Survey Begins in the Dakotas

Written by Rob Spangler
Friday, May 06, 2016

Rob SpanglerGreetings everyone from the Western Dakotas and Eastern Montana crew! We departed for this year’s survey on May 2nd after waiting out another snowstorm in Colorado. So much for the apple blossoms and the apple crop in the backyard this year! I guess the cider recipe will have to wait another year. Tony Roberts and Brad Rogers, our trusty ground crew, arrived in Pierre, South Dakota, ahead of me anticipating my arrival. I am lucky to have Brenda Kelly, Waterfowl Biologist, from Wisconsin DNR to assist as aerial observer again this year. We all felt a little anxious to get started as the breeding phenology was progressing quickly. After a warm-up flight to brush up on our distance estimation and waterfowl ID we started the survey on May 3rd.

Overall our survey area in South Dakota has been pretty dry, but recent rains helped to alleviate the conditions somewhat. Within fifty miles of Pierre, conditions actually looked pretty good, but many seasonal wetlands were dry farther to the west. Rains came later in the year, so we are still uncertain if wetlands filled in time for birds migrating north, or if many overflew to look for better conditions. Stay tuned.

The Western Dakotas and Eastern Montana Air and Ground Crews for 2016. Left to right: Brad Rogers, USFWS; Brenda Kelly, Wisconsin DNR; Rob Spangler, USFWS, and Tony Roberts, USFWS. Photo Credit: Rob Spangler, USFWS.

The Western Dakotas and Eastern Montana Air and Ground Crews for 2016. Left to right: Brad Rogers, USFWS; Brenda Kelly, Wisconsin DNR; Rob Spangler, USFWS, and Tony Roberts, USFWS. Photo Credit: Rob Spangler, USFWS.

A recently filled wetland near Pierre, South Dakota. Photo Credit: Rob Spangler, USFWS

A recently filled wetland near Pierre, South Dakota. Photo Credit: Rob Spangler, USFWS