Finishing Up

Written by Brad Pendley
Sunday, June 08, 2014

Photo of Brad Pendley.After a lengthy weather delay in Wabush/Labrador City, we made a break for it. With the rest of stratum 69 and two lines to do in stratum 70, the weather on Sunday gave us the window we needed. Stratum 69 is in eastern Quebec, with the final transects to be completed on the Labrador border.

We were back in the forest now and were up and down with the hills. We would hug the ground as we peered down into the forest that was now just starting to leaf out, trying to pick out a hooded drake nestled down in the stream. We would roar up one side of a mountain, often floating right over a wetland on the crest, just to roar back down to reach the wetland, river or lake at the base of the other side. The computer voice would say “don’t sink” but what other choice was there? Jim did a masterful job and I am amazed at what all of our pilot biologist can do. I am usually too busy trying to count my side to notice all the activity going on next to me as he simultaneously watches the ground, manipulates the controls and counts all the waterfowl we fly over. It is a pretty impressive ability to multitask like that.

These last 3 transects had their share of scoters. The light was just right for identification and you could make out the bill color or catch a perfect glimpse of the wing just in time to call out “surf scoter pair” or “black scoter, 4 flocked drakes.” We started noticing some of the mallards dropping out and a few more black ducks popping up. A few pintails also made an appearance over on this side.

The final transect for stratum 70 was a fine one to end on. We paralleled the northern coast of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. There are many more open areas on this line, but still heavily forested where the rivers run out of the mountains and pour into the Gulf. The ridge tops have smooth, round boulders and rocks with some taller grass and large flat openings. The view in some areas kept reminding me of watching the British Open Golf Tournament and some of the Scottish links “across the pond.” Maybe it was the European feel of the area’s people and architecture that triggered those thoughts. Each time I could sneak a peek to my left I could see the wide Gulf and Anticosti Island. It was a fine way to end a great month of effort.

The only thing left was a mad rush to get back home. We cleared customs in Burlington, VT, and the weather was setting in with thunderstorms closing fast. My little girl was celebrating her birthday and I wanted to make it home if at all possible on that day. Jim said the weather didn’t look good for continuing south and why not try for a commercial flight? I called the travel company and the voice on the other end said “there is one leaving in 40 minutes but I don’t think you could make that unless you are standing at the airport.” A grin, a mad dash and quick good-byes were all I had time for. I landed in St. Louis at 10 pm to a very understanding wife who made the drive up to carry me home to my own bed. I was kissing foreheads at midnight. I can’t wait to get back up here in 11 months and do it all over again.

Southeast Quebec along the St. Lawrence.

Southeast Quebec along the St. Lawrence. Photo by Brad Pendley, USFWS

The Gulf of St. Lawrence.

The Gulf of St. Lawrence. Photo by Brad Pendley, USFWS

One of many waterfalls pouring into the gulf.

One of many waterfalls pouring into the gulf. Photo by Brad Pendley, USFWS