Winter Waterfowl

mallard-on-slocums_optStarting in December of 1988, the Lloyd Center began using waterbird surveys of Allens Pond estuary in Dartmouth to assess the importance of the system to American Black Ducks (Anas rubripes), a migratory “dabbling duck” species that relies almost exclusively on estuaries for food during winter.

Many other waterfowl species are present in coastal water bodies during winter, including familiar species such as Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) and Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) which may breed locally but shift to estuaries when freshwater freezes.

Diving ducks such as Ruddy Duck (Oxyura jamaicensis) or Bufflehead (Bucephala albeola) are examples of long distance migrants arriving here during late fall, and are present only seasonally.

Through time, and with the help of a various volunteers (including long-time contributors), a regional assessment of all waterfowl utilizing flowing estuaries and coastal ponds from the Sakonnet River in Rhode Island to Apponagansett Bay in Dartmouth came to be known as the “Annual Lloyd Center Winter Waterfowl Survey”. This includes twenty-one systems within the towns of Dartmouth and Westport in MA, and Tiverton and Little Compton in RI.

brant-in-new-bedford-harbor_optEach winter in early December (early winter) and late January/early February (mid-winter) surveys are conducted – the two surveys accounting for differences in both migration schedules of waterfowl species and ice coverage that is based upon weather patterns.

On the two Sundays when surveying takes place, volunteers identify and count all individuals present at their respective sites, and estimate the percentage of ice coverage, given that ice is a limiting factor for waterfowl abundance.

Below are totals from 2000 – present with the most recent season (2014/2015) indicated in bold:

December

yearTotal Waterfowl
20007409
20014764
20025966
200310049
20044797
20054956
20065390
20076230
20084044
20093018
20103674
20114170
20124824
20134680
20144988
Average =5264 waterfowl

 

January/February

 yeartotal waterfowl  ice % (low, moderate, high)
20019622moderate
20026977low
200311026high
20045448high
20054469high
20066244low
20075048high
20087131moderate
20094589Moderate to high
20105434moderate to high
20114738moderate to high
20127501low
20133731high
20143617high
20156364high
Average =6129 waterfowl