Southern Manitoba and Southeastern Saskatchewan

Southern Manitoba Survey Begins-Stratum 39 Almost Complete!

Southern Manitoba and Southeastern Saskatchewan
Written by Sarah Yates
Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Sarah YatesWe made it into Brandon, Manitoba, (our base for the next couple of weeks) on May 15th. We had some weather delays in Maine and it took a couple of windy days ferrying to Brandon from Maine. So, this is definitely the latest start in this survey area to date. However, the late winter in this region delayed the birds as well, so all is in good order. In fact, we were still seeing snow piles on our flight to Brandon from western Ontario, and western Ontario is still covered in ice! We did a short recon flight on the way into Brandon on the 15th to check our transect width and have a look at a few birds along the way. Seeing mostly pairs of birds made us feel a bit better about the late start. Later that day we took a drive to see more on the ground…again lots of paired up birds, so another good sign. We officially started the survey yesterday (May 16), flying three lines in stratum 39 and four air-grounds. It felt good to get my first survey day in the left seat out of the way. Today (May 17th) we almost completed stratum 39 and if the weather holds we’ll have one more day to complete 39 and move into southeastern Saskatchewan. Habitat conditions in Stratum 39 are mixed. We have observed good conditions along most of the lines. The northern lines of 39 seem to have a higher percentage of dry basins, but according to ground crew leader Mark Shuster, this is normal. There is no sheet water on the landscape, but major rivers and basins are full if not flooded.

It's Been a Long Winter

Southern Manitoba and Southeastern Saskatchewan
Written by Sarah Yates
Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Sarah YatesIt’s been a long winter up here in northern Maine and an even longer winter in Manitoba this year. At this time last year I was already surveying southern Saskatchewan as Phil Thorpe’s observer (best observer he’s ever had). It was one of the earliest springs they’d had in in more than fifty years. This year, we are predicting one of the latest starts to the survey. I believe, according to Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS) ground crew leader Marc Shuster, May 13th is the latest start date on record in southern Manitoba. This year, a May 12th start is anticipated, but it may be later. So we may tie or surpass the record. I’ve attached a picture of snow cover in Manitoba on April 27th, the landscape still covered in a foot or more of snow (Figure1). I’ve also attached a recent photo of snow cover from May 8th (Figure 2). According to multiple CWS sources scattered throughout the prairies, they are a month behind schedule northeast of Saskatoon, with an abundance of arctic birds still passing through (JM Devink, CWS). I was planning on leaving from Maine with John Bidwell (retired Biologist-Pilot) today, May 8th. However, we’ve been delayed again due to survey logistics. For now, I wait for the word.

2012 Survey Finished—Ended with a Fizzle

Southern Manitoba and Southeastern Saskatchewan
Written by Rob Spangler
Saturday, May 19, 2012

Rob SpanglerWe have now completed the 2012 Southern Manitoba and Southeastern Saskatchewan BPOP survey, and were rewarded with mostly good weather. Most days were eat, sleep and fly; eat, sleep and fly—and then try to keep up with data and computer issues that cropped up along the way. One day we put on over 1,100 miles, covering a diverse array of habitat. Unfortunately, instead of finishing the survey with a bang, we ended with a fizzle. Our last two strata, 37 and 38, were the driest with only 15-25% of the basins wet. The areas west of Lake Winnipeg will likely suffer the most with a prediction of poor waterfowl production.

Weather is Good: Conditions are Mixed

Southern Manitoba and Southeastern Saskatchewan
Written by Rob Spangler
Monday, May 14, 2012

Rob SpanglerSince the last time Doug and I checked in we have finished strata 34, 36, 40 and 25. Strata 34 can be characterized by mostly good to excellent habitat with most basins full. The recent stretch of sunny weather has really pushed growth of vegetation and cover and that should help nesting birds. However, a few segments of stratum 34 around Regina would be described as only fair, with approximately half of the basins with water. As we moved north into stratum 36, there was a noticeable change in the availability of water. Production in this area will likely be much lower than further south, as the number of basins with water declined to 30-35%. This trend continued as we moved north into stratum 25 located near The Pas in central Manitoba and Saskatchewan where the percentage of wet basins averaged only 25-30%. We found better news in stratum 40 just northwest of Brandon, with an average of 75% wet basins.

Manitoba Ground Crew Reaches the Home Stretch

Southern Manitoba and Southeastern Saskatchewan
Written by Marc Schuster
Saturday, May 12, 2012

Photo of Marc Schuster.The Manitoba Ground Crew arrived in Russell, Manitoba, today, which marks the home stretch of our Survey. So far, we have observed much drier conditions in Southwestern Manitoba compared to last year. The flooding conditions that prevailed last year have changed to normal to slightly drier than normal conditions. That coupled with the early spring experienced on the prairies made for ideal conditions for landowners to begin spring seeding. This was not the case in areas of southeastern SaskatchewaK near the US border, as well as areas near Yorkton, SK. Wet conditions still prevailed (see picture) and some localized flooding was still evident. One local landowner on the Grayson air-ground segment stated that his land experienced approximately 7 inches of rain just before freeze-up last fall. The dugout in his yard had over 16 feet of water in it! In some cases, this abundance of water made for ideal conditions for breeding waterfowl. On one survey area the ground crew counted a record number of ducks for that comparison segment (30 years data). Over the next few days we will be surveying the prairie pothole area near Minnedosa, MB, to complete the ground portion of the survey.

Conditions Excellent

Southern Manitoba and Southeastern Saskatchewan
Written by Doug Benning
Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Photo of Doug Benning.After starting our survey flights on May 2, we have lost only 1 day to poor weather so far—seven straight days of surveys to date and the weather forecast looks good for the remainder of this week. This survey area experienced a mild and dry late summer, fall and winter following the “gully washer” of a spring in 2011. However, along with the residual water from last year’s record conditions, heavy precipitation in April and early May across much of the unit has led to excellent wetland conditions across most areas surveyed to date. Both vegetative phenology and nesting chronology are timed normally, primarily due to the cool and wet conditions that prevailed in April following the mild early spring conditions prevalent in March. Between the recent moisture, the warming temperatures, and clearing skies this week, vegetative growth should progress rapidly and will very likely lead to better than average brood rearing vegetative cover. Combined with the abundant and full wetlands witnessed so far, we are expecting nesting success and brood survival to be excellent this year.

We’re Off and Running (Flying) in Southern Manitoba and Southeast Saskatchewan

Southern Manitoba and Southeastern Saskatchewan
Written by Rob Spangler
Thursday, May 03, 2012

Rob SpanglerAfter waiting out the weather for a few days, on April 30th I finally made it out of Denver and flew up to Brandon, Manitoba, to stage for this year’s survey. With the early spring, we were anxious to get started. Doug Benning will be accompanying me this year to help show me the ropes. After meeting Doug in Brandon, we spent a couple days troubleshooting computer issues, flying a known-width transect to calibrate our eyes, and testing our duck identification skills. Even though Doug is a retired pilot biologist, he is still bursting with energy and enthusiasm for this year’s survey. He had already driven over 200 miles identifying ducks and determining the progression of this year’s breeding chronology and had it summarized for me when I landed! Although it was an early Spring, we appeared to have timed the start of our survey perfectly.

Manitoba Ground Crew Wrap-Up

Southern Manitoba and Southeastern Saskatchewan
Written by Marc Schuster
Friday, May 27, 2011

Photo of Marc Schuster.Our last day of surveys was Thursday May 26. We finished with good weather, surveying the area near Winnipeg and the Interlake region. This year the surveys took 18 days, including three weather days. Simply put, ponds were up, and so were the ducks!

Southern Manitoba

Southern Manitoba and Southeastern Saskatchewan
Written by Karen Bollinger
Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Karen BollingerWith the survey finished, we departed Brandon this morning. Our send-off from Brandon was amidst clear skies and light winds – a beautiful day to fly! After clearing customs in Grand Forks, North Dakota, we ferried the plane back to Fleming Field, South St Paul, Minnesota – where we had first started our sojourn in early May. After checking in with the guys at WipAire, we departed Minnesota via commercial airlines en route back to our home bases in Alaska.

Finally Finished It Up

Southern Manitoba and Southeastern Saskatchewan
Written by Karen Bollinger
Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Karen BollingerToday we finished flying the Southern Manitoba and Southeastern Saskatchewan Crew Area by completing the remaining segments in stratum 37 (mostly north and east of Brandon) and completing stratum 38 (to the south and east of Brandon).

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