Windy Days in Manitoba

Written by Sarah Yates
Saturday, May 25, 2013

Sarah YatesWe’ve had a good run in southern Manitoba. So far we’ve completed Stratum 39, 35, and 38. We’ve flown seven survey days, and had a few weather days too. One thing I’m learning about the prairies is that it can be extremely windy! There has been but maybe one day without winds gusting up to thirty knots by the time we get back to our base in Brandon. The survey standard operating procedures (SOP) requires that we begin our surveys not more than an hour after sunrise and transect flying is to be completed by 12:00 noon local time each day. This means some really early mornings for us; especially when we have to cruise for an hour to get to our first lines of the morning. This means a 4:00 am start to check weather, talk with a local weather briefer about current and forecast conditions, file a flight plan, and pre-flight the airplane before takeoff. We try to be in the air around 6:00 to 6:30 am. Wind and visibility conditions are better earlier in the morning, and after fighting the late morning and early afternoon winds for over a week now, I understand the importance of early starts in the prairies. Regardless of some windy days in the prairies we are observing lots of birds. After 31 hours of flying we have counted and identified 10,777 ducks, 797 Canada geese, and 976 American coots! Mallards top the list making up 30% of our observations, followed by: northern shoveler (14%), blue-winged teal (12%), gadwall (9%), canvasback (7%), northern pintail (7%), redheads (6%), American green-winged teal (5%), American wigeon (4%), and small numbers of scaup, bufflehead, ruddy ducks, ring-necked ducks, mergansers, goldeneye, and scoters. You never know what you might see in the prairies and the abundance of ducks to count and identify makes survey days go by in a flash!

Prairie pot holes.

Prairie pot holes. Photo by Sarah Yates, US FWS

This is the edge of a front that brought 30 knot plus gusty winds to Brandon for a few a days. It was part of the same system that brought tornadoes to Moore, Oklahoma.

This is the edge of a front that brought 30 knot plus gusty winds to Brandon for a few a days. It was part of the same system that brought tornadoes to Moore, Oklahoma. Photo by Sarah Yates, US FWS

Transects are centered on section lines in the prairies so we end up following grid roads like the one above for most of the survey. Here we are flying in survey configuration 150 feet above the ground and at  80-90 knots.

Transects are centered on section lines in the prairies so we end up following grid roads like the one above for most of the survey. Here we are flying in survey configuration 150 feet above the ground and at 80-90 knots. Photo by Sarah Yates, US FWS