Southern Quebec and Southeast Ontario

The Right Stuff to Become a Wildlife Biologist/Pilot

Southern Quebec and Southeast Ontario
Written by Thom Lewis
Thursday, June 02, 2011

Thom LewisSome of you may have wondered, how does a person get a job flying aircraft to count waterfowl? The job requires a person to have a passion and become proficient in both wildlife biology and aviation. If you’ve followed this website for very long you probably know that I’ve been participating in the survey for nine years now. My involvement began while I was the Wildlife Biologist at St. Vincent NWR and I got selected to be the right seat observer for the Southern Saskatchewan Survey area in 2003. To make a long story shorter, Phil Thorpe –who was then and still is the wildlife biologist/pilot for that area—saw my interest in using aviation as a wildlife management tool and recruited me. Note that I use the term “wildlife biologist/pilot” because we are wildlife biologists first, but have to be pilots as well. I already had the required Wildlife Biology background, so after several years flying with Phil and helping on some winter redhead surveys, I decided to begin flight training. The minimum pilot qualifications for the job are a commercial pilot certificate, an instrument rating and 500 hours as pilot in command (PIC). I was fortunate to be hired as an intern and be mentored by many of our staff and other service aviators while working on my advanced pilot ratings.

Big Survey: Small World

Southern Quebec and Southeast Ontario
Written by Thom Lewis
Friday, May 20, 2011

Thom LewisI’ve had the privilege of participating in the May Breeding Waterfowl Population and Habitat Survey for nine years, and I’ve surveyed five crew areas covering portions of the Northwest Territories, British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario and Quebec, as well as North and South Dakota. That’s a big part of the waterfowl breeding grounds in North America. Six hundred and thirty-seven miles to the North of where I work and grew up in the Baltimore-Washington, DC area, is the small town of Val D’or, Quebec. This year we stayed several nights in Val D’or, and at breakfast on the first morning the hostess asked me if I was the “Guy from Maryland.” I told her yes and come to find out, although she was born in and moved back to Val D’or, she had grown up and gone to school only fifteen minutes from where I grew up. We talked quite a bit about the places and things that we had in common. Indeed, one of her brothers lives just minutes from our house in MD. When we left Val D’or, I asked Martine what she missed most about MD besides her family and got the answer I expected. “Maryland Steamed Crabs!”

Survey Complete in Southern Ontario/Southern Quebec

Southern Quebec and Southeast Ontario
Written by Thom Lewis
Sunday, May 15, 2011

Thom LewisThe weather cooperated and we were only grounded by rain on one afternoon. We flew to Ottawa on Monday and then flew transects for seven straight days. We head home tomorrow and if the weather permits, John will be home on time. We certainly appreciate him taking time out of his busy schedule to help us complete this important survey. I also appreciate getting the opportunity to fly and learn from John as my pilot training nears completion.

“Survey System in a Box” Working: Habitat Looks Good

Southern Quebec and Southeast Ontario
Written by Thom Lewis
Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Thom LewisWe flew from Nashville, TN to Ottawa, ON, Canada on 9 May after loading our gear and setting up the survey program in John’s plane. So far, the system is working well.

Rollin' with the Changes

Southern Quebec and Southeast Ontario
Written by Thom Lewis
Sunday, May 08, 2011

Thom LewisWell, I told you things can change, but this change has nothing to do with habitat or bird behavior. I was informed that, due to the limited time that pilot John Rayfield will be available to help us this year, portions of our survey area (specifically, stratum 55 in northern New York and stratum 52 in southern Ontario) will be covered by other crews.

Preparations Underway for Southern Ontario Survey

Southern Quebec and Southeast Ontario
Written by Thom Lewis
Thursday, April 28, 2011

Thom LewisIt’s that time of year again. Preparation for the Aerial Waterfowl Breeding Ground Population and Habitat Survey is well under way. I am a Wildlife Biologist/Pilot Trainee with the USFWS Migratory Bird Surveys Branch and will be reporting for the Southern Ontario Survey Area this year. I’ll be flying right seat again this year, but this will be my first year in this survey area, which includes portions of Northern New York, Southern Ontario and Southern Quebec. The pilot/observer John Rayfield has flown the area before and I look forward to learning from his experience. We have completed much of our planning and should be flying by the second week of May.

Southern Quebec Survey Completed

Southern Quebec and Southeast Ontario
Written by Karen S Bollinger
Monday, May 31, 2010

Karen BollingerCarl Ferguson and I left Summit, Delaware, in N758F on May 6th and traveled to Burlington, Vermont, to stage for the southern Quebec Survey. The Survey began on May 10th and was completed on May 22nd. We had 2.5 weather days once the survey began. During the survey, we staged our flying out of Ottawa, Quebec City, North Bay, Val D’or, and Chibougamau. We flew N758F back to Delaware on May 24th.

Productivity should be good

Southern Quebec and Southeast Ontario
Written by Elizabeth Huggins
Sunday, May 17, 2009

Today we finished up the 2009 survey down in the southwestern portion of our survey area, which we had to skip earlier in the week because of storms. We have been operating out of North Bay and Pembroke, Ontario, and we have seen a lot of ducks the past few days. This area is flatter than the northern areas, and has a lot of ponds. They’ve had above average precipitation this spring (150-200% above normal), so everything is wet. There is a lot of sheet water in the fields, and a lot of flooding. It’s hard to say how much of this flooding is due to the big storms that came through this week. Hopefully, that new water didn’t flood nests of early nesting species of waterfowl.

Large storms change our flight plans

Southern Quebec and Southeast Ontario
Written by Elizabeth Huggins
Thursday, May 14, 2009

Some large, intense storms over the Great Lakes region have caused us to change the order of our survey. Normally, we would have continued across the southern portions of our area towards Ontario before turning north, but weather dictated that we reverse the order. We have been operating out of Chibaugamu, Quebec, which is roughly in the center of this survey area. Most of this area is boreal forest. The eastern portion of the area has higher elevations than the western part, and we saw some beautiful waterfalls. Some of the lakes there were still frozen northeast of Chibaugamu. The entire area has good water conditions. The lakes are all full and some are flooded. We didn’t see many ducks in the eastern region, but are seeing more in the western portion of this area.

New York survey area completed

Southern Quebec and Southeast Ontario
Written by Elizabeth Huggins
Monday, May 11, 2009

We’ve finished surveying our portion of New York and have worked our way up to just east of Montreal. This area is flat in the west, with rolling hills in the east. They have had a very wet spring and water conditions are good to excellent, except for a notable area around Sherbrook, where conditions are fair. That is the only area we’ve seen so far that was dry.

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