Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Getting home was an adventure. Jeff and Alan dropped me off in Merced, where I caught a bus to San Francisco. From San Francisco I was able to get an earlier flight home the next morning. They wouldn't let me go through security the night before, so I slept in the airport in my sleepingbag with my all my gear. Surprise Surprise, I got selected for a "random" screening in security; maybe I should have shaved in Yosemite. My flight went through Philadelphia. If I were coming through later I would have tried to crash the AOU conference; they probably would have let me in. I was working for the Institute for Bird Populations. While I had some downtime in the airport I found a Swarovski dealer, and they let me try some of the binoculars. Swarovski has the reputation for the best binoculars in the world, and they definitely lived up to it. It was amazing! When I got to Richmond my family was waiting to greet me. I missed them so much. This summer was the longest Jenevieve and I have been apart. If I'm banding next summer, hopefully she can be convinced to come too.
As I close this post, I would like to thank those who have made my amazing summer possible. I would like to thank my parents and family for their help and support, the packages and letter, and helping me with transportation difficulties. Thank you to the Biology, Chemistry and Environmental Science Department of CNU for helping me to find this internship and providing encouragement when MAPS eastern region didn't work out. Mary Chambers and the IBP staff have been wonderful for allowing me to band in Yosemite. I have really enjoyed banding with the many IBP visitors that have come out over the season. Finally, I would like to thank Jenevieve for her continual love and support which meant so much over an occasionally lonely summer.
This summer has been one of the most amazing experiences of my life, which I'm sure has opened many doors to future experiences with birds and nature in general. I hope you have enjoyed this blog, and I would like to thank you for reading. I may start posting again if future summers include birds (hopefully they will).
Friday, July 24, 2009
We went to the Valley today after work to go swimming in a very cold mountain river, and there was a family of Mallards that I got to swim with. I didn’t have my camera, so I do not have pictures. It was so much fun. They let me get really close as they foraged and fought the current. There were also Common Mergansers (a new species for me in the park), but they weren’t as friendly.
July 17, 2009
We have a four day break, so I am doing some extra banding in
Hummingbirds can be tricky business, but it is so much fun. We don’t band them, but we can record age and sex. Age can be determined by examining the bill for corrugations that disappear as the bird grows older and by plumage. Sex and species can also be determined by a combination of plumage characteristics, usually the tail feathers (R2 and R4).
I really like working with hummingbirds; I might want to continue working with them in a specialized hummingbird banding program or in graduate school. I’ve decided I want to add the Peterson Guide to Hummingbirds to my wish list. I got to peruse it in the bookstore at
I also saw my first Western Rattlesnake today. He was massive (>3 feet), but I think the Timber Rattlesnake I almost stepped on when I was a kid was larger. We found him crossing the path, and he went into a thicket near where we have some of our nets. We were able to get really close to him (not within strike distance), and he didn’t coil-up or exhibit defensive behavior. I was a little paranoid when checking nets for the rest of the day; a snakebite is NOT what I need right now. I wish I knew more about reptiles (I loved them when I was little); maybe I will take herpetology in the spring. I would love to be able to handle snakes safely.
Earlier this season at White Wolf we had an Oregon Junco that had been banded wrong in a previous year because someone did not use the leg gauge to determine the right size. Its right foot had died and we had to amputate so it would not get infected. It was a really sad day, especially because Jeff said he has never recaptured an amputee. We didn’t even have the heart to band the other leg. Today made the situation a little better because we recaptured the amputee junco. His leg was completely healed over with no signs of infection. The bird did not seem to be greatly impacted by missing a foot; he even had a cloacal protuberance (breeding characteristics). It made us so happy that he was alive and doing well. I sent him away with a shiny new band (this time correctly size and attached) on his left leg. He even perched on a nearby tree with ease. Go Juncos!!!
July 10, 2009
We were really bored this afternoon, so we decided to suspend a peanut from a tree branch with dental floss to see if the Steller’s Jays could figure out how to get it. We expected him to figure out how to pull up the string up and hold it with his foot, but in true corvid fashion he did something totally unexpected and decided to wrap the floss around the trunk of the tree. It didn’t take him long to untie the string and get the peanut, but I think the California Ground Squirrels still have them beat. This one was massive. Is it possible for a squirrel to get diabetes from overeating?
Thursday, July 23, 2009
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
We finally got out of Hodgdon today!!! Jeff, Alan and I decided to go to Tuolumne Meadows to do some birding and alpine hiking. Tuolumne Meadows is amazing. We saw White-crowned Sparrows and Red-winged Blackbird in the meadow. At the visitors center I got a new book, Introduction to the California Condor, by Noel and Helen Snyder. I am really excited to start reading it; I love condors.
We went hiking to a lake at
After our hike we drove just a bit further to
We had a surprise when we were banding at Crane Flat the other day; Sarah, the park bird biologist, told us that Dave DeSante, founder of IBP, and Rodney, who currently heads the institute, would be visiting. Both are amazing banders, and have an amazing enthusiasm for birds. They were in the park working on survey transects that Dave has been doing for thirty-two years (without missing a year). We were a little nervous about them coming, but everything was totally fine. They are both really nice, and they said they were really impressed with our speed in processing birds and excitement about banding in
There was a little conflict between our group here and Dave DeSante. Jeff has always told us that we should close nets if they look windy or hot, but Dave thinks it can leave a great impact on the data. It was a classic conflict between field biologists and data managers. Dave seemed a little callous at first, but when we talked about it, he is just concerned that we are taking good data. There is no reason for being here having a minor impact on birds if our data cannot be used. Rodney suggested that we make shorter net runs (~10 minutes). We are still closing nets when in doubt, but it is nice to have other solutions.
Friday, June 26, 2009
We took the shuttle to the Yosemite Lodge for lunch where I was finally able to get the fish I had been craving. I had a salmon burger on a wheat bun with lots of tomato and a chocolate ice cream cone. When we left from lunch we read the newspaper headlines only to find out that Michael Jackson has died. I feel so unconnected here sometimes. I can’t believe the King of Pop is gone; we were just talking about him yesterday. We decided to walk back to the car, which turned out to be faster than taking the shuttle. So far it’s been a nice day off. Later we may be going to the Evergreen with some of the rangers for some Reggae music.
Sunday, June 21, 2009
Don't worry; this rarely happens, and I know things will get better.
Thursday, June 18, 2009
Who needs days off? For the last two days I’ve been banding in King’s Canyon National Park just southeast of Yosemite. We are on our four days off right now, but I decided to go with Jeff and Jessica to band some sites down here. The accommodations are really nice; we have beds, shower access, a kitchen and everything. Best of all, its warm at night. During the day it has been hot and dry. The sites are wonderful.
Today we banded Lion’s Meadow which is isolated in a grove of Giant Sequoia. When I was on the net run I scared a female Mallard into the bottom pocket of one of our nets. She was much too big for the 30mm net so she wasn’t tangled very badly. After I extracted her, she sat there in the grass for a moment, and I couldn’t tell if she was okay. Right after I got a picture she flew off. We don’t band ducks, but because I actually extracted her, she got recorded on our unbanded sheet.
Alan got a Rufous Hummingbird from net four, but because I was on the other part of the net run, I missed it. I feel so sad. I’ve always wanted to see one. There was a vagrant in North Carolina at someone’s feeder a few years ago, and people came from several states around to see it. They are more common here, but my window for seeing one is dwindling as their migration to Canada is ending. This one must have been extremely late, or it could have already bred and have been on its way south.
Sunday, June 14, 2009
More info can be found here http://www.prbo.org/cms/index.php?mid=219
I got to go to the best salvage grocery ever. I got a ton of really healthy food for a cheep price. I'm so happy I can have some variety in my diet. By the way, produce is so cheap in California. Avocados are actually reasonably priced.
Attn: Bird Researcher Kenton Buck
6127 Hillside Loop Road
Groveland, CA 95321-9206
The emergency contact is the MAPS Coordinator, Mary Chambers
(415) 663 1436
They should arrive sometime next week. More on this later
We banded at Big Meadow on Wednesday, and I finally got to see some of the western hummingbirds. The East is great for bird life, but the only hummingbird is the Ruby-throated Hummingbird. I extracted a juvenile female Anna’s Hummingbird. The juvenile plumage is really obvious, and the females have less than five red/purple feathers in their gorget. It was so small in my hand, and very warm. Hummingbirds maintain a body temperature of around 106 degrees Fahrenheit! It was so amazing; one of my favorite birds so far. I also got to extract a first year male later.
Sunday, June 7, 2009
Friday, June 5, 2009
Thursday, June 4, 2009
We saw our first Great Gray Owl today. I was on a net run, and Jeff came running my way saying Jessica had a Great Gray Owl. At first I though it was in one of the nets! It was across the meadow from where we were banding. It was HUGE, and we got to see it hunt. It got some large mammal (for an owl), maybe a rabbit. The Great Gray Owl is the largest in North America; I felt privileged to see it. I got some pictures with my camera through my binoculars, but it looks more like an impressionist painting than the actual owl.
- Use my lounge-lizard chair as a pad
- sleep in my rain gear
- SPACE BLANKET (Birthday present from my Mom, and worth its weight in gold)
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
On the East Coast, the Longleaf Pine (Pinus palustris) has the biggest cones, and these are the biggest I've seen so far in Yosemite. I hope I can bring some home with me.
Sunday, May 31, 2009
We didn't have very many birds today, but we did have lots of visitors from the Audubon Society and a youth program called the Yosemite Institute. I also saw a Gopher Snake and two mule deer.
The way back was really exciting. I saw my first bear in the park. It was located at one of our banding stations that we will be visiting later this week. Very cool! It was mellow the whole time. We knew it was there because of the "bear jam" that kept the cars moving slow. Hopefully more to come, but don't worry, I'll be careful.
On the flight here I got a great view of the park from the air. I saw the most famous climbing mountain in the park, El Captain, and the highest peak, Half Dome. I'm hoping to hike Half Dome next break.
El Cap from the air
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Saturday, May 23, 2009
I couldn’t abandon it, so I decided to care for it until I could hopefully locate its family. Fortunately, my Dad was willing to let me bring a terrarium into the kitchen, and he happened to have friends experienced in raising ducklings. While we were off at the story buying cracked corn for his diet staple (which also included fresh greens and small invertebrates) he ended up sitting in his water dish, and we found him shivering there when we returned. After he was dry and warm, I decided he needed a name, and eventually settled on Roger, this being a suitable upstanding name for a young duck. The gender of ducklings cannot be determined until their mature feathers grow or their voices change, the males having a raspier “whrank” compared to the female’s higher “quack”. I hadn’t settled on a name if he turned out to be a she, but we also called him “peep”, “fluffy one”, and “little guy”. That first day was long because it took him a while to start eating, but after a while we couldn’t get him to stop. He also gave us a scare the next morning when he burrowed into one of the old socks I put in the terrarium.
He became used to me taking care of him, and grew accustomed to being held. Eventually he would fall asleep in my hands. Everyone said I was sort of his mother duck, but I really preferred the idea of surrogate father duck, the good kind who’s not just there on weekends. I guess mother duck is fine. I brought Jenevieve (surrogate father duck) over to see Roger, and she absolutely loved him! He was perfectly comfortable falling asleep on her too, and the next day we went to the story and bought him a new water bowl and fluffy bed that was originally for hamsters but suited a duckling well.
Two days after we bought the bed, Roger mysteriously died. I got a call from my Dad midmorning telling me the sad news. He had ample food and water, and the lamp on one side should have kept him warm while leaving the other side cool if he needed it. Ducks can be funny; they don’t show any sign of illness until it’s almost too late. He could have been lonely; ducks are very social creatures, especially during the early stages. We buried him in a nice place in the yard, and I planted dandelion seeds (his favorite green) on top of the site. I’m still sad about his death, but I hope he was happy and lived somewhat longer than if I hadn’t taken him in. Most of all, I miss the fun I had taking care of him, and everything I was looking forward too (he was going for his first swim this week).
I hope this hasn’t been just a sad story from a lamenting mother duck, because it was all in all a wonderful experience. I would definitely do it again, and I hope to raise ducks in the future.
More to come as I get ready to go to