N. Saskatchewan Crew Out of the Blocks

Written by Walt Rhodes
Thursday, May 13, 2010

Walt RhodesIt’s been a busy start but an incredible run of good weather has aided our beginning. I spent late last week getting ready to depart the States. Typical startup duties include updating the databases in my GPS, repacking survival gear, setting up onboard computers, making initial lodging arrangements, and finalizing details at home. I had the added distraction of spending 2 days chasing an electrical issue in my survey airplane, which is a 1980 Cessna 185 on amphibian floats with over 5,500 hours on her airframe. The problem turned out to be a faulty voltage regulator. I was able to spend one day at the beach with my family before leaving South Carolina on Mother’s Day.

Good weather allowed me to make it to St. Paul, MN. However, the bearings in my newly overhauled alternator failed just before the airport. My observer, Sarah Folsom from Maine, was already in town waiting for me. A timely repair by Wipaire the next morning had us on our way in plenty of time to cross the border and make Regina, SK, by supper time, where we met up with the S. Saskatchewan crew of pilot-biologist Phil Thorpe and observer Pat Devers.

This was Sarah’s first year as an observer, so we spent the next morning on the ground polishing waterfowl ID skills. Freezing fog cleared by lunch and we took a training flight as well. We spent some time the following day in the air on our way to Prince Albert, SK, working on more waterfowl ID and survey technique. We got a nice start today north and east of Prince Albert and got a few segments under our belt. Timing of the survey looks good so far, and is definitely different from the late spring observed in 2009.

Observer Sarah Folsom and pilot-biologist Walt Rhodes getting ready to depart Regina, Saskatchewan, for the North.   (Photo courtesy of W. Rhodes, USFWS)

Observer Sarah Folsom and pilot-biologist Walt Rhodes getting ready to depart Regina, Saskatchewan, for the North. Photo courtesy of W. Rhodes, USFWS

Passing over the excellent waterfowl habitat of the Mississippi River marshes just downstream of LaCrosse, Wisconsin.    (Photo by W. Rhodes, USFWS))

Passing over the excellent waterfowl habitat of the Mississippi River marshes just downstream of LaCrosse, Wisconsin. Photo by W. Rhodes, USFWS)

Crossing the Appalachian Mountains near Asheville, North Carolina, en route to Minnesota on Mother’s Day.   (Photo by W. Rhodes, USFWS)

Crossing the Appalachian Mountains near Asheville, North Carolina, en route to Minnesota on Mother’s Day. Photo by W. Rhodes, USFWS