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

year Total Waterfowl
2000 7409
2001 4764
2002 5966
2003 10049
2004 4797
2005 4956
2006 5390
2007 6230
2008 4044
2009 3018
2010 3674
2011 4170
2012 4824
2013 4680
2014 4988
Average = 5264 waterfowl

 

January/February

 year total waterfowl   ice % (low, moderate, high)
2001 9622 moderate
2002 6977 low
2003 11026 high
2004 5448 high
2005 4469 high
2006 6244 low
2007 5048 high
2008 7131 moderate
2009 4589 Moderate to high
2010 5434 moderate to high
2011 4738 moderate to high
2012 7501 low
2013 3731 high
2014 3617 high
2015 6364 high
Average = 6129 waterfowl