Northern Quebec: Bring in the chopper!

Written by Jim Wortham
Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Jim Wortham.We have now made the transition over to northern Quebec, and have met up with our Helicopter Crew consisting of USFWS Atlantic Flyway Representative, Paul Padding, Dr. Samantha Gibbs, USFWS national Avian Disease Coordinator, and Doug Holtby, Senior Pilot with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. Because of the secretive nature of black ducks and their low tolerance for disturbance, and because these areas are not ground accessible to vehicles or persons on foot, the helicopter is used to act as a ground crew would in the prairie regions to develop visibility correction factors or VCF’s specific to these waterfowl species occupying these specific northern habitat types.

To develop VCF’s, the helicopter will wait at least two hours but not more than 24 hours after the fixed-wing survey aircraft flies a segment, and will then slowly and methodically survey the same segment, ferreting out all the waterfowl along the line. In doing this, the helicopter will spend much time hovering over small creeks, marshes, and ducks that dive underwater to escape detection. Surveying these segments by helicopter often takes 1.5 to 2 hours whereas the fixed wing aircraft covers the same 18 statute-mile distance in only 10 minutes.
Because of the time required by the helicopter and the logistics of obtaining available jet fuel in these areas, the rate at which the fixed-wing airplane can survey lines is restricted so as to not get too far in advance of the helicopter.

Helicopter crew: Paul Padding (L) and Dr. Samantha Gibbs (R), USFWS, and Doug Holtby (center), Senior Pilot with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources.<br />
 (Credit:  Samantha Gibbs, USFWS.)

Helicopter crew: Paul Padding (L) and Dr. Samantha Gibbs (R), USFWS, and Doug Holtby (center), Senior Pilot with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources.
Credit: Samantha Gibbs, USFWS.

Fixed wing and helicopter crews prepare to survey in northern Quebec (Credit:  Samantha Gibbs, USFWS.)

Fixed wing and helicopter crews prepare to survey in northern Quebec. Credit: Samantha Gibbs, USFWS.

Typical northern Quebec String Bog. (Credit:  Samantha Gibbs, USFWS.)

Typical northern Quebec String Bog. Credit: Samantha Gibbs, USFWS.