The Last Crew to Get Started in 2011!

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Written by Jim Wortham
Saturday, May 28, 2011

Jim Wortham.The amphibious Kodiak survey airplanes are debuting on the May survey this year. This welcome transition comes with several logistical issues, not the least of which is completion of an intense curriculum of training to position our Pilot/Biologists to make the most of these new aircraft and to fly more safely than we have been able to before.

Having loaned our crew’s Kodiak to another Pilot/Biologist for some last-minute training, we were late getting the airplane back for surveys. Complicating matters more were a string of mechanical issues that required several days to reconcile, the last of which was obtaining a new battery to replace a weak one. We could only find one last-minute source for the battery we needed, who happened to be in Pennsylvania. Using one of the Cessna aircraft not scheduled for use this May, we took a quick trip to Harrisburg to retrieve our battery and hurriedly installed it in the Kodiak (see photo of our battery replacement trek). When operating in remote areas, strong batteries are essential in providing adequate starting conditions for these Kodiak turbine engines.

Completing our aircraft preparations, we launched for Canada, but first had to complete a survey stratum in northern New York. We were disappointed to find that, although habitat conditions were great with lots of water and spring conditions, we were late completing our survey sample in this area. The tree leaves had fully unfurled to obscure our ability to see down into the creeks and marshes from the air, and we observed numerous broods of geese already roaming around and foraging behind their mommas.

Clearing Canadian Customs in Ottawa, we set out for western Ontario, where we are much better timed for the spring phenology. Conditions in western Ontario have progressed well, with a healthy beaver population taking advantage of abundant water and creating excellent nesting conditions for waterfowl throughout most of western Ontario. We are seeing normal numbers of black ducks and mallards in this area and also a strong effort by buffleheads and mergansers. Lakes in the northern reaches of this stratum are completely ice-free, and only small remnants of snow remain in the denser portions of spruce stands.

Presently we are in Thunder Bay on the northern shore of Lake Superior with only one day of work remaining in Ontario before moving on to northern Quebec.

The key to getting started: A new battery being flown down from Pennsylvania.

The key to getting started: A new battery being flown down from Pennsylvania. Photo by Jim Wortham, USFWS

Bigger aircraft make for interesting fueling situations.

Bigger aircraft make for interesting fueling situations. Photo by Jim Wortham, USFWS

A little hot water to take off the morning frost!

A little hot water to take off the morning frost! Photo by Jim Wortham, USFWS