Where There Is Water, There Are Ducks!

Written by Garnet Raven
Sunday, May 13, 2012

Photo of Garnet Raven.The Alberta ground survey crew has been able to survey at least one air-ground segment every day since beginning our survey on May 5th. High winds, rain and snow have caused our air crew to miss a couple of survey days, but fortunately it was on days when we had enough air-grounds already flown to keep us busy.

Conditions in stratum 29, 28 and 27 have been considerably dryer than last year. Nevertheless, decent wetland numbers have been observed and where there is water, there are ducks! I think we have seen more ducks per wetland this year than any other year in recent memory. It appears the awesome conditions of a year ago produced a great crop of ducks and now they’re back and looking to settle near whatever water they can find.

We have moved into the parklands over the last couple of days and have found some pockets of good habitat and some pockets with just fair conditions. However, so far our duck numbers are rivaling those observed last year, even though there are many fewer wetlands. Last year we found excellent conditions in the parklands, but duck numbers were less than expected, possibly due to many birds short-stopping in the very wet southern prairies. Perhaps this year the parklands will reap the benefits of all the ducks produced on the prairies in 2011. We will soon know for sure. If our weather holds, we will be finishing our 2012 survey in the next few days.

Jim Bredy (pilot) flying the Spondin air-ground in southern Alberta. This brief video clip shows the altitude and speed the pilot and observer fly when counting waterfowl. Video by Mike Watmough/Canadian Wildlife Service.

A pond full of ducks on the Hughenden air-ground in the southern parklands of Alberta.

A pond full of ducks on the Hughenden air-ground in the southern parklands of Alberta. Credit: Murray Gillespie, Ducks Unlimited Canada

A newly hatched gosling brood observed on the Stirling air-ground in southern Alberta.

A newly hatched gosling brood observed on the Stirling air-ground in southern Alberta. Credit: Murray Gillespie, Ducks Unlimited Canada

Kim Jones scanning a wetland on the Claresholm air-ground in southern Alberta.

Kim Jones scanning a wetland on the Claresholm air-ground in southern Alberta. Credit: Murray Gillespie, Ducks Unlimited Canada

A great blue heron observed near the Hanna air-ground.  Look at those eyes!  How would you like to be a frog looking up and seeing that?

A great blue heron observed near the Hanna air-ground. Look at those eyes! How would you like to be a frog looking up and seeing that? Credit: Murray Gillespie, Ducks Unlimited Canada

Pilot Jim Bredy and observer Jay Hitchcock surveying the Coronation air-ground in south-central Alberta.

Pilot Jim Bredy and observer Jay Hitchcock surveying the Coronation air-ground in south-central Alberta. Credit: Murray Gillespie, Ducks Unlimited Canada