Winter has been cruel to local duck population

This has been a long cold winter and it has taken its toll on wildlife.

Over the last few weeks, visitors have congregated to the Dunkirk harbor to witness flocks of waterfowl, including geese, diving ducks, swans, eagles and a variety of gulls. Those same spectators have noticed an increasing number of bird carcasses littering the shoreline, as well as the ice. And people were wondering why this may be happening.

The Department of Environmental Conservation was alerted and their Wildlife Biologist Connie Adams came to the Dunkirk area twice in the last week. Adams collected a number of dead birds by walking along the shoreline by the Northern Chautauqua Conservation Club and by Bart’s Cove and was even allowed access to the NRG property. Over the course of the two days, she collected over 100 dead birds and had them shipped upstate to be examined for a cause of death.

The results thus far are non-viral, or bacteria related, the birds are dying of starvation and to a degree, succumbing to the extreme, extended cold temperatures. Many of the carcasses were from mergansers, which are a fish eating duck. There are plenty of gizzard shad in the harbor that are also dying off due to the cold weather, but these fish are way too big for the birds to eat. Their mouth area is limited to much smaller prey like emerald shiners, which are more commonly refereed to as minnows.

The minnows are not hanging around the limited open water in the harbor, but are probably closer to shore under the ice pack. If the minnows are there, they are out of the reach of the birds. According to Adams, ducks and even gulls need to eat 20 percent of their total weight in prey fish in order to survive. There just isn’t enough bait fish exposed to go around for the large concentrations of birds in the area. This problem extends all the way to the Niagara River area which is also experiencing a bird die-off due to the cold and lack of food.

Adams and her crew have counted, in a two-day period, at least 900 dead birds from here to the Buffalo harbor. Adams also explained that attempting to feed the ducks will not help, because the birds that are dying are fish eaters and are not accustomed to corn or plant food. Adams also said that of the 160 carcasses that were sent to the laboratory, 50 percent were mergansers, with the remainder made up of grebes, bluebills, redhead, canvasbacks, white-winged scoters, longtailed ducks, golden eye, and even a few geese. No eagle carcasses were found. But the environment has provided a feast for the carrion eaters. Herring gulls and ring-billed gulls and assorted other gulls and the eagles have been feasting on the remains of the unfortunate. Winter is a part of nature and it can be cruel. Bring on the spring!

Hot spots for fishing on Chautauqua Lake have been walleye at Dewittville in the early morning in 24-28 feet of water, crappie off Mayville and perch all over. There were reports of a concentrated attempt at ice fishing out of the Dunkirk area over the weekend with anglers looking at a shorter trek to the 50 foot mark.


The “Con Club” annual Chicken Barbecue fundraiser for the “Take-A-Kid-Fishing program will be on Sunday, Feb. 23. Tickets are still available at the Northern Chautauqua Conservation Club.

Attention: The Pistol Course that is scheduled at the Northern Chautauqua Conservation Club on March 15, will be held from 5 p.m. until 10 p.m. There are still openings to take this course, which will cost $55. For more information, call Gary Dudek at 366-3397.

The Northern Chautauqua Chapter of Ducks Unlimited’s annual banquet is scheduled for Saturday, March 15 at the Dunkirk Moose Lodge, located at 296 Lake Shore Drive West. Pre-sale tickets are $45 or $70 per couple. This event will feature a live and silent auction as well as other raffles throughout the evening. Early Bird entries by March 7 will enter automatically in a raffle for a limited edition piece of DU artwork. For more information, including tickets, email to or call Steve at 410-4848, Chris McKelvey at 672-2498, Scott Sinare at 410-9531, Darrin Katta at 785-0713 or Will Mead at 785-3741.

The Monday night Northern Chautauqua Conservation Club Fly Tyers will meet Monday at 6 p.m., weather permitting. The event is open to the public and free of charge.

There will be a Hunter Education Class (gun) at the Ellery Rod & Gun Club on Friday, March 21 from 5 p.m. until 9 p.m. returning on Saturday March 22 from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. Students must attend both days for certification. Class is limited to the first 20 students. To pre-register call Rob Graham at 413-6230 or email Students should dress for the weather and a lunch will be provided on Saturday.

Raw fur pickup schedule: North American Fur Auctions (NAFA) location is Lucky Lanes bowling alley on Route 60, in Fredonia. Time is 4:30 p.m., on March 9 and April 28. The agent is Ernest Mosher and he can be reached by calling 315-868-6275. Note: The fur must be put up and dried. No green pelts will be accepted. First auction dates are Feb. 17-23.

Fur Harvesters Auction pick-ups will be at the old Tops Market parking lot off I -90. Take exit 59. Time of the pickup is 6-6:30 a.m. Pick-up dates will be, March 23. The agent is Toby Edwards. He can be contacted by calling his cellphone at 518-848-0217. Only dried pelts will be accepted. The first auction date is Jan. 7, while the second dates are March 13 and March 14.

If your club is hosting a shooting event, or training course (turkey shoot, etc.), drop a line and I will be glad to place an announcement in the calendar.

Gun Shows: There will be a Gun Show at the Frewsburg Fireman’s Rec. Hall located at 25 Hazzard St. Frewsburg on March 8 from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. and March 9 from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m.

There is a gun show at the Harbor Creek Fire Department Social Hall located at 7275 Buffalo Road, US Route 20 on March 16, from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m., and March 17, from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m.

The Sportsmens Show at the Little Valley Volunteer Fire Dept. will be on April 5 and 5. Admission will be $5 with kids under the age of 12 admitted free. For information on directions or to be a vendor call Jim Miller at (716) 938-6928.

Gene Pauszek is an OBSERVER outdoors columnist. Send comments to