Monitoring waterfowl with a birds-eye view

The Department of Natural Resources is getting a view from the sky to count ducks, geese and swans.

The Department of Natural Resources is getting a view from the sky to count ducks, geese and swans.

Wildlife staff member flew in a small aircraft to to survey waterfowl in southeast Michigan's waterways. They observed 157,028 ducks, 33,468 geese and 5,896 swans in the 2016 survey.

In the 2015 survey, observers counted 173,386 ducks, 20,350 geese and 4,365 swans.

Goose and swan observations increased in 2016, while duck observations were down about 9 percent.

"The ducks were spread out this year with the mild winter and all the open water," said Joe Robison, field operations manager for the DNR Wildlife Division's Southeast Region. "We did not count as many ducks in this year's survey, but we believe that duck abundance is similar to last year."

Since 1991, the state of Michigan has cooperated with other states, the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Canadian provinces and the Canadian Wildlife Service in conducting aerial surveys of wintering ducks and geese. This survey is commonly referred to as the Mid-Winter Waterfowl Survey.

Population estimates from Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin are included in estimates of waterfowl abundance and are needed for establishing annual waterfowl hunting season frameworks for the Mississippi, Central and Pacific Flyways. The Mid-Winter Waterfowl Survey has been especially important for evaluating waterfowl populations, monitoring winter migratory patterns and planning habitat management for these species.

Southeast Michigan, especially areas near western Lake Erie, the Detroit River and Lake St. Clair, is one of the most important areas in North America for migrating birds. Billions of birds migrate through this region each spring and fall. In addition, many waterfowl species spend the winter on the open water of the lakes and rivers of southeast Michigan.