Changes in Crew; Changes in Conditions

Written by Phil Thorpe
Thursday, April 26, 2012

Photo of Phil Thorpe.Sarah Yates (nee Folsom) and I arrived in Regina today. Sarah flew with Walt Rhodes in 2010 as his observer. Lots of things have happened to Sarah since that survey. She flew the better part of a year for a wildlife-related non-profit research company doing migratory bird telemetry flights over the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in Louisiana. She got married. In her spare time she had a baby boy. And most recently, she is our new wildlife biologist-pilot-in-training. Pat Devers, my observer for the last 3 years, is working on black duck harvest models and hopes to return to the survey in a year or two. In the meantime, Sarah will be training with me this May and reviewing procedures she already knows and maybe learning a few new tricks of the trade.

It was another different year in southern Saskatchewan. Dry yet wet. The extensive flooding from last year is gone, fields are dry, and farmers have started cultivating. The majority of wetlands have sufficient water levels, but the shallow wetlands used by ducks when they first arrive are not present. Therefore, waterfowl species (i.e., pintails) that usually prefer shallow ponds have moved onto the few seasonal wetlands remaining and to other semi-permanent wetlands.

I’m not sure how they will like this setup. Typically, when pintails show up in the grasslands of Saskatchewan, they look around for about a week. If they like what they see, they stay and nest, if it is dry, they move north, potentially as far north as Alaska! So far from my brief look around, many are staying put.