Southern Alberta Survey Portion Completed

Written by Jim Bredy
Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Photo of Jim Bredy.Jay Hitchcock and I commenced the aerial portion of the survey near the Montana border on May 04. I am continually impressed by Jay’s aerial survey capabilities. In between a few weather delays, we finished the Southern Alberta portion (strata 26-29) on May 15. Our raw pond counts indicate fewer ponds than last year, with more birds present.

According to Canada Drought Watch, the fall–winter period was drier than normal. This was evident when we started surveying and noticed a substantial decrease in the amount of standing water in the shallower seasonal wetland basins. It does not appear there was much of a winter frost seal, which if present, would help to keep the melting snow from quickly being absorbed into the soil. Even though the water levels appear lower, the larger semi-permanent and permanent wetland basins fared much better. Several April storms assisted in replenishing the moisture in some of these wetlands.

The 2011 waterfowl production was very good, with an excellent fall flight. That production, combined with harvest reports, indicated an abundant amount of waterfowl would most likely be returning north to the breeding grounds. With the increased number of birds present, it appears there is a strong nesting effort currently underway. The success will be partially dependent on receiving ample spring and summer moisture to keep the wetlands from drying up further, before the birds take to flight.

We will have more accurate estimate of pond and duck numbers when the ground crews finish their ground comparison surveys. They survey selected portions of the survey transects by ground, counting every duck on the transect. Those ground surveys are used to determine a ground-to-air visibility correction factor, which is then used to determine the Waterfowl Breeding Population estimate for the crew area.

Our survey aircraft is currently undergoing a mandatory preventative maintenance inspection. When that is completed (hopefully by the end of this week), we will survey the Central Alberta portion of our crew area, between Edmonton, Cold Lake, Slave Lake, Grande Prairie, and Peace River, Alberta. Signing off for now.

The inclement weather grounded us today.  However, the moisture will be beneficial to the dry soils, and the wetlands.

The inclement weather grounded us today. However, the moisture will be beneficial to the dry soils, and the wetlands. Photo by Jay Hitchcock, US FWS

This wetland last year (2011) was mostly full.  It is typical of many of the wetlands in the short-grass prairie of Alberta this year.  Due to the dry 2011/2012 winter, many of the wetlands in the short-grass prairie region of Alberta this spring are drier than last year.

This wetland last year (2011) was mostly full. It is typical of many of the wetlands in the short-grass prairie of Alberta this year. Due to the dry 2011/2012 winter, many of the wetlands in the short-grass prairie region of Alberta this spring are drier than last year. Photo by Jay Hitchcock, US FWS

Although many wetland areas in Stratum 28 are drier than last year, there are some bright spots where there is plenty of water and upland nesting cover.

Although many wetland areas in Stratum 28 are drier than last year, there are some bright spots where there is plenty of water and upland nesting cover. Photo by Jay Hitchcock, US FWS

In the heart of the apsen parklands, this wetland has little standing water.   The quality of this wetland has deteriorated from the Spring of 2011. The dry Fall, Winter and early Spring has affected the quality of the wetlands in Alberta.

In the heart of the apsen parklands, this wetland has little standing water. The quality of this wetland has deteriorated from the Spring of 2011. The dry Fall, Winter and early Spring has affected the quality of the wetlands in Alberta. Photo by Jay Hitchcock, US FWS

The deeper wetland basins in the NW portion of the aspen parklands, were less affected by the dry winter, than the shallower basins.

The deeper wetland basins in the NW portion of the aspen parklands, were less affected by the dry winter, than the shallower basins. Photo by Jay Hitchcock, US FWS