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Breeding Grounds Surveys: This and That - Musings of a Grey-Haired Biologist, Pilot

In general, many areas this year in the prairies were dry, and many areas in "the bush" regions were good. There is evidence of an overflight of ducks that may have passed over the dry prairies (see previous pilot reports). Just because the duck numbers and habitat may not be good in one area, does not mean there will be a poor fall flight this year.

Breeding Grounds Surveys: 2015 Alaska Survey Resumes

The Alaska waterfowl breeding population surveys began in late May. I completed the BPOP surveys in southern and central Alberta on May 25. As I was stepping into the plane to head home, I got the call from my supervisor.

Breeding Grounds Surveys: Montana is Complete

When the weather finally cleared we had six straight days of good flying weather. After sitting for six days due to rain, it was surprising how little water was seen on the landscape.

Breeding Grounds Surveys: Chasing Shadows

This survey, being the furthest north of the traditional survey area, has its share of unique “bush” individuals. After 30 years of flying the North Country, it is no surprise that my esteemed pilot, Fred Roetker, has met or interacted with 95% of them.

Breeding Grounds Surveys: Pass the Juju

Like much of eastern Canada, our crew area had its share of snow over the winter, but the spring has been dry, and the majority of the habitat is judged to be in variable, but fair, condition. See the accompanying photos of beaver ponds and string bogs for the visuals. Waterfowl numbers are mixed in our crew area, with some showing gains and others, losses, but bolstered as always by the permanent waters of the region.

Breeding Grounds Surveys: Finally Some Moisture

We have turned the corner in the eastern Dakotas. After six consecutive days of sitting in the rain, things have improved substantially—on the ground and in the air. We have now flown six consecutive days and things are looking a lot better. We thought we would get to fly on the 15th, and that turned out to be a false start.

Breeding Grounds Surveys: Blocking High

The habitat so far looks a little drier this spring. But this is mostly permanent-water habitat and it is really only the very small wetlands that seem to be starved for moisture, and these are not used much by waterfowl anyway. The flip side, especially in regards to the previous two springs, is that the ice has gone out early, making an abundance of habitat available to arriving waterfowl.

Breeding Grounds Surveys: Finally to Newfoundland...

On May 15 we finished Nova Scotia and returned to Bangor, ME, for a required inspection on N769. We were down 5 days, and every day was beautiful flying weather. Naturally, the weather began to deteriorate on Thursday, May 21—the day we left to return to Canada and resume the survey.

Breeding Grounds Surveys: Stratum 43 Complete and Conditions Improved Somewhat

Greetings from the Treasure State and the Montana/Dakotas aerial crew. We’ve completed North Dakota (Stratum 43) and have made our way to our current base in Lewistown, Montana—located in the geographic center of the state.

Breeding Grounds Surveys: Quick Notes for Early Progress

The survey is moving along quickly and keeping the crew here quite busy. So much so, that I've only just gotten around to gathering my thoughts on it all to provide the updates below.

Breeding Grounds Surveys: Off To a Good Start

We've had excellent weather conditions and have made good progress on the survey. The southern grasslands are drier than last year, but the consensus is the area is about average overall. There isn’t any excess water (i.e., sheetwater), but the basins are full and providing good habitat for ducks.

Breeding Grounds Surveys: Tough Year Shaping Up

It's shaping up to be a tough year all the way around for the Eastern Dakotas survey. So far, we are only batting .500 on flying days, having only been able to fly 4 out of eight days so far due to weather. The forecast doesn't seem to show any signs of increasing efficiency either.

Breeding Grounds Surveys: Mechanical Issues

Generally, duck numbers on the southern air-ground comparison segments were slightly higher than last year, and although water conditions on some of the more northern grassland segments such as Loreburn, Tichfield, and Hanley seemed good, duck numbers appeared to be slightly lower.

Breeding Grounds Surveys: Yep, It's Dry Out Here!

I don't want to add more gloom and doom to what Terry Liddick, the biologist pilot for our survey area, wrote in his report, but I can only heartily agree that it is DRY!!!!!!! Plus, the few wetlands that do have water are often empty of ducks.

Breeding Grounds Surveys: Beautiful Weather

We survey crews can be an odd bunch sometimes. Everybody knows that beautiful weather means sunny skies, maybe a light breeze, say around 80 degrees, right? Nope. For us on surveys, there are two kinds of beautiful weather.

Breeding Grounds Surveys: Back in the Saddle

We just completed surveying the small section of land just north of Lake Ontario (Toronto area). This area is mostly agriculture. I have seen all the fields, silos, and barns that I can possibly stand. However, waterfowl utilize ditches, cattle ponds, and an occasional creek or stream in these areas.

Breeding Grounds Surveys: Onwards and Upwards

The parklands have been relatively wet over the last few years and they look decent again this year. Hopefully some good production over the last few years will result in high duck numbers this year.

Breeding Grounds Surveys: Alberta Ground Crew Off and Running

The Alberta ground crew for the waterfowl breeding population and habitat survey gathered on Thursday, May 7th in Medicine Hat, Alberta. It looked like a winter wonderland in the Edmonton area this morning.

Breeding Grounds Surveys: Ground Crew Temporarily Grounded

We started our first day of ground surveys today, and they went very smoothly—for about two hours. I'm out here with Tony Roberts, a biologist who started with the Division of Migratory Bird Management several months ago.

Breeding Grounds Surveys: Maine and Atlantic Canada Crew Contemplates Survey Start

A slow spring warm-up led to a fortuitous, gradual thaw across the area. While aggravating to sun- and warmth-starved souls up here, it meant that ice damming and flooding were kept to a minimum despite the ice and snow pack. Waterfowl arrived right on schedule in April, only to congregate in available open inland water and in coastal areas to wait on ice out.

Breeding Grounds Surveys: Survey Begins in Eastern Dakotas

The Eastern Dakota’s survey crew is assembled and ready to go. The survey got underway Sunday, 3 May when the aircrew and part of the ground crew arrived in Mitchell, SD. The following day, the rest of the ground crew arrived and began reviewing and training. The aircrew is again this year—for the fifth consecutive year—comprised of pilot/biologist Terry Liddick and observer Dave Fronczak. The ground crew will once again be led by Kammie Kruse.

Breeding Grounds Surveys: What the Catbird Knows

I’m honored to play a role in the 60th annual Waterfowl Breeding Population and Habitat Survey, and excited to have Nick Wirwa returning as my observer. We’ll be surveying southern Ontario and southern Quebec, an area roughly bounded by the Great Lakes on the southwest and the US border on the southeast.

Breeding Grounds Survey: Southern Alberta Survey Start Delayed Due to Weather

While some portions of the US are basking in 80 and 90 degree temperatures, it is windy here and the snow is blowing sideways. This type of weather is not conducive to safely flying a low-level waterfowl survey. Temperatures that last week were in the 20° C range (68° F), have given way to sub-freezing temperatures, snow, and freezing fog. This has put the survey on hold, for now.

Breeding Grounds Survey: Time Flies By, and So Do We!

The first report filed by a FWS pilot biologist in 2014 as they prepare to begin the North American Breeding Waterfowl and Ponds Survey.

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