Ground Crew Member Takes to the Air

Written by Jean-Michel DeVink
Friday, June 03, 2011

Photo of Jean-Michel DeVink.This is my first year in the waterfowl biologist position with CWS, and I was fortunate enough to get to fly one transect with Phil Thorpe and Pat Devers. This gave me a much greater appreciation for the pilot-biologists and observers’ tasks of counting ducks and ponds, while cruising along at 100mph and being bounced around by turbulence. We departed Saskatoon at 6am, after a short but thorough briefing on the plane’s safety equipment and procedures. We encountered good weather for the duration of the flight, and seeing SK from 3,500 feet gave me a very different perspective than what we see on the ground.

While I have a lot of confidence in the abilities of Phil and Pat, I realized that it is impossible to see all the waterfowl from the air, and even identify all the birds observed. I got a greater sense of how important the ground counts are for adjusting air survey estimates while flying the surveys, and I look forward to many more years of counting ducks every spring!

Thanks Phil and Pat.

Counting waterfowl while keeping the plane flying straight, at the right height and speed is no easy task.  Phil Thorpe (left) and Pat Devers (Right) approaching a transect line (note grid road dead ahead) in eastern Saskatchewan.

Counting waterfowl while keeping the plane flying straight, at the right height and speed is no easy task. Phil Thorpe (left) and Pat Devers (Right) approaching a transect line (note grid road dead ahead) in eastern Saskatchewan. Photo by Jean-Michel DeVink, CWS

Phil Thorpe counting waterfowl and ponds while conducting the May Breeding Waterfowl Population Surveys in eastern Saskatchewan.

Phil Thorpe counting waterfowl and ponds while conducting the May Breeding Waterfowl Population Surveys in eastern Saskatchewan. Photo by Jean-Michel DeVink, CWS

Pat Devers counting waterfowl and ponds while conducting the May Breeding Waterfowl Population Surveys in eastern Saskatchewan.

Pat Devers counting waterfowl and ponds while conducting the May Breeding Waterfowl Population Surveys in eastern Saskatchewan. Photo by Jean-Michel DeVink, CWS