Southern Saskatchewan

Talkin' Ducks Today

Southern Saskatchewan
Written by Phil Thorpe
Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Photo of Phil Thorpe.We took a required rest day today. The northern Saskatchewan crew (Walt Rhodes and Doug Head) and the Northwest Territories crew (Fred Roetker and Steve Olson) arrived today. Always good spending time with colleagues and talking ducks.

Off To a Good Start

Southern Saskatchewan
Written by Phil Thorpe
Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Photo of Phil Thorpe.We've had excellent weather conditions and have made good progress on the survey. The southern grasslands are drier than last year, but the consensus is the area is about average overall. There isn’t any excess water (i.e., sheetwater), but the basins are full and providing good habitat for ducks. As we have moved north in the province, conditions vary from very wet to drier than last year; a mixed bag but no really poor areas. The Missouri coteau, running up from North Dakota through the center of the survey area, has had good water conditions and lots of waterfowl are using the ponds. I’ve noticed over the years that the more northern areas of the coteau can be slow to repopulate with ducks once the ponds fill up. These ponds have had good numbers of ducks using them and occupancy rates are high on them this year. It appears that ducks have finally moved into them.

Preparing for Early May Start

Southern Saskatchewan
Written by Phil Thorpe
Friday, May 01, 2015

Photo of Phil Thorpe.I started making inquiries regarding survey timing in early April with our Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS) partners. CWS biologists have been out on the ground each week in April surveying traditional routes for species composition and social status. They compare previous year’s observations to the current year to determine how things are progressing with waterfowl migration and habitat conditions. I also review crop reports to get an idea of timing from an agricultural standpoint. Overall, farmers are ahead in their field work (e.g., seeding, fallowing) when compared to the long term average and in a few cases, way ahead compared to 2014 timing. In the southwest part of the province, they are about 18% ahead of last year’s seeding progress.

Survey Complete for the Saskatchewan Ground Crew

Southern Saskatchewan
Written by Blake Bartzen
Monday, June 16, 2014

Photo of Blake Bartzen.The last half of the survey went just about as smoothly as the first half, with only two separate days of weather that would not let the air crew fly. Overall, duck numbers and water conditions seemed good. Some areas in the very east and west of the province were drier than they have been in recent years, but much of the central grassland area of the province, stretching from south of Moose Jaw up to Saskatoon, was extremely wet. Some lifelong farmers working in the area claimed water conditions were the wettest they had seen their entire lives, and this was corroborated by the habitat information we have collected for more recent years. Although not as late as last year, spring was late in arriving this year, but as the survey progressed we encountered fewer pairs and more lone and flocked drake mallards, indicating the breeding season was progressing and our survey timing was reasonably good. Our last day of surveys took place in the northeastern parkland on May 24th, and then we spent the next week proofing and finalizing data, servicing and cleaning equipment, and storing everything away for another year. We completed the job, had some fun while doing it and made it home safe and sound, which I think is a sign of a successful survey.

2014 Survey Complete in Saskatchewan

Southern Saskatchewan
Written by Phil Thorpe
Friday, May 30, 2014

Photo of Phil Thorpe.Stephen and I flew our last transect lines today in the northeast aspen parklands. These transects go near the towns of Melfort and Prince Albert. Conditions were varied in this part of the survey area because winter and spring precipitation was variable. More precipitation fell in the center of the parklands between Saskatoon and Prince Albert than on the western or eastern parts of parklands. Wetlands near Prince Albert were overflowing and abundant, while areas closer to Melfort dried out and many temporary and seasonal wetlands were dry in that part of the Province. Wetland drainage is still going strong in the northeast Saskatchewan parklands, and many larger wetlands and lakes were overflowing out of their boundaries—some of this because of these new drainage patterns.

Northwest Parklands Showing Good Waterfowl Production Potential

Southern Saskatchewan
Written by Phil Thorpe
Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Photo of Phil Thorpe.Another good day of flying and we’ve finished up the northwest parklands and will move to working the last 5 transects in the northeast parklands for the rest of this week. Wetlands were good to excellent on the upper two lines…lots of water on the landscape. Production from this area has the potential to be very good.

Done with the Grasslands and Starting the Aspen Parklands

Southern Saskatchewan
Written by Phil Thorpe
Monday, May 19, 2014

Photo of Phil Thorpe.We are making progress. We have finished the grasslands stratum and flew our first day in the northwest parklands stratum on Sunday. In the grasslands, areas are drier than last year, especially as we headed north and west. There are still average to good wetland conditions in the northern grasslands and southwest parklands. Southeast of Saskatoon, in the Allan Hills region, wetlands still look good and conditions are good to excellent. We are currently down for another weather day. It’s raining pretty steady in Saskatoon, which will help maintain some of the wetlands. The forecast looks promising for the morning.

Good Luck for the Saskatchewan Ground Crew in the South!

Southern Saskatchewan
Written by Blake Bartzen
Monday, May 19, 2014

Photo of Blake Bartzen.Although the air crew had to delay their start by a day due to weather, we have not had a weather delay since then. We travelled from Saskatoon to Swift Current, Saskatchewan, on May 8th to begin surveys in the southwest the next day. Although water conditions were a little drier in the South than they have been in recent years, we encountered high numbers of ducks on those survey segments—perhaps as a result of good productivity in recent years. Survey segments became wetter as we moved further north, and we still encountered high numbers of ducks. For the most part, survey mornings have been cool but sunny. The air crew had to take May 13th off as result of reaching their limit on consecutive days of flight, but those of us on the ground kept the ball rolling. Today we swapped roles--the ground crew took the day off while the air crew flew the next round of air-ground comparison segments. All told, we have completed the twelve segments in the south of the province, allowing us to return to Saskatoon to spend the down day catching up on office work and laundry, and spend some time with family. We will be based out of Saskatoon for the next couple of days before heading west to Kindersley. Hopefully, our good luck will continue.

Conditions Good, But Drier Than Last Year

Southern Saskatchewan
Written by Phil Thorpe
Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Photo of Phil Thorpe.We started the survey on May 7th and have had six good flying days. So far, conditions look good across the southern grasslands; drier than last year but wetland conditions are still good. It appears that ducks have returned to Saskatchewan in good numbers and pintails have likely made the decision to stay in their preferred breeding habitat–mixed and short grass prairie. Studies have shown that pintails migrate from Texas and California and arrive in southern Saskatchewan in late April. They spend a week or so checking out habitat conditions. If things look good, they stay, and if things look bad (dry), they move north to the boreal forest, and in many cases, all the way to Alaska!

Weather Day

Southern Saskatchewan
Written by Phil Thorpe
Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Photo of Phil Thorpe.No go today, fog and drizzle in Regina and snow on the west side of the survey transects we were going to fly shut us down today. We did get to test our alarm clocks at 4:15 am this morning. Weather looks promising for a start tomorrow…

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