The dry/warm fall and winter has persisted into spring. Many of the locals in Southern Alberta are reporting this as one of the earliest "ice-outs" in recent memory. The warm and dry weather resulted in an early start to the fire season.
However, some relief is in site and already in progress. A series of low pressure systems and cold fronts started moving through the area on April 22. This brought much needed moisture to the dry prairies.
Warmer and dryer weather is forecast to return by the first week of May.
We are hopeful to start flying the surveys by May 3 or 4. Stay tuned and we will keep you updated throughout the survey!
The cherry blossoms are blooming at my house in the mountains on the east side of Albuquerque. That is always a good indication that my departure for the “north country” is imminent. It looks like I am fortunate to have the same observer back again for the third year in a row—Joe Sands, Ph.D, the migratory bird specialist for the FWS’s Northwest Region.
I just reviewed the habitat and precipitation conditions this morning from Agriculture Canada’s website. The maps do not present a great picture for Southern and Central Alberta. All of the precipitation indices indicate below-normal precipitation for most of the survey area over the last 12 months. What we really need now are some early spring snow storms, followed by a rapid melt of that snow. This would help to fill many of the semi-permanent wetland basins that are crucial for prairie nesting waterfowl. However, with the dry conditions, we do not expect much of a “frost seal” in the soils. Thus, when the remaining snow does melt, it is more likely to soak into the soils more rapidly than if there were a “soil frost seal.”
We anticipate starting the surveys in southern Alberta during the first week of May. A lot can change in the next month. In the meantime, pray for more snow and rain.
Using New Process for Setting Game Bird Hunting Seasons, USFWS Proposes 2016-17 Migratory Bird Frameworks
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed continued liberal game bird season lengths and bag limits for the 2016-17 hunting seasons, due to steady or improving population numbers. This marks the first implementation of a more streamlined process for setting annual migratory game bird hunting seasons and bag limit, compressing the previous two-cycle regulatory practice into a single, annual process. Biological data from the past year will now be used to set season dates and project harvest limits for each game species. This gives biologists more time to analyze bird survey data and gives the public more time to comment on proposed rules, and also ensures that administrative procedures don't lead to delays in the opening of state hunting seasons.
The 2016-17 federal frameworks propose duck hunting season lengths of 60 days in both the Atlantic and Mississippi flyways and 74 days in the Central Flyway (with an additional 23 days in the High Plains areas), with a daily bag limit of six ducks in each of those flyways. Proposed duck hunting frameworks for the Pacific Flyway would allow a 107-day season and a seven-bird daily bag limit. A 16-day special September teal season with a six-bird daily bag limit is proposed to continue to be offered in certain states in the Atlantic, Mississippi and Central flyways. Proposed regulations for geese also are largely unchanged from 2015-16 seasons and in several cases are very liberal in an attempt to reduce their abundance.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed hunting regulations for the upcoming 2015-2016 late waterfowl seasons. Hunting season lengths of 60 days were proposed for the Atlantic and Mississippi Flyways, with 74 days for the Central Flyway (with an additional 23 days in the High Plains areas) and 107 days for the Pacific Flyway.
A full season on pintails would be offered nation-wide with a two bird daily bag limit, and a full season on canvasbacks with a two bird daily bag limit offered nation-wide.
States will select their individual seasons from within the federal frameworks that establish the earliest beginning and latest ending dates and the maximum season length and bag limits.
The Service is also streamlining the process by which it sets annual migratory game bird hunting seasons and bag limits. Beginning with the 2016-17 hunting seasons, the current two-cycle regulatory practice will be compressed into a single annual process.The new streamlined process to set annual migratory game bird hunting seasons and bag limits will rely on biological data from the past year to set hunting season dates and project appropriate harvest limits for each game species. The change will give biologists more time to analyze bird survey data that inform the Service’s regulatory decisions and will give the public more time to comment on proposed rules. The change will also ensure that administrative procedures do not delay the opening of state hunting seasons.
Final results from the 2015 Waterfowl Breeding Population and Habitat Survey are now available. Preliminary reports are confirmed -- a total duck population estimate of 49.5 million birds in the traditional survey area, which is similar to last year's tally and holding steady at 43% above the long term average.