On Sunday, January 26, waterfowl volunteers and Lloyd Center staff ventured out to complete the winter phase of the annual inventory of migratory waterfowl that utilize estuaries and ponds in southeastern New England. As stated in the December update, the January/February phase generally occurs in colder conditions when the amount of ice dictates bird numbers and densities. Sure enough, participants endured brutal morning cold including biting winds that called for both thick gloves and a sturdy telescope if an accurate count was to be obtained.
Preliminary estimates point to a relatively low total due to excessive ice that this year of the “Polar Vortex” has caused, and resulted in 100 percent ice cover for many ponds. As expected, Canada Geese, American Black Duck, and Mallard the most abundant birds as those best adapted to variable conditions as well as resident birds that may never leave the state. Important trends for this survey will be posted on our waterfowl page.
We can report here that our very own Slocum River had the highest totals for flowing estuaries and possibly (data pending) for all sites. This is due largely to a huge concentration of Mallards interspersed with Black Ducks at Russell Mills landing. Wintering Mallards are always present there, but the lack of open water in many other sites throughout the region probably attracted more birds than are usually seen. Both a Cormorant and a Bufflehead snuck into the mix as well providing further indication of the importance of this type of habitat.
While the headwaters of the Slocum are mostly freshwater much of the time, they are connected to the mouth of the Paskamansett River and separated only by the dam that forms “Coca Cola Falls”. A perennial stream starts at this point and flows to where tidal influences begin, thus creating optimal shallow habitat that rarely freezes and is thus important to wintering waterfowl.