Northern Alberta, Northeastern British Columbia and Northwest Territories

Beavers Provide Key Duck Habitat

Northern Alberta, Northeastern British Columbia and Northwest Territories
Written by Fred Roetker
Friday, May 28, 2010

Photo of Fred Roetker.Northern Alberta experienced an early spring. Although some of the lakes at higher elevations are still partially ice covered, break-up came early to the region. The beaver ponds, streams, and small lakes have been open for a few weeks and waterfowl nesting appears well underway. We are seeing lots of flocked mallard drakes, which indicates that the hens are incubating. Dryer conditions prevail; however, the beaver pond habitat and larger lake shorelines appear ideal. The early spring will bode well for waterfowl production here. We have now finished northern Alberta and northeastern British Columbia and have begun flying the Northwest Territories.

“A funny thing happened on the way to the survey”

Northern Alberta, Northeastern British Columbia and Northwest Territories
Written by Fred Roetker
Friday, May 21, 2010

Photo of Fred Roetker.We began surveying Northern Alberta on May 16. The logistics determining our route to the survey area began on a cold January evening over a Louisiana swamp. Paul Anderson, an Alaska pilot biologist, and I were flying a practice instrument approach into Lafayette, LA, over the Atchafalaya Basin when we heard and felt a loud bump. “How did we manage to encounter another aircraft in a radar environment?” I thought, as Paul voiced, “BIRDS!” We asked the controller if he was painting any bird activity around us, the response was negative, although he offered that sometimes they do “see” birds on radar. Upon landing we discovered four individual strikes; one on the left horizontal stabilizer, a second on the right horizontal stabilizer, one on the left landing gear leg, and one removed an antenna. There was lots of blood, some guts, and feathers. Our guess was the birds were either mallards or gadwall. I’ve cleaned lots of ducks and the windpipe from one still stuck on the tail sure looked mallard size. Also, we had noticed some mallards in the air just prior to dusk. Paul is a licensed aviation mechanic, and he and others conducted an inspection and concluded that although the dent on the tail was a bit unsightly; the aircraft could still be used to finish winter surveys. During a later inspection, although still airworthy, we decided the best practice would be to return the aircraft to the factory in Sandpoint, Idaho. The horizontal stabilizer was subsequently re-skinned and we were back to normal for the spring survey.

Habitat conditions generally good in northern Alberta and BC

Northern Alberta, Northeastern British Columbia and Northwest Territories
Written by Fred Roetker
Friday, June 05, 2009

Photo of Fred Roetker.A late spring delayed our start, and wind and weather have slowed us down a bit, but Carl Ferguson and I have finished our survey of northern Alberta and northeastern British Columbia. We are currently in Norman Wells, NWT. Habitat conditions are generally good across this survey area. Wetlands conditions vary as winter precipitation varied across the region. A fairly dry spring has limited the widespread flooding that often impacts early nesters. The important small wetlands often created by beaver dams appear to be in ideal condition. Although this is a late spring, there was an early warm up in some regions, which evidently allowed some early nesters to get underway in the smaller beaver flowages, ponds, and along miles and miles of small streams in this area. We are seeing flocked mallard drakes in these habitats, suggesting that some birds got an early start. However, the long lasting, severely cold winter is causing a delayed ice break up on the larger lakes. Consequently, we are still seeing groups of scaup and scoters in open leads along shorelines. However, we are also observing strong numbers of pairs and drakes of these species in the smaller wetlands. We plan to leave Norman Wells tomorrow, cross the Arctic Circle and finish the survey from Colville Lake and Inuvik.

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