Aerial Survey Finished!

Written by Phil Thorpe
Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Photo of Phil Thorpe.Another BPOP complete! The morning started with fog, but it quickly lifted and Stephen and I were able to fly the remaining three transect lines in the northeast part of the survey area. The CWS ground crew should be able to finish the two remaining air-ground segments on Wednesday. We were lucky to be in a good weather pattern and got away with only three weather days during the survey. Other crew areas are working on 8-10 weather days and counting!

Overall, habitat conditions appeared to be good to excellent across the survey area. An early snow blanketed most of the province in October and snow remained on the ground until April. The snow cover likely insulated the ground and prevented a solid frost seal from forming. When the snow melted in late April, without a good frost seal to hold the snowmelt on the surface, it quickly sank into the ground. As a possible result of this, we saw very few ephemeral and temporary ponds (i.e., sheet water) across the survey area. However, seasonal and semi-permanent wetlands were overflowing their banks because of the record snow fall and runoff. It was an interesting contrast compared to some wet years when there is a good frost seal and water sits on the surface and provides feeding habitat for early arriving ducks.

Farm reports have indicated that soil moisture has been good, and with good soil moisture there should be good vegetative growth, which would translate into good nesting cover for ducks. With good nesting cover and good to excellent wetland conditions over most of the province, I would expect good to excellent production from the southern Saskatchewan survey area this year. Keep in mind that without on-the-ground nesting or brood studies it is always difficult to predict nest success or production from survey areas. We get our first real glimpse of how successful production was during duck banding in August. We get another look at recruitment during harvest surveys taken from hunters in the fall and winter. We then can see how many young of the year have been harvested and apply correction values to get a recruitment estimate. But from my view out of the cockpit, generally, when the ponds are full on the prairies, we typically have lots of new ducks flying south.

Seasonal and semi-permanent wetlands in the northern Parklands were full!

Seasonal and semi-permanent wetlands in the northern Parklands were full! Photo by Phil Thorpe, USFWS

Flooding continued in the northeast Parklands, but ephemeral and temporary wetlands (in the ag field in the foreground) were already dry.

Flooding continued in the northeast Parklands, but ephemeral and temporary wetlands (in the ag field in the foreground) were already dry. Photo by Phil Thorpe, USFWS