Northern Alberta, Northeastern British Columbia and Northwest Territories

Foggy Mountain Breakdown

Northern Alberta, Northeastern British Columbia and Northwest Territories
Written by Walt Rhodes
Thursday, June 07, 2012

Walt RhodesThe loss of two music icons this year has left a huge void in the bluegrass world, and I couldn’t help but hum one of their songs as I watched the weather in the far north. Earl Scruggs, while paired with Lester Flatt, made the instrumental “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” famous with the banjo, but to hear Doc Watson pick it on the guitar was equally pleasing to the ear. The far north isn’t rugged in a Rockies sense, but the Mackenzie Delta is bounded by 5,500-foot peaks and the tundra outside of Inuvik, Northwest Territories, is rolling with as much as 1,000 feet of relief. Nearing the end of the survey with sea fog rolling overhead, mountains invisible across the Delta, and no reporting stations nearby, I could only surmise that the tundra bumps were shrouded as well. Since daylight isn’t an issue in the Land of the Midnight Sun, it was merely time to sit back and hope updated satellite shots and maybe a pilot report from a high-flying cargo hauler would reveal the fog was breaking down.

Pilot Paparazzi

Northern Alberta, Northeastern British Columbia and Northwest Territories
Written by Walt Rhodes
Monday, May 28, 2012

Walt RhodesWhen you fly an orange airplane, especially a big one on floats, you tend to attract a lot of attention. It’s a rare day if we land at an airport, no matter how remote, and no one comes up and wonders what we’re doing. Caleb is great about answering everyone’s questions, which allows me to tend to fueling or securing the plane. But no matter how popular everyone tends to make us feel, you have to remain humble, because there are always others who are larger. As AC DC sang, it’s a long way to the top.

It's Not About the Plane

Northern Alberta, Northeastern British Columbia and Northwest Territories
Written by Walt Rhodes
Friday, May 25, 2012

Walt RhodesOne of the most fortunate aspects of this job is being able to aerially observe waterfowl across all of the habitats in North America over their entire annual cycle. As exciting as that seems, there’s additional perks to the job. What I like is meeting all of the different people. Everyone has a story if you take the time to listen, and the folks I have come across are as diverse as the waterfowl and the habitats we survey.

Northern Alberta Complete

Northern Alberta, Northeastern British Columbia and Northwest Territories
Written by Walt Rhodes
Friday, May 25, 2012

Walt RhodesWith an early spring on the prairies, it was a little disconcerting to be sitting home while the other crews were busy afield. But when you fly in the north you have to resist the urge to begin surveying and give the birds time to arrive. Caleb Spiegel and I met in Minneapolis on 16 May, and started flying north the next day. We had a fuel stop in Devils Lake, North Dakota, and grabbed some lunch with the eastern Dakota crew, who had finished their crew area that morning. That afternoon we cleared customs in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, and visited with the southern Saskatchewan crew. They had one day of surveying remaining when we arrived. There’s that disconcerting feeling again.

Northwest Territories Survey Complete

Northern Alberta, Northeastern British Columbia and Northwest Territories
Written by Fred Roetker
Monday, June 13, 2011

Photo of Fred Roetker.The NWT survey crew finished transect flying June 10. After several days of dodging forest fire smoke at the beginning of the survey and a short delay for a scheduled aircraft inspection, we had ideal flying conditions that allowed us to complete the survey. Wetland conditions were mostly good across the Northwest Territories. However, the Mackenzie River delta, an important production area for both dabblers and divers, was impacted by flooding. Sometimes, too much water can be problematic. In this instance, even though the Mackenzie River was at low stages through most of our sampling unit, ice jams during break up caused flooding of wetland margins and associated uplands along several tributary channels just upstream of the Beaufort Sea. See photo below. This may have a negative impact on waterfowl that nest in these wetland margins.

NWT Crew Making Good Progress

Northern Alberta, Northeastern British Columbia and Northwest Territories
Written by Fred Roetker
Thursday, June 09, 2011

Photo of Fred Roetker.We have covered lots of miles since our last update. The weather has been mostly good. Since leaving northern Alberta, wetland conditions have improved in the Northwest Territories (NWT). Scaup and scoter numbers appear to be strong. See the photos below to view examples of typical NWT waterfowl habitat.

Crew Initiates Northern Alberta Survey Amid Forest Fires

Northern Alberta, Northeastern British Columbia and Northwest Territories
Written by Fred Roetker
Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Photo of Fred Roetker.After a late spring and predicted late break-up of lakes in northern Alberta, Mother Nature did an about-face with warm temperatures and dry southerly winds. With winter precipitation below normal, the result was a flare-up of forest fires; some of which are still burning out of control. We initiated survey flying May 21. We are progressing smoothly with some downtime due to unsuitable flying conditions with limited visibility in smoke. The dry conditions have left many small basins without water and larger wetlands recessional. Duck numbers will probably be depressed in this region. We plan to complete northern Alberta and northeastern British Columbia by May 26.

NWT Crew Finishes Survey, Returns Home

Northern Alberta, Northeastern British Columbia and Northwest Territories
Written by Fred Roetker
Thursday, June 10, 2010

Photo of Fred Roetker.The NWT crew cleared customs in Warroad, MN, today and flew our last leg of the 2010 survey effort to the Twin Cities. Our survey aircraft, a Quest Kodiak, performed flawlessly throughout the month and will now await a set of amphibious floats for its next duty, a goose survey in Nunavut, Canada. Duck numbers were mostly up in our survey area. The entire area experienced an early spring, which will bode well for duck production from the northern latitudes.

NWT Crew Surveying Arctic Coast, Nearly Finished

Northern Alberta, Northeastern British Columbia and Northwest Territories
Written by Fred Roetker
Sunday, June 06, 2010

Photo of Fred Roetker.We flew survey lines just inland from the Beaufort Sea today along the Northwest Territories Arctic coast. Duck numbers continue to be strong. The spring break-up was early this year, and nesting appears to be well under way.

Northwest Territories Survey Continues

Northern Alberta, Northeastern British Columbia and Northwest Territories
Written by Fred Roetker
Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Photo of Fred Roetker.The NWT crew is making steady progress northward. Habitat looks good, especially in light of the early spring break up. Water levels on many lakes are ideal, with miles and miles of grassy shoreline available for nesting ducks. We've begun surveying the Mackenzie Delta. These wetlands offer incredible diversity, with perched ponds adjacent to the silt-laden waters of the Mackenzie River. We will be in Inuvik, NWT by June 4 and expect to begin the final tundra transects over the weekend.

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