"#ELKFIT", Southern and Central Alberta Survey Wrap-Up

Written by Jim Bredy
Friday, May 27, 2016

Photo of Jim Bredy.Joe Sands and I completed the spring waterfowl surveys in this survey area on May 26. It was a long haul this year. We were delayed 13 days due to high winds, low ceilings and visibility, thunderstorms, and required aircraft maintenance inspections. Several survey computer malfunctions, while airborne, added to the frustration of our survey delays. I was fortunate to have the very capable Joe Sands fly with me again this year. He is an EXCELLENT duck counter. His dry wit and humor helped to pass the time on some of the long survey days, and the down days. I do not know how this youngster does it, but at the end of most days, he STILL found time to go to the hotel workout facility, and “throw-down” a mean workout! When I asked him how he does it, he sent me a one word matter-of-fact text, “#ELKFIT”. He is working hard to get in shape for a fall elk hunt. One of the favorite lines that he speaks disgustedly at me, when he catches me eating a double chocolate donut from Tim Horton’s, is: “Jim - Elk don’t eat donuts, they eat grass, and we eat elk.” I do admit that he is right. However, I do not plan on starting to eat grass anytime soon!

The extreme dry habitat conditions of the southern sections, gave way to wetter conditions in the aspen parkland area between Red Deer and Edmonton Alberta. However, most of the water present was in the larger semi-permanent wetland basins and in the permanent lakes and rivers. There was not much water in the important smaller seasonal wetlands. The boreal forested regions of strata 75 and 76 (between Cold Lake and Peace River), continue to show the effects of a dry weather pattern for the last several years. Many of the streams and wetland basins in this area are not as full as in the past, and have what appears to be stagnant water. Our raw pond and duck numbers are down substantially from past years. We thus are not expecting as much waterfowl production in this area as the last several years.

There however is a bright side to this wrap-up report. A very wet weather pattern started the third week of May, and dumped substantial rain and some snow. When we flew the last survey lines in the Peace River area, we could still see some snow in the shadows from the recent storms. Unverified news reports on the Edmonton TV stations stated that Edmonton received more rain in that week, than in the last seven months. This rainfall was welcome by all. It will help to maintain the water levels in the wetland basins that have water in them, and made those farmers happy, who had already seeded their crops.

I dropped Joe off at the airport this morning. At the time of this writing, he should be home to his wife, and three young kids, all with an incredible amount of life and energy. He will be a busy bee this weekend, back to a “normal” life, because he just closed on a new house. As much as we love what we do up here, that is the toughest part of this job, being away from those that we love and care for. Yet our time away from home pales in comparison to the service men and women who are away on missions for our country. If you see one of these service people, please take time to thank them. And also take time to hug those that are dear to you, tell them that you love them, and make sure that you take ALL of them out in the field to experience the wonders of this world!

Signing off until next year, hopefully. Jim ;-)

A dry fall, winter and early spring, have left few of the smaller seasonal wetland basins in this area NW of Edmonton, Alberta.  Most of the wetland basins in this area that are holding water, are now the larger semi-permanent basins depicted in this photo, and the larger lakes and rivers.  Note the decreased water levels. Photo Credit: Jim Bredy, USFWS.

A dry fall, winter and early spring, have left few of the smaller seasonal wetland basins in this area NW of Edmonton, Alberta. Most of the wetland basins in this area that are holding water, are now the larger semi-permanent basins depicted in this photo, and the larger lakes and rivers. Note the decreased water levels. Photo Credit: Jim Bredy, USFWS.

Note the excellent visibility from the cockpit of this Partenavia Observer aircraft.  Ditch-bank-to-ditch-bank heavy agriculture practices, between Peace River and Grande Prairie, have changed the landscape forever.  The wet depressions in the ground, are a result of recent melted snow fall.  Plowing of wetland basins disturbs the water holding capacity of those basins.  There is now little to no waterfowl nesting cover left in these heavy agriculture areas. Photo Credit: Jim Bredy, USFWS.

Note the excellent visibility from the cockpit of this Partenavia Observer aircraft. Ditch-bank-to-ditch-bank heavy agriculture practices, between Peace River and Grande Prairie, have changed the landscape forever. The wet depressions in the ground, are a result of recent melted snow fall. Plowing of wetland basins disturbs the water holding capacity of those basins. There is now little to no waterfowl nesting cover left in these heavy agriculture areas. Photo Credit: Jim Bredy, USFWS.

This photo is a glimpse of the past greatness of the wetland and habitat areas of the mighty "Peace" region, between Grande Prairie and Peace River, Alberta.  At the top centre of the photo, note the good wetland basins and surrounding habitat conditions.  Ditch-bank-to-ditch-bank heavy agriculture practices, between Peace River and Grande Prairie, have changed the landscape forever.  The wet depressions in the plowed agriculture ground, are a result of recent melted snow fall.

This photo is a glimpse of the past greatness of the wetland and habitat areas of the mighty "Peace" region, between Grande Prairie and Peace River, Alberta. At the top centre of the photo, note the good wetland basins and surrounding habitat conditions. Ditch-bank-to-ditch-bank heavy agriculture practices, between Peace River and Grande Prairie, have changed the landscape forever. The wet depressions in the plowed agriculture ground, are a result of recent melted snow fall. Large scale clearing of the landscape, and plowing of wetland basins, disturbs the water holding capacity of those basins. There is now little to no waterfowl nesting cover left in these heavy agriculture areas. Photo Credit: Jim Bredy, USFWS.

This is a larger scale photo of the drying habitat conditions, in the boreal forested regions of stratum 76.  It is located northwest of the town of Slave Lake, and NE of the town of Peace River, Alberta.  Note that the large wetland basin at the top right of the photo is nearly dry. Photo Credit: Joe Sands, USFWS.

This is a larger scale photo of the drying habitat conditions, in the boreal forested regions of stratum 76. It is located northwest of the town of Slave Lake, and NE of the town of Peace River, Alberta. Note that the large wetland basin at the top right of the photo is nearly dry. Photo Credit: Joe Sands, USFWS.

This boreal forest stream is located northeast of the town of Peace River, Alberta at the NE corner of stratum 76. The stream is not free-flowing this year, and the water is stagnant. Due to back-to-back dry years, this is typical of much of the stream areas of the boreal forested regions of both strata 75 and 76. Photo Credit: Joe Sands, USFWS.

This boreal forest stream is located northeast of the town of Peace River, Alberta at the NE corner of stratum 76. The stream is not free-flowing this year, and the water is stagnant. Due to back-to-back dry years, this is typical of much of the stream areas of the boreal forested regions of both strata 75 and 76. Photo Credit: Joe Sands, USFWS.