I wanted to share an observation from an amazing evening last night (Wednesday afternoon-evening)
Posey and I had walked to the North End and then back and around the pond. Had a few opportunities but overall very quiet although the coots have returned in large numbers.
Our walking made it hard to set up in any one blind so we just sat on the small land bridge over the ditch that you cross on your way to the cripple blind – there is good cover there. I thought we might get the chance to pass shoot some ducks right at shooting hour (4:40) but none came.
Posey and I packed up and sat down to see what would happen. The minutes passed. 4:50. 5:00. 5:10. No ducks. No geese. No cranes. At 5:15 clouds to the east parted to reveal a bright moon. Immediately, we heard the cries of what sounded like a half-dozen coyotes in the trees on the ridgeline almost directly behind us. This howling only lasted about 30 seconds but it had a profound effect on Posey! At 5:20 the first small flights of ducks appeared followed by some geese. Within a few minutes I heard what I thought was a rising wind although the brush did not reflect that at all. A small window of bright sky appeared overhead and to the west and revealed the source of the noise – more ducks in the sky than I have ever seen over Charlton before. It was more than simply flights of ducks, but entire huge blocks of ducks – what seemed like hundreds of ducks in every group and they kept passing through that bright patch of sky for what seemed like ten minutes or more. Imagine the times you have seen the geese lift off and pass over – it was beyond even that magnitude – and the noise of their wing beats in the still air reached me on the ground from their considerable height. Suddenly the sky filled with cupping ducks coming in to Charlton – not the numbers that had passed overhead, but good numbers nonetheless. It was nearly 5:40 when the birds flew in for the night. Their feed calls were loud and raucous as Posey and I snuck out to the road and on to the clubhouse.
I believe these ducks were passing south on their migration – aided by the moonlight. I doubt we will see many or any of them on Charlton but it was a sight to behold – and makes me think that the migration prediction from the USFWS and Ducks Unlimited might be right – 48.6 million breeding ducks – the most since comprehensive population estimates started in 1955.
Sitting out in the field for the fly-in has been some of my most favorite time at Charlton. It is has simply been breath-taking most of the time and it renews my enthusiasm even after a duck-less day. If you do not have to rush home, just pack your stuff and sit and wait. It is worth it for the sound close wing beats and to hear the calls of the many different species. When you sit on the roof of the blind, the swift teal practically come by at arms’ length and the mallards will land at your feet. It is truly a wonder of nature worthy of the time you spend pursuing these animals.