Survey Begins in Eastern Dakotas

Written by Terry Liddick
Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Terry LiddickThe Eastern Dakota’s survey crew is assembled and ready to go. The survey got underway Sunday, 3 May when the aircrew and part of the ground crew arrived in Mitchell, SD. The following day, the rest of the ground crew arrived and began reviewing and training. The aircrew is again this year—for the fifth consecutive year—comprised of pilot/biologist Terry Liddick and observer Dave Fronczak. The ground crew will once again be led by Kammie Kruse.

The flight from Spearfish, SD, to Mitchell, SD, revealed very dry conditions in southeastern South Dakota. That was not surprising after a very dry winter and spring. A more localized reconnaissance flight early Monday morning showed more of the same. We flew around for about 2.5 hours looking for ducks, species composition and pairing, as well as water. Water seemed to be the hardest thing to find. Where we found water we found ducks, not a lot of them, but they are here. All of the species we expect and they look like they were pairing well. So with that we commenced the survey this morning, May 5th.

We began south of Mitchell in the Parkston, SD, vicinity and flew a couple transects between Winner and Sioux Falls. If the first transects are any indication of things to come, production will be low in the eastern Dakotas again this year. It appears even drier than last year and in many segments we were unable to record a single duck. Nearly every ephemeral wetland was dry and other than a few streams and rivers, there wasn’t a lot of water to be found.

So after nearly a month of preparation, we are off and flying. It’s not looking good by early indications, but be sure to check back soon to see if things improve. Soon we will be posting a few pictures and videos. I’m sure the coteau regions will look OK, but we are not optimistic so far considering the early observations.