By Brad Pendley , USFWS biologist
, Western Ontario and North Central Quebec
I have spent the last 5 years feeding ducks as they make their way south each winter and more importantly on their way back north each spring. A common saying at our refuge is "it is good to feed them on the way down, but critical that we feed those hens on the way back up." That statement has hit home for me as I have spent the last week making my way up to Ontario and Stratum 50. Stratum 50 covers most of Western Ontario and is pretty heavily forested with more lakes than I could ever hope to count. This year the water is high and many of the bigger lakes are just breaking up after a long, cold winter. There are pockets of water everywhere and it seems like there is more wet than dry.
After a few practice runs on my way up with my pilot, Jim Wortham, I was as ready as I would ever be. You see, I am used to seeing "my ducks" at eyeball level in mixed flocks of 5-10,000 on moist soil units. I can stop and glass all I need and pretty much take my sweet time about getting it right. We count the eyeballs and divide by two, pretty simple stuff. This flying and counting is an entirely different ballgame. One blink and you might misidentify the lone goldeneye drake hiding down there, blink twice and you didn’t even know he was there. It is very different and fun at 150 feet and 100 miles per hour. Lesson from day one, don’t blink. Lesson from day two, when the plane starts to pull away from the dock under power, jump on the float you fool! I am sure more lessons will come as we finish up with stratum 50 this week and head to Quebec.
Get more information about the 2014 BPOP Survey and other waterfowl surveys at Flyways.us
Find more breeding waterfowl and habitat updates on the DU Habitat Map