Waterfowl breeding prospects good

May 26, 2010 at 07:03 AM

Illinois waterfowl biologist Ray Marshalla had mostly good news to pass along this week in regards to waterfowl breeding prospects this spring.

Here is Marshalla’s early analysis of breeding and how it impacts Illinois waterfowlers

Ducks

Habitat conditions for ducks have improved greatly over earlier reports listed in the current issue of Ducks Unlimited magazine. Note that as of mid-May, conditions in southern Ontario changed from fair to mostly good, Manitoba stayed good to very good, Saskatchewan changed from mostly fair in the prairie pothole region to now mostly good with a small pocket of excellent and some fair in extreme south, Alberta went from mostly poor and some fair to some good in extreme southwest but still poor over much of the province. Overall I was very pleased to see the additional moisture much of this area received since reports in February and March. I have no new news about the Dakotas and Minnesota but the late winter reports for much of these areas was excellent.

Most of you know that duck season length (60, 45 or 30 days) is primarily determined by ponds in prairie Canada and total mallards in Canada and the U.S. When pond numbers appeared to be way down in prairie Canada I was getting nervous about the possibility of a 45- or even 30-day season this year. This new information is a good news and will hopefully still result in good production and another 60-day season. We will have pond and mallard numbers by about July 1st or so.

Canada Geese

About half the Canada geese shot in IL hatch in the MVP range of northern Ontario along the coast of Hudson and James Bays. Last year we had a very late spring and reproduction was very poor. The earlier the spring the better production because geese can nest early ensuring broods are flighted by the time they need to migrate. In addition, in early springs many 2 and 3 year old geese lay eggs that might not during a late spring. We had poor production in 2008 and 2009 in the MVP range. Last season made for some tough Canada goose hunting since most of the migrants were adults. We likely shot more giants than MVP last season.

The latest report from the MVP breeding grounds was very good. Here is the latest report from the Ontario waterfowl biologist:

“The survey conditions were very good. We had great weather and it’s an incredibly early spring. Looks like a good production year.”

I will forward actual survey results when available. Barring a late spring snow storm after hatch we should have improved hunting for migrant Canada geese this fall.

The giant Canada goose population in IL was down a little from 2009 likely due partly to lack of young migrants from Ontario and a harsh winter putting more hunting pressure on them. However, the change in the IL population is not statistically significant and could be due to survey imprecision as much as an actual change. The giant population has remained relatively stable in IL for the past 10-15 years. Production this year should be decent in IL based on weather conditions throughout the state.