Southern and Central Alberta

“There It Is! Hello Old Friend!”

Southern and Central Alberta
Written by Jim Bredy
Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Photo of Jim Bredy.After finishing flying the duck surveys in our respective crew areas, due to a plane malfunction, FWS Biologist/Pilot Rob Spangler and I were asked to fill in and fly the Northern Manitoba spring duck surveys. As we were flying along a transect near Cross Lake, we broke off line and flew north to the Cross Lake Narrows. We searched a bit, and as we got closer, I finally shouted out in excitement: “THERE IT IS!!” “It” is a 12’ X 12’ trapper’s cabin, where I spent the month of August in 1993 and 1994 trapping and banding ducks. They were some of the most challenging, and yet enjoyable, times I have had with the FWS in my 25 year tenure with this wonderful outfit.

Done, But Not Done

Southern and Central Alberta
Written by Jim Bredy
Friday, May 25, 2012

Photo of Jim Bredy.Jay Hitchcock and I finished the survey area yesterday morning. It was a total joy and pleasure working with this dedicated wildlife biologist and avid waterfowl man from White River National Wildlife Refuge in Arkansas. I have described my impressions of the survey and habitat conditions with the previous posts and photographs. In summary, there are significantly fewer ponds than last year. Several spring storms assisted in maintaining water levels in ponds, which will be beneficial to nesting waterfowl. Our raw duck count showed more ducks than last year, in part due to good 2011 production, and a lower than expected harvest during the last hunting season. Other neighboring habitat areas are also dry, making the returning birds more concentrated on the present water. The production and fall flight will be dependent in part on the continuing spring storms and the quality of the wetlands throughout the summer brood rearing period.

Almost Done

Southern and Central Alberta
Written by Jim Bredy
Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Photo of Jim Bredy.I echo Phil Thorpe’s (Southern Saskatchewan Crew Area) recent narrative about weather delays becoming harder to deal with towards the end of the survey. With only 15 segments left to fly (an easy morning’s flight), we are grounded in Grande Prairie, Alberta, due to rain, low ceilings and wind. It has been a long haul this year, due to unscheduled aircraft maintenance, a mandatory preventative maintenance inspection (for you airplane enthusiasts, the “100 hour”), several days of snow, rain and wind. The good news is that we are still alive. Flying in inclement weather kills pilots every year. As much as we love what we do, I echo the most memorable quote of my 25 year tenure with the FWS Pilot fraternity. The quote was by retired FWS Flyway Biologist, Jim Goldsberry, as he was mentoring me and advising me of the importance of getting the job done. “Remember, they are only ducks. They are not worth risking your life over.”

Done on the Ground in Alberta

Southern and Central Alberta
Written by Garnet Raven
Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Photo of Garnet Raven.The Alberta ground survey crew was able to finish our last transect today. While surveying the parklands we found fewer ponds than last year, but more ducks. That was actually the trend throughout most of the survey. Although it was significantly dryer than last year, the ducks were still around in good numbers. As expected, good production last year combined with decent habitat conditions this spring has set the table for another good fall flight. All we need now is enough moisture throughout the rest of the spring and summer to provide adequate nesting and brood-rearing habitat.

Southern Alberta Survey Portion Completed

Southern and Central Alberta
Written by Jim Bredy
Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Photo of Jim Bredy.Jay Hitchcock and I commenced the aerial portion of the survey near the Montana border on May 04. I am continually impressed by Jay’s aerial survey capabilities. In between a few weather delays, we finished the Southern Alberta portion (strata 26-29) on May 15. Our raw pond counts indicate fewer ponds than last year, with more birds present.

Where There Is Water, There Are Ducks!

Southern and Central Alberta
Written by Garnet Raven
Sunday, May 13, 2012

Photo of Garnet Raven.The Alberta ground survey crew has been able to survey at least one air-ground segment every day since beginning our survey on May 5th. High winds, rain and snow have caused our air crew to miss a couple of survey days, but fortunately it was on days when we had enough air-grounds already flown to keep us busy.

Southern Alberta Ground Crew Begins Survey

Southern and Central Alberta
Written by Garnet Raven
Saturday, May 05, 2012

Photo of Garnet Raven.The Alberta ground crew for the waterfowl breeding population and habitat survey gathered in Medicine Hat, Alberta, on Friday, May 4th. During the drive down from Edmonton we witnessed some good wetland conditions through the parklands. As we entered the southern prairies it was evident things were much dryer than last year. Waterfowl phenology appeared about right for beginning our survey. Our pilot, Jim Bredy, was able to survey the two southernmost transects on the 4th so our ground crew could begin on the 5th.

We’re Off! Nice Weather, Thunderstorms, and Gremlins

Southern and Central Alberta
Written by Jim Bredy
Sunday, April 29, 2012

Photo of Jim Bredy.I departed my home base of Albuquerque, NM, on April 23. High pressure was the dominating weather feature, with minimal winds at my cruising altitude of 12,500 feet. With an interim fuel stop in Big Piney, WY, I made it to Great Falls, MT, in a record time for me of 5 ½ hours. Weather en route was wonderful, with one of the smoothest cross country flights I have ever encountered for this route. The view of the Grand Tetons was spectacular as I flew by. I did, however, have to deviate around several afternoon thunderstorms between Jackson Hole, WY, and Great Falls, MT. With a maximum duty time of 8 hours of flight time/day, I was remarking how I could easily make it to Calgary, Alberta. However, that thought and silent statement of mine was my downfall. A “gremlin” got a-hold of my plane upon landing in Great Falls. I was delayed there for 5 days as I had some parts express-shipped in for unscheduled maintenance. I extend a VERY big thanks to the folks at Holman Aviation, especially Chuck Cottrell, who fixed the plane and got me quickly back up in the air. I finally departed on Saturday, April 28, and arrived in Calgary. I met my Observer, Jay Hitchcock, who flew in commercially from Arkansas. Jay is an ardent waterfowl man, who also is the Wildlife Biologist at the White River National Wildlife Refuge.

Time Flies When You Are Having Fun!

Southern and Central Alberta
Written by Jim Bredy
Friday, March 23, 2012

Photo of Jim Bredy.Preparations are well underway for another spring of duck surveys in Canada. It is hard to believe my journey with the FWS Migratory Bird Survey group started almost a quarter of a century ago, in Southern Alberta. In that “short” time, I literally have flown over much of North America. I am glad that I still have the privilege of working this year in Alberta. It is a wildlife and water-fowler’s dream world, with a large variety of habitats, such as the short grass prairie to the south, transitioning to the aspen parklands, the boreal forest transition north of Edmonton, the “Slave” Region and the “Peace” country. Some of the most spectacular Rocky Mountain scenery greets us in the southwest, with the mountains at the edge of our waterfowl survey transects. It is as if God cut off the top 5,000 feet of these majestic mountains, and set them there for us to enjoy as we are counting ducks. If you haven’t guessed it by now, Alberta is one of my favorite places on earth!

Good News, Bad News and a Case of Get-Home-Itis

Southern and Central Alberta
Written by Jim Bredy
Sunday, May 29, 2011

Photo of Jim Bredy.The good news is that we had a successful and safe aerial survey that concluded on May 25. The bad news is that I am still trying to get my aircraft back to New Mexico. The good news part of the bad news is that my delay in getting home is due to a lot of rain—moisture which is assisting in maintaining the good to excellent wetland conditions in most of Southern Alberta. We finished the survey on May 25, and completed all of our initial data entries and summaries that evening. I bid farewell to the excellent Observer, Kevin Doherty, the morning of May 26, as he left via commercial air from Grande Prairie. I flew the aircraft to Edmonton, and had to stop there due to heavy rains from Red Deer south to the MT border. I then met with Canadian Wildlife Service personnel on May 27, and discussed the data and the survey.

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