Another Journey Begins

Written by Jim Bredy
Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Photo of Jim Bredy.After months of preparations, the journey north to Canada started again for me on April 24, 2015. This will be my 28th year of flying aerial surveys in Canada. It is easy to fly north to the incredible waterfowl breeding areas in Canada. However, it is never easy leaving one’s spouse and family back in the states. After flying up to Canada for portions of four decades, this pilot has never gotten used to the separation from family.

Pre-flight preparations for my departure indicated a storm system moving in. I thus got an early rise at 4:00AM; a taxi to the airport at 5:00 and was able to depart Albuquerque at 6:30AM. It was a mostly smooth ride to the Eagle, CO, airport, through the Alamosa, CO, Valley and into the gorgeous Vail Valley. I stopped for a bite to eat before moving on, because I had not eaten breakfast yet. It was a good thing I stopped, because by the time I got back to the airport, the fast moving storm turned the high, scattered clouds into snow-blowing-sideways weather conditions. Had I moved on earlier, I may have gotten caught in the middle of the storm. The storm stalled out in the area, and rapidly developed into a major system that covered most of the Rocky Mountain States. This resulted in a delayed departure from Eagle, CO, until the 26th. I tried to fly around lingering portions of the storm system towards Rock Springs, WY. Yet as I turned the corner towards “The Rock” (as the locals call the city), there was a wall of freezing precipitation ahead of me. I thus conducted a “180” and landed at the Craig, CO, airport for the night.

Better weather prevailed the next day, so I fired up the engines and moved on to Cascade, ID. I will spend the better part of the week here, participating in some Aircraft Emergency Maneuvers training from the world renowned “spin doctor” Rich Stowell. Training in recovery from “unusual attitudes” can be very uncomforting at times, and one hopes he never has to utilize any of the skills learned. However, at the low altitudes at which pilot-biologists fly, this training is a necessity, where one sometimes has only seconds to react to a potential emergency situation.

I hope to arrive in Calgary on May 2nd, where I will meet with the same excellent crew member from last year, Joe Sands, PhD. As the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s Northwest Region Migratory Bird Specialist, Dr. Sands is a “die-hard” waterfowl man. Reports from Garnet Raven, our Canadian Wildlife Service ground crew leader, indicate all duck species are present, yet some are still a bit clumped. Several more pre-survey scouting trips are planned, both from the ground and in the air. We are going to wait to commence the surveys until the birds disperse a bit more, so that the birds are not counted twice. We anticipate starting the surveys by May 8th. Stand by. There is more to come in the days ahead.

A 6:30 departure from Albuquerque, brought Jim Bredy into Eagle, CO, for what

A 6:30 departure from Albuquerque, brought Jim Bredy into Eagle, CO, for what "should" have been a short pit stop. He stopped for breakfast, before moving on. However, by the time he got back to the airport, it was snowing. Mountain weather can change in minutes. Credit: Jim Bredy, USFWS.

The storm yesterday, left a lot of moisture in the area, resulting in a low fog layer this morning.  With icing conditions in the clouds, and high mountains surrounding the airport, flying in these conditions would not be a contributing factor to ones longevity.

The storm yesterday, left a lot of moisture in the area, resulting in a low fog layer this morning. With icing conditions in the clouds, and high mountains surrounding the airport, flying in these conditions would not be a contributing factor to ones longevity. Credit: Jim Bredy, USFWS.

Jim Bredy's journey to Southern Alberta started on April 24, 2015 from Albuquerque, NM.  This is a breathtaking

Jim Bredy's journey to Southern Alberta started on April 24, 2015 from Albuquerque, NM. This is a breathtaking "photo from the cockpit" of the snow-capped mountains surrounding the Alamosa Valley, CO. Credit: Jim Bredy, USFWS.

Jim Bredy's journey to Southern Alberta started on April 24, 2015 from Albuquerque, NM.  This is a

Jim Bredy's journey to Southern Alberta started on April 24, 2015 from Albuquerque, NM. This is a "photo from the cockpit" of the snow-capped mountains surrounding the Alamosa Valley, CO. Credit: Jim Bredy, USFWS.