Biologists this year reported an overall increase in the number of waterfowl along Maryland's Chesapeake Bay shoreline and Atlantic Coast compared with what they observed during the 2012 midwinter waterfowl survey.
Crews counted more Canada geese and snow geese but observed fewer ducks during the survey, which is conducted by biologists from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service who count ducks, geese and swans.
The 342,600 Canada geese and 83,300 snow geese were noticeably more abundant during this year's survey compared with 2012. Biologists credited increased gosling production last year to higher goose numbers, combined with snow cover in New York and southern Canada that encouraged geese to migrate farther south into the Bay region during the winter. Tundra swans increased slightly in the survey, from 16,600 to 17,300.
Biologists reported that the total number of ducks observed during the survey was 175,500, lower than the 230,600 counted in 2012. The dabbling duck count of 72,800 was below the 96,600 counted in 2012. Most of the decline in dabbling ducks can be attributed to fewer mallards being observed.
The total number of diving ducks observed was 98,100, also lower than the 125,300 counted last winter, and the scaup count was one of the lowest in recent history. Unseasonably mild winter weather during the weeks leading up to the survey resulted in a delay in the arrival of most diving ducks in the Bay, especially scaup, according to the biologists.
The survey was conducted the week of Jan. 6 throughout the Atlantic Flyway and is used as an index of long-term wintering waterfowl trends, especially for brant and tundra swans.
The Atlantic Flyway is a bird migration route that generally follows the Atlantic Coast of North America and the Appalachian Mountains.
In Maryland, the survey is conducted by four aerial survey teams that make visual estimates of wintering waterfowl that are observed in coastal and tidewater habitats of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries.