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Published: 10/12/2008

Weather favors ducks on opening day, but be ready

When it comes to the state's forecast for the upcoming Ohio waterfowl season, the punch line is familiar and comes well into the report:

"The success of Ohio waterfowl hunters has more to do with weather conditions and choice of hunting location than available ducks."

And while it is a fool's errand to depend on the accuracy of the seventh day of a seven-day forecast, the upcoming week's weather pattern ahead of Saturday's opener for ducks and geese promises weather more suited to bluebirds than bluebills.

Still, waterfowlers should heed Ohio Division of Wildlife advice to be scouting their territories now and securing landowner permission where needed. That is for the majority of gunners who do not belong to a premium private club, where carefully managed marshes have produced plenty of local birds habituated to working those areas.

State wildlife areas offering suitable duck and goose habitat are in good condition, the wildlife division says, and they provide excellent fall food potential. Heavy rains in early summer followed by a lengthy dry spell spurred vigorous growth of moist-soil plants in many traditional wetlands. As the season progresses any flooding of those areas by early autumn rains should expand the attraction of such waterfowl zones.

As for overall fall flight status in the Mississippi Flyway over Ohio, biologists note that the upper Great Lakes region experienced above-average conditions and good production of mallards, the No. 1 one duck in the state bag. Wood ducks, the second-most numerous species in the bag, had a fair production season and the late-summer dryness concentrated their numbers.

Good numbers of local giant Canada geese are just about everywhere, with the third-highest spring population estimate on record and good production among the northerly migrant subspecies, the Southern James Bay and Mississippi Valley populations.

Full details on the seasons are available in two digests available where licenses are sold, the 2008-2009 Ohio Hunting and Trapping Regulations and Ohio Waterfowl Hunting Seasons. The rules also can be viewed or downloaded on-line at ohiodnr.com.

The duck seasons in southern lower Michigan opened to bluebird weather yesterday. Regulatory details are available at michigan.gov/dnr.

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The first nestings of the Kirtland's warbler, the world's most endangered wood warbler, in Wisconsin have been confirmed by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

For years the juvenile jack pine stands of northeast lower Michigan appeared to be the last stand for this rarest of wood warblers, a family of some three dozen species. Until now some of the rare warblers have attempted nesting in Wisconsin and Ontario, apparently without success.

Joel Trick, a Service biologist at Green Bay, Wis., said that close nest monitoring and control of brown-headed cowbirds, which are warbler-nest parasites, led to at least 10 Kirtland's young surviving to leave their nests. One nest was lost to the cowbirds.

The nests are located on private lands of the Plum Creek Timber Company in central Wisconsin. In 2007 three nests were discovered on Plum Creek land, though no surviving young were confirmed then.

Intervention by the Wildlife Service with a cowbird-trapping program led to this year's success. More than 300 cowbirds were removed from two sites containing at least five Kirtland's nests.

In the Kirtland's heartland in Michigan, a record 1,791 singing males were heard during this summer's census, according to Chris Mensing, a USF&WS biologist at Lansing. That is up from the 2007 record of 1,697 singing males. Each male is assumed to represent a pair of mates, so the actual warbler count is double that index. One pair of the warblers was confirmed in neighboring Ontario.

Mensing said that " a few birds" also may be counted in Ontario, so "the [overall] numbers may go up a bit." The species has set records in Michigan in eight of the last 10 or so years, mainly because of focus on a cooperative state-federal-private program to provide large tracts of prime habitat - juvenile jack pine stands 4 to 20 years old, which the Kirtland's heavily favors.

In related news, the Cranes of Waterloo Festival, which celebrates Michigan's population of sandhill cranes, is set for Oct. 25 at Eddy Discovery Center at Waterloo State Recreation Area, 17030 Bush Rd., Chelsea., Mich. For details call the center at 734-475-3170.

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Upcoming - An educator workshop of the highly acclaimed Leopold Education Project, "Striving for a Land Ethic," is set for Oct. 25, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., at Wintergarden Lodge in St. John's Nature Preserve in Bowling Green.

Sponsored by the Wood/Lucas Chapter of Pheasants Forever, the LEP is an innovative program based on the classic writings and teachings of the renowned conservationist, the late Aldo Leopold. Two noted facilitators, Ed and Sil Pembleton, will be the teachers. Ed is the former LEP national director and Sil the current LEP coordinator in Minnesota.

A unique aspect of the day is planned by having participants work with young hunters in a session scheduled in conjunction with the annual PF Youth Hunt on Oct. 25.

An advance registration fee of $25 is to be refunded at the workshop's end, in effect making it a free program. For details contact Lou best at 419-304-1368 or by e-mail at loubest224@yahoo.com.



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