Back in the Saddle

Written by Nick Wirwa
Monday, May 11, 2015

Photo of Nick Wirwa.This is my second year on the survey, and I have been pleasantly surprised how quickly everything has come back to me from last year. There is so much that goes into being a part of this complex survey and so many moving parts and elements to consider. There is so much one needs to know and understand before jumping into this endeavor. I know my pilot Steve is quite pleased not to retrain an observer this year. I have felt like we were able to just jump right in and take off from where we ended last year… with a quick refresher of course.

We just completed surveying the small section of land just north of Lake Ontario (Toronto area). This area is mostly agriculture. I have seen all the fields, silos, and barns that I can possibly stand. However, waterfowl utilize ditches, cattle ponds, and an occasional creek or stream in these areas. As I fly over many of the ag fields, I focus on the linear drainage ditches traversing each field as I can usually pick up quite a few mallards, Canada geese, and black ducks using these features. They’re certainly not productive potholes, but they are available and being utilized.

With a frontal boundary pushing us from the west, we have had to adapt and move east along our survey area. This has allowed us to survey much of the St. Lawrence River Valley from Ottawa to Montreal. This area is also heavily farmed in row crops. Farm land extends across the floodplain from one mountainous terrain to the other. I really enjoy surveying this area because of the diversity that the river provides in habitat as well as the small interesting towns that are situated along it.

Needless to say, I am so excited to be back in the saddle and a part of this huge landscape-scale survey that has been in action for 60 years now! Stay tuned for more updates from the South Ontario and Quebec flight crew.

Mallards, black ducks, and Canada geese can be observed utilizing drainage ditches within an agriculture landscape.
Mallards, black ducks, and Canada geese can be observed utilizing drainage ditches within an agriculture landscape.

Mallards, black ducks, and Canada geese can be observed utilizing drainage ditches within an agriculture landscape. Photo by Nick Wirwa, USFWS

A landscape scale view near Lac Memphremagog.

A landscape scale view near Lac Memphremagog. Photo by Nick Wirwa, USFWS