LDWF aerial survey for waterfowl – updated for Northeast and Northwest Louisiana:
The 802,000 ducks estimated during the November 2022 survey for coastal Louisiana and Catahoula Lake was the lowest since the survey began in 1968). It is 38% lower than the November 2021 estimate (1.29 million), as well as 28% and 48% lower than the most recent 5-year (1.11 million) and 10-year (1.54 million) averages respectively. Unlike the total estimate, no species- specific record lows for November were set.
NE Louisiana — Due to mechanical issues with the aircraft to be used for the transect survey early in the week, it became apparent that the intended regional coverage would not be achieved. Therefore, the familiar one-day cruise survey was initiated on Friday, November 18. Additionally, two days of transect surveying with limited geographical coverage were performed. Results presented here are from the completed cruise survey.
Habitat conditions were notably dry, yet overall improved from 2021. Pumping was noted in many traditional duck locations. Because of this, waterfowl were limited to impoundments where water delivery was possible and ongoing. Some limited crop harvesting was underway during the survey.
A total of 102,000 ducks and 135,000 geese were counted in the core areas that make up the northeast Louisiana cruise survey route. These estimates represent a change, from November 2021, of (+200%) for ducks and (+82%) for geese.
Estimates were (-4.6%) and (+5.5%) the most recent 5-year average for ducks and geese respectively. Gadwall (38,000), green-winged teal (27,000), northern shoveler (15,000), mallard (12,000), and northern pintail (5,000) were the most abundant duck species observed. The mallard estimate is 500% greater than the 2,000 that were counted last November. In addition, there were 3,600 divers, nearly all ring-necked ducks.
The majority of ducks (64%) were observed between Bunkie, Echo, and Lecompte with the rest being spread throughout the region. Notable concentrations of ducks were also seen near the predominantly agricultural habitats along Hwy. 15 and east of Bayou Lafourche (8%), near Bonita and Mer Rouge (7%), east of Hebert (6%), and Saline Farms near Brouillette (5%).The largest flocks of geese were observed, near exclusively, in areas where ducks were most abundant including Bonita-Mer Rouge (47%), the Bunkie region (21%), Hwy. 15 east of Bayou Lafourche (20%), and east of Hebert (10%). Goose species composition of flocks was 23% greaterwhite-fronted, and 77% light (snow & Ross’s) geese.
NW Louisiana — 17,000 ducks were counted in northwest Louisiana, a 467% increase from last year’s estimate (3,000) and 70% above the latest 5-year average (9,800). The largest count (around 30% of the total) was observed along the Red River between lock 5 and south Shreveport, with other notable concentrations at the Lower Cane unit of Red River NWR, Toledo Bend, and Black Lake at Campti. Overall, a combination of natural wetland processes and planned management have resulted in favorable habitat conditions for waterfowl in northwest Louisiana heading into winter. Low rainfall throughout the summer has caused many waterbodies to fall naturally, resulting in drawdown conditions that promoted vigorous moist-soil vegetative growth in both public and private lands throughout the area. Mudflats and shallow water were common, especially on areas such as Lake Bistineau, Black Bayou, Grand Bayou, Bayou Pierre WMA, and Toledo Bend. If future rainfall materializes and these areas continue to flood, the available area and quality have the potential to show increased waterfowl use. Privately managed impoundments, in addition to some tracts of Red River NWR, had very little water but were actively being filled. These shallow water areas contained most of the dabbling ducks that were counted during this survey. Most agricultural fields along the river, especially north of Shreveport to the Arkansas line, were dry.