By Brad Pendley, USFWS biologist, Western Ontario & North Central Quebec
After a long stretch of good flying weather, Mother Nature finally caught up with us in northern Quebec. Having finished up Stratum 50 with its abundance of water and relatively rolling terrain, we have crossed over into Stratum 69 and Quebec. To say it is different would be an understatement. The first thing you notice is everything is in French. The folks greet us with smiles as I fumble with what few words I know while trying to order food. They patiently wait for me to finish and then somehow we work it out. Jim Wortham has been at this for a while longer and does a little better than I do. We manage to eat and rest before the next morning flight.
This part of Quebec is dry this year and is noticeably more so than Western Ontario was. The terrain is also different. From ice floating in Hudson Bay to the steep up and down to get over the hills and powerlines, the transects are more challenging for both pilot and observer. We have to stay on our toes when watching for triple-line power poles and radio towers that are in the middle of nowhere. The expanse of Hydro Quebec’s infrastructure and lakes up here is quite impressive. The four huge lakes they have made for power production are still frozen and seem to go on for miles on end. We are seeing many more scoters and black ducks now that we have moved east, but not as many black ducks as we would like.
The final difference I have noticed is the lichen fields. There are thousands of acres of large, aqua-blue patches. Each stretch has trail after trail from years of caribou use. It seems some are so well used they have actually made the rocks concave in places from hoof after hoof travelling down them. The caribou have moved north now, but we still pick up a few stragglers. The only evidence of their being here earlier in the year, other than the trails, are the dozens of discarded antlers lying in those strange blue-green patches. Incredible.
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