Southern Manitoba and Southeastern Saskatchewan

Manitoba Survey Completed—Looks Good in General

Southern Manitoba and Southeastern Saskatchewan
Written by Sarah Yates
Sunday, June 02, 2013

Sarah YatesWe finally got the two days of good weather we needed and completed the survey on June 2nd. The last survey day was quite enjoyable, with clear skies and little to no wind. In total we counted and identified 14,678 ducks. The habitat looked good throughout southern Manitoba and southeastern Saskatchewan and improved during the survey with all the rain from the low pressure systems blowing across the upper U.S. Only a small area near the Manitoba-Saskatchewan border and most of stratum 38 was considered fair to poor in 2013. Stratum 38 just doesn’t have a lot of great habitat in general due to the high proportion of agriculture throughout that southeastern portion of Manitoba.

Manitoba Crew Finishes

Southern Manitoba and Southeastern Saskatchewan
Written by Marc Schuster
Thursday, May 30, 2013

Photo of Marc Schuster.After numerous weather days and delays for both the ground and flight crews, the Manitoba ground crew was finally able to finish on Thursday, May 30. Checking back through my records for the past 15 years, there was only one other time when we finished this late. That was on June 1, 2004. That year, a late spring blizzard hampered our efforts -see pictures below from that year. This year, an unusually late spring slowed us down. That being said, habitat conditions were good throughout most of the survey area, with only some slightly drier conditions in the western parts of Stratums 40 and 39. Overall, 2013 appears to be a normal year for water conditions in this part of the survey area. The abnormality came in the weather delays we experienced. Pilot Sarah Yates speaks to that in her posting, but I concur that we are not used to seeing inclement weather hanging around for as long as it did this year. The old saying “If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes”, certainly didn’t come into play this year!

Fighting With the Weather...

Southern Manitoba and Southeastern Saskatchewan
Written by Sarah Yates
Thursday, May 30, 2013

Sarah YatesWow, this is not normal prairie weather. From what I’ve been told, systems blow through here in a day. Most years, you’ll have a weather day every once in a while. Well, this year, and especially the last week, we’ve really had to the fight the weather to get any surveying done. If it’s not gusty winds from the east (we’ve had easterly winds since we arrived in Brandon--which is never a good sign), it’s low ceilings and low visibility and fog brought on by the stagnant low pressure systems that seem to linger here for days. It’s all part of the same weather system that’s causing all the tornadic activity throughout the mid-western United States. We’ve had almost two weeks of marginal weather, and while we’ve flown some mornings, we’ve been turned around almost every day due to low ceilings, low visibility, and fog. While yesterday (May 29th) was a full survey day, we still had to fight with low visibility on a few lines, meaning some segments were missed or only partially completed. We were able to finish up all our air-ground segments after 6 hours of flying, and we’ve now completed all but Stratum 37. So, we have two days of flying left. It’s just a matter of when the weather will allow us to fly.

Windy Days in Manitoba

Southern Manitoba and Southeastern Saskatchewan
Written by Sarah Yates
Saturday, May 25, 2013

Sarah YatesWe’ve had a good run in southern Manitoba. So far we’ve completed Stratum 39, 35, and 38. We’ve flown seven survey days, and had a few weather days too. One thing I’m learning about the prairies is that it can be extremely windy! There has been but maybe one day without winds gusting up to thirty knots by the time we get back to our base in Brandon. The survey standard operating procedures (SOP) requires that we begin our surveys not more than an hour after sunrise and transect flying is to be completed by 12:00 noon local time each day. This means some really early mornings for us; especially when we have to cruise for an hour to get to our first lines of the morning. This means a 4:00 am start to check weather, talk with a local weather briefer about current and forecast conditions, file a flight plan, and pre-flight the airplane before takeoff. We try to be in the air around 6:00 to 6:30 am. Wind and visibility conditions are better earlier in the morning, and after fighting the late morning and early afternoon winds for over a week now, I understand the importance of early starts in the prairies. Regardless of some windy days in the prairies we are observing lots of birds. After 31 hours of flying we have counted and identified 10,777 ducks, 797 Canada geese, and 976 American coots! Mallards top the list making up 30% of our observations, followed by: northern shoveler (14%), blue-winged teal (12%), gadwall (9%), canvasback (7%), northern pintail (7%), redheads (6%), American green-winged teal (5%), American wigeon (4%), and small numbers of scaup, bufflehead, ruddy ducks, ring-necked ducks, mergansers, goldeneye, and scoters. You never know what you might see in the prairies and the abundance of ducks to count and identify makes survey days go by in a flash!

Manitoba Ground Crew Reaches Half-Way Point

Southern Manitoba and Southeastern Saskatchewan
Written by Marc Schuster
Thursday, May 23, 2013

Photo of Marc Schuster.After a late start to the survey this year, the Manitoba ground crew has hit its stride and arrived in Regina today. This marks the halfway point of our survey. So far, we have observed close to normal conditions in Stratum 39 and southeastern Stratum 35. compared to the drier conditions that prevailed last year. The heavy snow pack that these areas experienced this past winter are not in evidence now as the moisture has been soaked up by the dry soil. What’s left are ideal conditions for breeding waterfowl, and also for landowners. It seems to me that the wetland conditions we are seeing make for a happy medium. There is little or no flooding, which allows farmers to access their fields, but the wetlands are full or nearly full, which is good for ducks. The only exception to this is the western part of stratum 35 near Regina, which is drier than last year. The crew is now off to the Yorkton area to complete the Southeastern portion of Saskatchewan, after which we will return to Manitoba to complete the survey.

Southern Manitoba Survey Begins-Stratum 39 Almost Complete!

Southern Manitoba and Southeastern Saskatchewan
Written by Sarah Yates
Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Sarah YatesWe made it into Brandon, Manitoba, (our base for the next couple of weeks) on May 15th. We had some weather delays in Maine and it took a couple of windy days ferrying to Brandon from Maine. So, this is definitely the latest start in this survey area to date. However, the late winter in this region delayed the birds as well, so all is in good order. In fact, we were still seeing snow piles on our flight to Brandon from western Ontario, and western Ontario is still covered in ice! We did a short recon flight on the way into Brandon on the 15th to check our transect width and have a look at a few birds along the way. Seeing mostly pairs of birds made us feel a bit better about the late start. Later that day we took a drive to see more on the ground…again lots of paired up birds, so another good sign. We officially started the survey yesterday (May 16), flying three lines in stratum 39 and four air-grounds. It felt good to get my first survey day in the left seat out of the way. Today (May 17th) we almost completed stratum 39 and if the weather holds we’ll have one more day to complete 39 and move into southeastern Saskatchewan. Habitat conditions in Stratum 39 are mixed. We have observed good conditions along most of the lines. The northern lines of 39 seem to have a higher percentage of dry basins, but according to ground crew leader Mark Shuster, this is normal. There is no sheet water on the landscape, but major rivers and basins are full if not flooded.

It's Been a Long Winter

Southern Manitoba and Southeastern Saskatchewan
Written by Sarah Yates
Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Sarah YatesIt’s been a long winter up here in northern Maine and an even longer winter in Manitoba this year. At this time last year I was already surveying southern Saskatchewan as Phil Thorpe’s observer (best observer he’s ever had). It was one of the earliest springs they’d had in in more than fifty years. This year, we are predicting one of the latest starts to the survey. I believe, according to Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS) ground crew leader Marc Shuster, May 13th is the latest start date on record in southern Manitoba. This year, a May 12th start is anticipated, but it may be later. So we may tie or surpass the record. I’ve attached a picture of snow cover in Manitoba on April 27th, the landscape still covered in a foot or more of snow (Figure1). I’ve also attached a recent photo of snow cover from May 8th (Figure 2). According to multiple CWS sources scattered throughout the prairies, they are a month behind schedule northeast of Saskatoon, with an abundance of arctic birds still passing through (JM Devink, CWS). I was planning on leaving from Maine with John Bidwell (retired Biologist-Pilot) today, May 8th. However, we’ve been delayed again due to survey logistics. For now, I wait for the word.

2012 Survey Finished—Ended with a Fizzle

Southern Manitoba and Southeastern Saskatchewan
Written by Rob Spangler
Saturday, May 19, 2012

Rob SpanglerWe have now completed the 2012 Southern Manitoba and Southeastern Saskatchewan BPOP survey, and were rewarded with mostly good weather. Most days were eat, sleep and fly; eat, sleep and fly—and then try to keep up with data and computer issues that cropped up along the way. One day we put on over 1,100 miles, covering a diverse array of habitat. Unfortunately, instead of finishing the survey with a bang, we ended with a fizzle. Our last two strata, 37 and 38, were the driest with only 15-25% of the basins wet. The areas west of Lake Winnipeg will likely suffer the most with a prediction of poor waterfowl production.

Weather is Good: Conditions are Mixed

Southern Manitoba and Southeastern Saskatchewan
Written by Rob Spangler
Monday, May 14, 2012

Rob SpanglerSince the last time Doug and I checked in we have finished strata 34, 36, 40 and 25. Strata 34 can be characterized by mostly good to excellent habitat with most basins full. The recent stretch of sunny weather has really pushed growth of vegetation and cover and that should help nesting birds. However, a few segments of stratum 34 around Regina would be described as only fair, with approximately half of the basins with water. As we moved north into stratum 36, there was a noticeable change in the availability of water. Production in this area will likely be much lower than further south, as the number of basins with water declined to 30-35%. This trend continued as we moved north into stratum 25 located near The Pas in central Manitoba and Saskatchewan where the percentage of wet basins averaged only 25-30%. We found better news in stratum 40 just northwest of Brandon, with an average of 75% wet basins.

Manitoba Ground Crew Reaches the Home Stretch

Southern Manitoba and Southeastern Saskatchewan
Written by Marc Schuster
Saturday, May 12, 2012

Photo of Marc Schuster.The Manitoba Ground Crew arrived in Russell, Manitoba, today, which marks the home stretch of our Survey. So far, we have observed much drier conditions in Southwestern Manitoba compared to last year. The flooding conditions that prevailed last year have changed to normal to slightly drier than normal conditions. That coupled with the early spring experienced on the prairies made for ideal conditions for landowners to begin spring seeding. This was not the case in areas of southeastern SaskatchewaK near the US border, as well as areas near Yorkton, SK. Wet conditions still prevailed (see picture) and some localized flooding was still evident. One local landowner on the Grayson air-ground segment stated that his land experienced approximately 7 inches of rain just before freeze-up last fall. The dugout in his yard had over 16 feet of water in it! In some cases, this abundance of water made for ideal conditions for breeding waterfowl. On one survey area the ground crew counted a record number of ducks for that comparison segment (30 years data). Over the next few days we will be surveying the prairie pothole area near Minnedosa, MB, to complete the ground portion of the survey.

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