No News is Good News

Written by Pam Garrettson
Friday, May 30, 2014

Pam Garrettson.The big story this year was that there really wasn’t much of one, and really, that’s a good thing. Everything went smoothly, the weather was good, there was some water, and some ducks, we put a lot of miles on the truck, and got back almost as early as I ever have. So, let’s talk about the weather. Generally, it was cool and overcast, and it rained a few days. On average, temperatures were about 20 degrees cooler than last year. As Rob and I have noted, it was considerably wetter than last year. On our air-ground segments, we counted 76% more ponds than last year, and more than twice as many ducks.

It’s pretty obvious that water attracts ducks, but some species respond more strongly than others. Pintails and blue-winged teal tend to go where the water is, especially where there is a lot of “sheet water” or shallow wetlands that will likely be dry within 3 weeks. When the prairies are dry, pintails will forego them in favor of boreal forest nesting areas. However, in these “overflight” years pintail reproduction is lower, and the average latitude at which pintails nest (along with the population estimate, this comes from BPOP survey data) is incorporated into analyses that are used to set pintail harvest regulations.

Some things that count can’t be counted, and my joy at being back out there doing one of the most fun jobs in the world is one of them. Another is my gratitude for the support and camaraderie from my colleagues in the waterfowl world. For several years I've battled a nasty case of Lyme disease, which made doing surveys difficult, and one year kept me home. With the help of so many folks, including my crewmate for the past two years, Brent West, I've gotten back to business as usual. In this case, no news really is good news.