Southern Manitoba and Southeastern Saskatchewan

Manitoba Ground Crew Summary 2016

Southern Manitoba and Southeastern Saskatchewan
Written by Marc Schuster
Thursday, May 26, 2016

Photo of Marc Schuster.The Manitoba ground crew started the spring surveys on May 6 out of Brandon, Manitoba. Dry conditions were found in stratum 39 with some semi-permanent wetlands being completely dry. I have not seen this happen in quite some time. Some of the survey areas were completely devoid of water except for artificial wetlands. We had some bad weather keeping us down for several days in Brandon before we decided to head north and complete stratum 40 while heading to Yorkton. This is unusual for us since we normally head to Kenosee to complete Stratum 35 after we stay in Brandon. Sometimes mother nature has other plans and you just have to make adjustments. We found that stratum 40 had better water conditions and stratum 34 had good water as well. This was reflected in increased ground counts of all waterfowl. As we headed down to Kenosee to complete the survey in Stratum 35 we found that wetlands were drier the further south we went. For example, the Browning transect in southeastern Saskatchewan had mostly dry wetlands that are usually teaming with ducks. After wrapping up in southeastern Saskatchewan the Manitoba ground crew was able to head home on Friday, May 20.

You Never Know What to Expect in the Prairies

Southern Manitoba and Southeastern Saskatchewan
Written by Sarah Yates
Sunday, May 22, 2016

Sarah YatesThings have been moving along quickly in Manitoba. After three weather days we’ve flown eight days straight! At this point we’ve finished stratums 34, 35, 36, 38, 39, and 40 and we only have one transect left to fly in stratum 37 (the northern part of our crew area). While things are definitely drier all around this year we are still counting good numbers of birds in Saskatchewan (stratums 34 and 35) as well as 39 and 40 in Manitoba. The drier conditions are concentrating the birds, which can make it more difficult to count, but my observer Jeff Drahota has lots of aerial survey experience counting and estimating larger flocks of birds from the air. I just wish I could keep up! I guess someone has to fly the plane though.

Habitat Conditions Improve in Some Areas of Western Manitoba and Eastern Saskatchewan

Southern Manitoba and Southeastern Saskatchewan
Written by Jeff Drahota
Saturday, May 21, 2016

Jeff DrahotaThe completion of the May survey appears to be elusive as we are delayed a few more days by high winds and unsettled weather. The last few days we have covered the northern end of our crew area including the interlake region in Manitoba. Most of the pond areas continue to be permanent wetlands, wet meadows, and lakes. The south ends of the bigger lakes still look good for over water nesters (see top image below).

South Manitoba Update: Stratum 38 and 39

Southern Manitoba and Southeastern Saskatchewan
Written by Jeff Drahota
Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Jeff DrahotaSo far, habitat conditions appear to be below average. Most temps and seasonal wetlands are dry throughout southern Manitoba, and the first few lines surveyed in eastern Saskatchewan appear to be even dryer.

Weather Forecast: Hot and Dry with Lots of Smoke

Southern Manitoba and Southeastern Saskatchewan
Written by Sarah Yates
Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Sarah YatesWe are off to a good start in Manitoba. As of May 9th we’ve completed stratums 38 and 39 and have moved over to southeastern Saskatchewan to begin stratum 35. Conditions are looking a lot drier since the last time I flew the survey in 2013 and 2014 (Manitoba was experiencing flooded conditions then). In fact, temperatures have been in the 70-80s, seasonal wetlands are dry and/or drying up and even the semi-permanent wetlands are below their margins. Also, smoke from the intense forest fires to the northwest in Fort McMurray, Alberta, has settled into the area. While it hasn’t limited our surveys, we do fly through it on a daily basis and it has affected both the visibility and air quality of the survey area. It is quite dry across the prairies and we are in desperate need of some spring rain to lower the fire danger and improve waterfowl habitat.

Maine to Manitoba

Southern Manitoba and Southeastern Saskatchewan
Written by Sarah Yates
Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Sarah YatesSpring came earlier this year and I departed Maine and headed west to Manitoba on April 30th. It was a solo cross country trip this year as my observer, Jeff Drahota, is driving up from Nebraska to meet me in Brandon on the 4th. If all goes well, we’ll start the survey on May 5th. Similar to our winter in Maine, Manitoba has experienced below average precipitation and above average temperatures. This was evident as I crossed the border from Ontario into Manitoba (and boreal forest into prairie) where I saw very little sheet water on the fields and all water bodies are within and below their natural margins. I arrived in Brandon on the 2nd and once settled I’ll take a closer look at habitat conditions and birds on the ground. I’m looking forward to seeing all the ducks in breeding plumage. Happy Spring!

Manitoba Crew Finishes 2015 Survey

Southern Manitoba and Southeastern Saskatchewan
Written by Marc Schuster
Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Photo of Marc Schuster.This year, we had an early spring that allowed us to get out on the land earlier than usual. The ground survey initiated on Wednesday, May 6. Habitat conditions were good throughout most of the survey area, with only some slightly drier conditions in the western part of Stratum 39 and 40. Overall, this year appears to be similar to last year for water conditions in our part of the survey area. Duck numbers also seem to be good, with some transects recording record numbers counted on the ground.

Quick Notes for Early Progress

Southern Manitoba and Southeastern Saskatchewan
Written by Kevin Fox
Monday, May 18, 2015

Photo of Kevin Fox.The survey is moving along quickly and keeping the crew here quite busy. So much so, that I've only just gotten around to gathering my thoughts on it all to provide the updates below.

Early Start Expected in Manitoba and Saskatchewan

Southern Manitoba and Southeastern Saskatchewan
Written by Sarah Yates
Friday, May 01, 2015

Sarah YatesLooks like surveys will be starting earlier than usual this year in Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Kevin Fox and his observer John Bidwell picked up N728 on April 26th and headed west on the 27th. Kevin has volunteered to fly the survey this year while I prepare for the arrival of a baby girl in early June. Kevin is the Regional Aviation Manager/Pilot out of Region 7- Alaska. He has helped the Branch of Migratory Bird Surveys in the past with the Waterfowl Breeding Population and Habitat Survey and has an enormous amount of experience flying with the FWS. We lucked out when he offered to fly this year and lucked out a second time when John Bidwell offered to return as observer as well. He’s flown this crew area the past two years with me (and also flew it as PIC in the 90’s) and he’ll be a great resource for Kevin in 2015. According to ground crew leader Marc Schuster, a May 6th start date would be preferable if the weather allows. This gives Kevin and John plenty of time to settle in and prepare for the survey. Southern Manitoba had average temperatures this winter and below average precipitation. Habitat should be a lot drier this year in some areas compared with the major flooding we saw during the 2014 season. Here’s to a safe and successful 2015 survey for Kevin and John!

2014 Survey Complete in Southen Manitoba

Southern Manitoba and Southeastern Saskatchewan
Written by Sarah Yates
Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Sarah YatesJohn and I finished the survey in the northern most survey area near Swan River on May 22nd. Conditions continue to look good with lots of water on the landscape. We did run into some ice on the larger lakes, including Lake Manitoba; however, it seems that things are breaking up as conditions warm. Counting birds in Stratum 36 is drastically different than most of the other strata we survey in Manitoba. I believe we counted a total of 129 in 36. Compare that with an average day in a typical prairie pothole habitat (counts of up to 6,000 birds in stratum 34) and there is a large difference. Our more northern lines are more like the boreal forests of northern Saskatchewan and Manitoba and the bird densities are not as great. You also see fewer species as you go north. However, it’s also nice getting into some different habitat to break up the survey. Once we finished our survey we headed back to Brandon, so N728 could undergo a 100-hour (maintenance) before the 11-12 hour trip home. The trip home included a stop in Winnipeg, Manitoba, to drop off John Bidwell so that he could catch a flight to Halifax, Nova Scotia, to continue surveys as observer for Mark Koneff in the Maritime Canadian provinces. He’s a high demand observer! Huge thanks to John for putting up with me for another year. I’m very lucky to have flown with him two years in row now. Also, a big thank you is owed to Dave and Karen Wall and the entire crew at Maple Leaf Aviation in Brandon for keeping N728 going during the surveys and providing friendly and reliable service (as well as some company and meals during the survey). I know how lucky I am!

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