Perspective

Written by Nick Wirwa
Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Photo of Nick Wirwa.As I write this blog, I am thinking back on how it has been another wonderful adventure flying across southern Ontario and Quebec. Last week we covered areas around Kapuskasing, Wawa, and Timmins, Ontario, and moved eastward and surveyed areas around Chibougamau and Alma, Quebec. Wetland conditions appeared fair with localized areas of good amounts of moisture. This was consistent across all survey areas. Wetland condition also varied by wetland type. Many of the smaller streams, temporary wetlands, and recharge wetlands appeared to have less water than the larger, more permanent wetlands. My observations were supported by talking with many of the locals. Much of the water came from average to good snow accumulation this past winter. However, spring rain amounts have been much less than usual. This could be why we observed more mudflats surrounding some of the wetlands this year. All and all, wetland conditions appear to be fair to good across southern Ontario and Quebec.

One thing I have learned from flying these surveys is the concept of perspective as it relates to the larger landscapes. It’s something about flying at 5,000-10,000 feet that puts things in perspective and makes it all make so much sense. As a biologist for a group of National Wildlife Refuges in south Mississippi and Louisiana, I most often get stuck in a bubble, the “refuge bubble.” It’s when I get caught up in the boundaries of my refuge and my little office. Flying across thousands of miles of Canadian terrain and seeing the vast country and endless wetlands that flow into each other for what seems like thousands of miles, my small little 55,000 acres worth of refuges seem to shrink to nothing. When I see clear cuts of forests, blow downs from storms or die-offs from disease covering thousands of square miles, I really get the picture of landscape-scale management. It forces me to stop focusing my efforts on the small, not-so-important issues of the refuge and work across refuge boundaries, with partners, and with larger, landscape-scale initiatives. It also causes me to think about wetland feature formation, wetland function and restoration potential. These are the things that allow me to be a better biologist and manager of our resources. Until next year…

Getting N723 ready for take-off after good amounts of snow on May 19th.  USFWS, Nick Wirwa

Getting N723 ready for take-off after good amounts of snow on May 19th. USFWS, Nick Wirwa

N723 beached for a night's stay in a lodge.  USFWS, Nick Wirwa

N723 beached for a night's stay in a lodge. USFWS, Nick Wirwa

Woke up to white.  USFWS, Nick Wirwa

Woke up to white. USFWS, Nick Wirwa

Scenic View near Chute-des-Passes (east of Chibougamau).  USFWS, Nick Wirwa

Scenic View near Chute-des-Passes (east of Chibougamau). USFWS, Nick Wirwa

Which one is the Canadian? Fueling at Chibougamau airport.  USFWS, Nick Wirwa

Which one is the Canadian? Fueling at Chibougamau airport. USFWS, Nick Wirwa