Southern Saskatchewan

Dodging Weather and Seeing Ducks

Southern Saskatchewan
Written by Phil Thorpe
Sunday, May 09, 2010

Photo of Phil Thorpe. Because of forecasted bad weather, we changed our flying schedule again. The change in plans worked and we avoided the weather and finished day 3 of the survey. Good to excellent wetland conditions are present over the grasslands to the south of Regina. We have observed a high number of unoccupied ponds on our recent flights. This can occur for several reasons. First, the water is from recent snow and rain events that occurred in late April.

Southern Saskatchewan survey begins!

Southern Saskatchewan
Written by Phil Thorpe
Friday, May 07, 2010

Photo of Phil Thorpe. We flew our first transects today. Morning fog over the Missouri Coteau prevented us from flying our initially planned route, but with some quick in-flight planning we were able to move to other transect lines and complete a full morning of surveying. Sheetwater was abundant across the southern grasslands and ducks appeared to be settled into the area.

Delays and More Delays

Southern Saskatchewan
Written by Phil Thorpe
Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Photo of Phil Thorpe. Plan E is now in effect. Although spring arrived early in Saskatchewan, we were not able to begin the survey on May 1 or 2 or 3 or 4. Weather prevented me from flying from Denver to Regina, SK.

Ground Crew Prepares for Survey in Southern Saskatchewan

Southern Saskatchewan
Written by Kevin Dufour and Dan Nieman
Sunday, May 02, 2010

Photo of Kevin Dufour and Dan NiemanSpring wetland habitat conditions typically vary widely over the Canadian Prairies, and 2010 is no exception. The grasslands in southern Saskatchewan and the southeast and west central parklands were relatively dry following spring run-off. However, several early spring snow and rain events improved soil moisture conditions and provided much-needed water for wetlands in these regions. More recently, relatively heavy and widely distributed rain and snow have significantly improved wetland habitat throughout Saskatchewan. This precipitation helped to fill many temporary wetlands, and transformed poor conditions in the southern grasslands and west central parklands to habitat capable of attracting and supporting breeding waterfowl. The average conditions in many areas of the central and eastern parklands were markedly improved and can now be considered good to excellent. This moisture will also benefit nesting cover in pasture and grasslands throughout the Province.

Spring coming early in Saskatchewan

Southern Saskatchewan
Written by Phil Thorpe
Friday, April 16, 2010

Photo of Phil Thorpe. What a difference a year makes. Last year was one of the latest arriving springs in a long time; this year it is coming early.

Survey of Southern Saskatchewan finished – strange year

Southern Saskatchewan
Written by Phil Thorpe
Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Photo of Phil Thorpe.Patrick Devers and I finished the survey of Southern Saskatchewan today. Habitat in the aspen parklands is a mixed bag this year. The northwest parklands were fair, with a few good areas north of Saskatoon. The northeast parklands to the east of Saskatoon are fair to good. All across the area, we had the sense that the land was drying out. There is residual water from previous wet years, but no new water to speak of anywhere. We saw a lot of unoccupied water, and I have not looked at the estimates yet, but my impression is that we saw fewer waterfowl overall. This could be because the habitat conditions are so good down in the Dakotas and eastern Montana—a lot of ducks may have stopped short down there. This was a strange year. We’ve seen snow geese and white-fronts in decent numbers every day of the survey. We always see a few, especially on the northern end of our area, but this is the first time I remember seeing them every day. The north country must still be locked up tight in ice. Many of the aspens are only now starting to leaf out. Spring is 10 days to two weeks behind this year. Overall, I’d say conditions are still fair to good, but the trend is toward the dry end of the spectrum.

Habitat wetter than 2008 so far

Southern Saskatchewan
Written by Phil Thorpe
Sunday, May 17, 2009

Photo of Phil Thorpe.We finished up the grassland units of the survey today. The grasslands northwest of Moose Jaw to the Alberta border are actually drier than last year. The contrast between the extremely wet conditions in the southeast to the extremely dry conditions in the northwest grasslands is typical of the prairies. Although temporarily bad for ducks, the wet-dry cycle of ponds in the prairies is critical to the long-term health of the habitat. The dry cycle allows the prairie to restore itself, and provides renewed resources to waterfowl when it becomes wet again.

Good water conditions in Southern Saskatchewan

Southern Saskatchewan
Written by Dan Nieman
Friday, May 15, 2009

Dan Nieman (CWS Population Management Biologist Saskatchewan).Although water in the southern grasslands is much improved over last year, this region dries out as you proceed north and west. I’ve been surveying this crew area since 1971, and one of the hallmarks of the wetland habitat conditions in southern Saskatchewan is the great diversity across the area. Rarely do we see consistent conditions throughout. This year appears to be no exception. The west-central portion of the province is dry, but the eastern and central parklands have reasonably good water. Spring came late this year, and we’re still seeing ice on some of the big lakes. But nesting effort is strong, and we are encouraged by the number of some species we are seeing, especially pintails. The late farming activity could have negative impact on them, but overall, I’m optimistic because of the fairly good water conditions in the southern grasslands and central parklands. Over all, total duck numbers appear to be somewhat lower than expected, given the wetland habitat available. Many ponds are not occupied by waterfowl, likely a function of the excellent water available in other areas to the south (e.g., North and South Dakota).

Grassland units completed

Southern Saskatchewan
Written by Phil Thorpe
Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Photo of Phil Thorpe.We are grounded today because of weather, but we have completed 5 days of surveying to date. Conditions continue to be much better than last year on the areas we’ve seen so far. There are exceptions, of course. The Missouri Coteau north of Moose Jaw is mostly dry again this year, and there are even some dry stock ponds near the Alberta border. However, conditions throughout the southeast corner of the region are excellent, grading into good or fair as you move into the southwest corner.  And in nearly all cases, they are wetter than they were in 2008.

Ground Crews begin surveying southern Saskatchewan

Southern Saskatchewan
Written by Dan Nieman
Sunday, May 10, 2009

Dan Nieman (CWS Population Management Biologist Saskatchewan)The Southern Saskatchewan crew area is very large, and the ground surveys use three crews of three people. Our first task prior to the survey is to meet with our pilot biologist, Phil Thorpe, and his observer biologist, Patrick Devers, to determine if nesting has progressed enough to begin the survey, and to review and familiarize new staff with the pond classification process. This ensures consistency in our counting methodology.

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