New York State
Ornithological Association

For the birders and birds of the Empire State

Waterfowl Count 2002Posted 12/17/02
 

New York State Federation Waterfowl Count
January 2002
 
Bryan L. Swift
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
625 Broadway
Albany, NY 12233-47
50

ABSTRACT

The Federation of New York State Bird Clubs’ annual midwinter waterfowl count, or “Federation Waterfowl Count” (FWC), was held during January 12-27, 2002 with approximately 270 participants. Weather conditions were mild but generally unfavorable for complete counts due to extensive open water and strong winds. Nonetheless, a record total of 447,867 birds (46 species) was documented, 13% above the previous high (set in 2001), and 67% above the 1973-2000 average. The top 10 species, accounting for 85% of the total, were: Canada Goose, Mallard, Greater Scaup, American Black Duck, Brant, Redhead, White-winged Scoter, Common Goldeneye, Canvasback, and Surf Scoter. Canada Geese accounted for most of the increase in total counts compared to previous years.

 

Common Eider photo by Carena Pooth

Common Eider

INTRODUCTION

The Federation of New York State Bird Clubs has conducted an annual midwinter waterfowl count (FWC) almost every year since 1955 (Rising 1955) except for a brief hiatus in 1968-1972 (Jones 1980). Each January, members visit lakes, rivers and shorelines throughout New York State to count waterfowl (ducks, geese and swans) and associated water birds (e.g., loons, grebes, cormorants and coot). Whenever possible, counts are conducted during a 9-day count period beginning on the first Saturday in January after New Year’s Day, with a target date of the first Sunday in that period. Most counts are conducted during the first 3 days, but in some cases additional time is needed to complete the counts.

 

WEATHER CONDITIONS

Official weather data for January 2002 were not available, but regional compilers reported generally unfavorable conditions across the state. Temperatures were mild, with highs in the 30s to low 40s, and overcast skies and strong winds on the target date, especially on larger open water areas, such as the Great Lakes shorelines. The count period was preceded by a period of colder weather with little precipitation in January. Snow cover from storms in December was largely gone from most areas during the count period. As a result of this weather pattern, some smaller inland waters were frozen, but all larger lakes and coastal bays remained entirely open to waterfowl use.

 

RESULTS

A total of 447,867 birds, comprising 46 species, were counted in 2002 (Table 1). This established a new record high count since the FWC began in 1955. The 2002 total was 13% above 2001(Table 2) and 67% above the 28-year (1973-2000) average of 268,763 (Table 3). Less than 1% of the total count was recorded outside of the scheduled survey period.

Comparison of 2002 counts with 28-year (1973-2000) averages shows 7 of 13 major species or taxa at least 10% above average, and only two species or taxa more than 10% below average (Table 3). Canada Geese (211,191) shattered the previous high of 163,000 (in 2000), and accounted for most of the increase in total counts compared to previous years. New high counts were established also for Common Loon, Pied-billed Grebe, White-fronted Goose, Tundra Swan, Gadwall, Northern Shoveler and Ring-necked Duck. Relatively high counts of these and many other species probably reflected the generally mild winter weather in 2001-2002. This contrasted with the year before, when cold weather coincided with record high counts of many diving duck species.

Total waterfowl numbers in the Atlantic Flyway (Maine to Florida) were down 2% from 2001, and were 6% above the 10-year (1991-2000) average (Serie and Raftovich 2002). Flyway counts of dabbling ducks were up 3% from a year ago, diving ducks declined 11%, and sea ducks increased 55%. Canada Goose counts in the flyway were unchanged from 2001 to 2002, whereas Brant and Snow Goose counts increased 25% and 35%, respectively. Annual changes in relative abundance in New York often do not mirror flyway trends because state counts reflect distributional shifts (in response to weather) as well as population changes.

Highlights of regional reports included a pair of Harlequin Ducks at Buffalo (Region 1), a Barrow’s Goldeneye on the St. Lawrence River near Ogdensburg (Region 6), the first-ever Brant on the FWC in Region 7 and a Great Cormorant on the Hudson River in Columbia County (Region 8).

 

FUTURE COUNTS

The FWC is especially important now that the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has discontinued aerial surveys of waterfowl wintering in New York. DEC concluded that the FWC provides comparable or better data for monitoring long-term population trends (Swift and Hess 1999), so they now rely on the FWC as its standard survey. It is important that member clubs and individuals maintain complete and consistent coverage of areas surveyed in the past to ensure that results are comparable from year-to-year and over the long-term.

For the planners among you, future counts are scheduled as follows:

2003 - January 11-19 (target date - Sunday, January 12)
2004 - January 10-18 (target date - Sunday, January 11)
2005 - January 9-17 (target date - Sunday, January 10)

For more information about the FWC, visit the Federation's Waterfowl Count page.

 

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

I wish to thank all of the approximately 270 observers who participated this year. A special thanks to the following Regional Compilers who coordinated all those volunteers:

Region Compiler Region Compiler
1 William Burch 6 Jerry LeTendre
2 Greg Hartenstein 7 John M. C. Peterson
3 Eric Donohue 8 Bryan Swift
4 Les Bemont & Gail Kirch 9 Michael Usai
5 Marge Rusk 10 Ronald & Jean Bourque

Thanks also to Elizabeth Renar of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation for help compiling all the regional counts for this summary.

 

LITERATURE CITED

Jones, M. 1980. The New York State waterfowl count - a quarter century report. Kingbird 30:210-216.

Rising, G. R. 1955. The January waterfowl count. Kingbird 5:34-36.

Serie, J. R. and R. V. Raftovich, Jr. 2002. Atlantic Flyway Midwinter Waterfowl Survey 2002 - Preliminary Report. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Office of Migratory Bird Management, Laurel, MD. 3 p.

Swift, B. L. and P. J. Hess. 1999. A comparison of winter waterfowl surveys in New York. Northeast Wildlife 54:85-92.

 

Table 1. Regional totals for January 2002 Federation Waterfowl Count.

See Region Map (popup)

Species Region
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
Total
Loon, Red-throated
1
5
0
0
0
0
1
0
9
149
165
   Common
1
10
4
1
6
1
9
0
5
591
628
   Yellow-billed
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
Grebe, Pied-billed
15
1
27
2
7
3
0
1
5
149
210

   Horned

2
185
7
0
19
0
44
0
2
302
561
   Red-necked
1
1
0
0
1
0
0
0
0
4
7
   Eared
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
Cormorant, D.-crested
107
2
2
0
37
4
0
1
6
112
271
   Great
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
1
38
198
237
Goose, White-fronted
0
0
1
0
0
0
0
0
0
4
5
   Snow
0
0
6
0
2
0
20
11
2
1,028
1,069
   Canada
2,939
5,113
117,355
1,432
14,602
3,828
1,712
9,050
28,840
26,320
211,191
Brant
0
0
0
0
0
0
1
0
1
18,099
18,101
Swan, Mute
0
181
2
3
4
3
0
148
222
1,447
2,010
   Trumpeter
0
4
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
4

   Tundra

258
0
508
0
21
109
0
0
0
0
896
Wood Duck
7
1
1
0
0
1
0
2
22
59
93
Gadwall
62
108
194
0
53
97
0
0
108
2,278
2,900
Wigeon, Eurasian
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
2
2
   American
17
2
45
0
23
5
0
0
286
1,619
1,997
Species Region
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
Total
Am. Black Duck
79
439
2,377
59
433
242
252
1,007
1,297
12,040
18,225
Mallard
5,267
6,175
10,119
643
5,099
1,130
1,999
2,927
3,171
11,069
47,599
Mallard X Black
0
9
1
0
7
0
2
0
5
22
46
Blue-winged Teal
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
1
1
2
Northern Shoveler
0
2
2
0
0
0
0
0
112
681
797
Northern Pintail
0
1
19
4
1
0
0
0
10
206
241
Green-winged Teal
2
0
2
0
5
0
0
0
6
264
279
Canvasback
6,863
61
1,248
0
0
3
0
150
629
1,399
10,353
Redhead
312
7,818
6,033
0
227
20
0
0
0
18
14,428
Ring-necked Duck
47
64
393
0
684
1
68
31
345
601
2,234
Tufted Duck
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
1
1
Scaup, Greater
13,444
808
50
0
395
148
50
0
828
8,743
24,466
   Lesser
23
338
3
0
25
1
17
0
412
2,462
3,281
   not to species
0
450
149
0
0
0
1,100
0
0
107
1,806
Eider, King
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
13
13
   Common
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
388
388
Harlequin Duck
2
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
5
7
Scoter, Surf
0
0
1
0
1
0
0
0
0
9,875
9,877
   White-winged
106
540
3
0
305
2
0
0
0
12,727
13,683
   Black
5
1
0
0
4
0
0
0
0
2,596
2,606
   not to species
0
2
0
0
0
0
0
0
4
4,791
4,797
Species Region
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
Total
Long-tailed Duck
2,195
1,130
2
0
738
244
1
0
91
1,139
5,540
Bufflehead
3,347
373
188
0
142
236
121
5
443
4,191
9,046
Goldeneye, Common
1,551
2,640
875
11
1,031
2,498
1,624
157
190
1,344
11,921
   Barrow's
0
0
0
0
0
1
0
0
0
1
2
Merganser, Hooded
65
11
22
0
22
32
44
4
161
1,272
1,633
   Common
2,758
196
56
126
568
1,637
1,701
706
865
35
8,648
   Red-breasted
159
190
5
0
204
10
5
0
157
3,886
4,616
Ruddy Duck
6
3
0
0
22
0
0
0
337
3,767
4,135
American Coot
223
131
1,712
76
9
0
4
0
183
1,726
4,064
Unidentified
1,372
2
55
67
0
228
0
0
30
1,032
2,786
TOTAL OF ABOVE
41,236
26,997
141,467
2,424
24,697
10,484
8,775
14,201
38,823
138,763
447,867

 

Table 2. Comparison of the January 2001 and January 2002 counts for selected waterfowl species.

Species
2001
2002
% Change
Snow Goose
30
1,069
3463%
Canada Goose
122,223
211,191
73%
Brant
8,038
18,101
125%
Mute Swan
1,684
2,010
19%
Gadwall
1,517
2,900
91%
American Wigeon
1,727
1,997
16%
American Black Duck
17,356
18,225
5%
Mallard
47,122
47,599
1%
Canvasback
24,584
10,353
-58%
Redhead
19,915
14,428
-28%
Ring-necked Duck
567
2,234
294%
Greater Scaup
54,688
24,466
-55%
scoters (all species)
30,752
30,963
1%
Long-tailed Duck
8,160
5,540
-32%
Bufflehead
10,025
9,046
-10%
Common Goldeneye
19,639
11,921
-39%
Hooded Merganser
1,424
1,633
15%
Common Merganser
9,464
8,648
-9%
Red-breasted Merganser
8,058
4,616
-43%
Ruddy Duck
2,490
4,135
66%
American Coot
3,008
4,064
35%
TOTAL of all species
397,764
447,867
13%

 

Table 3. Comparison of the January 2002 count with 1973-2000 average
for all species averaging over 1,000 individuals annually.

Species
Average
2002
% Change
Canada Goose
69,459
211,191
204%
Brant
15,109
18,101
20%
American Black Duck
19,826
18,225
-8%
Mallard
32,376
47,599
47%
Canvasback
10,652
10,353
-3%
Redhead
7,437
14,428
94%
scaup (both species)
50,222
29,553
-41%
scoters (all species)
12,373
30,963
150%
Long-tailed Duck
4,386
5,540
26%
Bufflehead
6,077
9,046
49%
Common Goldeneye
12,292
11,921
-3%
Common Merganser
11,461
8,648
-25%
Red-breasted Merganser
4,282
4,616
8%
TOTAL of all species
268,763
447,867
67%


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