Alberta Ground Crew Finishes 2011 Survey

Written by Garnet Raven
Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Garnet RavenThe Alberta ground survey crew finished surveying the Alberta parklands on May 20th. We found conditions deteriorating as we pushed northward. Most of the parklands would be considered average for duck numbers, although moisture levels were improved over last year. With sufficient water available we expected to see more ducks than we did, but we suspect that many were short-stopped by the excellent conditions in the prairies. On the 21st and 22nd we completed our air-grounds in the boreal transitional area north of Edmonton and found duck and pond numbers continue to diminish.

On May 22nd we made our way northwest to the Peace parklands near Grande Prairie, Alberta. During our five-hour trip we drove through some smoky and hazy areas in the boreal. Many fires were burning in northern Alberta, a result of the dry conditions, and it was having an effect on visibility and air quality. We wondered how the smoke might affect our ability to survey, or more importantly, our pilot’s ability to fly the Peace parklands in the coming days.

As it turned out, the smoke, along with some clouds and rain, prevented our pilot Jim Bredy from flying on the 23rd. Fortunately, he had flown an air-ground the day before so the ground crew was able to accomplish something that day. With some good weather on the 24th, Jim decided to make the most of it and flew the remainder of the air-grounds. That allowed us to finish our ground survey work on the 24th and 25th and head back to Edmonton.

The 2011 Alberta waterfowl breeding population and habitat survey was a tale of two extremes. In the south and through much of the prairies, we found record numbers of ponds and waterfowl. It was the best I’d seen it and it was both fun and encouraging to see how quickly the prairies can rebound and how quickly the birds can respond. In central Alberta we witnessed an improvement over last year in regards to moisture levels, but there is still a ways to go. The Peace parklands are still experiencing a dry cycle and waterfowl numbers are suffering. Production should be excellent from the prairies this year, and if habitat conditions continue to improve in the parklands, Alberta may see record numbers of waterfowl in the years to come. Let’s hope this is the beginning of a wet and productive period throughout Alberta. Until next year, this is the Alberta ground crew signing off.

Anja Sorensen and Eileen Ewald surveying a wetland along the Clandonald air-ground in eastern Alberta.

Anja Sorensen and Eileen Ewald surveying a wetland along the Clandonald air-ground in eastern Alberta. Photo by Murray Gillespie

Wetland conditions were deteriorating through the northern parklands of Alberta.

Wetland conditions were deteriorating through the northern parklands of Alberta. Photo by Murray Gillespie

Bufflehead and Scaup on a permanent wetland.

Bufflehead and Scaup on a permanent wetland. Photo by Murray Gillespie

A female green-wing attracts the attention of many suitors.

A female green-wing attracts the attention of many suitors. Photo by Murray Gillespie

A redhead drake pursues a mate.

A redhead drake pursues a mate. Photo by Murray Gillespie