Survey finds waterfowl numbers similar to five-year average
Each winter, aerial survey teams of pilots and biologists from Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service make visual estimates of the ducks, geese, and swans along the state’s Chesapeake Bay shoreline and Atlantic coast. This year, the teams counted about 812,600 waterfowl, higher than the 663,000 birds observed during 2016 and similar to the five-year average of 795,240.
Biologists attribute much of the year-to-year variation to weather conditions.
“An early December cold snap throughout the East likely moved large numbers of waterfowl, diving ducks in particular, south to Maryland waters,” said Wildlife and Heritage Service Director Paul Peditto.
Overall, dabbling ducks were similar (87,900) to last winter (69,800). Diving duck numbers (283,600) were higher when compared to last winter (246,000). Survey teams also observed a good many more scaup (138,800) and canvasbacks (75,100) in 2017 compared to counts of 91,800 and 19,800 respectively, last year. The Canada goose count (394,700) was higher than 2016 (293,800) but below the five-year average.
The Midwinter Waterfowl Survey has been conducted annually since the early 1950s. The Maryland survey results are pooled to provide a measure of the distributional changes and long-term trends of waterfowl wintering in the Atlantic Flyway.
* * * Final youth hunt Marylanders up to 16 years old can hone their hunting skills with the help of an experienced adult Feb. 11 during the second of two Youth Waterfowl Hunt Days scheduled this season.
Ducks, geese, mergansers, and coots on public and private land are fair game.
“This is a great opportunity to engage young people — Maryland’s future hunters and trappers — in waterfowling,” Peditto said. “It’s also an opportunity to refresh the lessons learned in hunter safety and employ skills like placing decoys, calling birds, and hunting with a retriever.”
All junior hunters and their adult mentors must carry valid Maryland hunting licenses. Youth hunters must purchase a Maryland Migratory Game Bird Stamp but do not need to purchase a federal duck stamp if under 16 years of age.
The bag limits for the youth hunt day are the same as the regular seasons except: • One black duck may be taken. • Two Canada geese may be taken when hunting within the Atlantic Population Canada Goose Hunting Zone.
• Five Canada geese may be taken when hunting within the Atlantic Flyway Resident Population Canada Goose Hunting Zone.
Licenses, stamps, and permits may be purchased online, by phone at 855-8553906, at department service centers, or at any one of more than 250 agents statewide.