2015 Winter Waterfowl Survey Summary

The 2015 Waterfowl Survey was the first survey conducted after the Virginia General Assembly passed a law permitting waterfowl hunting on Sunday.  Sunday hunting may have impacted the numbers and density of some waterfowl species at several locations, especially around the Ft. Belvoir area where the count seemed particularly low.  However, the concentration of ducks in some areas defies a single simple explanation.   

The number of dabbling duck species, including Mallards, was generally much lower than normal in 2015.  Green-winged Teal hit a new low point; the Occoquan team reported only 2 birds and that was it for the entire count.  The one exception to the diminished dabbler presence was American Wigeon.  Indeed, this species actually hit a record high count with 450 birds reported.  In contrast to the dabblers, diving ducks were mostly well represented during the count.  The large rafts of Lesser Scaup in the Potomac River that normally start at Mason Neck and follow the channel toward the south were present as far north as Mt. Vernon in 2015.  Ring-necked Ducks had high counts at Riverbend and Great Falls as in previous years, but over a thousand of the birds also were counted around Mt. Vernon, an area where they are not normally present in such numbers.  Canvasbacks were in respectable numbers at Possum Point and Quantico and both Redheads and Ruddy Ducks broke count records by considerable margins.  The Great Marsh at Mason Neck remains the place to see Tundra Swans.  The Mason Neck team tallied almost 500 of the large white birds at the Great Marsh during its survey.       

There was an unusual concentration of waterfowl at Chapawamsic Creek at Quantico that would be difficult to attribute entirely to hunting, primarily because not all species were equally represented.  However, there were high totals of a few species that were absolutely amazing!  Most of the 450 American Wigeons and the 722 Redheads tallied during the survey were seen at Chapawamsic Creek, as well as half of the 419 Gadwall, almost half of the 1,567 Canvasbacks, and one third 2,343 Ruddy Ducks. Three of these species broke count records either entirely (American Wigeon and Redhead) or partially (Ruddy Duck) because of their high numbers at this one location.  Note that Chapawansic Creek is the last body of water that is surveyed during the waterfowl count.  (The survey tract along the Potomac River runs from Algonkian Regional Park in Loudoun County to Quantico Marine Base in Prince William County).  I can only speculate what may have been present along Potomac River and its tributaries south of Quantico.                         

Larry Cartwright-compiler