We’re Off! Nice Weather, Thunderstorms, and Gremlins

Written by Jim Bredy
Sunday, April 29, 2012

Photo of Jim Bredy.I departed my home base of Albuquerque, NM, on April 23. High pressure was the dominating weather feature, with minimal winds at my cruising altitude of 12,500 feet. With an interim fuel stop in Big Piney, WY, I made it to Great Falls, MT, in a record time for me of 5 ½ hours. Weather en route was wonderful, with one of the smoothest cross country flights I have ever encountered for this route. The view of the Grand Tetons was spectacular as I flew by. I did, however, have to deviate around several afternoon thunderstorms between Jackson Hole, WY, and Great Falls, MT. With a maximum duty time of 8 hours of flight time/day, I was remarking how I could easily make it to Calgary, Alberta. However, that thought and silent statement of mine was my downfall. A “gremlin” got a-hold of my plane upon landing in Great Falls. I was delayed there for 5 days as I had some parts express-shipped in for unscheduled maintenance. I extend a VERY big thanks to the folks at Holman Aviation, especially Chuck Cottrell, who fixed the plane and got me quickly back up in the air. I finally departed on Saturday, April 28, and arrived in Calgary. I met my Observer, Jay Hitchcock, who flew in commercially from Arkansas. Jay is an ardent waterfowl man, who also is the Wildlife Biologist at the White River National Wildlife Refuge.

In my blog of almost a month ago, I remarked how dry it has been throughout the winter. Our prayers for wet weather were answered. Three major weather systems moved through Alberta in April. The first one hit the first week of April with up to 30 cm of snow. The second one hit a week later with a mixture of rain and snow. The third storm hit the last week of the month with another mixture of rain and snow. These storms added greatly to the wetlands already present. However, the storms did not appear to create many newer wetlands around the Calgary area. As I descended into Calgary, my initial impression was there were fewer wetland basins with water in them than last year, with many wetland basins moist, but with little or no standing water. I suspect that due to the dry winter, that moisture from the storms was readily absorbed into the dry soils.

The cold, wet month of April delayed the nesting chronology a bit. We confirmed this with both an aerial and ground reconnaissance on April 29. We thus anticipate a survey start by May 5. Stay tuned to this site. We will keep you posted as to the habitat conditions elsewhere in the Province, and how the duck survey is progressing!

Air crew for the May 2012 Waterfowl BPOP Survey for Southern and Central Alberta. Jay Hitchcock (left), is the Wildlife Biologist at White River NWR in Arkansas.  Jim Bredy (right) is a Wildlife Biologist/Pilot with the USFWS Division of Migratory Bird Mangement.  The Partenavia aircraft in the background has superb visibility for this survey.  The twin engines also add another measure of safety.

Air crew for the May 2012 Waterfowl BPOP Survey for Southern and Central Alberta. Jay Hitchcock (left), is the Wildlife Biologist at White River NWR in Arkansas. Jim Bredy (right) is a Wildlife Biologist/Pilot with the USFWS Division of Migratory Bird Mangement. The Partenavia aircraft in the background has superb visibility for this survey. The twin engines also add another measure of safety. Photo by Jim Bredy, US FWS

This photo is of thunderstorms near Gardiner, Montana.  Sometimes, the best route to your destination is not a straight line!

This photo is of thunderstorms near Gardiner, Montana. Sometimes, the best route to your destination is not a straight line! Photo by Jim Bredy, US FWS

Enroute to Canada, I usually fly by the Grand Tetons and the Jackson Hole, WY area (airport to the far left/center).  I will NEVER tire of looking at these majestic mountains, and the Wyoming High Country!

Enroute to Canada, I usually fly by the Grand Tetons and the Jackson Hole, WY area (airport to the far left/center). I will NEVER tire of looking at these majestic mountains, and the Wyoming High Country! Photo by Jim Bredy, US FWS

This April 27 storm brought much needed moisture to the prairies.

This April 27 storm brought much needed moisture to the prairies. Photo by Jim Bredy, US FWS

This photo is of a person pumping/draining a wetland, located approximately 60 miles east of Calgary, Alberta.

This photo is of a person pumping/draining a wetland, located approximately 60 miles east of Calgary, Alberta. Photo by Jay Hitchcock, US FWS