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Rare Waterfowl Trophy

January 13, 2009

Independence, Iowa - For 16-year-old, Jena Siglin, this year's waterfowl season ended with a bang, a band, and the surprise recovery of a satellite transmitter.

"It was Saturday, and my Dad and I had been duck hunting on the Wapsipinicon River," recalls Siglin. "Hunting was kind of slow, but as we were driving home, I spotted some ring-necked ducks sitting on one of my Dad's ponds. I immediately decided to try and get one."

Utilizing the pond's earthen dike for concealment, Siglin carefully made her stalk. Inching as close as possible, the hunter rose, took her shots, and successfully bagged two birds. Upon retrieving the ducks, Siglin was surprised to find that one of the birds carried an aluminum leg band. Even more thrilling was the discovery of a unique piece of "jewelry" around the duck's neck. That item proved to be a fully functioning satellite transmitter. The satellite radio had been placed on the duck by wildlife biologist, Steve Cordts who is studying ring-necked ducks in northern Minnesota.

"I was so amazed," says Siglin. "The first thing I did was call Scott Kinseth who is our local DNR Conservation Officer. He was really helpful and said he'd help me figure things out. He put me in touch with the right people.

"After I got the names, I started emailing biologists. I reported the duck's band number as well as the numbers on the radio. Steve Cordts sent me pictures of radioed ducks on his project and a DNR lady mailed me a map of where the bird had nested way up north. My Grandpa really got into this thing, and we looked at another map to see where the duck had been before it came to Iowa."

Swift of wing and prized for its flavor, the ring-necked duck is extremely popular with hunters across the nation. According the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, around 400,000 ring-necks are harvested annually. Although biologists place leg bands on a sample of the wild population each year, only eight ring-necked ducks carried satellite transmitters during the 2008-2009 hunting season.

"This was only my second year hunting ducks," says Siglin. "Last year, I bagged two ducks. This season I shot five.

"Although I've been going along with my Dad and his friends for a long time, it's mostly been just sitting and listening. This was the first year that I've been majorly out there with my own gun and everything," said Siglin. "After this season, I'm definitely hooked on duck hunting."

As it turns out, Siglin's unique trophy will provide more than a delicious duck dinner. She's having the bird mounted, where it will claim a prominent position among her outdoor memorabilia.

More Satellites

While we're on the subject of satellite transmitters, my friend Alan Afton sent an interesting note the other day. A professor at Louisiana State University, Afton serves as chief coordinator for the ongoing study to examine the alarming decline of lesser scaup [bluebill] ducks.

An important part of this project has focused on migration staging areas along the Mississippi River at Keokuk. During last spring's migration, more than 4,500 scaup were captured and banded there. Before release, 26 of those ducks --- all females --- were implanted with satellite transmitters. During the past several months, scientists have monitored the movements and survival of those birds from outer space.

Upon leaving Iowa last spring, most of the radioed scaup traveled to extreme northwest Canada or Alaska to nest. Come fall, the surviving hens headed back south.

Two of those ducks had an exceptionally interesting fall migration, reports Afton. Satellite tracking stations recorded one bluebill hen [radio number 80897] sitting on Devil's Lake, North Dakota on November 14. The bird apparently felt the sudden urge to move, and was next reported on November 17, sitting on an inland lake in south central Cuba. The three-day flight covered an incredible straight line distance of 2,100 miles.

Equally amazing, was the flight of a second female scaup reported in Pierce County, North Dakota on November, 13. On November 16, satellites discovered the duck on Cuba's north shore. Three days later, the bird had joined the first hen on that southern inland lake.

As the fall migration led both hens on a southeasterly course, it is all but certain the birds passed through Iowa. We can only imagine, but one of those ducks may even have been in that flock of wind driven bluebills that rocketed past your blind last November.


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