Air and Ground Crews Prepare for Southern Saskatchewan Survey

Important Notice: will be shutting down on January 2, 2019. However, most of the content found here will now be available on the the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Migratory Bird Program website.

Written by Phil Thorpe
Thursday, April 28, 2011

Photo of Phil Thorpe.Final preparations are underway for my 15th year flying in the southern Saskatchewan survey area. Pat Devers will be my observer once again–his third year in the survey area. As with every year, we first have to decide on when to start the survey. A colder than normal spring currently has delayed the breeding phenology (timing) in the prairies. Canadian Wildlife Service biologists working on ground crews are in the field this week looking at species presence and social groupings. Because it is a wildlife survey, and the wildlife that we survey are migratory, we want to make sure that the migration is over or just about over for all duck species and that ducks are settled on breeding territories before we begin. We want to make sure that northern boreal forest nesters have moved through and that all normal prairie nesting duck species are present. If we start too early, Terry Liddick in the Dakotas could count migrating ducks and then I might count them again as they pass through Saskatchewan. This would result in artificially inflating the breeding population estimate. So, timing is critical and coordination with surrounding crew areas is key to a good survey.

Saskatchewan has received well-above normal moisture since last May, and flooding is occurring across the province. Not good for farmers or homeowners, but potentially good for waterfowl. The part I'm curious about is whether those conditions will result in more ducks in my survey area. Several years of dry conditions in the Canadian prairies, combined with good habitat conditions in the Dakotas, has redistributed ducks further south in the past few years. We'll see whether the good wetland habitat in southern Saskatchewan will be enough to pull ducks back north this year. Regardless of what we find, you can read about it here if you keep checking this page. Stay tuned!