2009 survey of the Eastern Dakotas begins

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Written by John Solberg and Thom Lewis
Saturday, May 09, 2009

Photo of John Solberg by Roger Gebel/Wright Bros. Aviation, LTD.My observer Thom Lewis and I began the 2009 survey by flying out of Mitchell, SD. We would have started yesterday, but we had significant wind and rain, so we delayed a day. Today we surveyed between Mitchell, SD and the Nebraska border. Wetland conditions in this area are slightly improved since 2008, but were not as wet as I expected. All waterfowl species were present and early nesting species (mallards and pintails) are "getting down to business."

Spring is running 2 - 3 weeks later than normal.  We noticed some changes on the landscape while traveling from the home base in Bismarck to Mitchell, North Dakota, including the loss of CRP acres (great nesting cover), and the increasing number of ethanol plants and wind power farms that have sprouted up. The wind turbines are usually placed in areas that are not suitable for row crops. As a result, these areas are grass/pasture landscapes and often utilized by cattle producers. These areas are also highly preferred waterfowl nesting areas and tend to have good nesting success. At this point, we don't fully understand the impact that wind turbines might be having on nesting ducks, but several studies are underway.

Ethanol plant in southeastern South Dakota.

Wind turbines sprouting up on the prairie.