Less Water and Fewer Ducks

Written by Blake Bartzen
Monday, May 16, 2016

Photo of Blake Bartzen.Thus far, the theme for Saskatchewan has been less water and fewer ducks. We had a very warm winter with below-average snow precipitation, and the above-seasonal temperatures continued into spring. As a result, large flocks of mallards, northern pintails, and American wigeons were moving into the province by late March, a time when there can often still be lots of snow and no open water. By the time we did our first ground survey on May 6, all of the ducks were in place and much of the vegetation had greened up to a level that we usually don’t see until near the end of the survey.

Similar to the other prairie provinces, conditions have been very dry in most places in southern Saskatchewan, with some pockets of OK pond conditions in south-central Saskatchewan. In some instances, the few ponds that do have water along our survey segments are chock-full of ducks because of little water to be found elsewhere.

The grassland portion of the survey is nearing completion, and we will be moving into the parklands of northern and eastern Saskatchewan in the next day or two. The survey has gone relatively smoothly so far. We are most fortunate to have the experience of Phil Thorpe (pilot) and Stephen Chandler (observer) in the air. On the ground, we are a crew of seven, and I think we are a good mix of experience and youth (and the accompanying fitness and enthusiasm that comes along with our younger members). We had three down days last week due to cold and wet weather, which gave us muddy, slippery roads, and temporary water at the bottom of some wetland basins that I am sure were bone-dry just a few days earlier. I expect pond numbers will increase as we move into the parkland, but will still be below the pond numbers that we have seen in the most recent years, and along with that, duck numbers will also be lower. Now, we just have to hope that the good weather will hold until the end of the survey.

In some places where there is water, there are lots of ducks. Photo Credit: Blake Bartzen, CWS.

In some places where there is water, there are lots of ducks. Photo Credit: Blake Bartzen, CWS.

Diver pond: ring-necked ducks, redheads, and a scaup. Photo Credit: Blake Bartzen, CWS.

Diver pond: ring-necked ducks, redheads, and a scaup. Photo Credit: Blake Bartzen, CWS.