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Breeding Grounds Survey: Heaven on Earth

May 25, 2014 - Southern and Central Alberta
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  • The 2014 Southern and Central Alberta aircrew consists of Joe Sands (left) and Jim Bredy (right). Behind them is the ever reliable Partenavia Observer aircraft, that has performed flawlessly for 20 years while conducting aerial wildlife surveys from high in the Canadian Arctic to Mexico, and between both coasts.
    photo by Steve Olson, USFWS.
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By Jim Bredy, USFWS Pilot biologist, Southern and Central Alberta

Joe Sands and I completed the Southern and Central Alberta BPOP survey area yesterday. I feel blessed to have been able to work with this very capable waterfowl man. His excellent work ethic and good humor made some of the long work days seem a bit shorter. I hope everyone out there has the opportunity to work with associates such as Joe, who bring his type of infectious energy and enthusiasm to the job.

The aspen parkland region between Red Deer and Edmonton had variable wetland conditions. While some areas were good to excellent, other areas had fair conditions. However, there were good numbers of birds on those ponds that were present. Several years of good hatches and lower than normal harvest have contributed to good numbers of birds returning to Southern and Central Alberta this year. I believe that overall production will be good in the Southern Alberta strata between Edmonton and the US border.

As we progressed further north into Central Alberta, we both noticed the wetland and habitat conditions were not optimal, where many basins had lowered water levels. The central portion of the agricultural belt of “The Peace” country (between Grande Prairie and Peace River, Alberta) had some of the driest wetland basins, and poorest upland habitat conditions, in this survey area this year. Many of the semi-permanent wetlands (such as those in the prairie pothole region) were dry, or had extremely low water levels. With that being said, there are still some decent wetland basins in this area. I believe that waterfowl production will be fair in “The Peace” country this year.

My associate Joe Sands just texted me that he is on his final flight home, and will be re-united with his family in a few hours. I am in Edmonton now, working up data summaries, while the plane is undergoing a mandatory preventative maintenance inspection. When that is completed, I am scheduled to fly to the Churchill, Manitoba, area for more aerial surveys. I hope all have the good fortune to be as happy in their chosen careers as I am. I feel very fortunate also have a very understanding spouse, Tammy Bredy. She understands how much I am irresistibly pulled to “the north country” each year. I do not enjoy the time apart from her. However, she has stated several times that she wants me to fly, because I have an “adverse attitude” when I do not. As much as I love this job, she and the family are more important. Until next year, Jim Bredy (also known as Duck-Boy since his college days) is signing off. God willing, I will return next spring to heaven on earth up here in Alberta!


Good pond numbers and fair to good upland habitat conditions in the aspen parkland region near Edmonton, Alberta. Look at the physical delineation of these wetland basins. Note that in a drier weather period, the actual wetland depressions may not be connected, which would result in more ponds in a dry year compared to a wet year. Therefore, more ponds, does not necessarily mean more ducks produced. The quality of the wetlands and the associated upland habitats are critical factors in determining waterfowl breeding and production success. Credit: Jim Bredy, USFWS.


Poor to fair wetland conditions exist in the "Peace Country". This boreal forest wetland is typical of many of the wetlands in this area near Peace River, Alberta. Many of the larger wetlands have lower water levels this year, or are dry. Credit: Jim Bredy, USFWS.

This photo illustrates typical poor wetland conditions, in the agricultural belt between Grande Prairie, and Peace River, Alberta. Credit: Jim Bredy, USFWS.

Get more information about the 2014 BPOP Survey and other waterfowl surveys at Flyways.us

Find more breeding waterfowl and habitat updates on the DU Habitat Map
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