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Banding Together for Waterfowl

2012 Spring Habitat Conditions in Canada 

Posted May 9, 2012
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Western Boreal Forest

A larger-than-normal snow pack is slowly melting across most of the Yukon, where late-winter temperatures were cooler than normal. Precipitation has been slightly above normal overall, and 5 cm of snow fell in the last week of April. Birds are moving through, with peak swan migration occurring slightly earlier than usual. Mallards, pintails, goldeneyes and wigeons have arrived, which is typical. Ponds are just starting to open up, so most birds are on rivers or outlets of large lakes. 

The Northwest Territories experienced cool April temperatures, although they fluctuated from day to day in Whitehorse. Warmer late-April temperatures helped melt snow, but there was still 20 cm on the ground in some places as of April 24 (which is not typical). Norman Wells was slightly warmer than normal, and has received very little precipitation. Most ponds and lakes are still covered in ice, although some small water bodies, creeks and rivers are opening up. Birds are arriving, and mallard pairs have been observed along the Yellowknife River. 

Northern Alberta experienced warm conditions through April. The High Level area received more than 41 mm of precipitation overall, including 17.4 mm in one event. The Peace River area experienced much the same, although snowfall accumulated over a longer period of time. Further south, the Slave Lake area only received 11 mm. Conditions look to be average around Edmonton. Over 500 pintails were observed on one DUC project, and all other species are present including wigeons, ring-necked ducks, lesser scaups and buffleheads. 

In northern Saskatchewan, La Ronge received almost 40 mm of precipitation in April, which is above the average of 32 mm. Good numbers of Canada geese have arrived, as have snow geese and white-fronted geese. Mallards, scaups, canvasbacks, pintails and other species have also been observed. 

In the Saskatchewan River Delta, temperatures have been above average for the past 10 months. The area has received a little over 15 per cent of its normal precipitation since November, which has led to typical spring runoff. 

Many wetlands had average water levels at freeze-up, so average snowfall amounts coupled with a slow spring thaw are producing good conditions in The Pas area. Temperatures have recently been cool, with single-digit daytime highs followed by below-freezing nights. The cold snap should end shortly, and temperatures are expected to reach the double digits in early May. The first returning Canada goose was spotted on March 16, and ducks were quick to follow. 

Lots of mallards, pintails and geese are in saturated fields. Some hunters are taking advantage of the early-season snow goose hunt, but flocks have not been as large as in recent years. The Saskatchewan River opened on April 7, which is roughly two weeks earlier than normal. Some smaller, shallower wetlands are beginning to open, while larger wetlands and lakes remain frozen.  

Spring arrived early in the Cranberry Portage area of Northern Manitoba. Most lakes are still mostly frozen, although some shoreline areas are opening up. Creeks and inlets at the mouths of lakes are now open. Since early April, waterfowl have been slowly drifting in, including Canada geese, common goldeneyes, common mergansers and mallards. Moisture conditions are very good. Some areas received close to 50 cm of snow in the past month. 

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