Survey of Southern Saskatchewan finished – strange year

Written by Phil Thorpe
Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Photo of Phil Thorpe.Patrick Devers and I finished the survey of Southern Saskatchewan today. Habitat in the aspen parklands is a mixed bag this year. The northwest parklands were fair, with a few good areas north of Saskatoon. The northeast parklands to the east of Saskatoon are fair to good. All across the area, we had the sense that the land was drying out. There is residual water from previous wet years, but no new water to speak of anywhere. We saw a lot of unoccupied water, and I have not looked at the estimates yet, but my impression is that we saw fewer waterfowl overall. This could be because the habitat conditions are so good down in the Dakotas and eastern Montana—a lot of ducks may have stopped short down there. This was a strange year. We’ve seen snow geese and white-fronts in decent numbers every day of the survey. We always see a few, especially on the northern end of our area, but this is the first time I remember seeing them every day. The north country must still be locked up tight in ice. Many of the aspens are only now starting to leaf out. Spring is 10 days to two weeks behind this year. Overall, I’d say conditions are still fair to good, but the trend is toward the dry end of the spectrum.

Drier conditions in the NE part of the survey area. Credit: P. Thorpe (USFWS)

Fair to good conditions. Credit: P. Thorpe (USFWS)

Good conditions just outside Prince Albert, SK.  Semipermanent wetlands full, but no temporary or seasonal water present this year. Credit: P. Thorpe (USFWS)

Dry conditions in the northern grasslands. Credit: P. Thorpe (USFWS)

The transition zone between boreal forest and aspen parklands. Credit: P. Thorpe (USFWS)

Drier than 2008, but still good water on the landscape. Credit: P. Thorpe (USFWS)

Drier conditions than 2008, but still fair to good. Credit: P. Thorpe (USFWS)

Boreal/aspen parkland transitional wetland. Credit: P. Thorpe (USFWS)

The Thickwood Hills with fresh snow.  Credit: P. Thorpe (USFWS)

Good wetland conditions, but drying out. Credit: P. Thorpe (USFWS)