2013 Breeding Population and Habitat Survey Begins!

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Written by Terry Liddick
Sunday, May 05, 2013

Terry LiddickWell, we are off and counting. The Eastern Dakotas crew met in Mitchell, SD, on May 5th. This year the aircrew is once again Terry Liddick as the pilot and Dave Fronczak as the observer. This will mark the 3rd consecutive year we have been the aircrew for the E Dakotas. Kammie Kruse is once again the ground crew leader and this year she is joined by an all new crew consisting of James Hoskins, Joe Sands and Terry Quesinberry.

We were ready to go after a pretty long winter in the Dakotas that lasted all the way through April. We did some training and reconnaissance on the 6th and 7th with the full intent of starting on the 8th, only to be rained out. So far we have flown 3 days and today we moved from Mitchell, SD, to Aberdeen, SD. We will fly the next 3 days from here. What we are seeing so far isn’t too impressive, considering the amount of snow South Dakota saw over the winter—particularly in April. South of Mitchell is still extremely dry, even after near record snowfall across parts of the state. Southeast South Dakota did not, however, see the amount of snow that other parts of the state had, but it is still indicative of how dry 2012 was. Rain through the spring is still greatly needed.

Where there is water, there are quite a few ducks, but some of the areas we have flown so far are even dryer than last year. Most seasonal wetlands in the southern part of the state are dry. It improved slightly as we moved north of Mitchell towards Huron, but it is still pretty dry. Green up is just beginning and we are starting to see buds on the trees begin to open. It was below average in temperature through much of the winter and early spring, which has delayed the vegetation phenology. Another cold front moved through last night, resulting in temps only in the 50s today, but it looks like there are a few warmer days ahead.

Waterfowl breeding activity in this part of South Dakota appears to be timed well with or survey start, as most of the species are very well paired. Today, we did see some apparent new groups of gadwall and a few larger groups of green-winged teal, but most other species are well paired. As we move north, we will get into areas that received a lot more snow fall, so we are hoping to see conditions improve. The southern part of the survey area is very dry and the western edges of our survey area are extremely dry. Conditions have improved marginally as we moved north and northeast of Mitchell. Check back to follow us and see how well they may continue to improve.