Up Days, Down Days: Chasing the Spring - Part 2

Written by Joe Sands
Saturday, May 09, 2015

Photo of Joe Sands.Clear skies and low winds. An up day is the exact exhilarating opposite of a down day. Up early and to the airport after a quick breakfast and cup of coffee, we pre-flight the plane and brief today’s objectives: safety, flight plan, segments to cover. Our primary objective is always safety. It takes precedence over all other objectives. That said, counting waterfowl is great fun. In addition to the challenges presented by the survey itself—counting ponds by type, quick identification and counting of waterfowl, making sure your equipment is properly collecting data—there are excellent opportunities to see wildlife of all kinds. Sharp-tailed grouse rise off of ridgetops and glide into the cover of gullies. Pronghorn and mule deer look up at the plane as it passes over while coyotes maintain a cautious distance from the sound.

Northern pintails will stop and put their feet into any puddle of water they can find, no matter how small. We call these puddles Type I wetlands. Type Is are small, ephemeral patches of water that are less than 6 inches deep and usually persist for less than 3 weeks. This year, there are few on the landscape (so far), but in the small number that we are observing we often see one or two pintails with a foot in the water facing in to the wind.