Good conditions continue in southeastern North Dakota

Written by Pete Fasbender and John Solberg
Saturday, May 22, 2010

John Solberg & Pete FasbenderOn Thursday, May 22, we completed the southern stratum (46) east of the Missouri River in North Dakota. Although conditions were not as wet as northern South Dakota, the majority of wetland habitats in North Dakota’s Missouri Coteau and glacial drift plain generally look good. Where the water in northern South Dakota is evenly distributed and probably in greater supply, water conditions in North Dakota are more variable with some areas drier than others. Farming activities are further behind in North Dakota and we did witness the ongoing installation of drain tile in the eastern part of the state. Nonetheless, conditions overall are good in the southern part of the state and we continued to tally strong numbers of breeding waterfowl in Stratum 46. Unlike South Dakota, where waterfowl species composition is primarily dabbling ducks, in North Dakota begins diver country. Western portions of the glacial plain and the Missouri Coteau are holding increased numbers of breeding scaup, redheads, and canvasbacks. The seemingly large numbers of breeding waterfowl further supports our early suspicion that the Dakotas “shortstopped” many birds this year. It appears many pairs opted to settle in our crew area and utilize the savings in migration energy for breeding here instead.

Both the air and ground crews arrived in Minot, ND, on May 21, following the completion of our first day of sampling in the northern stratum (45). Friday marked our eighth straight day of surveying and the end of a pretty good “run” in terms of flying. Friday also offered us our first computer glitch where, fifteen minutes into the flight, we were forced to land in Harvey, ND, to troubleshoot the system. After a short delay, success was achieved and we were back sampling. We were grounded yesterday due to wind, rain, low clouds, and reduced visibilities. Today, we’re on the ground again with winds in the 25 – 35 knot range. Yesterday and today, we fulfilled our flying/duty time limitations with a good rest, caught up on some paper work, and even had a chance to wash the bugs from the leading edges of the wings on the airplane. Hopefully, in three more days of surveying, we’ll have the eastern Dakotas “in the can” for 2010.

The northern portion of the Drift Plain in South Dakota contains ample wetlands and nesting cover.  Both air and ground crews recorded high numbers of waterfowl in this area.(Credit:  P. Fasbender, USFWS)

The northern portion of the Drift Plain in South Dakota contains ample wetlands and nesting cover. Both air and ground crews recorded high numbers of waterfowl in this area. Credit: P. Fasbender, USFWS

The northern portion of the Drift Plain in South Dakota contains ample wetlands and nesting cover.  Both air and ground crews recorded high numbers of waterfowl in this area.(Credit:  P. Fasbender, USFWS)

The northern portion of the Drift Plain in South Dakota contains ample wetlands and nesting cover. Both air and ground crews recorded high numbers of waterfowl in this area. Credit: P. Fasbender, USFWS

The northern portion of the Drift Plain in South Dakota contains ample wetlands and nesting cover.  Both air and ground crews recorded high numbers of waterfowl in this area. (Credit:  P. Fasbender, USFWS)

The northern portion of the Drift Plain in South Dakota contains ample wetlands and nesting cover. Both air and ground crews recorded high numbers of waterfowl in this area. Credit: P. Fasbender, USFWS

The northern portion of the Drift Plain in South Dakota contains ample wetlands and nesting cover.  Both air and ground crews recorded high numbers of waterfowl in this area.(Credit:  P. Fasbender, USFWS)

The northern portion of the Drift Plain in South Dakota contains ample wetlands and nesting cover. Both air and ground crews recorded high numbers of waterfowl in this area. Credit: P. Fasbender, USFWS

TThe northern portion of the Drift Plain in South Dakota contains ample wetlands and nesting cover.  Both air and ground crews recorded high numbers of waterfowl in this area.(Credit:  P. Fasbender, USFWS)

The northern portion of the Drift Plain in South Dakota contains ample wetlands and nesting cover. Both air and ground crews recorded high numbers of waterfowl in this area. Credit: P. Fasbender, USFWS

The northern portion of the Drift Plain in South Dakota contains ample wetlands and nesting cover.  Both air and ground crews recorded high numbers of waterfowl in this area.(Credit:  P. Fasbender, USFWS)

The northern portion of the Drift Plain in South Dakota contains ample wetlands and nesting cover. Both air and ground crews recorded high numbers of waterfowl in this area. Credit: P. Fasbender, USFWS

Pilot John Solberg (right) and Pete Fasbender enroute to survey. (Credit:  P. Fasbender, USFWS)

Pilot John Solberg (right) and Pete Fasbender enroute to survey. Credit: P. Fasbender, USFWS

The northern portion of the Drift Plain in South Dakota contains ample wetlands and nesting cover.  Both air and ground crews recorded high numbers of waterfowl in this area.(Credit:  P. Fasbender, USFWS)

The northern portion of the Drift Plain in South Dakota contains ample wetlands and nesting cover. Both air and ground crews recorded high numbers of waterfowl in this area. Credit: P. Fasbender, USFWS

The southern portion of the Prairie Coteau within North Dakota contains adequate water and good nesting cover.(Credit:  P. Fasbender, USFWS)

The southern portion of the Prairie Coteau within North Dakota contains adequate water and good nesting cover. Credit: P. Fasbender, USFWS

This is from the Drift Plain in southeast North Dakota.  Although this area was considerably drier than portions of north central South Dakota, adequate water and nesting habitat is present to support good waterfowl production.(Credit:  P. Fasbender, USFWS)

This is from the Drift Plain in southeast North Dakota. Although this area was considerably drier than portions of north central South Dakota, adequate water and nesting habitat is present to support good waterfowl production. Credit: P. Fasbender, USFWS

Habitat conditions appear in good condition along the James River south of Jamestown, North Dakota.(Credit:  P. Fasbender, USFWS)

Habitat conditions appear in good condition along the James River south of Jamestown, North Dakota. Credit: P. Fasbender, USFWS

This is typical for parts of central North Dakota.  Many of the wetlands are receding without the rainfall to fill them.  Waterfowl are present in these basins as the levels are adequate for breeding habitat and a moderate level of nesting habitat is available.(Credit:  P. Fasbender, USFWS)

This is typical for parts of central North Dakota. Many of the wetlands are receding without the rainfall to fill them. Waterfowl are present in these basins as the levels are adequate for breeding habitat and a moderate level of nesting habitat is available. Credit: P. Fasbender, USFWS

This is located in one of the drier parts of central North Dakota.  Many of the wetlands are receding without the rainfall to fill them.  Little waterfowl habitat is present in these landscapes. (Credit:  P. Fasbender, USFWS)

This is located in one of the drier parts of central North Dakota. Many of the wetlands are receding without the rainfall to fill them. Little waterfowl habitat is present in these landscapes. Credit: P. Fasbender, USFWS