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Banding Together for Waterfowl

DU Canada Habitat Report - July 2011

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  • photo by Michael Furtman
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British Columbia

Along the coast, the cooler and wetter conditions that have been associated with the La Nina weather pattern are starting to weaken. The current forecast is for warmer conditions in July. Given the delayed snow melt this year, the South Coast Mountains still have up to 50 percent of the high-elevation snowpack. This should lead to a sustained freshet, as well as continued moisture in local wetlands and rivers. Farmers in the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island have now planted their fields, and these agricultural fields will support many waterfowl during fall migration and winter. Most resident waterfowl are currently tending to broods.

In the central and southern Interior, conditions are much improved compared to the last few years. High- and moderate-elevation snowpacks appear to be driving wetland conditions. Wetlands with a creek or river source (particularly a mountain source), are full and overflowing. Conversely, many wetlands that rely solely on early spring for recharge are still relatively dry. Waterfowl production may not be improved over last year due to a variety of factors, including slightly lower pair numbers, the cold spring, late flooding, and possible “short stopping” of ducks in wet areas elsewhere within the Pacific Flyway.

Spring was wet and cool in the southeastern Interior, but temperatures are now returning to seasonal norms. The large winter snowpack and wet spring weather have resulted in a delayed, but very high, runoff. Consequently, wetlands within river valleys are in flooded condition much later than normal, and production is expected to suffer as a result.

The Peace region also experienced a wet and cool spring, and recent precipitation levels have been high. Projects are full (unlike in recent years) and many basins are still rising. Upland vegetation is very lush. Unfortunately, field reports indicate that pair counts were down by 16 percent compared to last spring, possibly because ducks are short-stopping in the Prairies, where habitat conditions are excellent. This is consistent with results from the 2011 U.S. Fish and Wildlife and Canadian Wildlife Services’ Waterfowl Breeding Population and Habitat Survey (USFWS/CWS survey) that was carried out this spring. The combination of lower-than-normal pair numbers, a cool and late spring, and recent late-season flooding (which will disad-vantage riparian and over-water nesters) may result in lower waterfowl productivity overall. On the positive side, the wet summer conditions bode well for next year.

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