Researchers found more than 905,000 waterfowl during the 2014 Maryland Midwinter Waterfowl Survey. Each winter, aerial survey teams of pilots and biologists from The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources make visual estimates of ducks, swans and geese along Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay shoreline and Atlantic coast.
The estimated total represents a 22 percent increase over the 2013 survey estimate of 739,600 birds. Biologists attribute the higher count to the fact many species flocked to Maryland’s portion of the Chesapeake Bay due to severe winter conditions to the north.
Additionally, large areas of the Bay and tributaries were ice covered during the survey period, concentrating waterfowl in ice-free, open waters where they were more easily counted.
The survey estimates for mallards, black ducks and canvasbacks were the highest they have been since the mid-1970s. Overall, dabbling ducks were more abundant this time around (128,000) compared to last winter (72,800).
There were nearly twice as many diving ducks this survey (190,300) over last year (98,100). The canvasback count (68,400) was the highest since the mid-1960s, and far greater than the January 2013 estimate (18,400).
Survey teams also observed large numbers of wintering Canada geese (512,100) along the upper Chesapeake Bay. The extensive snow and ice in northern latitudes pushed large numbers of geese south to the Chesapeake from their normal wintering areas in southern Ontario and the Finger Lakes region of New York.
The Midwinter Waterfowl Survey has been conducted annually throughout the United States since the early 1950s. The Maryland survey results are ultimately pooled with other states’ results to provide a measure of the distribution and population size of waterfowl wintering in the Atlantic Flyway, as well as information on long-term trends.
source: Maryland Department of Natural Resources