New Jersey Crew Completes Midwinter Survey - Brant Numbers Low

Written by Steve Earsom
Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Photo of Stephen D. Earsom.The US Fish and Wildlife Service and the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife recently completed the annual midwinter survey of New Jersey and Long Island. Information collected from this survey is used to set hunting seasons for Atlantic brant. Also, the Black Duck Joint Venture uses the data to better understand associations between habitat and black duck numbers so as to improve management strategies.

Continuing a tradition that has been in place for over two decades, the data were collected by Ted Nichols (NJDFW) and Paul Castelli (USFWS – Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge). In contrast to most of our surveys, I serve as pilot only, rather than pilot/observer due to the complex airspace and density of fixed and mobile hazards. This year we were also joined for part of the survey by Pilot/Biologist Anna Anderson of the Migratory Bird Office in Anchorage.

The survey covers all the tidal marshes of New Jersey, resulting in a rich variety of waterfowl species. In addition, the team covers southwestern Long Island, which is a key wintering area for Atlantic brant. This year, initial indications are that brant numbers were on the low side. In fact, the New Jersey survey appears to have one of the lowest counts in 30 years. This is not surprising, as brant reproduction has been low for 3 years in a row. Data from other states in the Atlantic Flyway will be merged with the New Jersey and Long Island numbers before any management decisions are made.

The 2015 New Jersey/Long Island Crew, from left to right: Anna Anderson, Ted Nichols, Paul Castelli and Steve Earsom.

The 2015 New Jersey/Long Island Crew, from left to right: Anna Anderson, Ted Nichols, Paul Castelli and Steve Earsom. Photo by Stephen Earsom, USFWS