Predators Looking Strong!

Written by Garnet Raven
Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Photo of Garnet Raven.The Alberta ground survey crew completed stratum 27 today and most of us have moved north to Wainwright. From here we will survey most of stratum 26 and bring the survey to a close in a few more days. We were delayed a couple of days when high winds grounded our air crew. Fortunately, the winds calmed down enough to get them back in the air and our ground crew back to work.

Stratum 28 was very dry with relatively low duck numbers, but we’ve seen an increase in moisture as we moved north through stratum 27. Today we surveyed the Hanna and Compeer transects in east-central Alberta and finally found some fair wetland conditions. Duck numbers were average to slightly above average and it’s looking good as we start to survey the parklands tomorrow.

Our crew members have been seeing many raptors over the last few days, including ferruginous hawks, Swainson’s hawks and red-tailed hawks. It really emphasized all the challenges a nesting duck faces in these landscapes. Foxes, coyotes and raptors threaten the very life of the nesting hens, not to mention the many egg predators, including skunks, crows and magpies. It’s not easy to be successful hatching a nest and it can be even more challenging to fledge that brood. However, when conditions are right the predators just can’t keep up and production can be impressive. It’s looking like it may be a close battle in the Alberta parklands this year. Will the predators get the upper hand? We will soon know.

A great-horned owl spotted along the Spondin air-ground. Photo Credit: Elizabeth Beck.

A great-horned owl spotted along the Spondin air-ground. Photo Credit: Elizabeth Beck.

A herd of mule deer on the Hanna transect. Photo Credit: Garnet Raven.

A herd of mule deer on the Hanna transect. Photo Credit: Garnet Raven.

A full semi-permanent wetland from the Hanna transect. Photo Credit: Elizabeth Beck.

A full semi-permanent wetland from the Hanna transect. Photo Credit: Elizabeth Beck.

Several sharp-tailed grouse along the Hanna transect. Photo Credit: Garnet Raven.

Several sharp-tailed grouse along the Hanna transect. Photo Credit: Garnet Raven.

Alberta air crew surveying the Scapa air-ground. Photo Credit: Garnet Raven.

Alberta air crew surveying the Scapa air-ground. Photo Credit: Garnet Raven.