Southeastern Montana Completed and the Dry Conditions Continue

Written by Rob Spangler
Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Rob SpanglerThe habitat in southeastern Montana is very dry this year - similar to the western Dakotas. Basins are averaging 20-30% of capacity and there are many that are dry altogether. We are also starting to observe larger groups of birds (males and females) that could be skipping breeding this year instead of flying north into Canada for better conditions. Ducks do not breed very well when they are crowded into the few ponds we are finding. When crowding conditions occur breeding success is often lower due to stress of interaction and lack of suitable nesting areas. Lack of water also concentrates cattle on vegetation around available water, destroying nesting cover. Based on the increased numbers of waterfowl that our biologists are observing just to the north we are hopeful that many of these birds wised up and set up camp in Canada this spring.

Many ponds look like this in southern Montana.

Many ponds look like this in southern Montana. Photo Credit: Jon Klimstra, USFWS

Flying waterfowl surveys in Montana is challenging with quite of bit of broken ground compared to where I surveyed last year in southern Manitoba.

Flying waterfowl surveys in Montana is challenging with quite of bit of broken ground compared to where I surveyed last year in southern Manitoba. Photo Credit: Jon Klimstra, USFWS