Eastern and Northern Ontario

What the Catbird Knows

Eastern and Northern Ontario
Written by Steve Earsom
Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Photo of Stephen D. Earsom.I saw the catbird on Friday. He was sitting on my back porch railing, just staring at me as if to say, “What are you doing here?” He was right. All the other signs were there. I had mowed the yard three times, the barn swallows had their nest built in the same place as always on our front porch, and my brother’s bug boil went off last weekend.

Crew Area Complete: Another Day in the Life of a Survey Crew

Eastern and Northern Ontario
Written by Steve Earsom
Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Photo of Stephen D. Earsom.Some days the living is easy. The weather is good and the survey hums along. It was based on that kind of day that I wrote a blog a few years ago entitled “A day in the life of an air crew member.” Now here’s another chapter that shows a bit of contrast.

Back to Our Lives

Eastern and Northern Ontario
Written by Nick Wirwa
Monday, June 09, 2014

Photo of Nick Wirwa.Many of us that assist in conducting these waterfowl breeding surveys hold “other” jobs the 11 other months out of the year. Many of us have jobs generally related to waterfowl at a National Wildlife Refuge or with the Migratory Bird Program. As for me, I ensure that waterfowl have habitat and food during spring and fall migration and throughout the winter. I love the rewarding feeling I get when temperatures cool down in the fall (for Louisiana that may be late November) and see 50,000 ducks and geese utilizing the habitat that I and other staff have been working so hard to produce and provide throughout the summer. As I am currently about to board a commercial flight, I will be heading back down south to pick back up where I left off with my “normal” duties. I will be jumping back in well into the growing season. I will continue dewatering the waterfowl impoundments to produce natural food and working with the cooperative farmer to produce crops to provide higher energy food to sustain the waterfowl through December and January. I probably speak for many of us on this survey team and say that it is difficult leaving our work duties back at our home station and our families for a month-plus and travel to Canada (and surrounding areas) to fly over 10,000 miles of terrain to count breeding waterfowl. But I also speak for everyone and say this is the most rewarding and exciting job that I think one could have.

Superhero Escape...

Eastern and Northern Ontario
Written by Steve Earsom
Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Photo of Stephen D. Earsom.As the superheroes sprinted down the long, straight, narrow hallway, the path behind them erupted with sequential explosions of green, white and red. Dust filled the air and lightning struck as the huge door cycled downward to block their escape. They dove for the narrow space under the door like baserunners stealing home…

Flooding Takes the Shine Off

Eastern and Northern Ontario
Written by Steve Earsom
Friday, May 30, 2014

Photo of Stephen D. Earsom.We and the waterfowl have had a pretty good ride so far this year. The ducks and geese are enjoying excellent habitat conditions, and while weather has slowed our survey from time to time, we’ve not been stopped for more than 3 days at a time, which has really been more an opportunity to catch our breath than it has been an inconvenience. Not so for Canadians in some areas of Quebec and Ontario.

Status Update from Stratum 51

Eastern and Northern Ontario
Written by Nick Wirwa
Friday, May 30, 2014

Photo of Nick Wirwa.As we are nearing the end of our survey I look back and think about the territory we have covered. So far we have flown over 8,000 miles of terrain throughout southern Ontario and Quebec.

A Gorgeous Day to Fly

Eastern and Northern Ontario
Written by Steve Earsom
Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Photo of Stephen D. Earsom.Like Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, I hesitantly pull back the curtain of my room in Kapuskasing, Ontario, this morning. I’m greeted with a solid, low overcast as far as the eye can see, early risers outside wearing sweaters and jackets, and a slack Canadian flag on the flagpole. It’s a perfect day.

It's a Roller Coaster

Eastern and Northern Ontario
Written by Nick Wirwa
Saturday, May 17, 2014

Photo of Nick Wirwa.Leaving the flat, agricultural terrain of Stratum 54, we are finally getting into what I had imagined in this part of the world. As we fly over pristine lakes, beaver ponds, and beautiful winding rivers shaped by the rolling terrain, I am still surprised by its beauty over every corner and hill top. While attempting to make close passes near the water to get the best advantage identifying a bird, there is always the next hilltop awaiting us on the other side of the lake. After a quick dip we are back up climbing again, nose up to the sky to avoid the next peak. Who needs to pay good money to be entertained at Six Flags, when you can fly with Steve?! Like a child on a family road trip vacation, I find there is always something new and surprising waiting over every hill. While I am completely focused on counting waterfowl and helping Steve watch for obstacles, I do find myself getting caught up in the wonder and beauty of nature and this earth. We are beginning to get into much more of the back country. With the larger expanses of forests and undeveloped lands, we are starting to observe larger wildlife as well, such as bear and moose—just another cool part of getting to do what we do. Most of the lakes in this area are deep and permanent. These wetlands provide habitat for many diving ducks and sea ducks. While I was hoping to see many dabbling ducks, I am getting to sharpen my skills in identifying species like common mergansers, bufflehead, long-tailed ducks, and common loons. I was also expecting to see more black ducks, but I am hopeful as we progress further north and east they will become more common. Ontario is a beautiful province, and I look forward to seeing what Quebec has to offer.

Good Ol' Stratum 54

Eastern and Northern Ontario
Written by Nick Wirwa
Friday, May 16, 2014

Photo of Nick Wirwa.As we finished up Stratum 54 this week, the conditions seem to be looking positive. Having never flown the Breeding Population Survey before, Stratum 54, the block that we were flying this week, was not what I was expecting to see. Flying over swimming pools, subdivisions, and power lines, I was asking myself what I was doing here. Given the mix of urban and agricultural landscapes in Stratum 54, I was quite surprised where mallards and Canada geese decide to make nests. As we flew over rock quarries, sediment ponds, golf courses and farm ponds, I was surprised to see as many ducks as we did utilizing these obscure, so-called wetlands. This made it clear to me that, although these are not pristine, untouched, and intact natural wetlands, these wetlands still are important, and they add value to waterfowl nesting habitat and other necessary wetland system functions. While protecting temporary prairie wetlands from being tilled, providing productive hemi-marshes, and enhancing grassland and vegetation buffers around potholes is critical, this observation made it clear to me the importance of water on the landscape in any shape, form, or fashion. Although yard ponds may not be what we think of when we picture duck nesting habitat, I learned that the small things add to the landscape and to waterfowl conservation as whole. With a great first week in the Kodiak and good conditions in Stratum 54, I am excited for another week ahead, and hopeful to see the good habitat conditions continue as we move across Ontario.

Hockey Season Extended!

Eastern and Northern Ontario
Written by Steve Earsom
Friday, May 16, 2014

Photo of Stephen D. Earsom.The bitterly cold winter allowed hockey fanatics a few more games on their favorite lakes this spring in southern Ontario. I’m used to seeing Lake Simcoe, north of Toronto, ice-free a week to 10 days before wheels-up, and yet that patch stayed white on NOAA’s ice cover map until a day or so before we left, despite the snow being long gone. Seeing big chunks of ice flowing out of Lake Erie and over Niagara Falls as we flew north didn’t give me a warm fuzzy, either. However, our reconnaissance flights confirmed the ducks were ready to go, and the lone mallard to pair ratio is right on as we summarize our data from Stratum 54.

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