Blue Skies, No Clouds, and no Flying?

Written by Jim Bredy
Thursday, May 12, 2011

Photo of Jim Bredy.We started flying the Southern Alberta portion of the survey near the MT border on May 8, and have since flown survey lines as far north as Calgary. The short-grass prairie areas of the survey are a stark difference from 2 years ago. In 2009, some of these segments had very few ponds. This year, many of the wetland basins have water in them, and some of them are overflowing. The pintails especially seem to have responded to these excellent habitat conditions. Weather permitting, we still have about two weeks left of aerial surveying.

Today we have blue skies , no clouds and are not flying. This is because of increased winds. The survey Standard Operating Procedures limit the times we can fly due to various wind conditions. One reason is that when it becomes turbulent, more time is spent flying/fighting the windy conditions, and less time counting the ducks. Another reason is that the windy conditions cause a "chop" or turbulent condition on the ponds, making identifying waterfowl challenging, even for seasoned observers. And the most important reason is for safety of the flight crew. We will get back in the air when it is safe to do so. Until then, we have lots of data to summarize. Keep checking back for more information to come!

High altitude view of excellent wetland conditions near Calgary, Alberta.

High altitude view of excellent wetland conditions near Calgary, Alberta. Photo by Kevin Doherty, US FWS

These elk greeted us, as we surveyed the area just north of the Suffield military area in SE Alberta. The habitats in this area also have dramatically improved over the last several years.

These elk greeted us, as we surveyed the area just north of the Suffield military area in SE Alberta. The habitats in this area also have dramatically improved over the last several years. Photo by Kevin Doherty, US FWS

Wilidlife Biologist/Pilot Jim Bredy surveying an incredible site of excellent wetland conditions near Calgary, Alberta.

Wilidlife Biologist/Pilot Jim Bredy surveying an incredible site of excellent wetland conditions near Calgary, Alberta. Photo by Kevin Doherty, US FWS

This breath-taking view of the Rocky Mountains awaits us most mornings on our departure for our survey flights out of Calgary, Alberta.

This breath-taking view of the Rocky Mountains awaits us most mornings on our departure for our survey flights out of Calgary, Alberta. Photo by Kevin Doherty, US FWS

These managed wetland basins are overflowing into the surrounding habitats. Several years ago, the only water here was in the area immediately around the nesting islands.

These managed wetland basins are overflowing into the surrounding habitats. Several years ago, the only water here was in the area immediately around the nesting islands. Photo by Kevin Doherty, US FWS

Aerial crew for the 2011 Southern and Central Alberta Waterfowl Breeding Population Surveys. The Partenavia Observer in the background is the survey aircraft being used on this survey. The large plexiglass nose offers superior visibility, while the twin engines offer an added measure of safety to the crew.

Aerial crew for the 2011 Southern and Central Alberta Waterfowl Breeding Population Surveys. The Partenavia Observer in the background is the survey aircraft being used on this survey. The large plexiglass nose offers superior visibility, while the twin engines offer an added measure of safety to the crew. Photo by Kevin Doherty, US FWS

On Transect. The Partenavia Observer is the aircraft used for the 2011 May Waterfowl Breeding Population surveys in Southern and Central Alberta. The large plexiglass nose offers superior visibility, while the twin engines offer an added measure of safety to the crew.

On Transect. The Partenavia Observer is the aircraft used for the 2011 May Waterfowl Breeding Population surveys in Southern and Central Alberta. The large plexiglass nose offers superior visibility, while the twin engines offer an added measure of safety to the crew. Photo by Murray Gillespie, Ducks Unlimited Canada

This portion of the

This portion of the "Prairie Pothole" region of SE Alberta is also callled Short Grass Prairies. When wet, the area can produce a lot of ducks. Two years ago, the wetlands in this area were mostly dry. Aided by a cold, wet winter, most of the wetlands in this area now have water in them. Photo by Kevin Doherty, US FWS

This photo was taken of flags near our motel in Edmonton, Alberta on May 15, 2011. The winds today were predicted to gust from 60-70 km/hr. High winds that are

This photo was taken of flags near our motel in Edmonton, Alberta on May 15, 2011. The winds today were predicted to gust from 60-70 km/hr. High winds that are "shredding" these flags, are not good duck survey conditions. More importantly, it is not safe to fly low level surveys when these windy conditions persist. Photo by Jim Bredy, US FWS