migrations.

Overall Hunting Report: Overall, I would say hunting was on par with last year, but way down from previous years. Severe changes in weather caused a short stop by many birds and it just never seemed to get going like it did 4 plus years back where hunting would become consistent and hold constant for 2-3 weeks.

Name: Bryn Witmier

Location: Strausstown, PA

Notable Weather Changes/Differences This Season: The biggest difference this season was the unseasonable temperatures. September was extremely hot. Multiple days in the 90’s every week for the entire month was not uncommon. October and November were pretty seasonable. The months of December and January were incredibly cold; temperatures struggled to reach the freezing mark with most days much colder. Normal high temps for my area are usually in the high 30’s to 40’s.

Winter Snow Summary: Although temperatures were colder than normal, we didn’t receive much snow during the season. A few small storms put only a trace or 1-2 inches on the ground at any one time.

Season Water Conditions: Water was scarce to start the season. September and early October were extremely dry. Consistent rains in October and November filled wetlands to the brim and created pockets of water everywhere. Wetlands and smaller bodies of water froze by the second week of December, by the second week of January all water that wasn’t moving was locked up. There usually isn’t a total freeze-up like we had in this year in my area.

Overall Feeding Conditions: Feeding conditions were excellent all year. Dry conditions had silage corn coming off earlier than normal giving birds plenty of opportunities to feed throughout September. Harvest of corn and beans was completed right on schedule giving migrating birds plenty of options to feed. Finally, lack of deep snow allowed hardy birds a reason to stick it out through the remainder of the season.

Duck Numbers Compared to Previous Years: Duck numbers were a little above average this year. We had a decent number of mallards around for our week long early season. Wood duck numbers were down however. Usually a staple of our early season, they seemed to have pushed through just after our early season closed. Mallard and black duck numbers were normal through December, before receiving a huge push of birds early in January.

Goose Numbers Compared to Previous Years: Goose numbers were above average in September. Migratory numbers were strong through November and into early December. The end of December and January numbers were way below normal.

Notable Duck Migrations: We saw a notable push of smaller ducks (teal and woodies) the first week of November. Our season was closed so we weren’t able to capitalize on these new birds. We didn’t see another big push of birds until the first week of January. A huge push of mallards and blacks showed up out of nowhere, stayed a few days and were gone. They provided some great dry field hunts the few days they stuck around.

Notable Goose Migrations: We started seeing migrating geese the last week of September. Geese continued to migrate, on days with favorable winds, through the month of October. Goose numbers remained steady through November and the beginning of December. Geese started to concentrate around larger bodies of water between Christmas and New Year’s. Numbers started to drop from there though the rest of the season.

Overall Hunting Report: Good, some hunts were great but the overall season was good. September geese were frustrating at times. They seemed to know where all the safety zones were. Early ducks provided some good hunts for mallards. Geese were consistently producing up through the holidays. Then geese concentrated and so did the hunters. Hunting pressure was higher than normal through the rest of the season. It was all fun and I can’t wait until the spring snows and next season!

Name: Erik Nilsson

Location: Pittsburgh, PA

Notable Weather Changes/Differences This Season: Winter came fast and early this year for us. Snow and freezing conditions pushed the birds through fast.

Winter Snow Summary: We have not received the amount of snow fall this year as we have in the past.

Season Water Conditions: Water levels seemed to be down in the early part of the seasons but normal pool was reached by mid to late season. Bitter cold temps have inland lakes frozen by mid December

Overall Feeding Conditions: Grain fields were harvested earlier this year than what I have seen in the past seasons. Corn, beans and alfalfa were the majority of crops in the area.

Duck Numbers Compared to Previous Years: I think that the duck numbers were about the same, this year I did see more mallards and black ducks but less on the numbers of ring-necks and buffleheads

Goose Numbers Compared to Previous Years: Very good, the resident population was strong this year and migrant’s numbers seemed to remain consistent with years past.

Notable Duck Migrations: The biggest migration was in late November into the second week of December. The big push showed up right before freeze out.

Notable Goose Migrations: I saw three pushes of geese this season with the biggest in December before bitter cold and snow covered our area.

Overall Hunting Report: Hunting was consistent with seasons before. Goose hunting was steady with success nearly on every hunt. Mixing it up over water and fields kept us on the birds. Ducks were hit and miss but when we would get into them success was consistent. An early freeze moved a lot of birds out but we were able to do the best with what we had to work with at times.

Name: Kevin Addy

Location: Morgantown, PA

Notable Weather Changes/Differences This Season: The most notable weather difference we had this season when compared to last season was the cold weather. Most waters froze and stayed that way the whole season. It was the coldest season I can recall in a long time. Usually its cold followed by a warming trend and then back to cold throughout the season – not this year.

Winter Snow Summary: We had 6 inches of snow on the ground for the last couple weeks of the season followed by over a foot for the last week.

Season Water Conditions: It was a fairly dry season for the most part. We usually get quite a few rains that cause flooding or fill up seasonal ponds. The ponds filled a lot later than usual and never got to full pool. It then turned cold and all ponds and lakes froze and stayed that way for most of the season.

Overall Feeding Conditions: The feeding conditions were different this year. We had a warm dry summer and fall. This caused most farmers to take the corn for silage early. The waste grain wasn’t there in most fields. A lot of the fields did get planted with a cover crop which really helped for food but made the hide tough.

Duck Numbers Compared to Previous Years: Duck numbers at the beginning of the season were similar to what they have been in previous years, but duck numbers at the middle to end of the season were lower due to limited open water. There were some big bunches of ducks to hunt but they took a lot of time to find.

Goose Numbers Compared to Previous Years: Goose numbers were similar to numbers in the past early to the middle part of the season but again the limited open water sent a lot of birds to the shore. I know record numbers were counted this year and many of them were probably NY and PA birds. We still had plenty of birds to hunt but they took longer to find and were concentrated when you found them. Running traffic as I like to do wasn’t always an option in the latter part of the year. If you were a ¼ mile off, you might not even see a goose. Usually there are geese on so many different roost areas you can almost setup anywhere and see traffic.

Notable Duck Migrations: We did have a push of ducks in November but most of them didn’t stick around. We don’t hold duck numbers like MD, NJ and DE.

Notable Goose Migrations: The goose migration was stretched out more this year. We did have a couple big pushes after a storm following the north wind but most of it was just birds trickling in.

Overall Hunting Report: Overall the season was quite different than in years past with the weather, crops, and migrations. I think we worked harder to stay on birds but ended up with less ducks but more geese, both Canadas and snows. That’s part of the fun with this sport – trying to stay in tune with the birds to stay successful. It’s a new game every day and season, not the same old boring video game that doesn’t change.

Name: Eric Sandiford

Location: Newport News, VA

Notable Weather Changes/Differences This Season: The most notable weather difference in this year was the cold weather. This has to be the coldest waterfowl season that I can remember. The problem was that it didn’t thaw out for weeks on end, pushing the puddle ducks through the area. In normal years when we get a freeze the birds congregate on the larger bodies of waters for a few days. Then the ice melts and the birds go back to their feeding areas. This normally happens a few times a season.

Winter Snow Summary: We received more and earlier snow fall this year. Most years the snow doesn’t come until late January. This year we saw snow as early as mid-December.

Season Water Conditions: The year started out with a drought running through the summer. It had the woodies congregated in huge numbers in the few beaver ponds that had water. Rains in mid October put the water level up to normal depths.

Overall Feeding Conditions: The feeding conditions for the geese were great throughout the year, from the cut corn in September to the cover crops late in the season. The puddle ducks had great feeding conditions early after the rains moved in mid October but quickly changed after the hard freeze ups. It sent them looking for food after a few days. Conditions for the divers and sea ducks are harder to evaluate. But I will say that I saw some scoters in the worst shape I have ever seen. Some of them didn’t even have any breast tissue. I can only assume that they were not getting enough to eat!

Duck Numbers Compared to Previous Years: More wood ducks than I have ever seen. And even after the rains filled in creeks and ponds there were tons. And they were here later than I can remember. Puddle ducks were hard to evaluate because of the freezes. Sea ducks and diver were similar to last year.

Goose Numbers Compared to Previous Years: The resident population did well this summer. Numbers were around the same as last year. The migratory population seemed the same in the areas that I hunt. Although, had friends in other areas that didn’t have the numbers that they normally had.

Notable Duck Migrations: Mid-December marked the most notable duck migration. The freezes the east coast got brought the birds down but pushed them out just as quick with no feeding areas thawed.

Notable Goose Migrations: The end of December brought us are best goose numbers. And we had another little push the third week of January.

Overall Hunting Report: The season was a great one. The puddle duck hunting was not good, because of the long freezes. But that gave me a chance to enjoy more sea ducks and the Canada goose hunting.

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