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Breeding Grounds Survey: Summer in Northeast Manitoba

June 05, 2014 - EPP Canada Goose Breeding Population Survey
  • Our survey aircraft, sitting on the airport ramp at Churchill, Manitoba. It is awaiting more favorable aerial survey conditions.
    photo by Jim Bredy, USFWS
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By Jim Bredy, USFWS pilot biologist, Eastern Prairie Population Canada Goose Breeding Population Survey

We commenced the 2014 Eastern Prairie Population Canada Goose Breeding Population survey on June 02, in the town of Gillam, Manitoba, and moved to the town of Churchill, Manitoba, yesterday. Churchill is often referred to as the "polar bear capital of the world." While many portions of the lower 48 states in the US are basking in 90-100 degree F temperatures, here in Churchill, it is 28 F and snowing with a wind chill of 10 F. A slow moving cold front, with the low situated near Hudson Bay, is pumping lots of moisture into the area. For those familiar with this area, yes, the dreaded “Hudson Bay Low” has set in for a few days. Churchill, located on the central west coast of Hudson Bay, was once the heart of the fur trade in North America. Looking outside at the "balmy" weather today, I can’t help but think how tough the early fur traders and mountain men must have been. A multitude of boreal forest ponds give way to tundra ponds along the coast of the Hudson Bay. This area is a mecca for the eastern prairie population of Canada geese, as well as many other waterfowl.

The EPP CAGO population is primarily associated with nesting areas in northern Manitoba; migration areas in southern Manitoba, Minnesota and Iowa; and wintering areas in Missouri and Arkansas. The mid-December goose survey has been used in the past as the primary index for the EPP and other CAGO populations. During the 1980s, however, increasing numbers and distribution of Giant Canada Geese, and changing EPP winter distribution, confounded interpretation of the winter survey results. However, breeding ground surveys have been viewed as more reliable indicators of Canada Goose population status, and as such, make the EPP CAGO June survey a priority for Canadian and US waterfowl biologists.

The primary investigators are Frank Baldwin from the Manitoba Department of Conservation and Water Stewardship along with John Wollenberg from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. I filled in this year for Brian Lubinski, the Region 3 FWS Aviation Manager, who normally pilots the aircraft. I assist Frank and John with piloting the aircraft, and data gathering from the left front seat. We are patiently waiting for more appropriate "summer" weather, so that we can resume this survey. Until then, a cup of hot coffee or hot chocolate is in order.

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