From my experience, morning is good. But my personal favorite time to watch for ducks is at sunset, though. They come in to land for the night in rushes or on any lake just at sunset or shortly thereafter. I've never tried it at a large body of water like Lake Erie, but I've watched at Geneva Swamp and other ponds, marshes and lakes that dot Crawford Co. I have more mental images of ducks landing at nightfall melded into my mind than I can recount here. But I can see as clearly as when I was there the flocks of 30 and 40 Pintails circling in to land at Miller Ponds with a beautiful March sunset as a background, and the first spring peepers and woodcocks calling. Or see a flock of white Buffleheads landing in the dusk just after sunset. Just this year on a beautiful Saturday evening I found 20+ Pintail preening and actively feeding on the local gamelands. They had obviously just landed after a day of migration. The sun was hitting them and they were absolutely stunning. You can hardly beat the beauty of spring duck migration. It's the first chance to get outside in the first beautiful spring weather of the year with beautiful birds, to boot.
As far as why the number of waterfowl is higher in the spring compared to fall. According to my understanding, spring migration is higher pressure. The birds are driving as hard as they can toward their nesting grounds. All the birds show up in a few weeks' time, and then they are gone. In contrast, the fall migration is much more spread out. The ducks trickle back through over several months instead of several weeks. So the result is a higher concentration in the spring, even though fewer birds.
Interesting to hear other or better explanations.
Kendall Zook Crawford Co.
-----Original Message----- From: Bird discussion list for Pennsylvania [mailto:<PABIRDS...>] On Behalf Of jerry stanley Sent: Friday, March 10, 2023 5:21 AM To: <PABIRDS...> Subject: [PABIRDS] waterfowl question
A birding friend asked "What's the best time of day to see the most waterfowl?" I don't know the answer to that. I usually get to Kahle Lake about 10 AM for reasons unrelated to birding. I have a sense that morning is better but I don't feel strongly about this. When there's a lot of boating activity, the chance of boats driving off birds increases as the day goes on. Also, if conditions favor migration, birds will leave as the day goes on. Just a couple days ago, 40 Long-tailed ducks flew off as I arrived. Would 7, 8, or 9 AM be better? How about mid to late afternoon?
Here in Venango County, it seems that stormy weather that day or the night before, makes for better waterfowling. But just recently, a large number of birds have arrived and hung around for 3 days and I don't recall a weather event responsible for them dropping in. Northerly winds probably kept them here. So, in March and April, I think it's good to check whenever you can and whatever time it is.
One last question in my mind. Why do I find MANY, MANY more waterfowl in spring compared to fall, even though there are fewer birds alive by spring?
I am interested in hearing other people's thoughts.