Drought Conditions Upset Fall Migration

Interesting (worrisome?) note in Tom Stienstra’s Sunday outdoors column in the SF Chronicle.(Not Available online until Tuesday)

Unusual migration

A strange wildlife dynamic is occurring in Northern California. There’s an early influx of waterfowl at the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge complex near Interstate 5 northeast of Williams, yet very low numbers of ducks and other waterfowl at the Klamath National Wildlife Refuge on the California- Oregon border.

The latest survey counted 186,682 ducks, including 114,000 pintail and 22,000 mallard, at the six wildlife refuges in the Sacramento Valley, reported Mike Carpenter, a wildlife biologist at the Sacramento complex’s headquarters.

“I’m getting lots of reports from lots of people that we’re seeing lots of birds way early,” Carpenter said.

Waterfowl migrations northto- south on the Pacific Flyway are just getting under way from the first storms to hit Canada and the Pacific Northwest.

Yet at the same time at Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge, scientists counted only 30,000 birds, “pathetic numbers,” federal wildlife biologist Dave Mauser reported.

The difference is that three refuges in the Sacramento Valley — Sacramento, Delevan and Colusa — have enough water to provide attractive wetland habitat for the fallarriving migrants. But up at Klamath, it’s a drought — this year’s spring rains missed the entire Klamath Basin — and only 1,000 acres are flooded, Mauser said. Usually by now, 8,000 acres are flooded and flooding is under way at another 10,000.

The peak migration of white geese, one of the most amazing wildlife spectacles in California, happens in the Sacramento Valley in mid-November; 3 million ducks and 1 million geese migrate to the Sacramento Valley every fall. Track it at www.fws.gov/sacramento valleyrefuges.

Worrisome of course if this is not a one time, or rare, thing.  While no individual event proves climate change, individual events that are part of a pattern tend to confirm it.  Individual event do indicate the kinds of results that could be in the offing; this is one of them.

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