Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Chesapeake Bay Not for the Birds This Winter

Annapolis, Md. (February 28, 2012) — Each winter, during the first week of January, pilots and biologists from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) count ducks, geese and swans along Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay shoreline and Atlantic coast. This year the survey teams counted 633,700 waterfowl, which is slightly lower than the number of waterfowl observed during that time last year (651,800).

“It is important to remember that the Maryland survey results are ultimately pooled with results from other states to provide a measure of the distribution and population size of waterfowl wintering in the Atlantic Flyway,” said Larry Hindman, DNR’s Waterfowl Project Leader. “The survey is conducted in a coordinated manner across the Atlantic Flyway to provide information on the population size for important waterfowl species like black ducks, Atlantic brant and tundra swans.”
 My admittedly very limited observations this winter, mostly from the beach (and well documented here) agrees with this study; I've seen fewer Tundra Swans and less winter ducks (Buffleheads and Old Squaw mostly) than I have in past years, and other people I have talked to have made the same observations, and many have blamed the relatively mild winter for not pushing the migrating waterfowl south as far or as fast as usual:
“The decline in canvasbacks was likely related to the mild winter weather in the eastern half of the United States,” said Hindman. “However, they did arrive in the Chesapeake in greater numbers after the survey was completed.”

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