Southern Alberta Survey Start Delayed

Written by Jim Bredy
Friday, May 06, 2011

Photo of Jim Bredy.I arrived in Calgary on May 2. It took me only 7 ½ hours of flight time from Albuquerque (with fuel stops in Jackson Hole, WY and Great Falls, MT), aided by a tail wind due to the leading edge of a low pressure system. The Observer arrived via commercial air on May 3. He is Kevin Doherty, PhD, from the Prairie Pothole Joint Venture Office in Bismark, ND. He is a very enthusiastic man, with an excellent knowledge of waterfowl and habitats.

Between May 4-6, we conducted aerial and ground reconnaissance with the Canadian Wildlife Service Ground Crew Leader, Garnet Raven. We looked at the aspen parkland habitats near Red Deer, and continued to the short grass prairie habitats of SE Alberta. We reviewed wetland data collection procedures, and conducted a short ground reconnaissance from the car. Many of the wetland basins near Red Deer were wet, with the birds appearing on breeding territories. However, we noted a lack of blue winged teal.

On May 5, we conducted an extensive aerial recon in the area between Calgary and SE Alberta. In my 23 years of flying over Alberta, I do not recall it ever looking this good. Most of the wetland basins in this area (strata 29 and 28) have water in them. Some areas look like the Dakotas. The vegetative growth is suppressed due to the cold, wet winter. We saw a lot of birds, especially pintails, and a large variety of other species. Almost all of the birds we saw today were in the larger ponds, and have not yet spread out to smaller breeding territories. We suspect that some of these birds may still be migrating through, and/or that there was a very prolonged wet winter in this area delaying breeding chronology. Most ponds in the Cypress Hills area were still frozen.

On May 6, we conducted another aerial recon further north, east of Calgary. The breeding chronology here appeared right on schedule, with lots of ponds also. We also reviewed waterfowl ID and wetland classification procedures from the air. Due to the variable conditions we observed the last several days, we decided to delay the survey start a few days until Sunday, May 8, weather permitting. We do not want to count ducks here in the south, only to have ourselves, or the Northern Alberta crew, count them again further north.

We got a fresh oil change for the survey aircraft and are ready to roll! We will write more as the survey progresses.