The good news is the aerial survey completed this week by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries revealed about 101,000 blue-winged teal had already arrived in advance of opening day this Saturday, an increase of about 51,000 birds compared to last year’s record-breaking low count.
The bad news is this year’s number is only 56-percent of the long-term average of 232,000, and the 2014 September numbers will go in the books as the third lowest on record, ahead of only last year’s 50,000 and 99,000 in 2002.
According to a release prepared by LDWF’s waterfowl study leader, Larry Reynolds, estimates in southeast and southwest Louisiana’s coastal regions more than doubled from last year, with the count at Catahoula Lake down 33 percent.
But the vast majority of the birds - 90,000 - were noted in the southwest portion of the state.
The bad news for southeast Louisiana continues: The three lowest estimates for this region since 1969 have come from the last three September surveys, and the six lowest estimates have come in the last seven years. This year’s estimate for the southeast was 9,000 birds.
The largest concentrations of blue-wings were noted north of Lacassine NWR Pool and southeast of Welsh, according to the report. No sizeable groups were noted on southeast Louisiana transects, and very few were counted until the survey reached Baptiste Collette bayou.
For the second consecutive year, mottled duck numbers were up, bumping from 25,000 last year to 30,000 for 2014, but remain below the most recent five-year average of 33,000.
Habitat conditions across coastal Louisiana are good, Reynolds said, with plentiful rainfall in southwest Louisiana providing habitat in addition to managed water. He noted marsh water levels were high for foraging waterfowl in some locations.
In southeast Louisiana, submerged aquatic growth was similar to last year with good water levels, but broad expanses of algae also were noted.
Catahoula Lake conditions were poorer than last year because it was wetter during the drawdown because of untimely rainfall. The 2,000 birds counted there were especially disappointing because more than 5,000 were noted there Saturday during a shorebird survey.
The report concludes by noting that populations of birds in particular areas could change markedly in the coming days and weeks, especially with cooler weather expected to move across the northern Mississippi Flyway states this weekend.