Air Crew Still Trying to Get to Alberta

Written by Jim Bredy
Thursday, May 06, 2010

Jim BredyMy observer Dave Fronczak and I landed in Billings, MT yesterday evening, still trying to get to Alberta. We left late yesterday morning from Minneapolis, MN, where the mechanics just completed an FAA-required annual preventative maintenance inspection on the survey aircraft. The survey start has also been delayed by high winds and wintery precipitation, all of which have precluded us from even arriving in Alberta. These weather delays, which on the surface appear bad, may actually provide a “breath of fresh air” to the continuing dry conditions in Alberta. Canada Drought Watch has indicated record dry conditions again for the winter (http://www.agr.gc.ca/pfra/drought/prpwi10_e.htm). These dry conditions have adversely affected the quality of the nesting cover in this part of Canada. However, the recent storms have helped to replenish some of the wetland basins (http://www.agr.gc.ca/pfra/drought/prrl30dy_e.htm).

Due partially to the above, and the lack of a good frost seal, we are not expecting optimal conditions for breeding waterfowl this year in Southern and Central Alberta. What we really need to help replenish the wetland basins further, are several years of a good frost seal in the fall. In order for a good frost seal to occur, there needs to be ample fall moisture to moisten the ground, which then freezes. We also need a good winter snow pack. As the winter snows melt, the still frozen ground delays the seeping of the melted moisture into the earth, thus leaving more ponds for breeding waterfowl during the spring breeding season. We hope to get to Alberta by Friday, and start surveying by Monday May 10. Mother Nature, however, has the last say on the survey start date.

Billings, MT airport. Waiting for it to stop snowing, so we can continue to our survey area in Alberta.  Photo by Jim Bredy.

Billings, MT airport. Waiting for it to stop snowing, so we can continue to our survey area in Alberta. Credit: Jim Bredy, USFWS