Surveying the Canada Goose Atlantic Population

Written by Mark Koneff
Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Photo of Mark Koneff.The poor flying weather, and associated delays, that we (the Maine and Atlantic Canada Survey crew) experienced during the Waterfowl Breeding Population and Habitat Survey in May and early June forced me to proceed directly into the Canada Goose Atlantic Population Survey of the Ungava Peninsula. On June 10, I parted ways with John Bidwell, my observer for May and early June and flew from Goose Bay, Labrador 400 miles north to Kuujjuaq, Quebec on the shores of the Ungava Bay. There I met up with Bill Harvey, Maryland Wildlife and Heritage Service, and Jean Rodrigue, Canadian Wildlife Service, who would be my observers for the AP goose survey of the Ungava Peninsula. We began the survey on June 11 and, surprisingly after the struggles we had in May and early June in Atlantic Canada, had excellent weather for the survey. We were completed and home by June 22. The only significant delay was a 3-day period we spent waiting on a replacement main wheel assembly for the Wipline 7000 amphibious floats installed on our Quest Kodiak survey aircraft. One of our tires suffered damage resulting in a slow leak, possibly from operations off the gravel runway at Kuujjuaq. The speedy survey was a welcome relief after the many weather delays earlier in the spring.

The Ungava Peninsula of northern Quebec is the breeding grounds for the Atlantic Population of Canada Geese. This population winters along the U.S. Atlantic Coast, particularly in the mid-Atlantic Region and is an important recreational resource for Atlantic Flyway hunters. The Peninsula received lower than normal snow totals during the winter of 2010-2011, however, winter temperatures were extremely cold. Despite initial indications of an early thaw, cool temperatures persisted throughout spring and many lakes and wetlands were still ice-covered in some portions of the Peninsula during the survey. Despite this, overall conditions during the survey were excellent and the survey timing appeared to be quite good with respect to the breeding behavior of the geese. Before beginning the survey, we were not particularly optimistic about what we’d find in 2011, especially given the recently leveling off of growth in this population and the harsh mid-Atlantic winter conditions the previous year. We were mildly and pleasantly surprised, however, to find increased numbers of breeding and non-breeding geese across the survey area.

Exposed ancient rock of the Canadian Shield covered sparsely by tundra vegetation.

Exposed ancient rock of the Canadian Shield covered sparsely by tundra vegetation. Photo by M. Koneff, US FWS

Tundra along the west coast of Ungava Bay.

Tundra along the west coast of Ungava Bay. Photo by M. Koneff, US FWS

Cruising between a low stratus cloud layer over the Ungava Bay and a higher layer above.

Cruising between a low stratus cloud layer over the Ungava Bay and a higher layer above. Photo by M. Koneff, US FWS

Kuujjuaq from the hotel window.

Kuujjuaq from the hotel window. Photo by M. Koneff, US FWS

Still lots of ice in northern portions of the survey area, here the Ungava Bay Coast near Quaqtaq.

Still lots of ice in northern portions of the survey area, here the Ungava Bay Coast near Quaqtaq. Photo by M. Koneff, US FWS

Dramatic cliffs of Akpatok Island in the middle of the Ungava Bay.  The cliffs are important breeding habitat for seabirds while the island is a summer hang out for the regions polar bears.

Dramatic cliffs of Akpatok Island in the middle of the Ungava Bay. The cliffs are important breeding habitat for seabirds while the island is a summer hang out for the regions polar bears. Photo by M. Koneff, US FWS

Tundra along the Hudson Bay shore near Puvirnituq.

Tundra along the Hudson Bay shore near Puvirnituq. Photo by M. Koneff, US FWS

Rugged terrain on the Hudson Bay side of the Ungava Peninsula.

Rugged terrain on the Hudson Bay side of the Ungava Peninsula. Photo by M. Koneff, US FWS

Beautiful tundra valley south of Inukjuak on the Hudson Bay side.

Beautiful tundra valley south of Inukjuak on the Hudson Bay side. Photo by M. Koneff, US FWS

Dramatic landscape of the Hudson Bay coastline north of Umiujaq, Quebec.

Dramatic landscape of the Hudson Bay coastline north of Umiujaq, Quebec. Photo by M. Koneff, US FWS

More rugged coastline of the Hudon Bay north of Umiujaq, Quebec.

More rugged coastline of the Hudon Bay north of Umiujaq, Quebec. Photo by M. Koneff, US FWS