Late Summer Canadian Habitat Conditions 

Conditions declining, but habitat still good

Summary

While much of BC has been dry, some waterfowl are staging in the northern Interior.  It has also been relatively dry in the territories, but many broods are being observed.  Broods are also abundant in the Prairie provinces.  Alberta is lusher than usual, low evaporation rates are compensating for below-normal rainfall in Saskatchewan and loss of nests was lower than expected in Manitoba.  Throughout the Eastern Region, wetlands conditions are good, as are the prospects for the fall flight.

British Columbia

Although conditions have recently begun to moderate, the Coast has been warm and very dry, with Vancouver receiving its first-ever rain-free month in July.  Early crops (e.g., berries) are now finished, fresh veggies abound and later crops, such as corn, are ripening fast.  The first cover crops for wintering waterfowl will be in the ground soon, though the dry weather may hinder their establishment.  Despite the lack of rainfall, habitat conditions remain good due to their strong start this spring.  Local broods are maturing, and prospects for the fall flight look average.

In the northern Interior, dry conditions have prevailed since late June — even breaking records in many areas.  Environment Canada's seasonal forecast calls for warmer-than-normal temperatures through the remainder of the summer.  Wetlands and uplands are starting to show the effects of six weeks of limited rain.  Some waterfowl are staging, and the fall flight is expected to be average.

Rainfall has also been limited in the southern Interior since June.  Habitat conditions are starting to decline, but still remain good due to a robust spring.  Prospects for the fall flight are average.
The southeast Interior has escaped the dry conditions of the rest of the Interior, and precipitation continues to be above normal.

Since April 1, the Peace region has experienced 115-150 percent of normal precipitation, and the past month has been particularly wet.  Wetlands have maintained above-normal levels, and wet conditions have delayed the harvest of many food crops.  Prospects for the fall flight are very good due to presumed high brood production, retention of high wetland/lake levels and abundant upland crop availability.

Western Boreal Forest

Yukon

Above-average temperatures have resulted in a few forest fires in central areas.  Near Whitehorse, rivers and lakes remain in very good condition thanks to high runoff from winter snow.  The remainder of the territory has good habitat conditions.  Many broods have been observed for multiple species, including bufflehead, ring-necked duck and scaup.

Northwest Territories

It has been an unusually hot and dry summer, especially over the last month. Water levels are starting to decline in some areas, and fire danger is high as a result. However, many broods are being observed and most are expected to fledge soon; they will be working their way south before we know it.
Northeastern BC

Rainfall has been above average over the last two months.  The moisture was welcome since the area was drier than normal over the preceding months.  However, wetland habitat conditions remain in fair condition for much of the region.

Boreal Alberta

Above-normal rainfall has created favourable conditions for many areas. However, some pockets in the extreme northeast have only received about 50 per cent of their average moisture over the last month or so.  Many early-hatched broods are now fledged, while broods for re-nesters and late-nesting species (e.g., scaup) are still very young.

Boreal Saskatchewan

Average temperatures and above-normal rain-fall have helped maintain good conditions.  Broods are abundant on many wetlands throughout the region.

Boreal Manitoba

The region is experiencing two extremes.  Southwest areas (e.g., near the Pas) have received above-average rain this summer, which is supporting very good habitat conditions.  Conversely, precipitation has been well below average in northeast areas, where wetlands are only in fair condition.  Nest success appears to have been good for mallards, wigeons and ring-necked ducks.

Prairie Region

Alberta

In July, precipitation totals were above average in the southern Prairie, and average to slightly below average in the northern Prairie, Aspen Parkland, Boreal Transitions Zone (BTZ) and Peace Parkland.  All areas have experienced localized, heavy rain events associated with thunderstorms. For example, parts of Edmonton received 30-40 mm of rain over 1-2 hours on August 11.  There Parkhas also been some damaging hail.  July temperatures were average to slightly cooler than usual.

In the southern Prairie, habitat conditions are rated as good to very good.  Areas north of Medicine Hat, which have not been as wet over the summer, are rated as fair.  In the northern Prairie, conditions remain good to very good.

Very good conditions also extend into the western Aspen Parkland.  It has been drier in the eastern and central Aspen Parkland, although recent rains have alleviated farmers' concerns.

In the Boreal Transition Zone (BTZ) and Peace Parkland, conditions remain good to very good.  In the Peace Parkland, most semi-permanent and permanent wetlands are still flooded past the cattail area, while many seasonal ponds are still holding water.

Throughout the province, the landscape is looking lush for this time of year.  The Prairie remains green, and grass growth has been excellent this year.  In areas of the Aspen Parkland, cattle are having a hard time keeping up with the grass growth.  In the Peace Parkland, grass is tall, lush and greener than ever.
 
With wetlands being in favourable condition across the province, it looks like duckling survival has been good.  Brood sizes appear to be larger than when wetlands are not as plentiful and high.  Local Canada geese are starting to form larger groups, and goslings are close to fully feathered.  Fall flight prospects remain positive.

Saskatchewan

Despite below-average pre-cipitation this summer, wetland conditions remain good to excellent because of lower-than-usual evaporation rates resulting from cool temperatures and a lack of high winds. 

Areas that have received isolated, heavy rains still have full temporary wetlands and sheet water in the fields.  Throughout the province, permanent and semi-permanent basins are in excellent condition and are providing prime habitat for brood-rearing ducks.  Production appears to be excellent, and field staff are reporting outstanding brood numbers.

Haying operations are now finishing up, which is behind the average schedule.  Crops are also slightly behind schedule, but harvest should begin in the coming weeks.

Manitoba

Temperatures have been near normal to slightly below normal, and precipitation continues to be frequent and widespread.  These conditions have maintained habitat throughout southwest areas, where Parkland wetlands are in excellent condition.  Most northern ranges of the Parklands have received average to above-average rain, while the Killarney pothole regions and the southern portion of the Virden landscape have received well-above-average amounts.

Broods are being observed frequently.  Some initial broods of early-arriving species have fledged, while younger broods of later-nesting and renesting birds are readily observed.

Mortality due to haying, which was expected to be abnormally high, was lessoned due to frequent rain events that delayed producers and allowed additional nests to hatch.  Crop harvest is not expected to be as early as in 2012, and will be extended as crop readiness is highly variable due todelayed spring seeding activities.

Most species common to the province are well represented in duck brood observations by staff.  Resident Canada goose populations also appear to be growing.

Eastern Region

Ontario

The summer continued to be far cooler and wetter compared to last summer's record-breaking conditions.  Since July, temperatures have been cooler than normal, while precipitation has been higher than normal, except in the south (Middlesex and Lambton Counties) and east.  Regular, and sometimes abundant, precipitation has resulted in brood-rearing wetlands retaining water.

Lakes Superior, St. Clair, Erie and Ontario remain fairly close to long-term levels, and are predicted to remain near normal over the next several months.  Lake Michigan and Georgian Bay remain nearly 40 cm below the long-term average but are predicted to recover slightly over the next two months.  Negative impacts to wetland areas on Georgian Bay continue due to this prolonged period of low water.

Wetlands continue to remain in good condition overall.  Waterfowl brood numbers and sizes reflect this, as development chronology has been normal through the end of the brood-rearing period. 

Québec

July and August temperatures have been slightly higher than normal or close to normal across the province.  In mid July, the Montreal region experienced a six-day heat wave — the longest since 1999 — that was punctuated by violent storms of unusually strong winds of over 100 km/hr.  In northern Quebec, forest fires have been more frequent than usual.

July precipitation was generally 30 per cent higher than average, except in the Québec City area (normal) and Lower St. Lawrence region (100 per cent above normal).  Since the beginning of August, precipitation has been close to normal throughout province.

The average St. Lawrence level has remained normal for this time of year.  Wetland operating levels range from normal to slightly lower than normal, but available waterfowl habitat remains good.

Average to above-average numbers of broods have been observed, and the prospects for the fall flight should be good.  Conditions for Bylot Island indicate that snow goose production should be better than last year but lower than the long-term average.

Atlantic Canada

It has been a relatively warm summer, with variable water conditions due to localized rain events.  Water levels have been below normal in Prince Edward Island, below normal to normal in Nova Scotia, and normal to above normal in New Brunswick.  Environment Canada is predicting above-normal temperatures and normal precipitation for most areas, although parts of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia may be wetter.

Plenty of waterfowl broods are being observed on the landscape.  Broods of many species — particularly American black ducks, mallards and Canada geese — have fledged.

Despite variable water levels, wetlands are still providing good waterfowl habitat and are not at risk of becoming too dry.  Based on long-term weather forecasts, moisture should continue to be replenished into the fall.

Find more information about DU Canada or more habitat reports from Ducks Unlimited Canada.