Our friends at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service just released their 2011 report on Trends in Duck Breeding Populations. If you like ducks, it's good news. Of the regions marked out in the FWS report, the Eastern Dakotas has the highest duck population, over 12.5 million breeding birds. The Eastern Dakotas also have the highest increase over the long-term average, with 172% more ducks than the average calculated from 1955 to 2010.
Also up: duck habitat. Across the surveyed Prairie Canada and U.S. regions, FWS counts roughly 8.1 million ponds, 22% more than last year and 62% more than the long-term average of 5.0 million. Here in the north central U.S., we have 3.2 million of those ponds, a modest increase from last year's 2.9 million, but 102% above the 1974&ndash2010 average.
But don't be fooled by what your yard and your back forty look like: the pond count in the Eastern Dakotas is actually down 3% from last year! Perhaps we can explain this phenomenon with a quick look up the road from my house, where we're down at least one pond thanks to the Twin Lakes' becoming one big lake by swamping Highway 81.
Even if our 2011 pond count has dropped a touch from 2010, we still have 115% more ponds than the 1974&ndash2010 average for the Eastern Dakotas. Keep those waders handy... and those decoys!