A Tale of Two Stories

Written by Kammie Kruse
Friday, May 31, 2013

Photo of Kammie Kruse.Whew, this was the latest I have been out counting ducks for the ground crew in my 12 years on the survey, but we finally finished the last Air-Ground transect on May 31 on a cold and dreary day.

The survey this year was the tale of 2 stories...South Dakota habitat conditions were pretty dry (despite the late spring snow storms - see the second to last photo below) but still pretty “ducky” on some of our AGs and we only had one weather day. Then we got into North Dakota and Mother Nature decided to drench the landscape with multiple inches of rain which caused multiple days down due to weather. It was much needed moisture and the wetlands in ND filled up and the upland habitat greened up. This was more like it! My overall impression is that duck numbers were comparable to the last two years—maybe a little lower—and the habitat conditions went from poor to good as we moved north.

Each year there is always one incident that stands out….this year it was being interviewed by soldiers who were not quite sure what these crazy people were doing running around pastures in hip boots and binoculars around one of the missile silos located in North Dakota. Once we made it clear we were just counting ducks they let us continue on our way but it was a few nerve wracking moments for us. :)

So another year in the bucket and looking forward to what next May might bring.

Usually we find wood ducks hanging out in wooded wetlands but this pair was caught sneaking off in the grass.

Usually we find wood ducks hanging out in wooded wetlands but this pair was caught sneaking off in the grass. Photo by Kammie Kruse, US FWS

American green-winged teal male.

American green-winged teal male. Photo by Kammie Kruse, US FWS

Blue-winged teal male taking a nap.

Blue-winged teal male taking a nap. Photo by Kammie Kruse, US FWS

Ground crew member James Hoskins surveying a pond.

Ground crew member James Hoskins surveying a pond. Photo by Kammie Kruse, US FWS

May 15th and we are still seeing snow on the ground in eastern  South Dakota!!

May 15th and we are still seeing snow on the ground in eastern South Dakota!! Photo by Kammie Kruse, US FWS

This is the one lone Cinnamon Teal that the ground crew found in the entire Eastern Dakotas survey area. Cinnamon teal breeding range is mainly in the intermountain west.

This is the one lone Cinnamon Teal that the ground crew found in the entire Eastern Dakotas survey area. Cinnamon teal breeding range is mainly in the intermountain west. Photo by Kammie Kruse, US FWS