Mid-winter Waterfowl Surveys

Written by Jim Wortham
Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Photo of Jim Wortham.Every January, Biologists-Pilots of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service in cooperation with State agencies conduct the Mid-winter Waterfowl Surveys. These surveys are designed to be a snapshot in time of ducks, geese, and swans wintering in concentrations in many States. “MidWinters” as we call them provide Federal and State waterfowl biologists with a broad-scale estimate of wintering abundance and distribution of birds across the four Flyways. Although statistically this survey has it’s warts, there is really no better tool available. In specific cases, results of this survey can also be used to assess environmental impacts to wintering habitats, assess avian disease outbreaks, and support acquisition programs for real estate which could be used as refuges for wintering birds.

As expected, this survey is always fraught with delays, most due to weather, but some also caused by aircraft maintenance schedules or equipment failures. Currently, the airplane which we are using to survey the coastal areas of the Carolinas is undergoing a mandated inspection which is required every 100 hours of use. Technicians have been working overtime to return this “bird” to service, and luckily we have not yet missed very many good-weather days while waiting. Our best estimates now are that the aircraft will be ready tomorrow, and we will immediately get back to work, first surveying birds over several islands in the Chesapeake Bay, and then hurrying back to North Carolina to resume work in the Pamlico Sound.

Thanks to technicians like this working overtime, our 100-mile inspection did not cause us to miss many good-weather flying days.

Thanks to technicians like this working overtime, our 100-mile inspection did not cause us to miss many good-weather flying days. Photo by Jim Wortham, USFWS