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Written by Stephen Chandler
Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Photo of Phil Thorpe.Ahhh! Back on the Saskatchewan prairie. This is my fourth year as an aerial observer sitting to the right of Phil Thorpe in the southern Saskatchewan crew area. What an awesome opportunity this has been—flying and counting with Phil who is starting his 20th year of surveys here—and now it begins again. I arrived in Regina, SK, on Saturday, April 30th, and after a few weather delays, Phil followed on May 2nd. I was able to get out on the landscape on Sunday, May 1st, to do a little recon from the ground and found some of the driest conditions since I began the survey in 2013. I drove a 25-mile route on the Regina Plain (SE of Regina) to count ponds and to get a pair-to-lone drake ratio. This gives us a better idea of spring progression on the prairie. On that route, I found 6 wet and 40 dry wetlands. Last year, almost all of those were wet. So, I decided to drive another route, this time 85 miles east to west and only found 6 natural wetlands that had water. When I did find ducks, there seemed to be a good mix of pairs and lone drakes, so the timing looks about right. Our May 3rd recon flight confirmed what I saw from the ground. It’s dry! We began the 2016 Breeding Waterfowl and Habitat Survey on May 4th. After a few days of flying transects, the dry trend continued. We were counting less than half of the ducks and ponds we counted in the previous years. I hope we see more water (and ducks) as we move north.