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Mike DU
09-29-2004, 03:34 PM
Early Fall Habitat Conditions in Canada
September 22, 2004

Habitat conditions have continued to improve in almost all regions of the country. Habitat conditions range from good to excellent in the Maritimes, Ontario and Quebec and the fall flight in these areas is anticipated to be above average. Conditions in southern Manitoba and Saskatchewan are also good to excellent, although the fall flight is expected to be below average due to poor spring conditions. Conditions in Alberta, British Columbia, and the Boreal Forest are largely improving, although they remain good at best.

Wetlands in Atlantic Canada are at full operating level and habitat conditions are very good. Rainfall has inundated many seasonal wetlands and waterfowl are dispersed across the region. The first fall migrant geese have arrived on P.E.I. and good numbers of ducks are staging throughout the Maritimes.

There was a constant supply of water during the summer in all regions of Quebec. Habitat conditions range from very good to excellent in all regions, and the prospects for the fall flight are very good. Significant numbers of American black duck, green-winged teal and wood duck have been noted at Lac Saint-Pierre. Blue-winged teal are abundant in the DUC marshes along the Ottawa River. The fall flight of Canada geese is expected to be slightly lower than it was in 2003, while the fall flight of snow geese is expected to be similar to that of the previous year.

Conditions in the Boreal Forest region of northern Saskatchewan and northern Manitoba have greatly improved this year. The area has seen high amounts of precipitation and many wetlands have been recharged from the dry cycle experienced in the past few years. Few flocks of ducks have been observed at this point. The lack of concentrated waterfowl may be partially due to the ample water supply and large number of wetlands available for the birds to use. The fall flight appears delayed, corresponding with the late spring.

In the boreal region of northeastern British Columbia and northern Alberta, habitat conditions have remained consistent since the last report, and are still below the long-term average in most of the region. Waterbird numbers have increased since the beginning of the month in northern British Columbia. Groups of swans and sandhill cranes have been observed, as well as larger groups of ducks.

Water conditions are varied throughout the Northwest Territories. Better conditions exist in the west and north than in the east. Information provided by DUC field staff indicates that migration may be peaking now.

Habitat conditions remain near average in the Yukon following above-average temperatures and below average precipitation in most areas. Canada geese, white-fronted geese, and sandhill cranes have been moving through the area in the past few weeks. Although surveys have been conducted, there are few reports of large groups of waterfowl.

Wetland habitats across southeastern Ontario are in excellent condition as the fall flight gets underway. Recent heavy rains caused by Hurricane Francis have fully recharged a wetland base that was already very favourable. Conditions in the southwest have considerably dried up since the last report but remain relatively good. Cool and wet conditions in northern Ontario prevailed for this period.

Early reports from banding operations across the Province suggest that observed age ratios are “good”. This is consistent with previous observations made throughout the breeding season and suggests that local production was better than average this year. In turn, this should translate into a well above average fall fight from Ontario. Recent unseasonably hot weather in southern Ontario has widely distributed the birds, which means opening day could be slow, however, bag limits may include higher than normal numbers of blue-winged teal and wood ducks, as they still can be seen in good numbers.

In southwestern Manitoba, wetlands are fully recovered from the previous years drought with the exception of some very large class IV and V basins. Habitat conditions are presently excellent and food is expected to be abundant with harvesting occurring later then normal.

Field staff have observed good numbers of late-hatched broods, with some flightless birds still present. Production for the area, despite a good late hatch is felt to be fair at best. Movement of northern waterfowl into the area has just gotten underway. With the abundance of water and food, waterfowl may be spread out and hunters will likely have to work harder to find high concentrations of birds.

In Saskatchewan, moisture conditions across the parklands are good to excellent due to frequent rainfall events throughout much of the summer. In the prairies, the Missouri Coteau has received rain throughout the summer, and is in good to excellent shape. In the northwestern and west-central parts of the Province more moisture is needed, but record rainfall events in August have improved conditions. The Allan Hills are in good condition going into the fall, as many of the basins are full of water. Overall, the Province has had a significant amount of rain, and moisture conditions heading into the fall look good to excellent across most of Saskatchewan.

Despite the improved wetland conditions, the fall flight will likely be poor due to insufficient moisture at the beginning of spring migration. Small numbers of geese are beginning to arrive, particularly snow geese, Ross’ geese, small Canada’s and white-fronted Geese. Sandhill cranes began arriving in late August and are now building in numbers. Ducks are only beginning to form flocks and large flocks of 3 000+ have not been reported. There are still a number of young broods being sighted across the Province, indicating a late nesting effort by some birds. Hunting should improve as more Arctic geese move into the area and ducks begin field feeding.

Following a very dry spring in southern Alberta, average to above-average precipitation has improved wetland conditions considerably. With the abundant precipitation this summer, soil moisture has improved from 2003. However, southern Alberta will require significant rains just before freeze-up to go into the winter with a good frost seal. The waterfowl migration is progressing normally in the region and large concentrations of ducks are starting to build.

The recent moisture has been recharging soil moisture in central Alberta and setting the stage for a good frost seal following freeze-up. Overall water level improvement in wetlands has been marginal, but locally significant in some areas. Local birds including Canada geese are beginning to flock. White-fronted geese have been reported in the Camrose and eastern parkland areas. Small numbers of snow geese and sandhill cranes have also been observed. The wet weather has created good field feeding opportunities for waterfowl throughout the parkland.

Wetland and upland habitat conditions in the South Peace Parklands remain in good condition, with significant rain and snow having occurred in the southern half of northern Alberta in September. The High Level to Fort McMurray areas and north remain much drier. Waterfowl production in the South Peace region is still considered good, while only fair in the northern Peace Parkland and northeastern boreal.

Carrying on the trend from the August habitat report, conditions in British Columbia have continued to improve in almost all areas. Late summer rains throughout the Province have contributed to generally good habitat conditions.

Precipitation has been above average in the Interior, but in the southern portions, wetland conditions are no better than fair, due to several years of drought conditions.

In the past month, the Coast and Lower Mainland have received greater than normal rainfall, and total precipitation is now approaching the average for the region. Large-scale bird movements have become noticeable, particularly for Canada geese and ducks such as northern pintail and American wigeon on foreshore sites.

Rainfall in the last month has improved the outlook in the Peace as well. After a poor spring runoff, conditions progressed well throughout the summer, and are now good to excellent.
An unexpected flock of greater white-fronted geese has also been spotted in the Boundary Bay area. The onset of the fall migration appears to be a bit earlier than normal. Prospects for the fall flight are positive, as large flocks of Mallards and Wigeon have been spotted, and bird numbers are building well on staging wetlands.