The Ups and Downs of Stratum 69

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Written by Brad Pendley
Monday, May 25, 2015

Photo of Brad Pendley.The title of this one says it all on many levels. Stratum 69 in Quebec is considerably different than Stratum 50 that we just completed in Ontario. This stratum is a rollercoaster. We go up and down over the huge hills; all the while with our heads on a swivel trying to see down into the narrow valleys with beautiful ponds holding waterfowl to count. The other ups and downs involve the weather.

Stratum 69 in northern Quebec is a favorite of mine. The lichen fields are surreal with the odd blue-green tint that stretches for miles. The undulating, bare-rock, knobby hills make for dramatic scenery changes. The shift in duck species seen with scoter and long-tailed ducks showing up is also a welcome change. Another change that I have noticed this year from last is the lack of caribou in the area. Last year we saw numerous “bou” and their sheds littered the ground in areas. This year I have seen exactly one so far on our lines, and very few sheds. The trails are still highly visible in the lichen and rocks but the critters are just not in the same area. It is interesting that those herds can shift their usage from one area to another annually.

The weather can also be very interesting. This far north, forecasting abilities are lessened due to the limited number of weather stations. The weather is also highly influenced by Hudson Bay. We have had periods of snow and high winds the last 5 days. It hasn’t been consistent, and we have managed to scrape together some pretty good weather windows for flying. Today we awoke to 22 F degrees, horizontal snow, and 25 mph winds. Needless to say, it is not a safe or good day for flying. It is also not what I am used to for Memorial Day Weekend. This year I will be thinking of our fallen soldiers while I watch it snow.

Sometimes all you can do is watch it snow. Video by Brad Pendley, USFWS