Southern Saskatchewan

Blistery Winds!

Southern Saskatchewan
Written by Jean-Michel DeVink
Monday, May 16, 2011

Photo of Jean-Michel DeVink.For those of us who enjoy wildlife, there is no better time to view them than early in the morning when conditions are calm and there is little disturbance on the landscape. Waterfowl hunters have known this for years, and our ground crews are able to enjoy Saskatchewan’s wildlife en route and during our counts. It’s also a great opportunity to snap some pictures of the critters we admire.

Saskatchewan Ground Crew is On Again, Off Again

Southern Saskatchewan
Written by Jean-Michel DeVink
Saturday, May 14, 2011

Photo of Jean-Michel DeVink.Along with each FWS survey crew in the southern Canadian prairies and in the US prairies surveyed during the May Breeding Waterfowl survey, there is a ground crew that counts waterfowl on segments of each flight transect. These segments are called air-ground comparison segments and are normally 18 miles long. Air-ground segments are used to correct the number of waterfowl observed from the air using what is actually counted on the ground, assuming that ground crews count all birds found on wetlands within the segment. Ground counts are typically conducted on the day following the air counts.

Weather Keeping us Down

Southern Saskatchewan
Written by Phil Thorpe
Monday, May 09, 2011

Photo of Phil Thorpe.Low cloud ceilings and some gusty winds kept us on the ground today. A slow moving low pressure system is moving across the region and from the looks of it we may be down for a few days.

Southern Saskatchewan Survey Begins!

Southern Saskatchewan
Written by Phil Thorpe
Friday, May 06, 2011

Photo of Phil Thorpe.We started the survey today. Wetland conditions are absolutely amazing in the south-central part of the Province and we had plenty of ducks using the new water. Pat and I had little time for idle talk this year as both of us were busy recording ducks as we flew the first transect. Weather forecasts were for good flying conditions all morning, but forecasts are only predictions and the predicted winds were wrong. The winds picked up to above our survey limits (25mph), so we were not able to finish the day's plan. It took us several hours to enter the data for just the one transect we did complete—lots of ducks and ponds so far.

Air and Ground Crews Prepare for Southern Saskatchewan Survey

Southern Saskatchewan
Written by Phil Thorpe
Thursday, May 05, 2011

Photo of Phil Thorpe.Pat and I donned our personal protective equipment (PPE) that we are required to wear below 500' AGL and took off on a reconnaissance flight to look at habitat conditions and waterfowl presence. We flew down to the southwest part of the Province to see if conditions had improved since the CWS recon from last week. They had found 50-75% of the landscape covered in snow and some roads blocked by snow drifts. We found improved conditions, only 10-15% snow cover and the snow was only in the ditches and coulees. Plant phenology is still 1-2 weeks behind normal, but ducks were present and distributed on their breeding territories; things look promising for kicking off the survey tomorrow morning. We continued the recon up the west side of the Province and landed in Rosetown for a prearranged meeting with CWS biologists JM Devinc and Keith Warner. The four of us went out on the ground and talked about survey timing and reviewed pond classification procedures. The habitat conditions in the northern grasslands also were excellent and water was abundant. After a few hours in the field and mutual agreement to start the survey in the morning, we returned to Regina.

Made It To Regina

Southern Saskatchewan
Written by Phil Thorpe
Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Photo of Phil Thorpe.I arrived in Regina after a 2-hour flight from Miles City, MT, where I fueled and took a break after my 3-hour flight from Denver. The wetland conditions in northern Montana and into Saskatchewan are incredible. Every available basin is full and most are flooding out of their basins. Many areas between Estevan and Regina are flooded, with roads and agriculture fields under water. It will be a bad year for many of the farmers across the prairies, and current reports are that many fields will not get planted. The rising water could present problems for early nesting waterfowl and could result in flooded nests, but many of these early nesters, such as mallards and pintails, will re-nest.

Air and Ground Crews Prepare for Southern Saskatchewan Survey

Southern Saskatchewan
Written by Phil Thorpe
Thursday, April 28, 2011

Photo of Phil Thorpe.Final preparations are underway for my 15th year flying in the southern Saskatchewan survey area. Pat Devers will be my observer once again–his third year in the survey area. As with every year, we first have to decide on when to start the survey. A colder than normal spring currently has delayed the breeding phenology (timing) in the prairies. Canadian Wildlife Service biologists working on ground crews are in the field this week looking at species presence and social groupings. Because it is a wildlife survey, and the wildlife that we survey are migratory, we want to make sure that the migration is over or just about over for all duck species and that ducks are settled on breeding territories before we begin. We want to make sure that northern boreal forest nesters have moved through and that all normal prairie nesting duck species are present. If we start too early, Terry Liddick in the Dakotas could count migrating ducks and then I might count them again as they pass through Saskatchewan. This would result in artificially inflating the breeding population estimate. So, timing is critical and coordination with surrounding crew areas is key to a good survey.

On the homestretch: one flying day left

Southern Saskatchewan
Written by Phil Thorpe
Sunday, May 23, 2010

Photo of Phil Thorpe.We finished two days of flying in the eastern parkland stratum before a powerful low pressure system moved in and shut us down today. The ground crew was also stopped today and they will only have tomorrow to complete what we flew on Saturday. The survey protocol allows the ground crew to complete the air-ground segment up to 2 days after we fly it. If they don’t complete it within 2 days, we have to refly the segment again. The CWS ground crew works under the same constraints that we work under; that is, they have to complete the work by noon and cannot survey if winds are over 25 mph. The winds were gusting to 55 mph this morning, so it was an easy decision to call off surveying for the day.

Aspen parkland region dry

Southern Saskatchewan
Written by Phil Thorpe
Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Photo of Phil Thorpe. We started in the aspen parkland region of the prairies yesterday and completed this northwest stratum today. The area received some moisture from snow in April, but despite that, the habitat conditions for duck production are still only poor to fair. Most of the wetlands across the survey stratum were dry or drawn down. This area would benefit from spring rains that would help to maintain habitat for duck broods that will hatch in June and July. When the water is out of the emergent vegetation or drawn down, young broods have no cover to hide in and are exposed to aerial and terrestrial predators.

Northern grasslands dry

Southern Saskatchewan
Written by Phil Thorpe
Sunday, May 16, 2010

Photo of Phil Thorpe. We’ve left the good to excellent wetland conditions of the southern grasslands behind us and we are now surveying the very dry northern grasslands around Kindersley in western SK. Very few natural wetlands have water left in their basins and we have observed many dugouts (i.e., stock ponds) that are dry. In contrast, the glaciated region called the Allan Hills southeast of Saskatoon has good to excellent conditions for nesting and brood rearing. The area contains a high density of wetlands and you can easily find 100 wetlands (potholes) per square mile here. This is a fun area to survey because of the diversity of ducks and the number of ponds and ducks to count; conversation between the pilot and the observer quickly ceases because of the workload of species identification and recording.

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