Ground Crew Update – Dryer than last year

Written by Garnet Raven
Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Photo of Garnet Raven.The Southern Alberta ground crew has been surveying the parklands over the last 3 days (May 16th-19th) and has found conditions to be dryer than expected. Most air-grounds have fewer wetlands and ducks than were observed last year. It seems like the central area of the province is the driest, with conditions improving slightly to the east and west. We’ve observed many seasonal and even some semi-permanent wetlands that contained decent water last year but are dry this year. Apparently the spring storms that hit the southern prairies did not contribute as much moisture to the central parklands. We’ve heard that at least one of the late April snow storms hit the St. Paul area quite hard, so we’re hopeful we’ll find decent moisture levels and good duck numbers in that part of Alberta. We will be surveying a couple of air-grounds in that area in the next couple of days, as well as several north of Edmonton. A wildfire is currently burning north of Edmonton and is very close to one of our air-ground survey routes. That is likely a good indication that conditions are very dry in that area as well. We will see exactly how close the fire is to our survey area and how it may affect our count and the habitat.

We are beginning to see quite a few small flocks of males, signifying that the breeding season is progressing and many hens are incubating nests. We’ve also noticed that leaf out and emergent wetland vegetation is further advanced in the parklands than it was in southern Alberta. If things go as planned, we hope to finish up around Edmonton this weekend and then head up to the Peace country in northwestern Alberta. We have 3 or 4 days of work up there. Precipitation reports show that the area between Grande Prairie and Peace River are well below average over the last few months. Additionally, the area was mostly missed by the April storms that hit much of the province. We will soon see how the lack of precipitation has affected the habitat conditions up there.

Small recessional lake. Note receding water line on the near side of the lake.

Small recessional lake. Note receding water line on the near side of the lake. Credit: Jim Leafloor, CWS.

Slash pile in a dry wetland basin in southern Alberta. Many landowners use the dry conditions to clear and stack brush.

Slash pile in a dry wetland basin in southern Alberta. Many landowners use the dry conditions to clear and stack brush. Credit: Jim Leafloor, CWS.

Local farmer seeding a dry field.

Local farmer seeding a dry field. Credit: Jim Leafloor, CWS.

Large slash pile in a dry wetland basin in southern Alberta. Many landowners use the dry conditions to clear and stack brush.

Large slash pile in a dry wetland basin in southern Alberta. Many landowners use the dry conditions to clear and stack brush. Credit: Jim Leafloor, CWS.

Very low water levels in a Type 4 wetland basin.

Very low water levels in a Type 4 wetland basin. Credit: Jim Leafloor, CWS.

Dry wetland basin in southern Alberta.

Dry wetland basin in southern Alberta. Credit: Jim Leafloor, CWS.

Slash pile in a dry wetland basin in southern Alberta. Many landowners use the dry conditions to clear and stack brush.

Slash pile in a dry wetland basin in southern Alberta. Many landowners use the dry conditions to clear and stack brush. Credit: Jim Leafloor, CWS.

Air crew surveying the Farrow air-ground south of Calgary, AB.

Air crew surveying the Farrow air-ground south of Calgary, AB. Credit: Steve Leach, Env. Canada.

Northern Shoveler hen on a wetland on the Gayford air-ground north of Calgary, AB.

Northern Shoveler hen on a wetland on the Gayford air-ground north of Calgary, AB. Credit: Steve Leach, Env. Canada.

Jim Leafloor (CWS) coming back from a wetland on the Pakowki air-ground in southern AB.

Jim Leafloor (CWS) coming back from a wetland on the Pakowki air-ground in southern AB. Credit: Steve Leach, Env. Canada.

A pair of Canada geese and a pair of mallards near a drawn down wetland on the Hay Lakes air-ground south of Edmonton, AB.

A pair of Canada geese and a pair of mallards near a drawn down wetland on the Hay Lakes air-ground south of Edmonton, AB. Credit: Anja Sorensen, CWS.