BANGOR, Maine -- The number of waterfowl wintering along Maine's coast this year increased from last year's count, according to the annual Midwinter Waterfowl Survey completed by Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW). An important factor behind the disparity in duck numbers was milder weather and lack of ice this January compared with the extreme cold and extensive coastal icing that characterized last year's survey. The survey team of MDIFW wildlife biologist Andy Weik and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service pilot-biologist John Bidwell traveled over the coast in a small airplane, from the New Hampshire border to Cobscook Bay, during January 3-11 for the annual count of Maine's wintering waterfowl. This year they tallied a total of 70,014 ducks (up from 44,077 in 2004) and 3,489 geese (up from 2,294 in 2004).
All species were found in greater or similar numbers this year in Maine as compared to last year's unusually low count. As usual, the most frequently observed duck was the common eider; the count of 34,794 eiders was substantially greater than the 17,240 eiders counted last year, and is similar to the most recent 10-year average of 33,669. The black duck count was up considerably from last year as well, but remained below the 10-year average of 18,419. Canada geese continued their long-term increase, while goldeneyes posted their second strongest showing of the past 10 years. The Midwinter Waterfowl Survey is conducted at the same time each winter in each state in the Atlantic Flyway, from Maine through Georgia. Overall status of wintering waterfowl populations are determined when Maine's data are pooled with the other states' numbers. High numbers among some species of ducks seen in Maine this January may be offset by lower counts in states farther to the south, or vice versa. Within northern states such as Maine, inland waterfowl move to the coast or migrate south when their inland freshwater habitats freeze up, which typically occurs by early January (when the survey is conducted).
Waterfowl counted this year (2004 numbers in parentheses) include: black ducks, 14,027 (10,799); mallards, 2,198 (2,055); scaup, 160 (0); goldeneyes, 7,374 (6,783); buffleheads, 4,369 (4,012); mergansers, 2,298 (1,944); long-tailed ducks, 1,995 (846); scoters, 2,702 (337); eiders, 34,794 (17,240); and Canada geese, 3,489 (2,290).
Due to the imprecision of the survey, annual fluctuations among counts within a state may not equate to real changes in abundance; trends are best assessed with a longer (5- to 10-year count average) view, and in the
larger context of the entire Atlantic Flyway.
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