Western Dakotas and Eastern Montana

Preparing for survey in Western Dakotas

Western Dakotas and Eastern Montana
Written by Terry Liddick
Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Terry LiddickI’m heading to Kearney, Nebraska in the morning to pick up my airplane to start the breeding population survey. It was left there after a sand hill crane survey last month to get a current inspection and a new windshield. I will meet my observer, Mike Rabe, at the Omaha airport and we will shuttle over to Kearney. With luck, the plane will be ready to go Friday morning and we will fly up to Pierre, South Dakota, to prepare to begin the survey. This will be my first year flying this crew area and Mike’s first year as an aerial observer. Mike works for the Arizona Game and Fish Department, and I am glad to have him on board this year. We should have a great time. We are hoping to see good conditions, at least in the western Dakotas. I hear the winter was pretty good there with fair amounts of snow. I spent the last 2 weeks getting everything ready, from coordinating the maintenance on the plane; updating maps, charts, and the GPS; making reservations and coordinating with the FAA, Customs and Immigration and the rest of our flyway biologists. It is go time now, so ready or not, the survey begins tomorrow.

Survey ends in Western Dakotas and Montana – Looks Good

Western Dakotas and Eastern Montana
Written by Ray Bentley
Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Photo of Ray Bentley.Peter Fasbender and I completed our aerial survey of the Western Dakotas and Montana today. Overall, habitat conditions across all of eastern Montana and the western Dakotas is significantly improved over 2008 and over the previous 5 years. Nearly all primary and secondary river systems showed evidence of high flows during early spring. Upland vegetation looked great over most of the region. In southwest SD and western ND, habitat was ranked as good and excellent. These regions displayed 75-100% of basins containing water – most at full capacity. In the higher elevation terrain of eastern MT, the number of ponds (all types) and stream drainages is reduced compared to the Dakotas, however the area was still ranked as Fair/Good/Excellent in relation to what is typical. Pond numbers were up from both 2008 and the 10-year average on nearly all transects. The combination of good residual vegetation from 2008, a large increase in overall early spring precipitation, and the resulting response of 2009 upland vegetation has produced quite favorable waterfowl nesting conditions in the western Dakotas and eastern Montana. Brood habitat is expected to be good and overall waterfowl production should be very good for 2009.

Ground Crew: Water conditions still good

Western Dakotas and Eastern Montana
Written by Kathy Fleming
Thursday, May 14, 2009

Kathy Fleming.John and I have 9 days of surveying under our belts now, and the water conditions are still good, although eastern Montana is drier than the Dakotas. We’ve seen a lot of lone drakes, so nesting is in full swing. Landowners tell us that it was an unusually long, cold winter, with heavy snows. Although the snow was really hard on the cattle in the region, the meltwater from it has rejuvenated the landscape. That is great news for ducks as well as farmers — many of whom have not been able to get a crop off the land for several years in a row. We’re talking to a lot of optimistic landowners this year, who are happy to tell us where to find ducks on their property!

Some areas have best conditions seen in years

Western Dakotas and Eastern Montana
Written by Ray Bentley
Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Photo of Ray Bentley.We just completed our 7th day of flying transects. We have covered all of the western Dakotas and are moving into eastern Montana. Habitat conditions we’ve seen this past week of flying continue to be much better than last year. Late last year, western South Dakota got a lot of moisture. It came too late to have much effect on breeding, but it caused great growing conditions for the habitat. This year, the moisture has come earlier, and much of that lush vegetation now has water on it. Some parts of this route have better conditions than I have ever seen in eight years of flying here.

Survey of Western Dakotas begins

Western Dakotas and Eastern Montana
Written by Ray Bentley
Monday, May 04, 2009

Photo of Ray Bentley.Today, my observer Peter Fasbender and I began our portion of the 2009 survey in Pierre, South Dakota. We took off in Pierre and followed our first transect line west toward the Montana border and back again. We certainly can’t make predictions based on one day of flying, but we’re very encouraged by what we’re seeing so far—much better water conditions than we have seen in recent years.

Ground crew begins surveying Western Dakotas

Western Dakotas and Eastern Montana
Written by Kathy Fleming
Monday, May 04, 2009

photo of Kathy FlemingJohn Klimstra and I headed west out of Pierre, South Dakota this morning on the first day of our 2009 ground survey of the western Dakotas and Montana. We’re seeing a lot more water in this area than we saw last year, which is a great sign. In fact, we had a really long day today, because counting ducks took us a lot longer than we planned, due to the excellent habitat conditions — many streams and ponds overflowing. This area doesn’t have a lot of natural wetlands. Most of the water is contained in stock dams and dugouts that farmers provide for their cattle. And even some of those have been dry after several straight years of drought, so duck production has been marginal in this area. But the local landowners we’ve spoken to say this is the most water they’ve had on the ground for years. Hopefully, this trend will continue across our survey area.

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