“If You Build It, They Will Come”

Written by Jim Bredy
Sunday, May 23, 2010

Jim BredyWe have been stuck on the ground due to weather the last 4 days. There are high winds gusting to 40 knots and snow flurries this morning. This reminds me of an old aviation saying: “It is better to be down here, wishing you were up there, rather than up there, wishing you were down here.” We have 4 segments left to fly to finish the Southern Alberta portion of the survey (Strata 26-29). Once we get those done, we will fly up to survey the area between Grande Prairie and Peace River.

As reported in an earlier report, the southern portions of the survey area have some of the best habitat conditions I have seen. The late spring storms filled a lot of wetland basins in the far southern portions of the survey area, and the ducks responded. Our uncorrected aerial estimates (using the ground crew counts from the air/ground segments) indicate an increase in ducks. We feel most of the habitat conditions in stratum 29 are good to excellent. As we moved northward, there was a noticeable difference in the quality of the wetlands. However, our uncorrected aerial counts still indicate an increase in ponds and ducks in strata 28 and 27. These later two strata encompass the area about halfway between Lethbridge and Calgary up to Red Deer, and over to the SK border.

The aspen parkland areas of Stratum 26 (Red Deer to Edmonton) are telling a different story. The central portions of this area are noticeably drier than last year. The eastern and western sections are wetter than the central portions. According to Agricultural Canada, this area has been the center of the drought the last several years. With 4 segments remaining to survey, there is also a noticeable decrease in ponds and duck numbers. The dry conditions are allowing farmers to drain and clear wetland areas that were previously inaccessible due to the higher water levels. I am still shocked that Beaverhill Lake, east of Edmonton, is totally dry. It was once a mecca for waterfowl, and provided a lot of prime habitat for both nesting and migrating waterfowl.

If you build it, they will come. Mother Nature blessed us with the rain and moisture in the south, helped to recharge some of the wetlands, and the ducks responded. We are hoping this 4-day rain event will help keep some of the wetlands here in stratum 26 from drying up further.

This photo is typical of the stream and upland habitats at the west end of stratum 27. It is approximately 30 miles NW of Calgary, Alberta.  Credit: Dave Fronczak, USFWS

This photo is typical of the stream and upland habitats at the west end of stratum 27. It is approximately 30 miles NW of Calgary, Alberta. Credit: Dave Fronczak, USFWS.

This photo is typical of the stream and upland habitats at the west end of stratum 27.  It is approximately 30 miles NW of Calgary, Alberta. Credit: Dave Fronczak, USFWS

This photo is typical of the stream and upland habitats at the west end of stratum 27. It is approximately 30 miles NW of Calgary, Alberta. Credit: Dave Fronczak, USFWS.

Dugout pond in a dry wetland basin.  Between Vegreville and Viking in Stratum 26, approximately 50 miles SE of Edmonton. Credit: Dave Fronczak, USFWS

Dugout pond in a dry wetland basin. Between Vegreville and Viking in Stratum 26, approximately 50 miles SE of Edmonton. Credit: Dave Fronczak, USFWS.

This photo is of Birch Lake between Vegreville and Wainwright, east of Edmonton, Alberta. Declining water levels have exposed the alkali flats surrounding this wetland in the central part of stratum 26. Credit: Dave Fronczak, USFWS

This photo is of Birch Lake between Vegreville and Wainwright, east of Edmonton, Alberta. Declining water levels have exposed the alkali flats surrounding this wetland in the central part of stratum 26. Credit: Dave Fronczak, USFWS.

This photo is typical of wetland basins interspersed with agriculture in the apsen parklands of stratum 26 in Alberta. Even though drought has affected a lot of wetland basins here, there still are some basins available for waterfowl. Credit: Dave Fronczak, USFWS

This photo is typical of wetland basins interspersed with agriculture in the apsen parklands of stratum 26 in Alberta. Even though drought has affected a lot of wetland basins here, there still are some basins available for waterfowl. Credit: Dave Fronczak, USFWS.

Wavy Lake in the central part of stratum 26 near Daysland, Alberta shows the effects of the drought.  Last year, it was mostly full with a lot of waterfowl use.  This year, most of the available water is due to the manmade enhanced wetland basins. Credit: Dave Fronczak, USFWS

Wavy Lake in the central part of stratum 26 near Daysland, Alberta shows the effects of the drought. Last year, it was mostly full with a lot of waterfowl use. This year, most of the available water is due to the manmade enhanced wetland basins. Credit: Dave Fronczak, USFWS.

These dry wetland basins show the effects of the drought near Daysland, Alberta.  They are located in the central part of stratum 26, SE of Edmonton. Credit: Dave Fronczak, USFWS

These dry wetland basins show the effects of the drought near Daysland, Alberta. They are located in the central part of stratum 26, SE of Edmonton. Credit: Dave Fronczak, USFWS.

This wetland is located in the NE corner of stratum 26, approximately 20 miles north of Lloydminster, Alberta.  The water levels of these wetlands are less affected by dry weather patterns, and tend to hold water longer than the typical smaller and shallower ponds in the prairie/pothole and aspen/parkland regions to the south west. Credit: Dave Fronczak, USFWS

This wetland is located in the NE corner of stratum 26, approximately 20 miles north of Lloydminster, Alberta. The water levels of these wetlands are less affected by dry weather patterns, and tend to hold water longer than the typical smaller and shallower ponds in the prairie/pothole and aspen/parkland regions to the southwest. Credit: Dave Fronczak, USFWS.