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While you’ve been safely tucked indoors all winter near your favorite source of heat, the wild world goes on in its remarkable and amazing way. Weather conditions are a source of concern for most humans, but our wild neighbors just take it all in stride, do what they’ve done for thousands of years and just get through it – some good lessons for us to learn!
Take waterfowl, for example. They live and feed along Maine’s coastline all winter, bobbing around on the water and waiting for the spring nesting season. I’m sure you’ve seen a duck or two flying around in your travels this winter, but I’ll bet you never realized that thousands of ducks and geese spend the winters on the Maine coast, doing whatever it takes to get by till balmier times
There are people out there monitoring the ducks on the water, even in winter, and this year biologists discovered that the number of waterfowl wintering along Maine’s coast this year increased from last year’s count. According to the annual mid-winter waterfowl survey completed by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW). An important factor behind the seemingly annual disparity in duck numbers was the milder weather and lack of ice this January compared with the extreme cold and extensive coastal icing that characterized last year’s survey. The survey team included a MDIFW wildlife biologist and a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service pilot-biologist. The pair traveled over the coast in a small airplane from the New Hampshire border to Cobscook Bay, during January for the annual count of Maine’s wintering waterfowl. This year they tallied a total of 70,014 ducks (up from 44,077 in 2004) and 3,489 geese (up from 2,294 in 2004).
All species were found in greater or similar numbers this year in Maine compared to last year’s unusually low count. As usual, the most frequently observed duck was the common eider. The count of 34,794 eiders was substantially greater than the 17,240 eiders counted last year and is similar to the most recent 10-year average of 33,669 birds. The black duck count was up considerably from last year, but remained below the 10-year average of 18,419. Canada geese continued their long-term upward trend, while goldeneyes posted their second strongest showing of the past 10 years.
The midwinter waterfowl survey is conducted at the same time each winter in each state in the Atlantic Flyway from Maine through Georgia. The overall status of wintering waterfowl populations are determined when Maine’s data are pooled with the other states’ numbers. High numbers among some species of ducks seen in Maine this January may be offset by lower counts in states farther to the south, or vice versa. Within northern states such as Maine, inland waterfowl move to the coast or migrate south when the last of their inland freshwater habitats freeze up, which typically occurs by early January (when the survey is conducted).
Waterfowl counted this year (2004 numbers in parentheses) include: black ducks, 14,027 (10,799); mallards, 2,198 (2,055); scaup, 160 (0); goldeneyes, 7,374 (6,783); buffleheads, 4,369 (4,012); mergansers, 2,298 (1,944); long-tailed ducks, 1,995 (846); scoters, 2,702 (337); eiders, 34,794 (17,240); and Canada geese, 3,489 (2,290).
Due to the imprecision of the survey, annual fluctuations among counts within a state may not equate to real changes in abundance; trends are best assessed with a longer (5- to 10-year count average) view, and in the larger context of the entire Atlantic Flyway.
If you’re interested in ducks and have an artistic bent, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife is conducting a competition to select a design for the 2005 Maine Migratory Waterfowl Hunting Stamp. Proceeds from the sale of Migratory Waterfowl Stamps ($8.50 each) are dedicated to the support of waterfowl conservation in Maine.
The contest is open to Maine residents 18 years of age or older who have been domiciled in this state during the three (3) months immediately preceding the entry deadline for the contest.
The primary subject of the 2005 Maine "duck stamp" design is the Canada goose. One or more live waterfowl of this species must appear prominently in the design. If background detail is included in the design it must be accurate and representative of the state of Maine. Designs will be judged on originality, artistic composition, anatomical accuracy and suitability for reproduction as a stamp and print.
The design is to be in full color and in the medium (or combination) of the artist's choosing, except that no photographic process, digital art, metallic paints or fluorescent paints may be used in the finished design.
The painted image must be 13 inches vertically by 18 inches horizontally and centered on a surface that is no larger than 19 inches by 24 inches. The painting must be firmly (not permanently) attached to a single white mat 19 inches high by 24 inches wide, with a centered window of 13 inches by 18 inches.
The painting must not be framed or under glass. Any acetate or other protective covering used must be lightly fastened to facilitate removal before the judging.
Any winning design from another stamp contest (federal, state or private) is not eligible.
The winning artist will be ineligible to compete in the next consecutive Maine duck stamp contest. The winning artist will retain ownership of the winning entry and will receive a cash award of $1,000 and a sheet of 10 stamps of his design.
Entries for the 2005 Maine Migratory Waterfowl Stamp Contest will be accepted from March 1 through March 25, 2005. All entries must be delivered to the Department's Augusta office or be received by the Department through the mail (or by UPS) before March 25.
Judging will begin March 30 at the Augusta Civic Center. The winner, second place, third place, and two honorable mentions will be displayed at the State of Maine Sportsman's Show April 1, 2 and 3, 2005.
Questions on contest rules? Call (207) 287-5244. Please mail or deliver entries to: Duck Stamp Contest, Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, 284 State Street, 41 State House Station, Augusta, ME 04333-0041.
See: There is something you could be doing other than huddling by the stove!
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