Southern and Central Alberta

Alberta Ground Crew Finishes 2011 Survey

Southern and Central Alberta
Written by Garnet Raven
Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Garnet RavenThe Alberta ground survey crew finished surveying the Alberta parklands on May 20th. We found conditions deteriorating as we pushed northward. Most of the parklands would be considered average for duck numbers, although moisture levels were improved over last year. With sufficient water available we expected to see more ducks than we did, but we suspect that many were short-stopped by the excellent conditions in the prairies. On the 21st and 22nd we completed our air-grounds in the boreal transitional area north of Edmonton and found duck and pond numbers continue to diminish.

Survey Complete: Conditions Good to Excellent in Southern Alberta, Poor to Fair in Central Alberta

Southern and Central Alberta
Written by Jim Bredy
Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Photo of Jim Bredy.Today we completed the 2011 Waterfowl Breeding Population and Habitat Survey for Southern and Central Alberta. This is the 24th spring and summer that I have flown over much of Canada, including the arctic islands, conducting aerial surveys of one kind or another. Alberta is still one of my favorite places. I was very fortunate this year to work with Kevin Doherty as the aerial observer. He is a Landscape Ecologist for the USFWS, and is currently working with the Prairie Pothole Joint Venture, based in Bismark, ND. He has an excellent knowledge of waterfowl and their habitats. Now it is time for the final data “crunching” by our excellent Population and Habitat Assessment Branch, back in Laurel, MD. We will not know the final results until that data analysis is completed. They will compare the results of our air counts, with the data gathered from the ground crews, to arrive at a waterfowl breeding population figure for this survey area. It continues to be a pleasure to work with the very professional and friendly ground crews from the Canadian Wildlife Service, Province of Alberta, and Ducks Unlimited.

Flock Shoot and You’re Done: Observations of a First-Time Aerial Observer

Southern and Central Alberta
Written by Kevin Doherty
Thursday, May 19, 2011

Photo of Kevin Doherty.As a duck hunter and a guy who spends most of his working time thinking about ducks, grasslands, and wetland conservation, you would think that counting a duck from a plane should be a piece of cake, right? Well not exactly at first. Habitat conditions in southern Alberta are great this year, with abundant waterfowl and full wetlands. Habitat conditions that make a great fall flight make life a little challenging for a first-time observer. I know my ducks and can barrel ID, but I am willing to admit that during a duck ID aerial training flight, the first mixed flock of 20+ ducks I approached at 100 feet off the ground at 100 mph, my brain froze. It reminded me of the first time I hunted bobwhite quail. I had an enormous covey get up in front of me. I unloaded both barrels of my side-by-side and to my amazement missed them all. The lesson: flock shooting makes for a frustrated Labrador! The same holds true when identifying ducks from a plane. The key, as my pilot told me after laughing at my dropped jaw and shaken confidence, is to pick the birds out one at a time just like hunting. Once my brain got used to the speed, new sight image of seeing the birds from above, and the shotgun mentality of “seeing the feathers on the bird you shoot,” I was amazed at how well you can see the birds. Much like a tree stand in the woods, the aerial view really helps you see into the wetlands.

Duck Numbers Average to Awesome

Southern and Central Alberta
Written by Garnet Raven
Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Garnet RavenThe Alberta ground survey crew has been surveying every day since beginning our survey on May 8th. High winds have hindered our air crew a couple of times but fortunately it was on days when we had enough air-grounds already flown to keep us busy. Although winds were too strong for the air-crew, morning conditions were acceptable for our ground surveys with sustained winds below 40km/h.

Blue Skies, No Clouds, and no Flying?

Southern and Central Alberta
Written by Jim Bredy
Thursday, May 12, 2011

Photo of Jim Bredy.We started flying the Southern Alberta portion of the survey near the MT border on May 8, and have since flown survey lines as far north as Calgary. The short-grass prairie areas of the survey are a stark difference from 2 years ago. In 2009, some of these segments had very few ponds. This year, many of the wetland basins have water in them, and some of them are overflowing. The pintails especially seem to have responded to these excellent habitat conditions. Weather permitting, we still have about two weeks left of aerial surveying.

Record Water Levels; Record Duck Numbers

Southern and Central Alberta
Written by Garnet Raven
Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Garnet RavenThe Alberta ground survey crew has been rolling full speed ahead since starting on May 8th. We completed two air-ground segments on the 8th, 3 on the 9th and finished up stratum 29 with a final segment on May 10th. Wetland conditions are better than have been seen in recent memory and all-time highs for duck numbers were observed on several of the air-ground segments. On May 10th we moved on to stratum 28 and found conditions were similarly impressive. Most members of the crew moved on to Hanna, Alberta, where we’ll be stationed for the next few days while we finish surveying stratum 28 and most of stratum 27. So far it looks like duck and pond numbers will continue to be well above average through the northern prairies and into the parklands.

Southern Alberta Survey Start Delayed

Southern and Central Alberta
Written by Jim Bredy
Friday, May 06, 2011

Photo of Jim Bredy.I arrived in Calgary on May 2. It took me only 7 ½ hours of flight time from Albuquerque (with fuel stops in Jackson Hole, WY and Great Falls, MT), aided by a tail wind due to the leading edge of a low pressure system. The Observer arrived via commercial air on May 3. He is Kevin Doherty, PhD, from the Prairie Pothole Joint Venture Office in Bismark, ND. He is a very enthusiastic man, with an excellent knowledge of waterfowl and habitats.

Southern Alberta Ground Crews Prepare for Survey

Southern and Central Alberta
Written by Garnet Raven
Friday, May 06, 2011

Garnet RavenThe Alberta ground crew for the waterfowl breeding population and habitat survey is currently gathering in Medicine Hat, Alberta. Some of us drove down from Edmonton today, May 6th. A couple others flew in from Winnipeg and a couple more will arrive via truck from Edmonton tomorrow. I was able to meet up with our air crew on May 4th to start preparing for our upcoming survey. We surveyed habitat conditions from the ground and got a feel for the current local waterfowl phenology. Today I met up with the air crew again and we were able to get up in the air to further survey conditions around Calgary. Wetland conditions looked very good to excellent and the waterfowl phenology was nearly ready to begin our survey.

Alberta Survey Crew Ready For Lift-off

Southern and Central Alberta
Written by Jim Bredy
Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Photo of Jim Bredy.Hello from Albuquerque, NM! We had our annual migratory bird survey planning meeting the beginning of the month, and most of us are "in full swing" preparing for our departure for the May waterfowl surveys. It is hard to believe that, weather permitting, I will be back in Alberta in less than 2 weeks. The northward waterfowl migration is well under way. According to Canada drought watch, it appears that far Southern Alberta received some good precipitation. However, it appears that central portions east of Red Deer are still affected by drought conditions. That could still change if we receive late spring precipitation. Reports are still indicating some snow cover in portions of Southern Alberta. Hopefully, if the temperatures can remain in the mid teens (Celsius), the snow will melt fast, and provide more ponds for nesting waterfowl. Last year, there were a series of late spring storms that recharged some of the wetland basins in far southern Alberta. However, that precipitation came too late for the early migrating waterfowl, and we thus noticed a lot of vacant ponds. I will keep you updated as to the actual conditions when we start surveying, hopefully by the end of the first week in May. Until then, I hope you are enjoying a great spring, and are getting out to enjoy all that our great outdoors have to offer!

2010 Survey Complete: Conditions and Duck Numbers Variable

Southern and Central Alberta
Written by Jim Bredy
Saturday, May 29, 2010

Jim BredyYesterday, we rolled into Peace River, Alberta, after completing the 2010 Waterfowl Breeding Population and Habitat (BPOP) Aerial Survey for Southern and Central Alberta. We started this survey on May 11 near the Montana border, and worked our way north. Between May 24 and May 28, we surveyed the area between Edmonton, Cold Lake, Slave Lake, Grande Prairie, and Peace River, Alberta. Dave Fronczak, the Aerial Observer, and I met with the Ground Crew Leader, Garnet Raven from the Canadian Wildlife Service, to exchange data and thoughts about the survey. The last 5 days of flying started out good, but we often had to cut the flying short due to turbulent flight conditions.

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