Maine and Atlantic Canada

Wrapping Up the Maritimes Tomorrow

Maine and Atlantic Canada
Written by Mark Koneff
Thursday, May 14, 2015

Photo of Mark Koneff.A couple of rainy, foggy days behind us and we are enjoying uncharacteristically nice spring weather across the Maritime Provinces. We completed New Brunswick a couple of days ago. Overall the province was considerably wetter than Maine just to the south. New Brunswick entered the winter with greater soil moisture and the snow melt has recharged wetlands across the province. In the higher elevations in the northwest, considerable snow remains in the woods. Today we completed Prince Edward Island. PEI is a very scenic island with tidy farms and serene, coastal villages. The last remnants of snow were melting off the potato fields leaving considerable temporary sheet water. The red soil of the island always reminds me of farm fields of my boyhood home of southcentral PA, though I think the PEI soils are a more intense red. Following PEI, we completed the Cape Breton region of Nova Scotia as well as all lines north of Halifax. Duck counts across the region seem fairly normal. Tomorrow looks to be another splendid weather day and we plan to finish Nova Scotia and return to Bangor, ME, where N769 will undergo a mandatory inspection. Once that is complete we’ll return north to finish up Newfoundland and Labrador and we’ll check in from there.

A Tale of Two Seasons...

Maine and Atlantic Canada
Written by Mark Koneff
Saturday, May 09, 2015

Photo of Mark Koneff.Back in March, looking out the window of our Maine farmhouse at 8-foot snow piles in the dooryard and 4-foot ice pack on local lakes, I would have bet good money that in May we’d be worried about flooding and enjoying a prolonged mud and productive black fly season. I’m glad I’m not a betting man because nothing could be further from the truth. Despite the very cold, very long, and very snowy winter, spring has seen little precipitation so far and it’s dry by Maine standards for May. Instead of flooding we’re worried about fires. Dry conditions prevail across the state and many wetlands, ponds and lakes are obviously drawn down. Streams and rivers are running at basically summer flows. Duck counts were down some too from recent years. Of course there is always a silver lining, as the dry conditions have also meant a mild start to black fly season. Hey, we’ll take it. We’re wrapped up in Maine and we’ve moved to Fredericton, NB. We’ll check back in later with an update on conditions in the Maritimes.

Maine and Atlantic Canada Crew Contemplates Survey Start

Maine and Atlantic Canada
Written by Mark Koneff
Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Photo of Mark Koneff.In case you haven’t watched the news or read a paper in six months, the winter of 2014-2015 in the northeastern US was a good old-fashioned one. Fall in Maine was really quite pleasant, with above-average temperatures in October, a little bit of cold and snow in November, and then a warm up again in December that left many areas snow-free for Christmas. Relatively benign conditions continued until mid-January, when the region began to experience very cold temperatures and significant snowfall, especially along the coast and in Downeast Maine. February was the coldest month (any month, ever) on record in Maine and March wasn’t much warmer, ending up as one of the coldest Marches on record. Ice thickness on many Maine lakes challenged ice-fishermen’s augers and in places exceeded four feet. The cold kept the snow that fell around for the duration and in parts of Maine near-record snowfalls were recorded. Overall, however, over the entirety of the past six months, precipitation totals are normal to slightly below normal in parts of western Maine.

Maine and Atlantic Canada Survey Area Completed

Maine and Atlantic Canada
Written by Mark Koneff
Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Photo of Mark Koneff.Early in my flying career with the FWS, I recall sitting in a musty, dank hotel room in Ontario looking rather morosely out the window at low ceilings and drizzle. It happened to be about the 8th or 9th day straight, and I was beginning to lose patience. The seasoned pilot-biologist that I was with just chuckled and told me something to the effect of “don’t worry it’s just the weather, if you wait long enough it will change.” There was a lot of wisdom in the remark, and his attitude, that I failed to fully appreciate at the time. After many years of flying these surveys though (including 4 in Maine and Atlantic Canada with its notoriously poor weather), I understand. You don’t control the weather, so relax. There’s enough risk inherent in the job, and you don’t want impatience, a goal-oriented personality, or get-home-itis to drive you to decisions that take that risk to unacceptable levels. We had our share of lousy weather this year, but it’s fairly routine in the northeast in the spring. I thought periodically about the sage advice I received back then as we struggled along bit-by-bit through the Maritime Provinces and Newfoundland. Lo and behold though, after finally getting to Labrador, my mentor’s advice rang true again. Despite a gloomy public forecast when we arrived, we were pleasantly surprised by conditions over the next 5 days which gave us the break in the weather we needed to fairly quickly wrap the survey up, and do so with good timing in relation to breeding season phenology. We finished the survey on June 3, flying lines from Goose Bay, Labrador, to Wabush under sunny skies and relatively light winds. Overall, conditions across the survey area were good for breeding waterfowl, despite the late start to spring. With some more seasonal temperatures and drier conditions during the primary brood rearing period, the outlook could improve further. After fueling and taking a break in Wabush, we bored through a rather benign north-bound warm front and rain on the 4.5-hour ferry flight home to Bangor. Since we stay one step ahead of spring as we move north during the survey, it’s always good to see Maine leafed out on the return trip, and to look forward to the brief northern summer. 2014 is in the books…

Newfoundland in the Books, on to Labrador

Maine and Atlantic Canada
Written by Mark Koneff
Friday, May 30, 2014

Photo of Mark Koneff.A ridge of high pressure moving south out of Labrador finally moved the persistent low off the east coast of Newfoundland, and the beleaguered east coast saw a rare glimpse of sun on May 29. It didn’t last long, but it was enough to give us the window we needed to complete the Newfoundland survey. Despite the sun, the onshore flow kept high temperatures from rising much above freezing, which seemed fitting given the many icebergs just offshore. Wetlands and lakes in the lower elevations on the east coast, however, were ice free and conditions appear good for breeding waterfowl. After a fuel stop in Deer Lake, NL, we continued the survey of the north peninsula of Newfoundland. The survey occurs within the coastal plain on the west side of the peninsula, as well as the northern tip of the peninsula where the terrain falls off to the sea. Getting to the survey area from Deer Lake involves a ferry flight across what I believe to be one of the most scenic areas on the continent, certainly in the area covered by the Waterfowl Breeding Population and Habitat Survey …Gros Morne National Park. We concluded the Newfoundland survey at St. Anthony, and woke on May 30 to freezing fog and drizzle. While that sounds bad, it’s just par for the course for spring in Atlantic Canada. We waited for the fog to lift into a low stratus before departing for Labrador and the final leg of our survey. A testament to the tenacity of the 2014 winter, the Strait of Belle Isle, which separates Newfoundland and Quebec/Labrador, remained clogged with heavy sea ice, much more ice than would be observed on a normal year. On the way to Goose Bay, Labrador, we surveyed several lines. Interior Labrador has enjoyed some relatively warm temps and sunny conditions in recent weeks, and despite the wintery conditions just to the south around St. Anthony, the wetlands and lakes of Labrador were largely ice free. We’ll be surveying Labrador now for another 3 or 4 days before preparing to return home, and we’ll provide a final update when we’re wrapped up.

Not Much, But We'll Take It

Maine and Atlantic Canada
Written by Mark Koneff
Monday, May 26, 2014

Photo of Mark Koneff.After sitting 7 of 8 days in Halifax, Nova Scotia, the air mass over the Maritimes and Gulf of St. Lawrence finally “warmed” enough that we could enter the clouds and ferry to Stephenville, Newfoundland, on Sunday, May 25. We weren’t too hopeful of starting our survey of the “Rock” on Memorial Day morning when we awoke to mountains obscured by fog and mist and a cold drizzle. We were pleasantly surprised however, to see the fog lift by noon, at least enough to clear the ridge tops. Examining the trends in satellite images, it appeared that the clouds were thinning a bit in southern Newfoundland, our first survey area. After getting as much confirmation as possible from the helpful flight briefers at Halifax Flight Information Centre, we decided to launch. While ceilings were low over higher terrain and showers were spotty throughout the flight, visibilities were good and we were able to complete 2 long transects with only one diversion for terrain obscuration. Habitat conditions and survey timing both appear good in southern Newfoundland. Some snow and a little ice were observed only at the highest elevations in the southwest. Good numbers of black ducks, scaup, and a few scoters were observed. Despite the predictably lousy weather, Newfoundland remains my favorite survey strata, and I’ve surveyed or otherwise flown in all major waterfowl breeding areas on the continent. The rugged and unspoiled terrain, deep fjords, high elevation tundra, and stunning waterfalls provide an incredible backdrop and make for some very satisfying days.

Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia Done, Fog Grounds Crew in Halifax

Maine and Atlantic Canada
Written by Mark Koneff
Saturday, May 24, 2014

Photo of Mark Koneff.The Maine and Atlantic Canada survey crew completed Prince Edward Island on May 16 and made it into Halifax, Nova Scotia. A Jet Stream pattern that causes persistent poor weather in Atlantic Canada set up after that, and we’ve been largely stranded in fog, low ceilings, rain and cold ever since. We had a short weather window on May 21 that allowed us to finish our remaining lines in Nova Scotia. The following day we completed a required inspection on the aircraft and we’ve been sitting and waiting on weather since. Forecasts don’t look particularly favorable for the better part of a week, but we’re hoping for a change so we can cross the Gulf of St. Lawrence and begin surveying in Newfoundland. Breeding habitat conditions across PEI and Nova Scotia were good. Phenology remains significantly delayed across the region so I don’t anticipate any concerns related to survey timing if we can get moving soon. There’s plenty of office work to do, data analyses to complete, and lobsters to eat, but it would be great to see some blue in the sky again and get moving...

New Brunswick Survey Completed

Maine and Atlantic Canada
Written by Mark Koneff
Thursday, May 15, 2014

Photo of Mark Koneff.The Maine and Atlantic Canada survey crew today completed Stratum 63, which corresponds to New Brunswick, Canada. Like Maine, New Brunswick endured a long, cold, and snowy winter with significant snow falling just 2 weeks ago. Rivers and streams in New Brunswick are still swollen with spring snow melt but the province is ice free and snow was observed only in the highest elevations in the northern portion of the province. Wetland basins, especially in the south, were full to flooded, and habitat conditions appear good for waterfowl production. If the weather cooperates, tomorrow we’ll survey Prince Edward Island and portions of Nova Scotia before overnighting in Halifax.

First Survey Day in Maine; Conditions South of Bangor Look Good for Waterfowl

Maine and Atlantic Canada
Written by Mark Koneff
Thursday, May 08, 2014

Photo of Mark Koneff.We had favorable weather today, so we flew survey lines across southern portions of Maine. Phenology is definitely later than the past 2 years, but all water bodies were ice free and most were brimming with water due to heavy winter snows and the recent thaw. Waterfowl were well distributed on breeding territories and survey timing looks pretty good.

Spring Late but Conditions Look Good in Maine and Atlantic Canada

Maine and Atlantic Canada
Written by Mark Koneff
Monday, May 05, 2014

Photo of Mark Koneff.Well, It’s that time of year again. Maine has endured a pretty harsh winter, but despite a late start, spring is finally in the air and we’re preparing for another breeding waterfowl survey of Maine and Atlantic Canada. My observer this year is Randy Mickley, a biologist and wildlife disease specialist with the US Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service—Wildlife Services Program. Randy has worked collaboratively with the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s Northeast Region, and is currently involved in efforts to understand and better manage a recently identified orthomyxovirus in Common Eiders. Our survey will start in Maine and progress through the Canadian Maritime Provinces into Newfoundland, concluding in Labrador.

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