Legislative update

MDWFA Staffers attended DNR Wildlife and Heritage Concept meeting and these are the February 2020 bullet points of our recommendations:

  1. support of veterans & active duty military to hunt youth waterfowl days
  2. support proposed legislation for migratory game bird hunting on Sunday and gave written support of S.B. 238 Sunday Waterfowl Hunting submitted to Sponsor and Senate Committee.
  3. expansion of Offshore Zone in certain areas of the Bay
  4. Submission of Draft Regulation to define shooting waterfowl at rest on land and water
  5. opposed restriction of lay-out boats on Susquehanna Flats. MDWFA does not favor one legal form of hunting over another.


Final Selection 2019-2020 Waterfowl Seasons


Banding Facts


Senate Bill SB 293 – Sunday Waterfowl Hunting


Bill introduced 2019 legislative session to open waterfowl hunting on Sunday’s failed in Senate Committee. The Bill’s Sponsor plans to reintroduce Bill again 2020 legislative session.

Bay Journal Article on 2019-2020 AP Geese Season Reduction


DNR 2019 Winter Survey – decrease in AP Geese

February 22, 2019

Annual Survey Counts Maryland’s Ducks, Geese and Swans

Photo of Canada geeseIn early January, aerial survey teams of pilots and biologists from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources made visual estimates of the ducks, geese and swans along most of the state’s Chesapeake Bay, Potomac River and Atlantic coast shorelines. This year, the teams counted about 566,300 waterfowl.

Maryland’s mid-winter waterfowl survey is part of an annual, nationwide effort to survey waterfowl on their wintering grounds to monitor local distribution and habitat affiliations. 

“In early January of each year, we fly the same survey routes over much of Maryland’s tidal shoreline and estimate waterfowl numbers by species,” Waterfowl Program Manager Josh Homyack said. “This information generates not only a snapshot of how waterfowl are using our waters in a given year, but also how that use has changed in the decades since the survey began in 1955.”

Overall, dabbling ducks were lower (64,400) than last winter while diving duck numbers (182,000) were very similar to last winter’s count. Survey teams also observed fewer Canada geese (250,200) than last year’s record count.

Observation teams noted that overall numbers of waterfowl were more difficult to count this year due to lack of snow and ice cover, which normally helps concentrate birds into smaller areas.

Midwinter Waterfowl Survey Results 2015-2019

(figures rounded to the nearest hundred)

Species 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
Mallard 50,000 41,800 45,300 64,300 39,000
Black Duck 30,900 19,200 25,500 38,300 17,200
Gadwall 5,100 3,200 11,200 3,100 4,800
Widgeon 2,200 500 1,400 700 1,200
G-W Teal 700 2,400 2,100 500 1,500
Shoveler 100 100 100 0 100
Pintail 1,800 2,600 2,300 1,100 600
Total Dabblers 90,800 69,800 87,900 108,000 64,400
Redhead 32,200 17,900 20,700 27,500 20,600
Canvasback 64,200 19,800 75,100 60,000 46,000
Scaup 55,600 91,800 138,800 45,300 72,100
Ring-neck 300 700 400 300 1,100
Goldeneye 600 1,100 700 100 100
Bufflehead 19,100 26,700 12,900 29,500 13,200
Ruddy Duck 20,000 88,000 35,000 24,500 28,900
Total Divers 192,000 246,000 283,600 187,200 182,000
Scoters 1,300 7,100 4,900 4,500 27,800
Long-tailed Duck 100 100 2,700 0 300
Mergansers 3,000 1,100 2,100 2,300 2,000
Total Ducks 287,200 324,000 381,200 302,000 276,500
Brant 900 1,000 900 400 900
Snow Goose 44,900 32,600 21,300 63,500 34,700
Canada Goose 504,700 293,800 394,700 641,000 250,200
Tundra Swan 17,800 11,200 14,500 16,400 4,000
Total Waterfowl 855,500 663,000 812,600 1,023,300 566,300

Atlantic Population Canada Goose Status (October 2018 UPDATE)

MDWFA rallies stake holders to keep Lewis Wharf boat ramp open in Dorchester County.

November 2018 up date, no trespassing signs and new gate access have been removed so campaign has been successful.

Lewis Wharf Final 10.09.18


Mallard Decline Brochure (click on link)

Mallard Decline


Eastern Mallard Status and Issues

(mallard bag limit reduction from 4 to 2 beginning 2019/2020 season framework)

The Atlantic Flyway Council and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service are poised to reduce the mallard bag limit in the Atlantic Flyway from 4 to 2 birds per day starting with the 2019–2020 hunting. Mallards are managed as three distinct population units including Western (California, Oregon and Washington), Mid-continent (prairie pothole region, parklands and boreal forest) and Eastern (northeast states and eastern Canada). Bag limits and season lengths for the Atlantic Flyway are primarily influenced by the population status of eastern mallards through an adaptive harvest management (AHM) framework. Band recovery information suggests that most mallards harvested from North Carolina to eastern Canada are produced within the region. In recent years, the breeding population of mallards in eastern Canada has been stable but declining in the northeastern states especially New York and Pennsylvania. The decline is significant enough to cause the current AHM model to predict restrictive seasons in the Atlantic Flyway.
Based on historical records, mallards in northeastern North America were common migrants but rarely bred there. Depletion of wild stocks due to market gunning and later the outlawing of live decoys resulted in the wholesale release of captive mallards. Thus, the release of captive reared birds was likely more responsible for mallards appearing in the northeast than eastward expansion from the core range in the Prairie Pothole Region. In fact, recent genetic studies suggest eastern mallards are more closely related to Old World mallards than their prairie brethren. Manmade modifications to the landscape allowed mallards to nest in areas previously unexploited by the species and populations of mallards in the northeast grew significantly over time as they pioneered new habitat.
Duck harvest management in the Atlantic Flyway was historically based on the status of prairie ducks and later mallards via adaptive harvest management (AHM). Drastic population declines due to drought on the prairies during the 1980s, resulting restrictive seasons (3 birds/day and 30-day seasons) and band recovery data suggesting few prairie ducks are harvested in the Atlantic Flyway served as an impetus for data collection and investigating AHM for eastern mallards. Following a decade of data collection through the Atlantic Flyway Breeding Waterfowl Survey, the Eastern Survey Area Breeding Waterfowl Survey (Canada) and intensified preseason banding, an AHM model for eastern mallards was established in 2000 and has informed harvest management in the Atlantic Flyway to present.
The eastern mallard breeding population reached a peak of 1.1 million in 2004 but has significantly declined since and last year’s estimate was approximately 650,000. While the population in 
eastern Canada has largely been stable, it has been declining in the northeast U.S., especially in New York and Pennsylvania. The decline since 2004 represents about 420,000 birds and is significant enough for the current AHM model to recommend reduced hunter harvest.
The cause of the eastern mallard population decline is undetermined. Hypothesized reasons for the decline include loss of carrying capacity on breeding and non-breeding areas, reduction in “artificial” winter feeding activities in the NE states, over harvest, and the population exceeding carrying capacity and stabilizing at a lower equilibrium population near carrying capacity (e.g., like reintroduced wild turkey populations). Biologists are currently examining existing data sets (juvenile/adult age ratios and banding data) to identify potential issues with production and survival.
Atlantic Flyway biologists from the states and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service are currently working towards a new multi-stock AHM model that will include mallards and four additional species including green-winged-teal, wood duck, ring-necked duck and goldeneye. Collectively, these species make up about 60% of the Atlantic Flyway duck harvest. Consequently, hunters will likely retain liberal or moderate season packages (60 and 45 days, respectively). Despite this forthcoming change, the Atlantic Flyway is proposing to reduce the mallard daily bag limit from 4 to 2 starting in 2019. Modeling suggests that reducing the bag in this manner will reduce harvest by 25% and achieve a sustainable harvest level.
Ramifications of the observed decline are complex and extend beyond eastern mallards. Like eastern mallards, the American black duck, a flagship species of the Atlantic Coast Joint Venture and high priority NAWMP species, harvest is managed via a species-specific AHM model. Within the black duck AHM model it is hypothesized that the abundance of eastern mallards adversely impacts the black duck population via reduced production. The mechanism for this potential impact is via competition during the breeding season as these species are closely related both morphologically and genetically. There is also potential for hybridization between these two species where they overlap on non-breeding areas. Thus, there are potential tradeoffs when considering management decisions surrounding these two species.
There is concern that the declining eastern mallard population and proposed bag restriction will catch Atlantic Flyway hunters off guard and potentially result in reductions in hunter numbers, private habitats managed for waterfowl, and funding for habitat programs. Thus, there is an opportunity for DU to play a proactive role in communications surrounding this issue. At a minimum, consideration should be given towards more holistic reporting regarding breeding waterfowl population status beyond the Mid-continent (Traditional Survey Area encompassing the PPR). Additional communications strategies should also be discussed regarding proposed changes to harvest regulations coming in 2019.
DU should also be prepared to consider engaging in science efforts to identify causes and solutions where warranted. In addition, if habitat carrying capacity is identified as a bottleneck, DU will certainly have a role to play in restoration of wetlands and associated uplands. Finally, as this issue unfolds over the 
course of the next two years, the waterfowl management system will continue working as designed, adapting to new information, and enabling refinement of DU’s role in the northern Atlantic Flyway states and provinces.

John Coluccy, DU’s Director of Conservation Planning for the Great Lakes/Atlantic Region

It is Wood duck box time!

Woodduck Box_3_2016Spring is coming and it is time to maintain or build new wood duck boxes. MDWFA has directions and plans for you on how to build and install your wood duck boxes.

Our own Aaron Ward has made instruction on how to build the nesting boxes.

Here is another  article on how to hang the boxes with the predator guards.


Maryland Wood Duck Initiative

September 2018 Director’s Message

Despite early season gains and encouragement at two large sites, the tally elsewhere has been poor involving about 50% of the nest boxes. Counts are not finalized but the overall yield may indicate the most significant drop in production recorded by MWDI – an 8-12% decline. Habitat has been very good but the drop in total eggs being laid and the increased level of nests failures at modest – moderate clutch sizes is baffling.

My optimism for the final 2017 production summary was also misplaced as the total hatch dropped 1.5% to 7,746 from7,863 instead of exceeding 8,000 as projected. Production was from 117 sites involving 1,775 boxes. New sites the past two years while showing moderate performance have been below expectations but this only accounts for a portion of the decline as final reports from a host of smaller projects were also below expectations. The annual survey routinely includes a drop in production from old sites where supervision has been lacking. Gains elsewhere were insufficient or non-existent to offset these estimated reductions.

The relationship with Phoenix Metals continues to be great. We note that private program sponsors continue to add predator guards at a more rapid pace than boxes which is a tangible “best practices” enhancement that will benefit overall Maryland production. 

Two additional box assembly events have been held since April and two additional ones are scheduled for this fall at the Chesapeake Bay Environmental Center and Maret School bringing MWDI’s total to 6 this year.

MWDI has supplies for new public projects if you wish to initiate one. We will review site habitat, assist box location and train volunteers but you must have a project manager idetified to monitor the project after installation.  

As always, thank you to our dedicated volunteers for helping to make a difference.

MWDI’s Annual Box & Kit

November 6, 2018

MWDI is once again aggregating orders with its lumber purchase for public projects to provide wholesale pricing to private program sponsors.  The lumber cost component reflects MWDI’s expected direct costs for wood, shipping and waste. MWDI has made arrangements to have the wood cut into kits or assembled into boxes if preferred. The costs are the same as 2017.

 Wood Duck Box assembled                                        $45.00 each

 Wood Duck Box kit (buyer must assemble)                      $38.00 

 Wood Duck box lumber (buyer must cut &    assemble)       $30.00

Boxes / kits do not include predator guards or poles. Metal, cone shaped predator guards can be obtained for $14 + tax each from Phoenix Metals (Tammy Schaare 410-633-0685 ext 25. Tschaare@wemakeduct.com). Baltimore location. Shipping extra out of state.  MWDI can likely assist pickup / delivery of the guards with or without the lumber, boxes or kits as we will have a supply in Rock Hall and Washington DC.  Payment pre-delivery needed. Guards can fit 4×4” square or smaller round poles – specify style when placing the order.

Bluebird box lumber is $7.25, $11.00 per kit or $17 fully assembled.

MWDI expects the purchaser to pick up the boxes / kits in Rock Hall, Washington, DC, along Route 50 between these locations or between Salisbury and Easton if other delivery arrangements cannot be coordinated.  Lumber will likely be available by early January, kits by early February and assembled boxes will be available by late February 2019. 

 WD box kits are approximately 22”tall x 9 1/4”wide x ¾” thick. BB box kits are made from 5 ½” x ¾” nominal width boards. Lumber is rough cut one side, kiln dried cypress supplied from South Carolina. MWDI’s website, www.mwdi.net, has detailed assembly plans for the side door boxes.

Send an email to cliftonabrown@aol.com to place an order. Payment by check must be received by December 15, 2018. Pre-payment is necessary, or the order will not be included.

Maryland Wood Duck Initiative

 3021 45th St NW

 Washington, DC 20016




Eastern Neck NWR needs your help


Eastern Neck NWR Needs Your Help

We need your help. Our sister refuge Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge (in Rock Hall, Maryland) is in danger of closing due to lack of funds needed to hire a manager. The nonprofit Friends of Eastern Neck have been helping to fill the labor void at the refuge, but if funding for a new manager does not come soon, the US Fish and Wildlife Service has said they could close the refuge.

Closing would impact wildlife protection, habitat and food management, and recreational access for birders, photographers, families, school groups, hunters, anglers, and the volunteers. It would also impact tourism dollars in local towns.

We need all citizens to write an email to Scott Kahan, Northeast Regional Chief in the National Wildlife Refuge System, urging that they hire a new manager – visit our web page for details on sending an email. scott_kahan@fws.gov (scott_kahan@fws.gov).

U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, as well as U.S. Rep. Andy Harris (MD-1) https://harris.house.gov/contact/email have offered their support for hiring a new manager. If you live in Maryland, we would appreciate you emailing them about this issue and tagging them in social media using information on our web page. We greatly appreciate any help you can provide to raise awareness and increase the response from citizens supporting the refuge

Please visit Friends of Blackwater Water and Eastern Neck for links

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