Early Spring in Alaska!

Written by Deb Groves
Friday, May 13, 2016

Photo of Deb Groves.Brad Shults and I started the Alaska-Yukon portion of the survey (strata 1-12) on May 10th, five days earlier than we normally do, thanks to an insanely early spring. Vegetation phenology is 3-4 weeks early in many areas, several river ice-out dates have broken all-time early records, and the snow is long gone or going fast (depending on the area). In this part of the world, an early spring often bodes well for waterfowl production, because it lengthens the normally short breeding season and gives the birds extra time to successfully pull off their broods. We’ve finished the Copper River Delta (stratum 7), Kenai-Susitna (stratum 1), and the Minto Flats near Fairbanks. It’s been fun getting back in the groove counting ducks and enjoying the rituals of spring -- newborn moose calves on wobbly legs, bears munching on fresh grass in the wetland margins, bald eagles gathered by the dozens to feast on eulachon in the Copper River. Today my view is through the window of a Fairbanks coffee shop, as I hang out waiting for Brad to get back from Anchorage with the plane and a new prop. Thanks to the fast work of the OAS mechanics in Anchorage, our prop issue will just be a small blip in our itinerary, and we’ll be back counting ducks tomorrow when we’ll head down to the amazingly productive wetlands near Tok.

Chugach Mts. on the way to the Copper River Delta, our first survey day.  Not many ducks up here, but the view's awesome! Photo Credit: Deb Groves, USFWS.

Chugach Mts. on the way to the Copper River Delta, our first survey day. Not many ducks up here, but the view's awesome! Photo Credit: Deb Groves, USFWS.

The Copper River Delta in south coastal Alaska, where the vast majority of the world's Dusky Canada Geese breed. Photo Credit: Deb Groves, USFWS.

The Copper River Delta in south coastal Alaska, where the vast majority of the world's Dusky Canada Geese breed. Photo Credit: Deb Groves, USFWS.