Ground Crew Prepares for Eastern Dakotas Survey

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Written by Pam Garrettson
Thursday, April 29, 2010

Pam Garrettson.We are packing up and preparing for the waterfowl breeding population survey in the Eastern Dakotas crew area. The plan is to begin May 7th. The area promises to be extremely wet again this year, and with a good portion of Southern Saskatchewan and Southern Alberta experiencing dry conditions, we expect that this crew area will attract lots of ducks for the second year in a row. According to John Solberg, the flyway biologist for the crew area, the weather there has been quite changeable, with temperatures in the 70s one week and snow the next.

When people in temperate climates think about bird migration, they typically view the question as, "Why do birds fly south?". But the real question is, "Why do birds fly north?". More specifically, why should a pintail leave its warm digs in Texas or California, or a blue-winged teal leave Mexico or the Caribbean where it has spent the winter? The answer is access to resources, namely food, and the Prairie Pothole region provides ducks with plenty of it. Potholes are shallow depressions formed by the activity of glaciers, and in wet years they fill up with water and with water-dwelling insects, tiny mollusks and other invertebrates. The protein, fat and calcium in these critters are just what a female duck needs to produce and lay a clutch of eggs, which is no small feat. For instance, a typical clutch of ruddy duck eggs weighs more than the hen herself. So, for ducks in the Eastern Dakotas, "soup’s on," and we’ll be seeing who shows up to get it.