Survey’s a Wrap in Eastern Dakotas

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Written by Terry Liddick
Sunday, June 02, 2013

Terry LiddickWell. After a long battle with Mother Nature, the Eastern Dakota’s Breeding Population Survey was completed on June 2nd. It may not have been the first time in history that the survey was completed in June, but it was a first for me. The rain would just not stop! We endured 5 days of rain in Minot ND where we did not fly at all, and another 2 mornings where fog and mist prevented us from taking off before 10:00 a.m. Because our SOP requires us to quit counting by noon, that made for two pretty short mornings! That being said, there wasn’t a whole lot of complaining because the Dakotas certainly needed the rain! It was a battle against the elements from the time we entered North Dakota.

The fortunate part of the delays is that they didn’t seem to significantly impact the survey. I believe the late arriving spring resulted in late arriving waterfowl and nesting attempts, so the survey was still able to capture an accurate picture of the breeding population. Even on June 2nd, the ratio to breeding pairs to lone drakes was good and there was not a significant number of large flocks of drakes that we sometimes encounter late in May, let alone June. The numbers of breeding waterfowl appeared near the 2011 and 2012 numbers, even though the landscape was quite dry in the beginning of the survey.

South Dakota enjoyed some of the much needed rain after we had completed that portion of the survey, and we sat for 10 days during rain storms while trying to complete North Dakota. By the time we finished, there was a vast improvement in the number of seasonal wetlands as well as water levels in the permanent wetlands. The coteau regions still held the bulk of the waterfowl, as I’m sure they settled there earlier in the month when it was still pretty dry across the drift. As we continued the survey, seasonal wetlands began to fill or increase in the amount of water they held, but there were a lot of vacant wetlands.

The rain provided much needed moisture for vegetation growth and nesting cover as well. By the end of the survey, as I flew from Minot, ND, back to Spearfish, SD, you could see a marked improvement in the number of wetlands as well as the upland nesting cover. So the rain may have come a little late, but I believe it did provide a great boost to the production that will come from the Eastern Dakota’s in 2013. It may not be a banner year, but production from the Eastern Dakotas should be good in 2013 thanks to the timely rain. Have a great 2013 season and we’ll see you all again next year!