Dry in the South; Better as We Move North

Written by Jim Bredy
Saturday, May 16, 2015

Photo of Jim Bredy.At 13,500 feet of altitude, the majestic Rockies of Waterton Lakes National Park welcomed me back into Canada on May 03. After clearing customs and immigration in Calgary, I met Joe Sands in Lethbridge, Alberta. Dr. Sands is the expert waterfowl specialist for the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s Pacific Northwest Region. I was very fortunate to have Joe come back to Alberta for the surveys this year. He “know his ducks” while counting from the air. However, his high energy, enthusiasm, and good humor are the icing on the cake for some of the long survey days. We are now sitting in Edmonton, Alberta, and did not survey today due to the rain, high winds and resulting low-level turbulence.

After several pre-survey ground and air reconnaissance, we started the surveys on May 07. I may sound like a broken record to some of the earlier pilot reports, but the Short Grass Prairie Region of extreme Southern Alberta (Calgary-Brooks-Medicine Hat-Lethbridge) is very dry this year. We are listing most of that area with fair to poor wetland and upland habitat conditions for nesting waterfowl this year. Our pond counts in that area are down significantly from last year. However, as we worked our way north from that area, habitat conditions improved significantly. Much of the area at the southern edge of the Aspen Parkland Region (Red Deer-Coronation-Provost areas) has good wetland conditions.

We have a mandatory aircraft inspection that will be conducted starting May 19 in Edmonton (the “100 hour”). We have yet to survey the remainder of the survey area (Red Deer, Edmonton, Lloydminster, Cold Lake, Slave Lake, Grande Prairie and Peace River). We are hopeful for more of the good habitat conditions that we have started seeing, and will report on those areas after we take a “birds eye” look at them. Signing off for now...

While flying at 13,500 feet by Glacier and Waterton Lakes National Parks, these mountains welcomed Flyway Biologist Jim Bredy  into Canada for his 28th survey season.  USF&WS Photo by Jim Bredy

While flying at 13,500 feet by Glacier and Waterton Lakes National Parks, these mountains welcomed Flyway Biologist Jim Bredy into Canada for his 28th survey season. USF&WS Photo by Jim Bredy

Dr. Joe Sands, 2015 Southern Alberta Crew Member. USF&WS photo by Jim Bredy

Dr. Joe Sands, 2015 Southern Alberta Crew Member. USF&WS photo by Jim Bredy

Joe Sands and Jim Bredy, stand in front of the trusty and ever reliable Partenavia Observer aircraft. Photo Credit: Jim Bredy

Joe Sands and Jim Bredy, stand in front of the trusty and ever reliable Partenavia Observer aircraft. Photo Credit: Jim Bredy

Wind Turbines continue to popup in this area of Southern Alberta, close to the town of Pincher Creek.  This is not the view one hopes to see when flying a duck survey transect.   The dry landscape is also typical of the area.  USF&WS photo by Jim Bredy

Wind Turbines continue to popup in this area of Southern Alberta, close to the town of Pincher Creek. This is not the view one hopes to see when flying a duck survey transect. The dry landscape is also typical of the area. USF&WS photo by Jim Bredy

The shadow of the Partenavia survey aircraft is silhouetted against this typical dry wetland basin.  This is located 30 miles south of Empress, Alberta.  USF&WS photo by Jim Bredy.

The shadow of the Partenavia survey aircraft is silhouetted against this typical dry wetland basin. This is located 30 miles south of Empress, Alberta. USF&WS photo by Jim Bredy.

This weather forecast indicated the Calgary area to be clear this morning.  An un-forecast snow squall cleared out early enough, so that we could continue our surveys today.  This photo is of downtown Calgary, as we were on our way to count more ducks.  When flying surveys up here, one needs to be prepared for the unexpected.  After the results of the Stanley Cup Playoffs last night (the Calgary Flames lost to the Ducks), the air traffic controller indicated to the air crew that they do not like ducks.  USF

This weather forecast indicated the Calgary area to be clear this morning. An un-forecast snow squall cleared out early enough, so that we could continue our surveys today. This photo is of downtown Calgary, as we were on our way to count more ducks. When flying surveys up here, one needs to be prepared for the unexpected. After the results of the Stanley Cup Playoffs last night (the Calgary Flames lost to the Ducks), the air traffic controller indicated to the air crew that they do not like ducks. USF&WS photo by Jim Bredy

These dry wetland basins, located  20 miles northeast of the town of Medicine hat Alberta, are typical of much of the habitat in this area of the "short-grass-prairie" region of southeast Alberta.  USF&WS photo by Jim Bredy.

These dry wetland basins, located 20 miles northeast of the town of Medicine hat Alberta, are typical of much of the habitat in this area of the "short-grass-prairie" region of southeast Alberta. USF&WS photo by Jim Bredy.

The wetland conditions in the southern portion of the Aspen Parkland Region have improved significantly when compared to the very southern regions of Alberta.  Although the upland habitat conditions are poor in this photo due to the farming in these fields, better habitat conditions prevail elsewhere in the southern portion of the Aspen Parkland Region. Photo Credit: Jim Bredy, USFWS

The wetland conditions in the southern portion of the Aspen Parkland Region have improved significantly when compared to the very southern regions of Alberta. Although the upland habitat conditions are poor in this photo due to the farming in these fields, better habitat conditions prevail elsewhere in the southern portion of the Aspen Parkland Region. Photo Credit: Jim Bredy, USFWS