Survey Completed: Drought Continues in the Alberta Prairie Pothole Region

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Written by Jim Bredy
Monday, May 25, 2009

Jim BredyWe flew into Calgary, Alberta today after completing the survey this morning. Our previous post on May 14 reported on the area between the US border and Red Deer, Alberta. Since then, we have surveyed the areas between Red Deer, Edmonton, Cold Lake, Slave Lake, Grand Prairie, and Peace River, Alberta; including Dawson Creek and Ft. St. John, British Columbia.

According to Agriculture Canada Drought Watch, a large portion of the Alberta Prairie Pothole Region is in the midst of a drought, with some areas experiencing record dry conditions (

As we moved north from Red Deer to Edmonton in the aspen parkland areas (stratum 26), the water conditions improved from the southern regions. However, they appeared drier than last year. There are still some good areas as evidenced by the attached photos. As we moved into the boreal forest transition areas of strata 75 and 76, the water conditions appeared a bit more stable than the prairies. The boreal forest areas are typically less affected by droughts (unless it is a prolonged drought). This is due to the typically larger and deeper wetland complexes in the boreal forest areas, when compared to the shallower prairie pothole wetlands.

Overall, the timing of nesting appeared to be normal. Weather conditions were favorable for surveying, with the exception of a winter storm on May 18 and 19 that delayed the survey.

We met with most of the ground crew yesterday in Peace River to compare notes, and begin compiling the data. It was a pleasure working with everyone on this survey. The success of the survey was only possible due to the combined team effort of everyone. As stated in the May 8 report, it truly does feel good to be back!

Jim Bredy and Dave Fronczack, May 2009 Southern and Central Alberta Breeding Population Survey Crew.  On the ramp at Calgary International Airport, Alberta

Survey wrap up in Peace River, Alberta, May 24, 2009. Left to Right: Justin Gilligan-CWS, Mike Ranger-DU, Garnet Raven-CWS, Steve Leach-S&T Env. Canada, Jim Leafloor-CWS, Jim Bredy-FWS Pilot, Murray Gillespie-CWS, Dave Fronczak-FWS Aerial Observer. Ground Crew not in picture: Nathan Clements-CWF, Mike Watmaugh-CWS, Jason Caswell-ASRD.

Ducks on a shallow wetland on the Galahad Air Ground in Southern  Alberta.  Photo by Jim Leafloor (CWS).

Good Wetland basin on the Holden Air/Ground in Southern Alberta.  Photo by Murray Gillespie (CWS).

Dry Wetland basin on the Holden Air/Ground in Southern Alberta.  Photo by Murray Gillespie (CWS).

Good wetland conditions on the Hollow Lake Air Ground.  Photo by Jim Leafloor (CWS).

Typical 'bush' habitat in the Peace region of Alberta.  Photo by Dave Fronczak (FWS).

Typical Agriculture habitat in the Peace region of Alberta.  Photo by Dave Fronczak (FWS).