Where are all of the ducks?

This is the question that has been reverberating throughout South Louisiana after a generally weak opening weekend for the eastern and coastal zones' second split. The duck numbers in the state have increased since November, but are still pretty low for December?

According to the December waterfowl survey released by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, the overall duck population was estimated to have dropped a 15 percent from last December – even though migrant birds have arrived since November.

"We have had reasonably low populations of birds, below recent and long-term averages," said Larry Reynolds, waterfowl survey leader with the LDWF. "And the weather hasn't been helping in getting ducks down, either. I'm standing in my driveway in a T-shirt and gym shorts on Dec. 18.

"Missouri is having an average season, as well, though; the weather has been pretty warm there, too. It is good to know that this is a national phenomenon and not just targeting us specifically. Feel free to dial up a winter."

Reynolds said habitat conditions in Southeast Louisiana are not suitable for holding ducks, either, due to a good crop of submerged aquatic vegetation that was wiped out by the Hurricane Isaac storm surge.

On the other hand, Northeast Louisiana, the Catahoula Lake region, the flooded grain fields between Bunkie and Marksville, and agricultural fields near the town of Bonita have held reasonably good populations of ducks, he explained.

"Ducks are staying in these places because they actually have water and food," Reynolds said.

There is some hope to salvage the season, however. According to the Weather Channel's National Weather Forecast, there is a very large winter storm making its way across the northern part of the country, and hopefully this will freeze water up and force ducks to migrate farther south toward Louisiana.

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