2010 Survey Complete: Conditions and Duck Numbers Variable

Written by Jim Bredy
Saturday, May 29, 2010

Jim BredyYesterday, we rolled into Peace River, Alberta, after completing the 2010 Waterfowl Breeding Population and Habitat (BPOP) Aerial Survey for Southern and Central Alberta. We started this survey on May 11 near the Montana border, and worked our way north. Between May 24 and May 28, we surveyed the area between Edmonton, Cold Lake, Slave Lake, Grande Prairie, and Peace River, Alberta. Dave Fronczak, the Aerial Observer, and I met with the Ground Crew Leader, Garnet Raven from the Canadian Wildlife Service, to exchange data and thoughts about the survey. The last 5 days of flying started out good, but we often had to cut the flying short due to turbulent flight conditions.

In summary, we had a “mixed bag” in Southern and Central Alberta. It will take several weeks of analyzing all of the data to arrive at a more accurate estimate of the status of breeding waterfowl in this survey area. The good to excellent habitat conditions in the very southern portions of the province did not carry through to the northern portions of the survey area. Some portions of the survey area had higher uncorrected duck numbers (uncorrected for visibility bias, utilizing the ground crew correction factors from their ground surveys), and some had fewer. Uncorrected pond numbers also decreased in Central Alberta, compared to 2009 numbers. The good news is that some of the spring storms that plagued the completion of the survey are going to assist the quality of the remaining wetlands. As we transitioned into the boreal forest region, the permanent wetlands were not as adversely affected by the drier weather patterns. However, the water levels appeared lower than 2009.

(http://www.agr.gc.ca/pfra/drought/prpwi10_e.htm)
(http://www.agr.gc.ca/pfra/drought/prrl60dy_e.htm)
(http://www.agr.gc.ca/pfra/drought/prrl30dy_e.htm)
(http://www.agr.gc.ca/pfra/drought/prrl7dy_e.htm)

After going over the data with Mr. Raven, we all enjoyed a good dinner together. We talked about just how much we love what we do. I feel very fortunate to have been able to work with the very talented and dedicated Canadian Ground Crew. They are first class, all the way. For the second year in a row, I have also been fortunate to have such a great Observer in Dave Fronczak. He is a true team player and one of the top aerial waterfowl counters I have ever worked with in my 23 years of flying for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. I really look forward to this survey every year, but it is now time to go home. Until next year, I wish you all many enjoyable days afield.

This photo illustrates the agriculatural influences at the edge of the boreal forest.  It is located approximately 30 miles SE of Peace River, Alberta.   Credit:  Jim Bredy USFWS

This photo illustrates the agriculatural influences at the edge of the boreal forest. It is located approximately 30 miles SE of Peace River, Alberta. Credit: Jim Bredy USFWS

This photo was taken in the NE part of Stratum 76, a few miles south of Utikima Lake, between Slave Lake and Peace River, Alberta.  It is a typical stream in the boreal forest portion of this stratum.    Credit:  Jim Bredy USFWS

This photo was taken in the NE part of Stratum 76, a few miles south of Utikima Lake, between Slave Lake and Peace River, Alberta. It is a typical stream in the boreal forest portion of this stratum. Credit: Jim Bredy USFWS

This photo is of a typical pond in the boreal forest portion of stratum 76.  It is located in the northeast portion of the stratum, a few miles south of Utikima Lake, between Slave Lake and Peace River, Alberta.  These large boreal forest ponds hold water longer in dry periods, than the typical smaller prairie/pothole ponds further south.   Credit:  Jim Bredy USFWS

This photo is of a typical pond in the boreal forest portion of stratum 76. It is located in the northeast portion of the stratum, a few miles south of Utikima Lake, between Slave Lake and Peace River, Alberta. These large boreal forest ponds hold water longer in dry periods, than the typical smaller prairie/pothole ponds further south. Credit: Jim Bredy USFWS

This photo is typical of dry wetland basins in Stratum 76, located near Peace River, Alberta.  It is at the edge of the boreal forest.  Although recent rains and snow have helped wetland basins that still have water in them, the moisture was not enough to re-fill ones that were already dry.   Credit:  Dave Fronczak USFWS

This photo is typical of dry wetland basins in Stratum 76, located near Peace River, Alberta. It is at the edge of the boreal forest. Although recent rains and snow have helped wetland basins that still have water in them, the moisture was not enough to re-fill ones that were already dry. Credit: Dave Fronczak USFWS

This photo is of the clearing of trees, and the subsequent burning of them, at the edge of the boreal forest, near Peace River, Alberta.  This is a typical agriculture practice, which is used to create more land for farming.   Credit:  Dave Fronczak USFWS

This photo is of the clearing of trees, and the subsequent burning of them, at the edge of the boreal forest, near Peace River, Alberta. This is a typical agriculture practice, which is used to create more land for farming. Credit: Dave Fronczak USFWS