We Have a Plane and a Plan...

Written by Brad Shults
Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Brad Shults.After a long Alaska winter… Well that’s the way I would normally preface the work awaiting us, but we really didn’t have much of a winter this year (…sorry East Coast residents-should have been here) and we’re curious if returning waterfowl have noticed, too. It looks like one of the earliest arrivals of Spring in history, with ice-out and leaf-out dates across the state as early (i.e., by 2 weeks) as most old sourdoughs can remember. On the bright side, one advantage for our three pilot-biologists was that Southcentral Alaska had unusually warm temperatures, a record-breaking lack of snowfall (25” vs. 74” normal), and an absence of ice that allowed us to complete our annual recurrent float training during the 3rd week of April instead of early May. We’ll have to wait and see if there was any advantage for nesting waterfowl returning to the state.

This is only my second year as a pilot-biologist on the survey, but lucky for me I have waterfowl biologist Deb Groves’ 25 years of observer experience to lead the way. After wrestling with the ever-present aircraft logistics, we finally have a plan. We’ll be using our Cessna 206 Amphibian (N9623R) to complete this year’s survey, and we’re off to Cordova on 12 May to begin the survey. The traditional start date is 15 May, but with the early Spring, we feel compelled to leave early, too! We’re looking forward to travelling across the state and the Old Crow area of northern Yukon over the next month and sharing what we see along the way.