Eastern and Northern Ontario

Final Thoughts

Eastern and Northern Ontario
Written by Nick Wirwa
Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Photo of Nick Wirwa.

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Nick Wirwa reporting on habitat conditions near the end of the survey.Video by Steve Earsom, US FWS

Wordless...

Eastern and Northern Ontario
Written by Steve Earsom
Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Photo of Stephen D. Earsom.Everyone knows what it means to be speechless. You see or hear something that causes that little record player in your head to make that loud scratching noise, and you’re left standing there motionless, dumbfounded, jaw agape, and perhaps with just a small bead of drool at the corner of your mouth. But what’s the equivalent term for writer’s block?

My Real Job

Eastern and Northern Ontario
Written by █████████████
Friday, May 13, 2016

Photo of unidentified person.One of the more interesting recurring conversations my wife has with friends is about my job. “Oh, your husband is a pilot? And he’s gone for how long? And he goes where? Doing what? (long pause) So what does he really do?” With that, I’d like to put to rest the idea that I am really employed by ██████, and that my real job is to █████████. While it is true that I work for ██████████████, I’m not employed by the █████████████ and never have been. Besides, my security clearance level is only ████████, and everyone knows that to work for ██████████████ you get █████████████ clearance. Plus, those guys carry █████████ ink pens, and operate vehicles that can move around both on the land and water.

The Power of Three

Eastern and Northern Ontario
Written by Nick Wirwa
Monday, May 09, 2016

Photo of Nick Wirwa.This is our first day after surveying 5 days to be on the ground due to high winds following a recent cold front. Despite the weather we are making good progress. This is my third year assisting with the Waterfowl Breeding Surveys, and it has been very interesting getting to see the exact same locations over the three-year period. However, I know other pilots and crew members have flown the same survey for a decade or more. What a huge value and asset to have within this program. As a refuge biologist I have been fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to work at various refuges around the country. What I have discovered through these experiences is the phenomenon of cycles and the power of repetition. Oftentimes, after moving to a new refuge, I allow myself the first year for observation, the second year for trials and screw-ups and the third year to finally figure things out. Because of this, it has always been my rule-of-thumb to not implement any new measure or management strategy until after the third year and nothing new and drastic until the seventh year. This is because as biologists or land managers we need to experience annual cycles and be able to answer questions like when is it driest, when is it the wettest, what does a wet year look like, where does the water flow, when is the peak bird use, and what species use this habitat throughout the year. These are questions we should be asking ourselves as biologists during the first year in the field. As I was flying across the agricultural lands west of Toronto surveying waterfowl, these thoughts of annual cycles came to mind. I am now seeing the same areas for the third year. This has allowed me to better assess those habitat questions related to wetland condition, nesting, and bird use. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has always promoted its employees to move around to various programs and field stations to gain experience, and while that is important, the biologist/employee who has experience at one site for thirty years has and can contribute a great wealth of knowledge to science.

Nyquist Finishes Second

Eastern and Northern Ontario
Written by Steve Earsom
Sunday, May 08, 2016

Photo of Stephen D. Earsom.Yesterday was the Kentucky Derby, and Nick Wirwa and I were out of the gates this year faster than Nyquist. Nick arrived at the Dulles Airport near Washington DC on Monday, 2 May, and within 24 hours we had loaded gear, flown amphibious Kodiak N723 to Toronto, cleared customs, and surveyed our first two transects. The weather has cooperated all week, and it wasn’t until yesterday that we had to shift away from our daily Plan A. Still our Plan B allowed us to complete all the transects scheduled for the day, and as of now we have completed Strata 52, 53 and 54 in southern Ontario, and have moved across the St. Lawrence River to work in Quebec.

Perspective

Eastern and Northern Ontario
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.

Pass the Juju

Eastern and Northern Ontario
Written by Steve Earsom
Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Photo of Stephen D. Earsom.I’ve been reading some of the flight logs from other crews taking part in this year’s BPOP, and I almost feel bad about hogging all the juju.

Moose, Bear, and Turkeys

Eastern and Northern Ontario
Written by Nick Wirwa
Monday, May 18, 2015

Photo of Nick Wirwa.We have finished up Stratum 54 and 56 with good weather. These areas are our southernmost units, which cover north of the U.S. border from Lake Ontario across the St. Lawrence River Valley. It’s time to pack it up and head to northern latitudes. Conditions across our survey area have been highly variable in moisture and waterfowl numbers. Moisture conditions north of Lake Ontario seemed to be good; however, heading east through the St. Lawrence River Valley, moisture conditions seemed to decline. While some wetlands and streams seem to have plenty of water, many others appear low. My summary is based off of last year’s observations. I would estimate what I have observed to date is that conditions are an order of magnitude lower than last year. I made a half-way joking comment to Steve that in some areas of our survey I have counted more moose, bear, and especially turkeys than ducks on the line this year. Preliminary habitat conditions posted on May 15th by Ducks Unlimited has our next survey lines in better condition. I am hoping so. More to come.

Beautiful Weather

Eastern and Northern Ontario
Written by Steve Earsom
Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Photo of Stephen D. Earsom.We survey crews can be an odd bunch sometimes. Everybody knows that beautiful weather means sunny skies, maybe a light breeze, say around 80 degrees, right? Nope. For us on surveys, there are two kinds of beautiful weather.

Back in the Saddle

Eastern and Northern Ontario
Written by Nick Wirwa
Monday, May 11, 2015

Photo of Nick Wirwa.This is my second year on the survey, and I have been pleasantly surprised how quickly everything has come back to me from last year. There is so much that goes into being a part of this complex survey and so many moving parts and elements to consider. There is so much one needs to know and understand before jumping into this endeavor. I know my pilot Steve is quite pleased not to retrain an observer this year. I have felt like we were able to just jump right in and take off from where we ended last year… with a quick refresher of course.

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