Lloyd Center winter waterfowl survey shows healthy numbers

Dec 20, 2017

The Lloyd Center winter waterfowl survey entered its 31st season, and the first count was held on Sunday, December 3.

This count was the highest December total in a decade! A major factor was stellar survey conditions, including comfortable to warm temperatures and no breeze, so hands stayed warm and scopes remained steady. Calm waters are also a blessing, especially for counting bufflehead which are small and constantly diving and may be obscured during rough conditions.

Here's the breakdown. Briggs Marsh (1,853) had extremely high numbers, more than the entire Westport River. The West Branch (662) of the Westport River also had much higher birds than most other sites. Both sites showed large increases in totals from a year ago. At Briggs, Mute Swan, American Wigeon, and overall scaup species surpassed 300 individuals; while Canada Goose, Brant, American Black Duck, Mallard, Greater Scaup, Lesser Scaup, and Bufflehead all had greater than 100 birds. Counts were highest at Briggs for each of these species except for black ducks. Lesser Scaup (190) increased considerably overall, and Brant (129) numbers are the second highest total ever, and the highest December count on record. Ring-necked Ducks (5) exemplify less common species that depict the high waterfowl diversity seen at this unique site on any given count.

The largest species increases were for the familiar Bufflehead and American Black Duck, with both species having highest totals at the West Branch of the Westport River. The also common Red-breasted Mergansers had their highest total on the West Branch as well. The healthy increase in black ducks after no change last December is particularly encouraging, and indicates a healthy Canadian population that migrates to our coastal systems.

The largest decline occurred for American Wigeon, although numbers have ranged high for the species in recent counts, and last December they increased. This shows that while we monitor annual trends, short term fluctuations aren’t necessarily indicative of population trends.

Tune in January for count two!