Nearly Ready to Begin

Written by Jim Bredy
Saturday, May 04, 2013

Photo of Jim Bredy.The long winter of 2012/2013 slowly dissipated during the month of April, with some communities in Southern Alberta recording temperatures in the low 20 C range towards the end of the month. However, the last few days of April saw winter return with a vengeance. This slowed down the already rapidly advancing waterfowl breeding activities. My departure for the surveys was delayed as this same storm system moved through parts of the US. I finally departed Albuquerque, New Mexico, in the early morning of Friday, May 3. It was a smooth ride as I rode through the trailing edge of a high pressure system. I made a fuel/lunch stop in Cody, Wyoming. As I continued north, I crossed a cold front south of Great Falls, Montana, and chose to spend the night there.

I continued the flight northward the morning of May 4. I crossed the border at the Milk River Ridge area southeast of Lethbridge, Alberta. All wetland basins were open and free of ice, with a trace amount of snow around some of the wetland margins. Between Lethbridge and Calgary, all snow was gone in the prairies, and all ponds were open and free of ice.

As I crossed the Milk River Ridge, and into the farmland area southeast of Lethbridge, I was a bit surprised as to how dry it was. I expected to see more wetland basins full. Although there was water in a lot of them, most basins here were not full, and many were empty. The quality of wetland conditions improved dramatically as I neared the Calgary area. About 20 miles southeast of Calgary, most wetland basins had water in them.

Overall, the vegetation development appears a bit behind last year, but not significantly so. This development could accelerate, because the temperatures are forecast to be in the mid 20C range next week. The afternoon of May 4, I spoke over the phone with Garnet Raven, the Canadian Wildlife Service Ground Crew Leader. He said there are a few ponds left with ice on them in the Edmonton area, and that the area is thawing out rapidly, but that he has not seen any blue-wings yet up there.

My crew member Jay Hitchcock arrives tomorrow. I am looking forward to working again with this fine waterfowl man, from the heart of the duck country in Arkansas. We will conduct a ground and aerial reconnaissance to the south on Monday, and will meet with Garnet Raven on Tuesday to conduct a ground and air recon to the northeast of Calgary. Unless we see anything significantly different, we expect to start on May 9 or 10.

Stay tuned for more information as the survey progresses.

Most of the wetland basins in the Milk River Ridge are full. The upland vegetation development is a little behind schedule, due to the long/hard winter.

Most of the wetland basins in the Milk River Ridge are full. The upland vegetation development is a little behind schedule, due to the long/hard winter. Photo by Jim Bredy, US FWS

Farmland between the Montana border and southeast of Lethbridge, Alberta. Most of the prairie snow cover has already melted.

Farmland between the Montana border and southeast of Lethbridge, Alberta. Most of the prairie snow cover has already melted. Photo by Jim Bredy, US FWS

Southern Alberta had normal to above normal precipitation last winter. However, there still are some wetland basins that are not in optimum shape for waterfowl breeding this spring.

Southern Alberta had normal to above normal precipitation last winter. However, there still are some wetland basins that are not in optimum shape for waterfowl breeding this spring. Photo by Jim Bredy, US FWS

Good wetland conditions greet the start of the survey near Calgary, Alberta.

Good wetland conditions greet the start of the survey near Calgary, Alberta. Photo by Jim Bredy, US FWS