Northern and Eastern Ontario Crew Gets Started

Written by Thom Lewis
Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Thom Lewis The weather finally cleared and we made it to London, Ontario, completed a reconnaissance flight, tested the survey computers and flew our first transect on Sunday, May 9th. We were able to survey Monday and part of Tuesday before rain moved in, forcing us to head back to London. We completed a scheduled oil change and some maintenance on the aircraft in hopes of getting back on transect on Wednesday.

We have seen enough to confirm the reports of an early breeding season in southeastern Ontario. The trees are leafed out, cattails and other marsh plants are greening up and the breeding season appears to be in full swing. I’m seeing more lone drakes than paired ducks and many Canada geese already have broods. The area we have flown so far is a mix of farms, woodlots and towns, with most waterfowl habitat consisting of river and creek drainages as well as small ponds and wetlands. The exception is some nice marshes along Lake St. Claire in which we saw ducks, geese, sandhill cranes and large numbers of non-native mute swans.

We saw quite a few mute swans on nests. Researchers from Bird Studies Canada report that the Great Lakes population is rapidly increasing. They also report that mute swans not only can displace native waterfowl from breeding and staging habitats, but have also been reported to kill adult and juvenile ducks, geese, and other waterbirds that enter their territories. Mute swans consume or uproot large amounts of aquatic vegetation, degrading marshes and potentially reducing food supplies for other waterfowl. Some states are actively controlling mute swans to protect native habitats and wildlife. In Canada, mute swans are protected.

Farms, wetlands and woodlots along east shore of Lake Huron in Stratum 54. Photo by Thomas Lewis/USFWS.

Farms, wetlands and woodlots along east shore of Lake Huron in Stratum 54. Photo by Thomas Lewis/USFWS.

Typical river wetland in southern stratum 54. Photo by Thomas Lewis/USFWS.

Typical river wetland in southern stratum 54. Photo by Thomas Lewis/USFWS.

Wetland with adjacent woodlands and farmlands in southern stratum 54. Photo by Thomas Lewis/USFWS.

Wetland with adjacent woodlands and farmlands in southern stratum 54. Photo by Thomas Lewis/USFWS.

Pilot/Observer Kevin Fox at the controls of N728. Photo by Thomas Lewis/USFWS.

Pilot/Observer Kevin Fox at the controls of N728. Photo by Thomas Lewis/USFWS.

Lake St. Claire in the southwestern part of Statum 54 had some very nice marshes that supported breeding ducks, Canada geese, sandhill cranes and exotic mute swans.  Photo by Thomas Lewis/USFWS.

Lake St. Claire in the southwestern part of Statum 54 had some very nice marshes that supported breeding ducks, Canada geese, sandhill cranes and exotic mute swans. Photo by Thomas Lewis/USFWS.

No, the crew didn't divert to the Bahamas.  The marshes along this section of Lake Huron are in nice condition and the lake waters are clear and blue. Photo by Thomas Lewis/USFWS.

No, the crew didn't divert to the Bahamas. The marshes along this section of Lake Huron are in nice condition and the lake waters are clear and blue. Photo by Thomas Lewis/USFWS.

Dark fertile soils are evident in these fields that were once marshlands that supported breeding waterfowl and other wildlife. Photo by Thomas Lewis/USFWS.

Dark fertile soils are evident in these fields that were once marshlands that supported breeding waterfowl and other wildlife. Photo by Thomas Lewis/USFWS.

Thom Lewis and Kevin Fox over Lake Huron in N728. Photo by Thomas Lewis/USFWS.

Thom Lewis and Kevin Fox over Lake Huron in N728. Photo by Thomas Lewis/USFWS.

Eastern and Northern Ontario Crew with our aircraft N728, a Cessna 206 Amphib at Kincardine, Ontario. Photo by Blake Evans/Evans Aviation.

Eastern and Northern Ontario Crew with our aircraft N728, a Cessna 206 Amphib at Kincardine, Ontario. Photo by Blake Evans/Evans Aviation.

The Niagara Escarpment on the south end of Georgian Bay, Ontario. Photo by Thomas Lewis/USFWS.

The Niagara Escarpment on the south end of Georgian Bay, Ontario. Photo by Thomas Lewis/USFWS.

Muskoka airport was a convenient place to refuel between survey lines.  Photo by Thomas Lewis/USFWS.

Muskoka airport was a convenient place to refuel between survey lines. Photo by Thomas Lewis/USFWS.