Ground Survey Complete For Southern Saskatchewan

Written by Jean-Michel DeVink
Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Photo of Jean-Michel DeVink.The last stretch seemed like it would never end, even though we only had three days of transects left to complete. Once back in Saskatoon, we were down for a day waiting for weather that the pilot could survey in. Normally two full crews hit the Peterson ground segment just east of Saskatoon before we head further east, but a break in the weather and the fact that our pilot Phil Thorpe also had to complete a few transects in neighbouring Manitoba allowed a window to finish our most easterly transects, so we headed to Humboldt to stage. Once we got those done, we headed back to Saskatoon to finish up Peterson. It was looking like we’d get everything done by the 27th, but two days of foggy mornings meant that low-level flying wasn’t possible and our air crew was grounded. That gave us a couple days to organize and start verifying all the other transects we had completed to date.

Finally, on the 28th, the weather broke just enough for the air crew to make their last run and get the southern Saskatchewan transects completed. We moved up to Melfort in anticipation of good weather the following day to knock off our last two ground segments. I was on Henribourgh with two other members and despite the early arrival on transect it was a long last day with very wet conditions (we added over 30 ponds to our map sheets). It also didn’t help that we were down a man, and dropped from two crews of two to one crew of three completing the entire transect. The welcome surprise, though, was that once again I observed a sandhill crane nest in one of the wetlands we surveyed. Last year there were young chicks, but this year two very large eggs lay cozily in the nest. As I passed the nest, I was amazed to observe a five-foot tall bird feigning a broken wing to lure me away from the nest, given that they are an incredibly intimidating creature when standing tall with wings open and hissing. I only wish I had my camera with me to snap a picture of that behaviour. Overall, the wetland conditions in the northeast and northern portion of our survey area (the agricultural portion of Saskatchewan) was very wet with lots of full ponds and new ones to add to our maps. The surprising part, though, was that there were fewer birds than would be expected for the conditions. It really looks like there was a bit of a shift in the distribution of birds more to western Saskatchewan.

On the drive back from Henribourgh, we saw our first broods of Canada geese. Nesting was indeed several weeks behind compared to last year, as we recall observing Canada geese on or about May 10th last year. It will be interesting to see how duck production is affected by the late thaw. Now that we’re all done, I want to thank all the members of our southern Saskatchewan ground crew for 2013. It was another fun-filled survey and everyone worked very hard.

Ground

Ground crew members Trina Knackstedt and Pat Bergen work on paperwork and data entry back in the surveys lab of the Canadian Wildlife Service’s Prairie and Northern Wildlife Research Center in Saskatoon. Photo by Jean-Michel DeVink, CWS

Keith Warner, Canadian Wildlife Service waterfowl technician, gets prepared to complete a ground segment.

Keith Warner, Canadian Wildlife Service waterfowl technician, gets prepared to complete a ground segment. Photo by Jean-Michel DeVink, CWS

Canadian Wildlife Service southern Saskatchewan ground crew. From left to right: Jean-Michel (JM) DeVink (CWS), Keith Warner (CWS), Patrick Bergen (Ducks Unlimited Canada contractor), Sean Heap (CWS-student), Kevin Dufour (CWS), Trina Knackstedt (CWS-student), missing Steve Leach (EC- S&T).

Canadian Wildlife Service southern Saskatchewan ground crew. From left to right: Jean-Michel (JM) DeVink (CWS), Keith Warner (CWS), Patrick Bergen (Ducks Unlimited Canada contractor), Sean Heap (CWS-student), Kevin Dufour (CWS), Trina Knackstedt (CWS-student), missing Steve Leach (EC- S&T). Photo by Jean-Michel DeVink, CWS