Weather and Habitat Update

Southern and Central Alberta
Written by Jim Bredy
Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Photo of Jim Bredy.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 Out. It Must Be Time to Fly North Again.”

Southern and Central Alberta
Written by Jim Bredy
Thursday, March 31, 2016

Photo of Jim Bredy.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.

Palmer Drought Index, February, 2016, Credit: Agriculture Canada

Palmer Drought Index, February, 2016, Credit: Agriculture Canada

Percent of Normal Winter Precipitation, February 28, 2016 to March 28, 2016, Agriculture Canada

Percent of Normal Winter Precipitation, February 28, 2016 to March 28, 2016, Credit: Agriculture Canada

Percent of Normal Growing Season Precipitation, April 1 - October 31, 2015, Credit: Agriculture Canada

Percent of Normal Growing Season Precipitation, April 1 - October 31, 2015, Credit: Agriculture Canada

Percent of Normal Precipitation, March, 2016, Credit: Agriculture Canada

Percent of Normal Precipitation, March, 2016, Credit: Agriculture Canada

2015 Status of Waterfowl Report Released

Ruddy duck pair photo, Credit: Dave Menke, USFWSFinal 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.

View Video Report

Download 2015 Report

2015 Trends in Breeding Duck Populations Report - Now Available

Teal brood. Credit: USFWS.

Preliminary 2015 duck population and pond estimates from the annual Waterfowl Breeding Population and Habitat Survey are now available. The estimate of 49.5 million breeding ducks was similar to last year’s estimate of 49.2 million, and 43% above the long-term average. The total pond estimate was 6.3 million, which was 12% below last year’s estimate of 7.2 million and 21% above the long-term average of 5.2 million. Despite an early spring over most of the survey area, habitat conditions were similar to or poorer than last year. In many areas, the decline in habitat conditions was due to average to below-average annual precipitation, with the exception of portions of southern Saskatchewan and central latitudes of eastern Canada. Note: Estimates sometimes change between the preliminary numbers and final results.

View Pond Numbers

View Duck Numbers

View Habitat Conditions Map

Download Complete Trends Report

Download Trends Report Highlights Sheet

Spring Survey Takes Off for 60th Year

On May 5th, an aerial survey crew in the Eastern Dakotas had the honor of kicking off the 60th annual Breeding Population and Habitat Survey, flying initial transects between Winner and Sioux Falls, South Dakota. While the initial observations point to very dry wetland conditions and a scarcity of ducks in that region, it remains to be seen what pilots and and ground crews in the ten other survey areas across Canada and the northern United States will find. What is certain is that their daily reports will be full of fascinating insights and anecdotes, captivating imagery, and important clues as to what to expect as regulations are set in late summer for the fall hunting season.

A cooperative effort of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, the Canadian Wildlife Service, and state, provincial, and tribal agencies, this survey currently covers more than 2.1 million square miles of the northern United States and Canada, and includes most of the primary duck nesting areas in North America.

Important Waterfowl Banding In Progress

image of USFWS staff conducting duck banding operations in SaskatchewanBrad Bortner, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Division Chief of Migratory Bird Management is in Saskatchewan, Canada with several of the pilot biologists you'll recognize from their contributions to our flight logs - Mark Koneff, Phil Thorpe and Walt Rhodes - and others from the Service, to band ducks for the annual waterfowl banding project. Banding ducks is part of the effort to continue gathering knowledge for better management of waterfowl, providing information on population estimates, migration patterns, life span, survivability, productivity, and disease prevalence. The Division of Migratory Bird Management undertakes a number of surveys in conjunction with the USFWS Regional Offices, the Canadian Wildlife Service, and State and Provincial wildlife-management agencies.

Using the Bands Across America search tools found on this site, you can query and map waterfowl banding data as recent as this past spring all the way back to 1914.

Your search of more than 3.6 million banding records can be narrowed or expanded using multiple criteria to easily see banding and recovery locations. All results are plotted on a scalable map, offering critical information for waterfowl biologists monitoring populations across the continent.

Search the Map

View More Images on the USFWS Migratory Birds Program Facebook page

2014 Status of Waterfowl Report Released

American Wigeon photo, Credit: Brendan Lally, FlickrFinal results from the 2014 Waterfowl Breeding Population and Habitat Survey are now available. Preliminary reports are confirmed -- a total duck population estimate of 49.2 million birds in the traditional survey area, which is an 8% increase over last year's tally and 43% above the long term average.

View Video Report

Download 2014 Report

2014 Trends in Breeding Duck Populations Report - Now Available

Lesser scaup pair on the Earl Grey transect, Southern Manitoba. Credit: Marc Schuster, Canadian Wildlife Service.

Preliminary 2014 duck population and pond estimates from the annual Waterfowl Breeding Population and Habitat Survey are now available. The estimate of 49.2 million breeding ducks was 8% higher than last year’s estimate of 45.6 million, and 43% above the long-term average. The total pond estimate was 7.2 million, similar to last year’s estimate of 6.9 million and 40% above the long-term average of 5.1 million. Spring was delayed even later than last year across most of the survey area. Habitat conditions during the survey were mostly improved or similar to last year, due to average to above-average annual precipitation. The exceptions were west-central Alberta and east of James Bay in Quebec. Note: Estimates sometimes change between the preliminary numbers and final results.

View Pond Numbers

View Duck Numbers

View Habitat Conditions Map

Download Trends Report

Ungava Peninsula Canada Goose Survey Wraps Up

Image of Payne Bay in the Ungava Peninsula, Credit: Steve Earsom, USFWS

Caribou clogging the runway and sunrise at 3:30 were a couple of the unique situations veteran pilot biologist Steve Earsom had to prepare for when he traveled from his usual spring gig conducting the 2014 Waterfowl Breeding Population and Habitat Survey in Ontario to the Ungava Peninsula to fly a Canada Goose survey there. While still unofficial, his first blush assessment is that that the goose numbers for the eastern side seem very similar to the data from 2012 (a relatively good year) and the habitat throughout the peninsula was good, with plenty of water. His adventures during the survey are captured in words and images in our pilot biologist flight logs.

Read the Ungava Survey flight logs.

Good Habitat Conditions in Sight as 2014 Spring Survey Takes Flight

The 2014 Breeding Population and Habitat Survey has begun, and the initial view from 150 feet in the air above eastern South Dakota is a good one. The first of a dozen crews stationed throughout Canada and the northern United States took off May 4 out of Pierre, South Dakota and recent rains reveal a stark contrast to last years dry conditions. The other air crews and their associated ground crews are expected to begin surveying their areas soon, and as in the past you can look to our Pilot Biologist Reports for daily updates and images revealing what they are observing.

A cooperative effort of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, the Canadian Wildlife Service, and state, provincial, and tribal agencies, this survey currently covers more than 2.1 million square miles of the northern United States and Canada, and includes most of the primary duck nesting areas in North America.

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