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Banding Together for Waterfowl

2013 Late Winter Habitat Conditions in Canada

Provided by Ducks Unlimited Canada
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The winter months have been highly variable in terms of precipitation and temperature. One week would bring a winter thaw; the next, a cold spell. Minimum daily temperatures were -45 C or lower in northern Ontario.

Meanwhile, southern Ontario had maximum temperatures above 15 C, and new record highs were set January 11-13, and again on January 29 and 30.

Winter precipitation can be summed up as below-average snowpack conditions coupled with above-average rainfall events. Large rainfall totals were observed across southwest and central areas. In fact, for a number of locations throughout south central Ontario, this was the second-wettest January on record. Snowfall amounts for locations in the typical snowbelts off Georgian Bay were well below average in January and below average in February.

Habitat conditions are rated as fair in south central and southwest areas due to poor frost seal and moderate snowpack conditions. Northern Ontario has variable snowpack conditions but wetland levels appear to be good.

Inland wetlands are still covered in ice and snow, while some Great Lakes coastal zones have a combination of shallow ice cover or open water.

Of greatest concern, water levels are very low throughout the Great Lakes. Levels on lakes Huron and Michigan are the lowest they’ve been since record keeping began in 1918. The lakes are about 1 meter below their long-term average, which is drying out emergent coastal wetlands and revealing extended mudflats. Lakes Superior, Erie and Ontario are not as low but are still well below average for this time of year. The chief cause of these water level declines is a combination of reduced precipitation throughout their watersheds, as well as increased evaporation due to higher ambient temperatures over the last two decades. The short-term result could be poor migratory habitat for waterfowl using the Great Lakes for resting and feeding during their migration northward.

Due to relatively poor ice development throughout the nearshore areas of the Great Lakes, more waterfowl than normal overwintered in the area.

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