Maine and Atlantic Canada Crew Contemplates Survey Start

Written by Mark Koneff
Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Photo of Mark Koneff.In case you haven’t watched the news or read a paper in six months, the winter of 2014-2015 in the northeastern US was a good old-fashioned one. Fall in Maine was really quite pleasant, with above-average temperatures in October, a little bit of cold and snow in November, and then a warm up again in December that left many areas snow-free for Christmas. Relatively benign conditions continued until mid-January, when the region began to experience very cold temperatures and significant snowfall, especially along the coast and in Downeast Maine. February was the coldest month (any month, ever) on record in Maine and March wasn’t much warmer, ending up as one of the coldest Marches on record. Ice thickness on many Maine lakes challenged ice-fishermen’s augers and in places exceeded four feet. The cold kept the snow that fell around for the duration and in parts of Maine near-record snowfalls were recorded. Overall, however, over the entirety of the past six months, precipitation totals are normal to slightly below normal in parts of western Maine.

It was much the same in the Canadian portions of this crew area—a warm October and December, colder November, and wicked-cold January through March. Above-average precipitation was recorded in the Canadian Maritimes and Newfoundland and eastern Labrador, while precipitation amounts inland in northwestern New Brunswick and western Labrador were somewhat less and drier conditions prevail.

A slow spring warm-up led to a fortuitous, gradual thaw across the area. While aggravating to sun- and warmth-starved souls up here, it meant that ice damming and flooding were kept to a minimum despite the ice and snow pack. Waterfowl arrived right on schedule in April, only to congregate in available open inland water and in coastal areas to wait on ice out.

My biologist-observer this year will be Brad Rogers. Brad currently works with the Service in the Wyoming Ecological Services Field Office. In his position, Brad is engaged in developing conservation partnerships with federal and state agencies, private landowners and NGOs to benefit endangered, threatened and candidate species. He has long held a fascination with migratory birds, particularly waterfowl, which has kept him engaged in waterfowl conservation and management. Brad’s previous experience makes him well suited as an aerial observer on this survey and includes waterfowl banding in Wyoming and Saskatchewan, attending the Central Flyway Wing Bee, aerial waterfowl surveys for the Wyoming Game & Fish Department, and participating in waterfowl research in Montana, New Jersey, North Dakota and Vermont. Brad is also a volunteer on Ducks Unlimited committees in Missoula, Montana, Cheyenne and Buffalo, Wyoming. Brad is enthusiastic, and given his background and experience, I anticipate a good survey season.

Brad recently arrived in Maine and we are spending several days to familiarize him with the aircraft and survival gear as well as to make some practice flights to get used to the survey computers, procedures, practice bird ID, and give mother nature a little more time to burn off some of the persistent ice in northern Maine.

During an ice recon flight north of Baxter State Park and Mt. Katahdin on April 29, I found that most of the smaller wetlands were ice free or almost ice free, while many larger lakes were covered in black (thin) ice. Since that time we’ve had lots of sun and warm southerly or southwesterly winds, so I suspect that the ice I observed last week is now all but gone from most lakes. We plan to start the survey on the first day that mother nature cooperates. We’ll report back now and again as the survey progresses with updates on conditions and observations.

Biologist-pilot, Mark Koneff (left) and biologist-observer, Brad Rogers will be the air crew for the 2015 survey of the Maine and Atlantic Canada crew area.

Biologist-pilot, Mark Koneff (left) and biologist-observer, Brad Rogers will be the air crew for the 2015 survey of the Maine and Atlantic Canada crew area. Photo by Mark Koneff, US FWS

Black ice still on many northern and higher elevation Maine lakes as of April 29.

Black ice still on many northern and higher elevation Maine lakes as of April 29. Photo by Mark Koneff, US FWS

Thin ice still covered even some smaller ponds in northwestern Maine during an ice recon survey on April 29.

Thin ice still covered even some smaller ponds in northwestern Maine during an ice recon survey on April 29. Photo by Mark Koneff, US FWS

Black ice on lake in northwestern Maine observed during ice recon survey on April 29.

Black ice on lake in northwestern Maine observed during ice recon survey on April 29. Photo by Mark Koneff, US FWS