Blocking High

Written by Walt Rhodes
Friday, May 22, 2015

Walt RhodesIt would be easy to say that we are on Cloud 9 but there are no clouds in the sky. A deep high pressure has kept our skies clear and winds light.

My observer this spring is Doug Head, an Inventory and Monitoring Biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service along the Texas/Louisiana Coast. Doug has aerial experience on his home turf but this is his first time on the breeding-population survey. The Canadians have quickly warmed to his Texas drawl and manners.

We met in Saskatoon on 13 May and visited with the S. Saskatchewan and Northwest Territories crews before departing for Prince Albert on 14 May. After a morning training flight on 15 May we started in earnest later that day. Winds that ushered in our blocking high blew on 16 May, but since then it has been great weather. Even forest-fire activity is light, but a few have begun to spark up recently. We pushed through La Ronge, SK, in two days, and have pulled out of Ft. McMurray, AB, this morning, en route to Stony Rapids, SK.

The habitat so far looks a little drier this spring. But this is mostly permanent-water habitat and it is really only the very small wetlands that seem to be starved for moisture, and these are not used much by waterfowl anyway. The flip side, especially in regards to the previous two springs, is that the ice has gone out early, making an abundance of habitat available to arriving waterfowl. There seems to be an uptick in numbers too, which is not unexpected given the drier habitats farther south.

Some clouds high overhead make seeing and identifying waterfowl easier, but we will take the benefits of the blocking high pressure and resulting long-term forecast of clear skies. Northern Manitoba is next after one more night up along the 59th parallel in Saskatchewan.

Walt Rhodes (l) and Doug Head (r) get ready to begin the survey in Saskatoon, SK. (Photo courtesy of W. Rhodes, USFWS)

Walt Rhodes (l) and Doug Head (r) get ready to begin the survey in Saskatoon, SK. (Photo courtesy of W. Rhodes, USFWS)

Northwest Territories, N. Saskatchewan/N. Manitoba, and S. Saskatchewan crews rendezvous in Saskatoon, SK. (Photo courtesy of W. Rhodes, USFWS)

Northwest Territories, N. Saskatchewan/N. Manitoba, and S. Saskatchewan crews rendezvous in Saskatoon, SK. (Photo courtesy of W. Rhodes, USFWS)

Parkland habitat just north of Prince Albert, SK. (Photo by W. Rhodes, USFWS)

Parkland habitat just north of Prince Albert, SK. (Photo by W. Rhodes, USFWS)