Ducks Unlimited chapter uses annual mallard migration for education

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By Liam Tiernan
Clinton County Chatter Staff Reporter

Each year, right under our very noses, one of the greatest natural marvels on earth happens in the state of Michigan. The annual waterfowl migration, every spring, sees hundreds of thousands of waterfowl flying from their winters in southern North America back to their spring roosts in the northern U.S. and southern Canada.

On April 2, the Clinton County chapter of Ducks Unlimited hosted a migration tour. Citizens of the county were encouraged to come out to one of four locations known by the chapter to be nesting spots for the spring mallard migration and observe one of the greatest marvels nature has to offer.

Once there the visitors were given access to experts, tour guides and literature describing the event.

“It’s a hugely important part of our yearly schedule,” said Travis Bailey, Ducks Unlimited event organizer for Clinton County. “Outside of the banquet we throw on the duck season opener this is historically the biggest event we have each year. This year we had upwards of fifty non-chapter people at all four locations. It was an amazing turnout.”

According to the Michigan Waterfowl Legacy, waterfowl hunting in Michigan brings in a whopping $2.5 million in out-of-state profits.

“Duck hunting is like deer hunting, it brings in a lot of wallets from over state lines. It’s good for business,” said Mary White, a DeWitt resident who works at Jo’s Diner. “Opening morning is the only time we’re ever at capacity before nine.”

In the late 1800s Michigan began to become a recognized powerhouse in Waterfowl Hunting. Migratory routes of teals, mergansers, mallards, and canadian geese all pass through the upper midwest and some of the best mid-migration nesting grounds are found in Michigan’s rich wetlands. Geese and Teals in particular favor the open farmland that central Michigan has to offer.

“Whether they’re aware of it or not, Michigan residents are tied to Michigan’s rich waterfowl and wetland history,” said Bailey.

Each year hundreds of new waterfowl hunters are born from the youth of the state, typically through ducks unlimited or Michigan Department of Natural Resources events. Waterfowling in Michigan has become a priority for not only the Michigan DNR but for many state organizations that see the sport for what it is.

“Waterfowling is an economic stimulus, it’s a way for families to bond, it’s badly needed exercise and it really helps to educate people about the rich natural resources available to us and how to manage them,” said Environmental Scientist Joan Kalia of the Michigan DNR. “Michigan has some of the best natural wetlands anywhere in the United States, and many are virtually untouched.”

Ducks Unlimited spends thousands of dollars a year on wetland preservation, and according to Bailey, events like the Migration Tour that raise awareness and peak people’s interest will continue to allow them to make donations like these.

“It’s been a fantastic decade for our chapter,” said Bailey. “People really seem to care more about the natural resources this state has to offer once they attend one of our events. I think if we keep this up we can really make a difference for conservation in this county.”