Alaska, Yukon Territory and Old Crow Flats

Early Spring in Alaska!

Alaska, Yukon Territory and Old Crow Flats
Written by Deb Groves
Friday, May 13, 2016

Photo of Deb Groves.Brad Shults and I started the Alaska-Yukon portion of the survey (strata 1-12) on May 10th, five days earlier than we normally do, thanks to an insanely early spring. Vegetation phenology is 3-4 weeks early in many areas, several river ice-out dates have broken all-time early records, and the snow is long gone or going fast (depending on the area). In this part of the world, an early spring often bodes well for waterfowl production, because it lengthens the normally short breeding season and gives the birds extra time to successfully pull off their broods. We’ve finished the Copper River Delta (stratum 7), Kenai-Susitna (stratum 1), and the Minto Flats near Fairbanks. It’s been fun getting back in the groove counting ducks and enjoying the rituals of spring -- newborn moose calves on wobbly legs, bears munching on fresh grass in the wetland margins, bald eagles gathered by the dozens to feast on eulachon in the Copper River. Today my view is through the window of a Fairbanks coffee shop, as I hang out waiting for Brad to get back from Anchorage with the plane and a new prop. Thanks to the fast work of the OAS mechanics in Anchorage, our prop issue will just be a small blip in our itinerary, and we’ll be back counting ducks tomorrow when we’ll head down to the amazingly productive wetlands near Tok.

This and That, Musings of a Grey-Haired Biologist/Pilot

Alaska, Yukon Territory and Old Crow Flats
Written by Jim Bredy
Sunday, June 14, 2015

Photo of Jim Bredy.As I sit here at Pikes Landing in Fairbanks, the last 7 ½ weeks have been a bit of a surreal experience. My journey started out from Albuquerque, NM, on April 24, took me through the waterfowl surveys in the southern 2/3 of Alberta, and the last two weeks on a counterclockwise circuit of Alaska. The following are a few personal thoughts on duck surveys. These thoughts are not “statistically defensible with confidence intervals,” but are just a few musings from a grey-haired flyway biologist for one to consider.

2015 Alaska Survey Resumes

Alaska, Yukon Territory and Old Crow Flats
Written by Jim Bredy
Sunday, June 07, 2015

Photo of Jim Bredy.The Alaska waterfowl breeding population surveys began in late May. I completed the BPOP surveys in southern and central Alberta on May 25. As I was stepping into the plane to head home, I got the call from my supervisor. Due to some plane maintenance issues, I was asked to head north to assist with the completion of these surveys. I crossed the border at Northway, and overflew the Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge near Tok, AK. I flew by Denali, and eventually met up with Brad Shults and Debbie Groves in McGrath. Debbie has been flying these surveys for portions of three decades now. In the few short days that I have been flying with her, I am really impressed with her duck identification skills. Due to her familiarity with past wetland conditions and bird numbers, she will be submitting more detailed reports on habitat.

We Have a Plane and a Plan...

Alaska, Yukon Territory and Old Crow Flats
Written by Brad Shults
Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Brad Shults.After a long Alaska winter… Well that’s the way I would normally preface the work awaiting us, but we really didn’t have much of a winter this year (…sorry East Coast residents-should have been here) and we’re curious if returning waterfowl have noticed, too. It looks like one of the earliest arrivals of Spring in history, with ice-out and leaf-out dates across the state as early (i.e., by 2 weeks) as most old sourdoughs can remember. On the bright side, one advantage for our three pilot-biologists was that Southcentral Alaska had unusually warm temperatures, a record-breaking lack of snowfall (25” vs. 74” normal), and an absence of ice that allowed us to complete our annual recurrent float training during the 3rd week of April instead of early May. We’ll have to wait and see if there was any advantage for nesting waterfowl returning to the state.

Alaska Survey is Completed

Alaska, Yukon Territory and Old Crow Flats
Written by Ed Mallek
Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Photo of Ed Mallek.We conducted the survey of Yukon Flats on 22 May. Yukon Flats is a large wetland area and National Wildlife Refuge north of Fairbanks along the Yukon River. Survey conditions were good and waterfowl numbers seemed normal for this survey area. We did encounter some minor problems with the aircraft (starting issues) which required us to fly the aircraft to Anchorage, AK upon completion of the survey for maintenance. The maintenance issue was addressed the following day (23 May) and we flew the aircraft to Fairbanks late that evening.

Minto and Tetlin Flats Completed

Alaska, Yukon Territory and Old Crow Flats
Written by Ed Mallek
Friday, May 21, 2010

Photo of Ed Mallek.We attempted to conduct the survey on Minto Flats which is just west of Fairbanks, AK, on 19 May but had to return due to high winds in the survey area (greater than 25 mph). The following day (20 May) provided us good survey conditions and we conducted surveys on Minto Flats as well as Tetlin Flats. Tetlin Flats are located near the Native village of Tetlin, which is in the upper Tanana River valley near Northway, AK. This area is where the Alaska Highway enters Alaska from Canada.

The Survey has begun in Alaska – conditions dry

Alaska, Yukon Territory and Old Crow Flats
Written by Ed Mallek
Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Photo of Ed Mallek.My observer Debbie Groves and I started the 2010 Alaska-Yukon waterfowl breeding population survey on 14 May. We arrived at Anchorage, Alaska, on the 14th and prepared the aircraft for the survey. The aircraft recently received routine maintenance and needed a “post-maintenance flight” prior to departing. This is 34th year that our highly modified Turbine Beaver airplane has been used on the survey. The post-maintenance flight went well and we were cleared to begin the survey. We planned on departing from Anchorage on the morning of 15 May, but we were delayed for a day due to adverse weather conditions in the survey area (Copper River Delta near Cordova). We departed Anchorage on 16 May and completed the survey on the Copper River Delta and remained overnight in Cordova. We departed Cordova the following morning (17 May) and flew to Kenai for fuel. After fueling up at the Kenai airport we flew the “Kenai-Susitna” portion of the survey. This survey area includes the northern portion of the Kenai Peninsula and the lower portion of the Susitna River drainage. Upon completion of the Kenai-Susitna area we flew directly to Fairbanks.

Survey completed in Alaska and Yukon Territory

Alaska, Yukon Territory and Old Crow Flats
Written by Ed Mallek
Sunday, June 07, 2009

We have completed the survey! We surveyed the Kotzebue Sound area (Kotzebue to Bettles), the Old Crow Flats area and the Nelchina Basin area. The Kotzebue Sound area survey went as planned, with decent numbers of waterfowl and good survey conditions. The Old Crow Flats area is in Yukon Territory, Canada. This area holds large numbers of white-winged scoters and lesser scaup (as well as numerous dabblers). To survey the Old Crow Flats, we flew the survey aircraft from Bettles to Fort Yukon and put on additional fuel. We then flew from Fort Yukon to the Old Crow Flats, conducted our survey, and returned to Fairbanks. The lakes on the Old Crow Flats were less icy than in recent years and scoter and scaup numbers were relatively high there. Our last survey area was the Nelchina Basin. This basin is significantly higher than other interior Alaska survey areas (>1,500 feet above sea level compared to <700 feet above sea level for other interior Alaska survey areas). Due to this increased elevation and resultant late spring arrival, this area is surveyed last. We flew from Fairbanks to the Nelchina Basin, surveyed the Nelchina Basin, landed at Gulkana to put on some additional fuel, and flew to Anchorage for the completion of the survey.

The 2009 Alaska-Yukon Waterfowl Breeding Population Survey went well with no significant problems. We expect some duck numbers to be down slightly from recent years, perhaps due to good nesting conditions further south.

Yukon/Kuskokwim Delta and the Seward Peninsula

Alaska, Yukon Territory and Old Crow Flats
Written by Ed Mallek
Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Today we finished surveying the Yukon/Kuskokwim Delta (YKD). This is our largest survey area and has the most diverse and highest densities of waterfowl. The coastal zone of this survey area has very high concentrations of nesting geese, ducks, and swans. Densities are lower in the interior of the YKD, but numbers are still high. We surveyed this area for three full days, and while en route to Kotzebue via Nome (Seward Peninsula). The southwest portion of the YKD was slightly icier than normal. Our survey from Bethel to Nome was normal with good survey conditions. We encountered some poor weather between Nome and Kotzebue, which required us to fly around the mountains due to low ceilings. After we flew west around the mountains just north of Nome, we encountered good weather on the Seward Peninsula and into Kotzebue. We thought the Seward Peninsula would be slightly icier than normal (late spring), but we found good survey conditions on the Seward Peninsula with less ice on lakes than in recent years.

The survey continues to the Tundra

Alaska, Yukon Territory and Old Crow Flats
Written by Ed Mallek
Friday, May 29, 2009

Today we arrived at Bethel, Alaska. We surveyed from Fairbanks to McGrath to King Salmon to Bethel over a period of 5 days. We encountered heavy flooding in the Innoko River survey area. This area floods often in the spring and occasionally in the fall. The extensive flooding may have caused decreased waterfowl densities and production in the area in the short term, but helps maintain good waterfowl habitat for the long term. We encountered one wildfire en route from McGrath to King Salmon. We had to discontinue the survey for about one mile while we flew around the fire. The survey around King Salmon (Bristol Bay) was conducted under good weather. Overall, water conditions and bird densities (with the exception of Innoko) were average to slightly below average.

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