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Banding Together for Waterfowl

Breeding Grounds Survey: Knocking Off Deltas

May 28, 2014 - Northern Alberta, Northeastern British Columbia and Northwest Territories
  • USFWS Pilot Biologist, Fred Roetker and I about to survey our southernmost segments in Alberta, while awaiting wetland thaw further north.
    photo by Steve Olson, USFWS
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By Steve Olson, USFWS biologist, Northern Alberta, Northeastern British Columbia and Northwest Territories

Two years ago, I worked the ground crew in Eastern Dakotas with my Central Flyway counterpart, Kammie Kruse. This was a great opportunity to appreciate the skills needed to identify birds flushing quickly and to better understand the procedure of this survey. I adjusted rather quickly then, given my hunting and waterfowl background, and considered myself a prairie pro by time we wrapped up. I had a great time in the Dakotas that year, mostly because our crew meshed instantly, and because I was able to return to the prairies for breeding season for the first time since working for Ducks Unlimited on my first "duck job." It was that spring and summer seven years ago that I finally realized the direction I wanted to go as a student and a professional, and began my whirlwind tour of waterfowl biology and deltas.

Pilot biologist Fred Roetker and I now sit in Fairbanks, Alaska, waiting for our Kodiak to clear an annual, 100-hour inspection and maintenance check. We have finished Alberta and British Columbia, and are thus 34% done with our segments. I wake every day and struggle to convince myself of what I have seen and will see. I reflect on other "duck-heads" and explorers that first witnessed these areas before me, and know how fortunate I am to be a part of this rather exclusive group.

The largest freshwater inland delta in the world and UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Peace-Athabasca Delta in northeast Alberta. One of my favorite sites in the world. Photo by Steve Olson, USFWS

Most of the boreal forest can be very non-eventful, as far as waterfowl are concerned. The most common nesting species are green-winged teal, mallards, and ring-necked ducks. Sandhill cranes are also quite common nesters in these vast upland bogs. Photo by Steve Olson, 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