Timing is Good; Survey is Underway

Written by Brenda Kelly and Rob Spangler
Sunday, May 03, 2015

Rob SpanglerHello and greetings from Pierre, South Dakota, and your Dakotas/Montana Aerial Crew (Rob Spangler – Biologist/Pilot and Brenda Kelly, Biologist). Yesterday, we flew a mission to test our fixed transect width, survey computers, and to observe social phenology of waterfowl. After landing, we met up with our trusty ground crew (Pam Garrettson and Tony Roberts) to look at wetlands and birds at ground level. Social pairing of mallard, northern pintail, blue winged teal, northern shoveler and other species were observed with a good percentage of single drakes, so it looks like our timing was about perfect for the start. Today we flew two transects located in central South Dakota. From our aerial observations, conditions appear to be much drier this year compared to last, as many potholes and dugouts are dried out. Keep in mind, we’ve just started so there likely is a different story to the north and west, but production in this part of the country will probably be lower than last year.

Outside of waterfowl, the sharp-tailed grouse population seems to be doing quite well, and then today we observed the usual cast of characters for the prairie—several prairie wolves (coyotes), pronghorn, mule deer, white-tailed deer and quite a few prairie dog towns. As it can happen, no one is immune to calamity, and although the air crew made headway today, the ground crew faced a challenge (see Pam’s last entry). They’re using our rental until the truck is fixed and plan to be back in business ASAP!

Until the next post, have a great day!

The 2015 Western Dakotas and Eastern Montana air and ground crews. Left to right: Brenda Kelly, Rob Spangler, Pam Garrettson, Tony Roberts.

The 2015 Western Dakotas and Eastern Montana air and ground crews. Left to right: Brenda Kelly, Rob Spangler, Pam Garrettson, Tony Roberts. Photo by Brenda Kelly, Wisconsin DNR

Dry wetlands observed in stratum 44 in South Dakota.

Dry wetlands observed in stratum 44 in South Dakota. Photo by Brenda Kelly, Wisconsin DNR

Getting N705 ready for the survey.

Getting N705 ready for the survey. Photo by Rob Spangler, USFWS

Some water found in stratum 44 of South Dakota, though still mostly dry wetlands.

Some water found in stratum 44 of South Dakota, though still mostly dry wetlands. Photo by Rob Spangler, USFWS