Eastern Dakotas Survey Started—But Now Delayed

Written by Terry Liddick
Thursday, May 12, 2011

Terry LiddickWell, here we are in Aberdeen, South Dakota. We completed 4 days of survey flying right off the bat, but today we are sitting for the third day in weather that this region probably needs no more of: rain. Much like you see on the news for the Mississippi River region, this area probably doesn’t need any more of that for a while! Conditions are excellent over southeastern South Dakota. Virtually all of the wetland basins are full to overflowing and the James River is well outside its banks. Many roads and bridges are under water. Leaves are just starting to appear on the trees and vegetation is starting to green up. It is definitely a late spring with temperatures slightly below normal.

We have had a few warm days, but for the most part it has been windy, cool, and skies have been mostly overcast every day. Water is abundant and so are the ducks. We have seen good numbers of mallards, a lot of blue-winged teal, and are just starting to see large numbers of pintails as we move north. We started in Mitchell, SD, on the 6th and moved up to Aberdeen on the 9th, and have flown nearly 20 hours of survey transects so far. We have 2 or three more days of flying from here and then we will move to Jamestown, North Dakota. Having watched the weather in the region over the winter and based on what we’ve seen since we arrived, it doesn’t appear that we will encounter conditions any different than what we have been seeing so far.

This is the third consecutive wet year in the Eastern Dakotas crew area, and following consecutive wet years, many of the wetland basins have not been able to be plowed through, increasing the number of basins available and the upland vegetation associated with them for nesting habitat. This becomes important as Conservation Reserve Program lands are retired resulting in losses for both.

While still early in the survey, we are anticipating a great year for the eastern Dakotas. We have approximately 11 days of flying ahead of us and a two-day stop for a mandatory 100-hour plane inspection that I will have to coordinate. We have everything south of Aberdeen completed and are looking forward to moving north when the weather clears. More to follow!

The James River cutting a wider than normal path between Mitchell and Aberdeen, South Dakota.

The James River cutting a wider than normal path between Mitchell and Aberdeen, South Dakota. Photo by Terry Liddick, USFWS

Typical habitat in southeastern South Dakota.

Typical habitat in southeastern South Dakota. Photo by Terry Liddick, USFWS

Habitat conditions south of Aberdeen.

Habitat conditions south of Aberdeen. Photo by Terry Liddick, USFWS

More excellent conditions seen from the sky near Watertown, South Dakota.

More excellent conditions seen from the sky near Watertown, South Dakota. Photo by Terry Liddick, USFWS

Another view of overflowing conditions on the James River.

Another view of overflowing conditions on the James River. Photo by Terry Liddick, USFWS

No shortage of water in this shot, near Huron, South Dakota.

No shortage of water in this shot, near Huron, South Dakota. Photo by Terry Liddick, USFWS