Pickle, Sand, Bearbone, Cat, Long-Legged, Nighthawk, Big Trout

Written by Brad Pendley
Saturday, May 21, 2016

Photo of Brad Pendley.As we make huge upside-down horseshoe runs to complete Stratum 50, it is always fun to sneak a glance at the map to see the names of the lakes we are flying over. You can’t help but wonder who named them and what made them choose the name they did. It seems they only name the really big lakes, at least on the maps I’m looking at. I can’t help but think the “locals” have a name for the 500 acre body of water where I just saw a pair of goldeneye, three common loons and a moose standing knee deep in water. Maybe they don’t, but it doesn’t make it any less beautiful or important for the breeding pairs we are up here counting. In some places, we fly over as much water as land. Some of the water is six inches deep and over huge grassy string bogs with small ridge lines waving through them and some of it is deep water that has an emerald green ring around it with a center that is as black as coal.

The birds seem to care where they land. Except for maybe mallards, they can be in a puddle in the middle of the trees or in the center of a huge lake. Just like any other wildlife survey that one does over time, you start to see a pattern in the animals and habitat. For example, sandhill cranes really seem to like huge grassy string bogs on the north end of many of the Stratum 50 lines. You can see these areas coming from a long way away, an area the size of four or five football fields, khaki colored as can be. As you get over them, you see a flash of tan as they spook for a second and dance around on those long legs. Those huge deep lakes up north contain rocky islands throughout. As you go over an island you have to quickly turn your head and check the back side. Often you will see a pair of merganser or goldeneye tucked amongst the rocks. The patterns help but that’s all they do, you still have to watch all of your side for six or seven hours of flying.

A string bog in Stratum 50. Photo Credit: Brad Pendley, USFWS.

A string bog in Stratum 50. Photo Credit: Brad Pendley, USFWS.