Late summer and early fall have been generally warm and dry across the agricultural area of Alberta. In September, precipitation has been well below normal, while daytime temperatures were well above normal. Despite the weather, habitat conditions throughout the province remain the best in years.
In the Prairie, wetland water levels remain above average. Although water levels have declined as a result of the hot, dry weather of late summer, conditions remain very good. A number of wetland projects spilled water throughout the summer. Some field staff say they have witnessed the best breeding conditions in 30 years, noting that there wasn’t one area where wetland conditions weren’t favorable for production.
In the Aspen Parkland, conditions are very good in the southwest landscapes of Buffalo Lake and Pine Lake, while they are good in the east and north landscapes of Sullivan Lake, Viking Moraine and Cooking Lake. Semi-permanent wetlands remain full, and many seasonal wetlands also continue to hold water. In the Camrose-Viking area, some larger basins such as Beaverhill Lake and Wavy Lake remain well below full.
Similar conditions prevail into the Boreal Transition Zone and Peace Parkland. Parts of the Peace Parkland are rated as excellent. Semi-permanent and permanent basins remain at or near full supply level, and some traditional class three basins still contain water. Crops that were poor as a result of drought last year are now suffering from flooding.
Harvest has been somewhat delayed by late spring seeding and wet summer conditions. The recent warm, dry weather has advanced crop development, and harvest is now underway across the province. Hay harvest is still occurring in a few areas as a result of wet summer conditions. There has been good re-growth on hay fields cut earlier in the season, and pastures remain in good condition going into winter. Upland cover will be in very good condition for next spring.
Early-season hunting reports indicate good numbers of birds in all areas. There should be excellent field and over-water hunting opportunities this year. Evidence of the excellent production year in the Prairie is provided by anecdotal results from northern pintail banding, where over 90 per cent of the birds banded were juveniles. An above-average fall flight is anticipated from Alberta.
Ducks are showing some flocking behaviour, but due to warm temperatures and delayed harvests, many birds are still taking advantage of the abundant wetlands. At this time, there appear to be small groups of ducks on every pond. Canada geese, mallards and northern pintails are beginning to flock as field feeding opportunities open up.