Every year, in mid winter, the National Wildlife Service enlists State Wildlife Divisions and refuge personnel to assess the status of North America's various waterfowl species. By this time of year, migrations have ended and the populations in wintering areas have stabilized.
This morning, I took part in the winter waterfowl count at South Platte Park, in Littleton, Colorado. Our group was assigned to a network of ponds and lakes that stretch along the west side of the river, just north of C-470. Having just returned from Missouri, I was surprised to find that most of the larger lakes were at least 50% open; smaller ponds, of course, were almost totally frozen. Over a couple of hours, we spotted a decent variety of waterfowl, led by nearly 1000 Canada geese; northern shovelers were the most numerous duck, followed by gadwalls, mallards, common goldeneyes, common and hooded mergansers, buffleheads, ring-necked ducks, American wigeons and American coot. Other sightings included a bald eagle, a rough-legged hawk, a belted kingfisher, a few pied-billed grebes, black-billed magpies and numerous ring-billed gulls. To my knowledge, no rare species were observed by any of the groups.
As I have mentioned in the past, participating in such annual counts is both an enjoyable experience and a significant contribution to the field of wildlife conservation. Data from the counts are compiled by regional and national organizations to assess the health of wildlife populations and to make decisions regarding the adequacy of natural habitat, the impact of human development and the level of hunting pressure that any given species can safely endure.