By TODD MASSON | NOLA.com/The Times-Picayune
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Ducks Unlimited's Waterfowl Migration Map is a sea of blue, testament to the annual late-summer flight of a 1-pound duck that is so endearing to the hearts of South Louisiana hunters. Unlike last year at this time, blue-winged teal are on the move, and the situation couldn't be set up more perfectly for a 16-day season.
Larry Reynolds, waterfowl study leader for the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, took to the air last week, and overall, he was pleased with the number of teal that have already settled into South Louisiana.
“It looks better than last year, let's put it that way,” Reynolds said. “We counted a couple of good groups of teal — one north of Lacassine Pool and one south of Welsh.
“There wasn't much in the marsh at all, but all total, we counted enough teal just today to exceed last year's September survey.”
That's an amazing statement considering Monday's flight was only over Southwest Louisiana. Reynolds planned to fly from White Lake to Houma and from Houma across the Southeast Louisiana coast.
Southwest Louisiana always holds more bluewings than Southeast Louisiana, but with the numbers of birds he counted Monday, Reynolds said he's confident there are some substantial flights of bluewings in Southeast Louisiana's marshes. Certainly the habitat there is in good condition, he said.
“The (submerged aquatic vegetation) looks every bit as good this year as it did last year,” Reynolds said. “Hopefully the hurricane season will continue to be quiet.”
Last year's aquatic grass proved to be wasted due to a remarkably late flight of the bluewings. The September aerial count was the worst ever, and the main body of the birds didn't show up until mid-October.
Reynolds doesn't expect that to happen this year.
“There's a pretty solid cold front coming through the Dakotas on Thursday with forecasted temperatures around freezing, so we've got a lot to be optimistic about,” he said.
The annual teal migration, he said, is driven by both weather and the declining length of daylight, called photoperiod.
“Photoperiod is the ultimate driver, but a couple of cool snaps have always helped us in the past,” Reynolds said.
Everything's lined up for a really good opener, but Reynolds is hedging his bets.
“After last year, I refuse to be openly optimistic anymore,” he said.
Information from: The Times-Picayune, www.nola.com