Southern Alberta Survey Start Delayed Due to Weather

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Written by Jim Bredy
Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Photo of Jim Bredy.This video is the view outside my hotel room this morning in Lethbridge, Alberta. While some portions of the US are basking in 80 and 90 degree temperatures, it is windy here and the snow is blowing sideways. This type of weather is not conducive to safely flying a low-level waterfowl survey. Temperatures that last week were in the 20° C range (68° F), have given way to sub-freezing temperatures, snow, and freezing fog. This has put the survey on hold, for now.

The new Observer/Crew Member this year is Joe Sands, PhD. He is the FWS Migratory Bird Specialist from the Portland, OR, Region. I have flown mid-winter aerial surveys with this fine waterfowl man for the last two years. I can attest that he is a certified "duck-head." I am already thoroughly enjoying the youthful energy and exuberant enthusiasm he is bringing to the waterfowl world. He arrived in Lethbridge, and conducted a ground survey on May 03. His analysis indicated that we were still a bit early to start the survey. Many birds were spread out on breeding territories; however, there were still some birds in groups that seemed to be just "milling around" a bit. We took another look yesterday on May 05, and saw the same. Many duck species are present, but we saw few Blue-Winged Teal. Also, the "pair to lone-drake" ratio was in favor of pairs, indicating that we are still too early to start the survey. We look for the ratio to be about 50/50 for Mallards, as an indication of the proper timing to start the survey.

So we sit here, and are catching up on the multitude of "other" administrative tasks that are always biting at our ankles. As the old aviation adage goes, "It is better to be down here, wishing you were up there, than up there wishing you were down here." Signing off for now...

These snowy and windy conditions in Alberta are keeping the air crew on the ground for now.
Video by Jim Bredy/USFWS.