Through the Viewfinder: As a duck takes to water
NATCHEZ — On a cloudy morning in St. Catherine Creek National Wildlife Refuge, more than 15,000 ducks eat, rest and quack in peace.
“We close around 1,000 acres off to the public so the ducks can eat without being bothered,” said Bob Strader, project leader at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Lower Mississippi River Refuge Complex, which includes St. Catherine Creek National Wildlife Refuge.
“When they fly off, they’re forced to use energy they need to conserve to continue their migration.”
Green-winged teals, gadwalls, pintails and mallards are among the different species of ducks that come to St. Catherine Creek National Wildlife Refuge during their migration south.
Last year, more than 50,000 ducks spent their wintering period at St. Catherine Creek National Wildlife Refuge.
“More ducks will move into the area as long as the Mississippi River doesn’t rise past 36 feet,” Strader said. “Once the river rises above 36 feet, the water levels here will rise above 18 inches.
“These ducks like to feed in water between 0 and 18 inches deep.”
Some species of ducks will continue farther south, traveling as far as South America, while others will remain in southern Mississippi for the winter.
The wintering period for waterfowl runs between November and February, with the highest number of ducks flocking to the sanctuary between December and January. When St. Catherine Creek isn’t hosting thousands of migratory ducks the refuge provides habitat to a relatively small population of resident ducks, Between 500 and 1,000 wood ducks and hooded mergansers make-up the small population at the refuge.
The last Sunday in January marks the end of duck season and if the river continues to rise, the thousands of ducks will leave St. Catherine Creek only to return the following year.