Maine and Atlantic Canada

Nearly Finished in Atlantic Canada with Good Conditions in Labrador

Maine and Atlantic Canada
Written by John Bidwell
Saturday, May 28, 2016

John BidwellBrian and I have had unusually good surveying weather in Newfoundland and Labrador. Clear to overcast skies, good visibility and best of all, light winds. It has been a pleasure flying with Brian, who is a great biologist and a safe and professional pilot. We have flown all transects in both areas with the exception of one transect in southern Labrador, which includes 10 segments. We tried this morning to finish and head for Sept-Iles, Quebec for refueling, but low clouds and fog prevented our departure. This is the only delay that we have experienced.

Smelling the Roses

Maine and Atlantic Canada
Written by John Bidwell
Tuesday, May 24, 2016

John BidwellSometimes you just have to sit back and enjoy smelling the roses. For me, that is the case with this year’s survey of Newfoundland and Labrador. The weather has been spectacular and Brian and I have been blessed with pristine conditions. I flew this area as the Biologist/Pilot crew leader from 1999 until 2010 and cannot remember better survey conditions. We have now completed Newfoundland and relocated to Goose Bay, Labrador. When I compare Newfoundland summary files of my observations between 2011 (when I was Mark’s observer/mentor) to this year’s data, numbers and species composition are very similar. Consistency is always important in biological survey work, so crews that work together for extended surveys certainly improve reliability of the final indices.

New Crew Lends a Hand in Atlantic Canada

Maine and Atlantic Canada
Written by John Bidwell
Friday, May 20, 2016

John BidwellI have come out of retirement as a Biologist Pilot to team up with fellow Biologist Pilot Brian Lubinski to help Mark Koneff complete the Maine and Atlantic Canada survey. We met with Mark in Bangor on May 18 to discuss logistics and timing for completing Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador. The weather has been perfect for surveying, clear skies and little wind that is expected to continue for several days. We departed for the Fredericton, New Brunswick airport to clear customs on the morning of May 19. Fredericton is one of several pilot training centers located in New Brunswick, consequently there tends to be lots of departure delays. After about an hour and a half on the ground we launched to complete the six segments on Prince Edward Island. Habitat conditions look good. Duck phenology and numbers appear normal. After Prince Edward Island, we flew to Moncton, New Brunswick for fuel and to suit up in survival suits for the 3-hour over water ferry flight north to Deer Lake Newfoundland. The Canadian helicopter survey just finished in Newfoundland, so timing should be perfect.

A Hiccup...

Maine and Atlantic Canada
Written by Mark Koneff
Friday, May 13, 2016

Photo of Mark Koneff.Unfortunately, I’m going to have to discontinue my survey in the Maine and Atlantic Canada crew area due to injury. The good news is that a replacement crew will be available to continue the survey in this crew area next week. While the seasonal phenology will be too late to collect data in parts of the Canadian Maritimes by then, we are fortunate to have access to complementary data collected by a Canadian Wildlife Service crew. These data are routinely integrated with our FWS data in computing the annual estimates of duck abundance in this region. It will affect the precision of our estimate some, but at least we’ll have one. The replacement crew will include Brian Lubinksi, who is a biologist-pilot for the FWS out of Minnesota. His observer will be John Bidwell, who is a retiree from our Branch, and a former crew leader for this area. John’s local knowledge and experience in this area will be invaluable, especially in dealing with the challenging weather, terrain, and logistics. They will fly the survey in Newfoundland and Labrador in N701, a Partenavia Observer that Brian operates from Minnesota. I’m disappointed to miss the survey this year, and I’m particularly disappointed for Heidi Hanlon, my observer, whose first experience with this survey and this incredible landscape was cut short. I am thankful, however, that we’re able to meet our obligations in Newfoundland and Labrador, which are particularly important as breeding regions for the North Atlantic Canada Goose Population. You’ll hear more from Brian and John in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Finished in Maine

Maine and Atlantic Canada
Written by Mark Koneff
Sunday, May 08, 2016

Photo of Mark Koneff.Despite the pessimistic forecast earlier in the week, we managed to do quite well and completed the Maine portion of this survey on the 7th. The rains we had this week, which were spotty across Maine, really didn’t do a lot to alleviate the low surface water conditions that are the result of low precipitation during the winter and early spring. Wetlands across Maine were drawn down with dryness increasing to the north. A little lingering black ice was observed on higher elevation lakes in far northern Maine. Conditions are not all that dissimilar from last May, and counts of most species were similar to last year.

Maine and Atlantic Canada Crew Waiting on Weather

Maine and Atlantic Canada
Written by Mark Koneff
Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Photo of Mark Koneff.If you’d have asked me in February, I’d have said we were looking at an exceptionally early spring across the northeast and Canadian Maritimes. Right across the Maine and Atlantic Canada crew area, we saw warmer than average temperatures during the winter through February. Those temperatures were coupled with average to below average winter precipitation. While this put a damper on the fun of ice fishermen like my sons and me, after the long, bitter cold winter of 2015, I didn’t hear too much grumbling. Eastern Canada and the northeast US saw a substantial cool down in March and April and precipitation in early spring has been below average, well below average in some areas of Maine and the Canadian Maritime provinces of New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Nova Scotia. At the start of the survey things look pretty dry across Maine and the Maritimes.

Wrapping up the Maine and Atlantic Crew Area

Maine and Atlantic Canada
Written by Mark Koneff
Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Photo of Mark Koneff.After frequent weather or equipment-related delays, we arrived in Labrador on the first of June to be greeted by a short window of forecasted favorable weather. We made the most of it, flying several long days in a row to finish off our survey area and ferry part way home prior to rain, snow, and ice shutting things down again in Labrador. Overall, conditions in Labrador were good, though phenology was a little delayed from average. Some of the higher elevation terrain (especially in the east) and the northern-most surveyed latitudes were still under snow pack and many of the larger bodies still locked in ice. That’s not all that unusual for this time of year in Labrador. As I write this, all our Branch’s crews have completed their assigned areas and returned home safely. Our colleagues in Alaska, however, were plagued by aircraft maintenance issues that at one point left them without aircraft to complete priority waterfowl surveys in the state; surveys which are critical components of our continental monitoring program and are essential to setting hunting seasons for certain species or populations. Fortunately, we were able to loan two of our Branch’s aircraft to our Alaska Region after they were no longer needed in more southern crew areas. We also were able to offer the assistance of one of our Branch’s biologist-pilots to assist in completing priority surveys in Alaska. It’s never surprising, but always gratifying, to see the dedicated and passionate staff in the Service come together to pull off another continental survey effort. I’m proud to be a small part of it.

Love, Hate Relationship

Maine and Atlantic Canada
Written by Mark Koneff
Saturday, May 30, 2015

Photo of Mark Koneff.I love Newfoundland. The people are some of the friendliest and most welcoming I’ve encountered during my travels across North America, the landscape stark and rugged but incredibly beautiful, the geology and geological history really interesting and diverse, and the flora and fauna fascinating and heavily influenced by recent glaciation. We arrived six days ago at Stephenville and have managed to survey all lines across the central portion of the island. Every east-west, coast-to-coast survey flight is an accomplishment given the time of year we are here and the almost ubiquitous presence of low clouds and fog somewhere on the island. The topography of Newfoundland is characterized by the Long Range Mountains in the west, an extension of the Appalachian chain, and a high central plateau that gradually slopes off to the coastal plain in the east. The Long Range Mountains are an uplifted part of the earth’s crust known to geologists as horst. In the central part of the island, and just to the east of the Long Range is a large depressional basin (a graben to geologists) that contains two impressive lakes, Deer and Grand, Grand being the more massive. To the east of this, central Newfoundland is an elevated plateau that is actually part of an ancient sea bed that has been thrust up and over the North American plate. Glacial scouring and erosion of that plateau has left large rock knobs known locally as “tolts” jutting sometimes hundreds of feet above the eroded plateau surface. To me, the central plateau has a remote, other-worldly feel to it that’s really appealing and I always feel privileged to experience it in a way that few others are able to. The lower elevation, but still rocky, terrain on the eastern side of the island is home to many quaint coastal/fishing communities which are quintessential Newfoundland.

Great Way to Spend Your Time

Maine and Atlantic Canada
Written by Brad Rogers
Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Photo of Brad Rogers.After 3 days in Charlottetown due to a low pressure system stalled out over Newfoundland, we are finally in the air again. We had a great flight from Charlottetown, PEI, over to Stephenville, Newfoundland, yesterday, covering 245 miles in 1.6 hours, thanks to an awesome tail wind. As of today, we have completed four of the Stratum 66 survey lines across Newfoundland. There’s lots of water in the ponds and bogs with the snow that has recently melted. We’re also seeing some lingering ice on the mountain lakes. Saw my first, second, and twentieth woodland caribou today, along with a black bear and quite a few moose.

Finally to Newfoundland...

Maine and Atlantic Canada
Written by Mark Koneff
Sunday, May 24, 2015

Photo of Mark Koneff.On May 15 we finished Nova Scotia and returned to Bangor, ME, for a required inspection on N769. We were down 5 days, and every day was beautiful flying weather. Naturally, the weather began to deteriorate on Thursday, May 21—the day we left to return to Canada and resume the survey. We landed at Charlottetown, PEI, to clear customs, take on some fuel, and check weather before crossing the Gulf of St. Lawrence to Newfoundland. We had a nose wheel tire come off the rim on landing so that ended all thoughts of beating the weather across the Gulf. There is no maintenance at Charlottetown, so thankfully, the fine folks at Maine Aero Services at my home airport in Bangor drove the 6.5 hours (one-way) on the Friday before the Memorial Day Weekend to change the nose wheel and get us back online. That occurred just in time for the weather to really take a turn for the worse with cold temps, howling winds, cold rain and snow. So we stuck it out in Charlottetown for 2 more days, but we’re not complaining, Charlottetown and the Province of Prince Edward Island are both pretty fine places. This morning, Sunday May 24, we took advantage of a short weather window to make the trek up to Stephenville on the southwest coast of Newfoundland. Winds were strong when we landed but were blowing straight down the 11,000-foot runway that we landed on so not a major concern. They were too strong to do any surveying however, so my observer, Brad Rogers, and I took the opportunity to see some nearby coastline from the ground. I’ve included a few photos from the flight over and of the incredible scenery nearby at Cape St. George. I’ll report back after we’ve surveyed Newfoundland and can comment on conditions. Blessed Memorial Day to all and especially to our military families and vets!

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