So I decided to write a little bit about my job tonight. I work at a wetland area in Missouri, and a big part of my job in the fall is administering our waterfowl hunting program. That mostly involves paying close attention to water levels in our different pools, and adjusting our pumps and gates so that water isn't either too deep or too shallow. The water levels are really important for migrating birds like ducks, geese, swans, shorebirds, wading birds, etc. The food they require during their migration becomes unavailable if the water is too shallow or too deep. Another big component of the hunt program is doing the daily draw, which focuses on hunter education, safety, and maximizing the number of hunters we can get out on our area while still paying attention to the physiological needs of migrating birds. Those things are a fun part of the job, but the best part is contributing to an annual survey of the migrating waterfowl each year. We are part of the Mallard Migration Network, a group of state and federal landowners who estimate the number of mallards we see each week and use it to provide an animated map. You'll see it on the top right part of the blog.
We're interested in the migration status of mallards because they are numerous, and are a common target of a lot of our waterfowl hunters. They are also a good gauge of waterfowl migration in general - there are lots of species of waterfowl, and monitoring them all across the North American continent is unrealistic - so we need a "yardstick" to go off of.
We see a lot of these on our area
So each week I go out and get a rough estimate of the number of mallards I see on the area I manage. Then I go back to my office and estimate (on a 1-10 scale) how close I think we are to "peak" migration - the most mallards we're going to see that year. Ducks start to migrate when the weather gets cold, so they will be coming down from places like Canada and the Dakotas each fall, and then they swing back up north once the winter is over to lay eggs and hatch their young. So I will get to do this all over again next spring. In the meantime, my weekly number update is one of several hundred locations that contribute to making that neat little animated map you see up there. It will continue to get updated as the migration continues, and I'll leave it up there for awhile so you can check it out.
Anyway that's my job - part-time official counter of ducks.