Southern Saskatchewan

Back in the Prairies

Southern Saskatchewan
Written by Phil Thorpe
Sunday, May 04, 2014

Photo of Phil Thorpe.Stephen Chandler and I arrived in Regina on Saturday, May 3rd. I’m lucky to get Stephen back for his second year as my observer. He did an excellent job last year and I look forward to working with him again this year. We did some aerial and ground reconnaissance today and, although we did see some large flocks of green-winged teal, which seemed unusual, all other prairie nesting species were present and in small groups or pairs. We look at several species to determine start times for the survey. We like to see the number of paired mallards about even with the number of lone drake mallards and we also like to see blue-winged teal spread out across the landscape and preferably in social groupings of a pair or pairs with one to two drakes. All these indicators were present today, so our tentative schedule to start the survey on May 6th looks good.

Air and Ground Reconnaissance is Key to Survey Timing

Southern Saskatchewan
Written by Phil Thorpe
Monday, April 28, 2014

Photo of Phil Thorpe.Another year has flown by and I am about to start my 18th survey in the southern Saskatchewan survey area. I’ve been coordinating with my Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS) contacts in the Province and they have been out on the ground doing some initial chronology surveys. So far, things are looking about normal or average for this year. The average is calculated by using the CWS biologist’s 25 years working on the ground crew in SK and his opinion of what things look like. He was in the south and southwestern parts of the Province last week and reported all the wetlands were free of ice and all species except ruddy ducks were present. Most species were in larger groups and mallards and pintails were observed in pairs and appeared to be starting to spread out on the landscape into their breeding territories. The light geese and sandhill cranes have already moved to the northern parts of the agricultural belt, staging for the final push north to the Arctic. It appears like a departure on May 3rd will still be the plan. I plan on May 3rd every year, but wildlife surveys are different than meeting schedules. The survey starts when the ducks are spread out onto their breeding territories. To determine survey timing you have to get out on the ground and up in the air and look at social groupings and presence of other migratory birds in the area. If things aren't right, the survey is delayed, regardless of days of the week or personal schedules.

Ground Survey Complete For Southern Saskatchewan

Southern Saskatchewan
Written by Jean-Michel DeVink
Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Photo of Jean-Michel DeVink.The last stretch seemed like it would never end, even though we only had three days of transects left to complete. Once back in Saskatoon, we were down for a day waiting for weather that the pilot could survey in. Normally two full crews hit the Peterson ground segment just east of Saskatoon before we head further east, but a break in the weather and the fact that our pilot Phil Thorpe also had to complete a few transects in neighbouring Manitoba allowed a window to finish our most easterly transects, so we headed to Humboldt to stage. Once we got those done, we headed back to Saskatoon to finish up Peterson. It was looking like we’d get everything done by the 27th, but two days of foggy mornings meant that low-level flying wasn’t possible and our air crew was grounded. That gave us a couple days to organize and start verifying all the other transects we had completed to date.

Aerial Survey Finished!

Southern Saskatchewan
Written by Phil Thorpe
Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Photo of Phil Thorpe.Another BPOP complete! The morning started with fog, but it quickly lifted and Stephen and I were able to fly the remaining three transect lines in the northeast part of the survey area. The CWS ground crew should be able to finish the two remaining air-ground segments on Wednesday. We were lucky to be in a good weather pattern and got away with only three weather days during the survey. Other crew areas are working on 8-10 weather days and counting!

Weather Delays with Only One Day Left!

Southern Saskatchewan
Written by Phil Thorpe
Monday, May 27, 2013

Photo of Phil Thorpe.Day two of fog. We are hoping to fly tomorrow, Tuesday, but the forecast is calling for more fog. We only have one more day of surveying left, so waiting on weather is very frustrating. Patience is required.

Work in Manitoba

Southern Saskatchewan
Written by Phil Thorpe
Friday, May 24, 2013

Photo of Phil Thorpe.We started the morning by flying two air-ground comparison segments in Saskatchewan to keep our ground crew moving. We then stopped for fuel in Yorkton, and headed over to Manitoba to complete a stratum to help get the Manitoba crew one day closer to finishing. When they finish, Sarah Yates will hand over the keys to Fred Roetker so he can fly the Cessna 206 amphibian float plane up to the Northwest Territories and work on getting that survey area competed.

Where There Were Two There Is Now One

Southern Saskatchewan
Written by Jean-Michel DeVink
Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Photo of Jean-Michel DeVink.For the last three days we’ve been running transects in western Saskatchewan. Our air crew was able to fly one day in western Saskatchewan, on the 21st, before taking a required day off after flying straight through for six days. We headed out to complete our ground transects near Kindersley, Saskatchewan, before returning to Saskatoon and awaiting the air crew to get back in the air. After a day break, we headed a bit further north based out of North Battleford along the North Saskatchewan River to complete two days of transects in the area. With a big low pressure system moving in, we were getting out earlier than usual to take advantage of the calmer winds in the morning to stay within the Standard Operating Protocol. We fought with winds, but got’em done. After a long day on transects on the 24th, we’re headed to the northeast part of our survey area before finishing up in the northcentral area near Prince Albert, Saskatchewan.

Six Days Straight...

Southern Saskatchewan
Written by Phil Thorpe
Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Photo of Phil Thorpe.Good flying weather has kept us counting every day for the last 6 days. We finished the grasslands survey strata on Monday and will start on the Aspen Parklands survey units on Wednesday, May 22. I’m down for a required rest day today and have tallied some of the preliminary numbers for the grasslands. Since I’ve had several different observers in recent years, I looked at just my uncorrected counts. I compared this year to the previous 3 years in the larger of the two grasslands strata that I fly. My impressions and my callused recording thumb have proved to be correct and this year my uncorrected counts rank number one for total ducks counted. I’d guess that once the visibility correction factors are applied and the numbers are expanded we will still have a very good estimate from Saskatchewan, at least from the grasslands. The Parklands had above- to well-above average precipitation last summer and after a drier fall the area received well-above average winter snowfall. We are expecting abundant water on the landscape in this region and hopefully abundant ducks too!

Wetlands Good; Ducks Average

Southern Saskatchewan
Written by Jean-Michel DeVink
Monday, May 20, 2013

Photo of Jean-Michel DeVink.All our ground effort today is focused on one transect southeast of Saskatoon in some of the best nesting habitat in the province. Here we have rolling hills with more permanent ponds that almost always hold water. There also are lots of pasture and hay lands in the Allan Hills, which provide good nesting cover and usually mean lots of ducks. Wetland conditions were good today, but total indicated ducks were only about average along the transect. This area is usually a great region for divers, but there were fewer scaup, redheads and canvasbacks on the transect than in the last two years. One thing that we did notice was an abundance of snipe. After this transect, two of our crews are headed west to get into Kindersley country to finish up a couple transects before we start to head North.

Home Field Advantage

Southern Saskatchewan
Written by Jean-Michel DeVink
Sunday, May 19, 2013

Photo of Jean-Michel DeVink.We’re based out of Saskatoon for a couple days, which is “home base,” and a nice break from hotels. Our ground segments today are just south of Saskatoon in some very good nesting habitat for waterfowl. One transect worked by two tandem crews has over 540 ponds, which makes for a lot of busting out ducks. The best part of getting out in the field, much like those early mornings in the fall, is the opportunity to see things most people miss, like a skunk searching the edge of a wetland for a duck nest or two.

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