Eastern and Northern Ontario

Only 100 Things Left to Do

Eastern and Northern Ontario
Written by Steve Earsom
Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Photo of Stephen D. Earsom.My observer Nick Wirwa probably thought I was a bit twisted when, after the unavoidable last minute preparations and occasional snafus, I told him I thought we had progressed to having less than a hundred items left to do before departure for the spring survey. This was after I had finished my preflight and we had loaded everything into the plane. I persisted though, giving him another update when I was pretty sure we were down to the last half-dozen items, which occurred when we were sitting in the plane—for the second time—after remembering a couple of items while sitting in the plane the first time. The good news is we’ve arrived in Canada, and Nick is rolling well with the punches. More updates soon.

Welcoming Nick Wirwa to the Survey!

Eastern and Northern Ontario
Written by Steve Earsom
Monday, May 12, 2014

Photo of Stephen D. Earsom.This year I’m lucky to have Nick Wirwa as my observer. By way of introduction, Nick began his career as a student working summers at Tennessee National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) checking wood duck boxes, banding wood ducks, spraying aquatic invasives, and helping with shorebird surveys. He parlayed that experience into a full-time position at Merritt Island NWR in Florida as a Wildlife Refuge Specialist, getting experience in refuge operations and the fire management program. Nick also worked as an Assistant Manager at Pelican Island NWR before his passion for wetlands and waterfowl led him to the Lower Mississippi River NWR Complex, where as Wildlife Biologist he manages wetland habitat, primarily moist-soil impoundments and cropland, for migrating wintering waterfowl, shorebirds, wading birds, and bottomland hardwood forests for neotropical songbirds.

Final Thoughts on the 2012 BPOP

Eastern and Northern Ontario
Written by Stephen D. Earsom
Saturday, June 02, 2012

Photo of Stephen D. Earsom.My part of the 57th annual breeding population and habitat survey is now complete. We covered almost 9,000 miles in 17 days of flying, overnighted in 13 places and nearly shook our eye teeth loose in the process. While clouds and precipitation did little to slow us down this year – I even had to take a mandatory rest day because the string of good weather we had – there was no shortage of winds and turbulence. We had to discontinue surveys a couple of times due to winds, and even changed our destination one day due to unfavorable conditions at our planned landing site. Generally, though, we contended with shakes and bumps that, while uncomfortable at times, were still safe and within our operating procedures.

A Salute to My Dad

Eastern and Northern Ontario
Written by Stephen D. Earsom
Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Photo of Stephen D. Earsom.If there’s one thing I’ve learned in adulthood, it’s to be thankful for the good upbringing my parents gave me, and to appreciate every moment I spend with them on the phone and in person.

Make Mine a Black and Tan

Eastern and Northern Ontario
Written by Stephen D. Earsom
Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Photo of Stephen D. Earsom.Some folks like amber, others nut brown, but in this part of Ontario you’d better like black and tan. The coniferous forests here exude tannins into every water body; small creeks, lakes and large rivers that would otherwise be crystal clear all have a dark brown hue to them. And the ducks, well they’re all variations on black: from the scoters to the scaup, bufflehead, ring-necks, the occasional long-tail and of courses black ducks…on some days even the mallards start looking a bit monochromatic. It’s all good though, as we continue to see habitat that ranges from good to occasionally excellent with most duck and goose species showing an increase from last year.

How's the Habitat?

Eastern and Northern Ontario
Written by Stephen D. Earsom
Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Photo of Stephen D. Earsom.The extremely mild winter we experienced in the Washington DC area was also felt in portions of our crew area. The early snow and ice melt has resulted in advanced runoff and infiltration, and we’re seeing a generally drier landscape than last year. However, southern Ontario and Quebec still have good habitat conditions – permanent lakes have plenty of water and most beaver ponds, while much lower than last year, are providing what the ducks need to have a successful year. Leaf-out is also somewhat ahead of last year, though as we’ve moved north (or up in elevation) we seem to catch up with the wave of spring.

Off and Running

Eastern and Northern Ontario
Written by Stephen D. Earsom
Monday, May 07, 2012

Photo of Stephen D. Earsom.The eastern Ontario crew is out of the chute and well on its way. My observer this year is Bill Berg. Bill is the Deputy Project Leader at the massive Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge in Montana, the second largest NWR in the lower 48. Bill brings to the survey many years of hands-on wildlife experience, including waterfowl banding and aerial surveys. He’s a great asset and we’re lucky to have him. Welcome, Bill!

End of the Road – Conditions are Great

Eastern and Northern Ontario
Written by Stephen D. Earsom
Thursday, May 26, 2011

Photo of Stephen D. Earsom.Yesterday afternoon we arrived in Moosonee, an interesting Cree village at the southern end of James Bay. It's the end of the road in more than one way. There are no highways connecting Moosonee to the rest of the country, so everything arrives by aircraft, boat, or train...and this is the end of the line for the train. For us, it marks the last stop on our migration northward. Perfect weather allowed us to complete the last of our surveys today, and we'll start home tomorrow.

A Canadian Wildlife Hat Trick

Eastern and Northern Ontario
Written by Stephen D. Earsom
Sunday, May 22, 2011

Photo of Stephen D. Earsom.It's May, and that means it's hockey playoff time in Canada. I don't know much about the sport, but I do know that if you've scored three goals in a game it's called a hat trick. So today was a special day for us, flying over northern Ontario in an area where the boreal forest begins to give way to string bogs, lichen-covered granite, and stunted trees, collectively known as the taiga ecoregion. For amongst the singles, pairs and small flocks of waterfowl we continue to count, we managed to see a nice-sized bear, a moose with a calf, and a rare woodland caribou. We've seen as many as five bears in a day, and moose have also reared their heads fairly frequently in the North, but the woodland caribou, considered a threatened species by the Canadian government, was a lucky find. We are truly fortunate souls to be able to work toward conservation of our natural resources in such a beautiful locale.

Alien Abduction in Area 51!

Eastern and Northern Ontario
Written by Stephen D. Earsom
Saturday, May 21, 2011

Photo of Stephen D. Earsom.You know, it’s pretty exciting to be flying waterfowl surveys in Area 51, one of the US government’s most closely guarded secrets. And now I have my own story to add to the legend.

A couple of days ago we were flying along, minding our own business counting waterfowl, when suddenly, Carl’s computer started acting up. Of course, being in a highly classified area where untold mind control experiments have been conducted, we were somehow made unaware of the problem until well into the next day. The fact that the problem was intermittent made it even more difficult to uncover, but eventually we realized that our data were being abducted by a squealing alien. That’s right, on occasion, an alien would step in to steal Carl’s recording of a pair of black ducks or a flock of mallard drakes, and replace it with an extraterrestrial whine or hum. We are lucky to have escaped. However, the mission requires that we go back into the heart of Area 51 and fly some of the same areas again, collecting data in a way that the aliens would never think of – pencil and paper.

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