Southern Saskatchewan survey begins

Written by Phil Thorpe
Monday, May 04, 2009

Phil ThorpeWe kicked off the survey of southern Saskatchewan today. The extent of the new water was really apparent from high altitude during the flight up to Regina from my home base in Denver on May 5th. Last year, most of the grasslands were dry, but this year there is abundant water in the south.

Typically, I start this survey a few days earlier but below average temperatures and ice cover on some of the larger water bodies suggest it is a late spring. My observer, Pat Devers and I conducted two days of reconnaissance flights to evaluate the presence, distribution and behavior of the ducks. The late spring was evident – temperatures were below normal and snow flurries were in the air. The late-nesting species were present but weren’t really showing all the social cues that would indicate they were far into the nesting cycle. We saw snow and white-fronted geese south of Regina in large numbers, indicating a delayed migration for the arctic nesting species, too. Also, most of the aspens are still dormant. So we delayed the start of the survey for a few days, but couldn’t wait too long or we would miss the early-nesting species like mallards and pintails, which were showing all the signs of nesting.

This wetland was dry in 2008. Credit: Phil Thorpe (USFWS)

14 miles north of the US border near Big Muddy, much improved habitat conditions. Credit: Phil Thorpe (USFWS)

Improved water conditions from 2008. Credit: Phil Thorpe (USFWS)