Eastern Dakotas Finally Finished

Written by Kammie Kruse
Friday, May 29, 2015

Photo of Kammie Kruse.When we were looking out our hotel window at the start of our 6th down day due to weather—and knew that two more were on the horizon—it looked like we would never finish the Eastern Dakotas ground survey, or even get into North Dakota! But starting May 19 we got to work again and did not stop until we were done nine days later. As Terry has written in his blog, when we finally got into North Dakota, the habitat conditions improved and duck numbers increased from what we had seen in South Dakota. Though I will say they are nothing like they were a few years ago in our peak wetland years; instead, many wetlands are leaning towards the drier side. North Dakota definitely helped our overall duck count this year, but this was a lower count than in recent years, with many ducks flying on past to the Canadian prairies and bush country.

A highlight for me this year was getting to see the elusive prairie Big Foot...yes I said Big Foot! As we were heading to our first transect in North Dakota, driving on a remote highway, we came over a hill and as I looked over at the end of the tree belt, there he was...BIG FOOT! The North Dakota family that lives on this remote stretch have a great sense of humor putting up this Bigfoot sign and it definitely made my day :)

We had our ups and downs this year. The downs included eight weather days, one crew member coming down with bronchitis and another (me) catching a bad cold (luckily during the weather days); but we also had our ups, including getting to work with a hard-working crew that loved being out in the field, not getting the vehicle stuck and enjoying a couple of home-cooked meals provided by Helina (awesome enchiladas) and Chris (grilled fish he caught on a weather day). As Helina said "home cooked meals are under-appreciated until you don't have one for a long time." Thanks to this great crew, we weathered our many weather days and completed a great waterfowl survey.

Semi-permanent wetland. Photo Credit: Kammie Kruse, USFWS

Semi-permanent wetland. Photo Credit: Kammie Kruse, USFWS

Bigfoot does exist! Photo Credit: Kammie Kruse, USFWS

Bigfoot does exist! Photo Credit: Kammie Kruse, USFWS

Taking a snooze. Photo Credit: Kammie Kruse, USFWS

Taking a snooze. Photo Credit: Kammie Kruse, USFWS

Divers and dabblers. Photo Credit: Kammie Kruse, USFWS

Divers and dabblers. Photo Credit: Kammie Kruse, USFWS

American Bittern. Photo Credit: Kammie Kruse, USFWS

American Bittern. Photo Credit: Kammie Kruse, USFWS