Southern and Central Alberta

Southern and Central Alberta Complete

Southern and Central Alberta
Written by Jim Bredy
Monday, May 25, 2015

Photo of Jim Bredy.On May 25, Joe Sands and I completed the Southern and Central Alberta May Waterfowl Surveys. Overall, it was a mixed bag. I echo the same sentiments as provided by the Canadian Wildlife Service Ground Crew Leader, Garnet Raven. Most of far southern Alberta was dry. Conditions faded from the fair-good conditions southwest of Lethbridge, to fair and poor the further east we flew towards Medicine Hat. Many of the small, semi-permanent wetland basins (prairie pot-hole country, or short-grass prairie region) were dry, with greatly reduced water levels in the larger permanent wetlands. Conditions slowly improved to good conditions in much of the area between Red Deer, Provost, Lloydminster and Cold Lake. However, with these good conditions, the water levels were lower than last year. As we moved towards Slave Lake and the “Peace River” country, the wetland conditions deteriorated. Much of this area had significantly lower wetland conditions. The water appeared to be stagnant in a lot of the wetlands that were left in the Boreal Forest portion of this area. There were some good conditions in the far NW portion of Central Alberta’s stratum 76, between Grande Prairie, and Ft. St. John, British Columbia.

Remembering and Saying Thank You

Southern and Central Alberta
Written by Joe Sands
Saturday, May 23, 2015

Photo of Joe Sands.We are nearing the end of our survey, but still have to fly the north-central portion of Alberta. On Monday, I will have been on the road for 23 days. It’s a long time to be away from your family, but is worth it when you are working at a job you love. That said, my sacrifice is particularly small when compared to thousands of other Americans serving our country around the world.

Dry in the South; Better as We Move North

Southern and Central Alberta
Written by Jim Bredy
Saturday, May 16, 2015

Photo of Jim Bredy.At 13,500 feet of altitude, the majestic Rockies of Waterton Lakes National Park welcomed me back into Canada on May 03. After clearing customs and immigration in Calgary, I met Joe Sands in Lethbridge, Alberta. Dr. Sands is the expert waterfowl specialist for the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s Pacific Northwest Region. I was very fortunate to have Joe come back to Alberta for the surveys this year. He “know his ducks” while counting from the air. However, his high energy, enthusiasm, and good humor are the icing on the cake for some of the long survey days. We are now sitting in Edmonton, Alberta, and did not survey today due to the rain, high winds and resulting low-level turbulence.

Hawks Versus Ducks in the Western Final!

Southern and Central Alberta
Written by Garnet Raven
Thursday, May 14, 2015

Photo of Garnet Raven.The Alberta ground survey crew completed stratum 27 today and most of us have moved north to Wainwright. From here we will survey most of stratum 26 and bring the survey to a close in a few more days.

Onwards and Upwards

Southern and Central Alberta
Written by Garnet Raven
Sunday, May 10, 2015

Photo of Garnet Raven.The Alberta ground survey crew has been able to complete stratum 29 and should finish 28 tomorrow. Some of our crew moved on to Hanna today and we plan on surveying stratum 27 from here before moving north to survey stratum 26. Weather has cooperated, allowing us to survey each day since starting on May 7th. Our pilot Jim Bredy and observer Joe Sands missed one day to weather but have been able to stay ahead of us and keep us busy.

Up Days, Down Days: Chasing the Spring - Part 2

Southern and Central Alberta
Written by Joe Sands
Saturday, May 09, 2015

Photo of Joe Sands.Clear skies and low winds. An up day is the exact exhilarating opposite of a down day. Up early and to the airport after a quick breakfast and cup of coffee, we pre-flight the plane and brief today’s objectives: safety, flight plan, segments to cover. Our primary objective is always safety. It takes precedence over all other objectives. That said, counting waterfowl is great fun. In addition to the challenges presented by the survey itself—counting ponds by type, quick identification and counting of waterfowl, making sure your equipment is properly collecting data—there are excellent opportunities to see wildlife of all kinds. Sharp-tailed grouse rise off of ridgetops and glide into the cover of gullies. Pronghorn and mule deer look up at the plane as it passes over while coyotes maintain a cautious distance from the sound.

Up Days, Down Days: Chasing the Spring - Part 1

Southern and Central Alberta
Written by Joe Sands
Friday, May 08, 2015

Photo of Joe Sands.Snowing in Lethbridge this morning. Visibility and ceiling decreasing. Conditions are poor for flying so there will be no duck counting today. We call this a down day. Survey crews use down days to catch up on work from their home stations (in my case, Region 1 Migratory Birds), perhaps pay a few bills, work out, and finally get a chance to do laundry. Typical biologist work isn’t as exciting as counting birds. Catch-up work consists of emails and phone calls, paper reviews, and some writing/working on publications long past due. Though not exciting, this work is very important. It allows us to continue to work with partners to implement conservation projects, continue the cooperative process of managing migratory waterfowl populations within Flyways, and maintain a strong connection to science, which is necessary for the success of the first two items.

Alberta Ground Crew Off and Running

Southern and Central Alberta
Written by Garnet Raven
Thursday, May 07, 2015

Photo of Garnet Raven.The Alberta ground crew for the waterfowl breeding population and habitat survey gathered on Thursday, May 7th in Medicine Hat, Alberta. It looked like a winter wonderland in the Edmonton area this morning. Edmonton received up to a foot of snow on May 6th. As we headed south from Edmonton we found that the snow quickly disappeared south of the city. During the drive down from Edmonton we witnessed some good wetland conditions through the parklands. Conditions appeared to get increasingly dry as we drove further south, into the prairies. Alberta received less snowpack over the winter than in recent years and it appears that it has prevented many of the wetlands from recharging, especially in the south. Our pilot, Jim Bredy, was able to survey the two southernmost transects today, so our ground crew will be busy surveying the Pakowki and Manyberries air-ground transects tomorrow.

Getting There, Getting Ready, and Knowing What is Really Important

Southern and Central Alberta
Written by Joe Sands
Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Photo of Joe Sands.Three mallards in a chase flight above a field on the south side of Forest Grove. It is getting close to BPop. I can feel it. The beginning of each BPop is different. Last year’s trip involved a late arrival in Calgary followed by a wet weather drive down to Lethbridge. Don’t ask me how, but I picked up a late night AM radio broadcast of Oregon State University (Beavers) baseball on the stretch of Highway 3 between Ft. Macleod and Lethbridge (the Beavers were fighting off a rally when the signal faded). This year I left on the exact same day, flying from Portland, OR, to Calgary, AB, then driving to Lethbridge, AB. Long drives are thought provoking and I've had a lot of them in my career. The drive from Calgary to Lethbridge is no different as you pass from the Bow River to the Old Man watershed, and slow for a moment in places called Nanton and Clarseholm. I had plenty of time to reflect on the month leading up to leaving while looking at canvasbacks on roadside potholes.

Another Journey Begins

Southern and Central Alberta
Written by Jim Bredy
Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Photo of Jim Bredy.After months of preparations, the journey north to Canada started again for me on April 24, 2015. This will be my 28th year of flying aerial surveys in Canada. It is easy to fly north to the incredible waterfowl breeding areas in Canada. However, it is never easy leaving one’s spouse and family back in the states. After flying up to Canada for portions of four decades, this pilot has never gotten used to the separation from family.

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