A Day in the Life

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Written by Mike Rabe
Friday, May 18, 2012

Mike RabeOn a typical day, we base out of a town close to the survey transects, leave every morning and return in the evening. Every night we listen to the recordings of the ducks we saw that day (we record ourselves counting out loud) and transcribe those into a file that the statisticians can read and analyze at a later date. The memories from last year’s survey come flowing back. I recognize some of the lakes and landscape we flew over last year and rewire my brain to work the transcribe program. The boreal forest is huge. We sometimes fly an hour without seeing any roads or any signs of human activity. Moving through this country on foot, or even by ATV, would be almost impossible in spring and summer. Below the black spruce (stunted in many areas because the ground is saturated) are miles and miles of muskeg. Trying to hike through this would be pretty miserable. I can see game trails where moose, woodland caribou, or bear have moved through. The trails have all become small rivulets, filled with water. The “solid” ground between lakes is like a huge saturated sponge and is pretty flat. The rivers are all low-gradient affairs, winding along with minimal flow. This is not the American West I grew up in—there are no rapids here. Most people only venture into this country in winter when the ground is frozen. It belongs to the water, wildlife and mosquitoes in summer. I am glad we are 150 feet above it, moving too fast for the mosquitoes to find us. Ducks like it, though, and we see enough to keep us busy. I see more divers in a day here than I see in a whole season of duck hunting back in Arizona. Guess ducks really do like water…

Saskatchewan north of Prince Albert.

Saskatchewan north of Prince Albert. Photo by Mike Rabe, Arizona Game and Fish Department

Ice as we move north.

Ice as we move north. Photo by Mike Rabe, Arizona Game and Fish Department