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US Fish & Wildlife Service FieldNotes

The Ducks Are Back! Waterfowl Use of Chautauqua National Wildlife Refuge is On the Rise.

Region 3, November 22, 2013
Moist soil vegetation in the South Pool of Chautauqua National Wildlife Refuge. Light colored vegetation(left)is Walter’s Millet, reddish vegetation is red root flatsedge.
Moist soil vegetation in the South Pool of Chautauqua National Wildlife Refuge. Light colored vegetation(left)is Walter’s Millet, reddish vegetation is red root flatsedge. - Photo Credit: n/a
Ducks take flight from Chautauqua National Wildlife Refuge.
Ducks take flight from Chautauqua National Wildlife Refuge. - Photo Credit: n/a
Shorebirds utilizing the mudflats created during the North Pool draw-down of 2011.
Shorebirds utilizing the mudflats created during the North Pool draw-down of 2011. - Photo Credit: n/a
Ducks feeding on the Walter's Millet grown in the South Pool this year.
Ducks feeding on the Walter's Millet grown in the South Pool this year. - Photo Credit: n/a

Over the past several years, the number of waterfowl using the refuge has been climbing steadily. Following years of flooding, often lasting well into summer, 2011 marked a turning point for habitat management at Chautauqua.

In 2011 and 2012, a reprieve from the Illinois River allowed draw-downs of individual pools, creating the first large expanses of natural moist-soil vegetation since 2006 (~1,100 acres and ~2,200 acres respectively). In 2013, despite record flooding on the Illinois River, refuge personnel completed a late (mid-July) draw-down of both the North and South pools. This management decision paid off big.

Close to 3,000 acres of natural vegetation grew, and more importantly matured, ranking 2013 as possibly the best moist-soil year since the refuge’s inception in 1936. Peak waterfowl numbers went from approximately 30,000 in 2011, to 120,000 in 2012, and over 250,000 in 2013, which is the highest number since 1994. Not only is Chautauqua attracting a lot of ducks, but they are sticking around as well.

This year ranks in the top 20%, in terms of duck use days, since 1948; and we have another month of migration to go! We would be remiss not to mention the many thousands of shorebirds, including rare and threatened and endangered species that benefited from the creation of invertebrate rich mudflats during their mid-summer migration through the area as well. Although still not back up to the historic high numbers of the 1940s, the trend in waterfowl use of Chautauqua is more than encouraging.

Learn more about Chautauqua National Wildlife Refuge: http://www.fws.gov/refuge/chautauqua/

Contact Info: Jacob Randa, 3095352290, jacob_randa@fws.gov