CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- People usually describe wet weather as "good only for ducks," but a strong argument could be made for cold weather too.
The recent chain of "Alberta clipper" winter storms pushed large numbers of ducks and geese south from their usual wintering grounds into West Virginia. The Division of Natural Resources' annual midwinter waterfowl survey turned up the highest numbers of birds since 2001.
"Duck numbers were 67 percent higher than in 2013 and 123 percent above the 10-year average," said Steve Wilson, the DNR's waterfowl project leader. "Canada goose numbers were up 7 percent from  and were 40 percent above the long-term average."
To conduct the survey, DNR biologists flew over areas of the state considered attractive to waterfowl, counting birds as they went. This year's overflights focused on portions of the Ohio, Kanawha, New and Shenandoah rivers, plus Tygart and Bluestone lakes.
Wilson said the numbers weren't at all unexpected because cold snaps in December and early January froze up creeks and small ponds around the Great Lakes. When snow covered the farmers' fields where ducks and geese forage for grain, the birds headed south and settled into the first large bodies of water they found.
The bulk of the birds observed were Canada geese, mallards and black ducks, but the unusual conditions also brought in many species not often seen in the Mountain State. Wilson said the survey turned up canvasbacks, green-winged teal, pintails, widgeons, ring-necked ducks, redheads, buffleheads, wood ducks, gadwalls, mergansers, snow geese and tundra swans.
West Virginia seldom sees that sort of variety, mainly because the state is located between the Atlantic and Mississippi flyways and usually gets bypassed by migrating waterfowl.
This year's abundance of waterfowl created a bonanza for birders and hunters alike. Birder's Internet chat rooms exploded with reports from waterfowl watchers, and field reports from waterfowl hunters indicated better-than-normal hunting conditions for the 2013-14 duck and goose seasons, which ended Jan. 31.
Reach John McCoy at johnmc...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1231.