Duck Creek CA UpdatesMore posts

Coot Burgers and Mallãrd Filléts

Dec 13, 2013

Who doesn’t like a cheap and easy meal? I guess that is a rhetorical question since microwaves, TV dinners, and fast food drive-throughs are commonplace today. No doubt about it, a cheap and easy meal is a way of life for many folks. While some would argue that this reflects an unhealthy societal trend, I’m not going there today, as I sip on my fountain drink and crumple up a candy bar wrapper.

Ordering In or Going Out

Actually, most critters have adapted to take advantage of food that is easy to find one way or another. Non-mobile animals may use a gimmick to attract food towards them. For example, alligator snapping turtles use their tongue to lure in fish, just to turn the tables on the unsuspecting hungry finned friend. On the other end of the spectrum, waterfowl are highly mobile and migrate cross country to take advantage of food that seasonally becomes abundant on the other side of the continent. In the last week, we’ve seen what happens when those once abundant food resources suddenly become no longer available. The ducks move on for the next easy meal because breaking their bill on ice or digging through the snow is just not worth it.

Focusing on a National Icon

The ducks that have stayed have become consolidated and another critter’s dining strategy has come into focus. Bald eagles can be seen following the annual waterfowl migration and their numbers increase in Missouri as our duck numbers soar. Essentially, as lakes and other wetlands up north lock up with ice, the eagle’s kitchen also closes up shop. Fish, which can be their primary diet, are no longer available and their secondary option, waterfowl, start to diminish. Consequently, they go with the flow or the next front and are often seen as unwelcome sentinels watching over the uneasy dabbling ducks concentrated in our mid-latitude wetlands.

Ducks on a Pond, Literally

As temperatures dip below freezing here and ice begins to close in across the marsh so do the eagles. With the options for open water reduced, ducks become concentrated. Their predators move in, conserve energy on their perches, and wait for the right moment. Occasionally, they taunt the feathered flocks by sweeping over the milling masses to stir them up and see if there are any stragglers or cripples ready for the taking. If you sit and watch, you can almost feel the anxiety on the rise as one of the large raptors sweeps low over the open water hole, temporarily spreading ducks flying to and fro. While it isn’t surprising, you may see the occasional coot being hauled off to be devoured on the ice nearby. However, it isn’t always the birds that are slower to launch into flight that end up on the sharp end of an eagle’s talons. Mallards, snow geese, and other fowl also suffer this same fate. At times the scene can become quite grisly as the edge of the ice turns from white to crimson.

Then again, that is what eagles do. They take advantage of an opportunity to fill their bellies, stay warm, and live another day. Who can blame them? This is what optimal foraging theory is all about. Just think next time you roll into Mickey D’s or zap-fry a pop tart; for an eagle it might be just as easy for them to grab that next coot burger or catch mallãrd filléts to go.


an eagle eating on a frozen body of water
Dinner On Ice
Bald eagles are opportunistic and will eat a wide variety of fish, birds, and mammals if given the chance. Here a juvenile has bagged a drake Mallard.


Ducks on a pond
Ducks On A Pond
Bald eagles follow waterfowl migration because of the abundance of prey. As ice closes in, meals are easy to find as ducks become concentrated.


I did too encounter many deep holes in 18 and also 21. But 21 had problems because of the day we had all that rain. Couldnt turn in our green cards that day because of the floodwaters. Almost got swept away leaving the Units graveled roads! All in all it is starting to look alot better out there after these past couple years. Duck Creek is one of my favorite places to shoot woodies early in the year. Not many places around to do that.

Any plans to trench a small narrow boat lane from 21 parking lot in B Unit out into unit 18? Wow that would be great!

You are correct that there were several low spots and some other work that we didn't get to in 2013 because of the wet spring and summer conditions.  They remain on our list and we'll see what the weather in 2014 and logistics can afford us in the year to come.

deep water in 16 was not addressed after last season- probably will not be addressed this year

Public safety is always critically important.  Duck Creek staff try to point folks in the right direction and avoid certain problem areas. Whenever you have flooded conditions there is the potential to get wet, which can be dangerous, especially when the mercury drops.  We know there are some issues in a couples spots, as there is on every wetland area. Some that can be addressed, others that can be minimized, and some we’ll just have to live with and be careful of.  I am sorry that you found a hole, but am glad you were able to get into some birds.  The weather has definitely made this out to be a different season.

After breaking ice for 2 hours in unit 18 last day of the season I finally made it to the open water the ducks had kept open. It took about 90 minutes to fill my limit. I was trying to pick up my last duck on the ice when I discovered there was DEEP WATER in unit 18. Is there a plan in place to fill in the deep spots in units 16 15 and 18?

HONEYED DUCK OR GOOSE 4 ducks or 1 lg. goose 1 tsp. basil 1 tsp. ginger 1 1/2 tsp. salt 1 c. honey 1 stick butter 1/2 c. orange juice 2 tsp. lemon juice 1/4 tsp. dry mustard Mix together basil, ginger and salt. Mix together in saucepan, honey, butter, juices and dry mustard; boil for 3 minutes. Put about 1 teaspoon of basil mixture inside of each duck and rub any left over on the outside. Stuff ducks with orange slices. Pour half the honey mixture over the ducks in roaster. Cover and roast at 400 degrees for a half hour. Reduce heat to 350 degrees, turn ducks breast down and roast, basting occasionally with the rest of the honey mixture until ducks are very tender, about 2 1/2 hours. You may wish to turn breast side up for the last half hour to brown. Serves 8.

The place for that information is the Waterfowl and Habitat Survey on the Waterfowl Hunting page under Waterfowl Reports.  The information was just updated today.

What are the Canada goose numbers at Duck Creek and Mingo?

Don't bother putting blinds back in A and B units. Don't you love how people ask "when will construction begin on the blinds this year?". First they should ask "if" they are going to be put back in. I'm sorry but some people are spoiled and way too demanding. You guys have plenty enough to do without having to worry about maintaining and brushing blinds in A and B units, only to have all the work you do ripped off the blinds by ungrateful and unknowing hunters. I wish the people that act so demanding about the blinds being replaced would call Ten Mile Pond with the same attitude asking them when they are going to start constucting blinds this year. Thanks for the great job you guys do!

Habitat on the area for next year will depend on what the weather and impending drawdowns of the units give us this spring.  While planting corn in some portion of several units is part of the plan, if weather prevents us from getting corn in the ground by mid-June then we will likely reduce the amount or possibly abandon all plans to plant corn for that year.  The other factor that weighs into this is the quality of moist-soil vegetation growing in the units.  If we have good moist-soil and wet weather into the summer then making the choice of not planting corn is easier.  This was the case in the summer of 2013.  Overall, it's a complicated decision and one that we are not about to make in December, but we do have plans to put some corn in the ground if conditions are favorable this spring.  As for the blinds in Unit A and B, we will continue to look at options to place blinds in a few of the units but this may not happen for another year or two.

When will construction on the replacement blinds in Unit A and B begin this year?

Any plans to plant some CORN next year on duck creek?

Thank you for the Christmas wishes, Merry Christmas to you and yours as well.  Depending on where you were exactly we received somewhere in the neighborhood of 5-6 inches of rain.  So yes flooding is abundant, and did cause us to close down a couple of units as we let water flow off the area across our low water spillways.  This problem should be fixed by Monday or Tuesday of this week as the flooding resides. 

Merry Christmas to the wonderful staff at duck creek. Thank you all for everything you do for us!! How much rain did you receive? Is there a lot of flooding in the area?

Thanks for the questions. I’ll answer them in reverse order. In terms of Pool 1, I don’t believe the problem has been that the ducks have been stuck on the refuge. We lost 80% of the birds because that’s what happens when the region freezes up for two weeks. As you noted, this warm spell has begun to thaw things out; especially in the last 24 hours and it will continue to do so as the rain works on the remaining ice. Ducks adjust their behavior as habitat conditions change.  Whether it is the stage of the moon, thawing fields on an off the area, and increased sheet water from the ensuing rains, I’m sure waterfowl use in the region has and will continue to shift over the weekend and into Christmas.  Unfortunately, I’m in the same boat as you and don’t know exactly what is going to happen next, other than things will be different from last week.  Probably not exactly what you wanted to hear, but unfortunately, that’s the best I got. Have a good weekend and Merry Christmas. 

How are the conditions out there now? I noticed that one day of warm weather has thawed out most of the wetlands down in SEMO. Have not been down to duck creek in a while so I was wondering if ice is a problem still. What is the duck compostition as of now and are the birds actually leaving pool 1?

I know it is frustrating out there. We typically don’t have conditions like this, especially not for this long.  Area regulations regarding refuge, whether it is temporal or spatial are set to benefit the quality of hunting throughout the entire season.  I know switching things up is real appealing when hunting is hard and it may not seem like a big deal. However, that can be a slippery slope. I know my answer isn’t what you want to here, but hang in there. I think… I hope… things will improve soon.

Hi Frank, Due to the current weather conditions with the ice, what would be the possibility of opening A and B unit to all day hunting just like Pool 2 and 3 to create more opportunity?? I do not believe this will have that much of an impact on the birds considering there is not much food available out there right now. Thanks for your response!!

A week and a half of freezing temperatures will have that effect. We did a ground count the day before on the area and the numbers were comparable.  Numbers across the region are significantly down due to habitat being locked up.  Things will probably change as conditions thaw out.

What happened to all of the ducks? Maybe a poorly timed aerial count?

The warmer daytime temperatures have helped not make the ice any thicker, but the nightly lows have still kept things pretty locked up. Looks like we may get a break towards the end of the week.

Speaking of Ice. Has the ice softened any in A and B Unit? Looking forward to duck hunting on water again.

Recent Posts

Blue-winged Teal In Flight

Testing the Waters

Sep 09, 2016

Have you ever been interested in duck hunting, but the idea of weathering the cold has kept you from taking that extra step out into the marsh?  Or perhaps you do duck hunt, but have that friend who tried it once, had leaky waders in the dead of winter, and swore he or she would never go back.  Well, it just so happens ... 


Busy Bees

Sep 05, 2016

Their sight and sound might bring panic at a picnic, but our need for bees is crucial.

Closeup of yellow garden spider on web

The Itsy-Bitsy Garden Spider

Aug 29, 2016

It’s a shame that little Miss Muffett was too frightened to meet the spider that sat down beside her. She would have discovered that spiders are exceptional creatures.