We’ve Moved!

Hello EFTA Blog Followers!

This is Carlos stationed in Boulder, CO and I’m letting everyone know that your favorite EFTA interns have moved to a new blog. That’s right! we are all writing about our awesome adventures at http://www.avesblog.com, the new and improved site of Environment for the Americas. Click here and find out what the gang is up to next!


Crane Festival 2015: Tour at the Blanca Wetlands

This weekend was the 2015 Crane Festival! At the festival this year they provided a signup sheet to take a tour and go birding at the Blanca Wetlands with Lead Biologists Jill Lucero and Sue Swift-Miller. I was asked to join the tour and help Jill and Sue with presenting and educating the people on the tour. We were told that our tour filled up in a matter of minutes! I was thrilled to hear this. It shows that people are interested in the wetlands program and are excited to learn more about the Blanca Wetlands and our birds.
We took 18 people out to tour and bird the Blanca Wetlands. Members of our tour ranged in birding experience anywhere from very experienced birders to first time birders and everywhere in between. The ages of our tour members were just as diverse, we had some youth members that were about 14 years old and a married couple in their 80s! It was so much fun to spend time with people who are so interested in the work that you do. It was an amazing experience and we all had so much fun that our tour actually went a couple hours later than it was expected to because everyone was enjoying themselves so much. While out birding on Pond 46 one of our tour members made an outstanding bird identification. She Identified the second Long Tailed Duck to be Identified in the SLV!!
It was an amazing experience going out to the wetlands with birders of all levels. It was nice to see that everyone really enjoyed themselves and were making plans to return to Blanca Wetlands at a later date. This trip to the wetlands really got me excited to get more groups of people out there to enjoy all that it has to offer.

Voices of Prince William Sound

There are a couple sounds I haven’t heard since I’ve moved to Alaska. I haven’t heard sirens. I haven’t heard the steady rumbling of the 60 freeway. I haven’t even heard an ice cream truck or the afternoon call of the elotero man. Alaska, instead, becomes a stage for the symphony of wildlife voices. Tatitlek is one of those stages.


Tatitlek is a Native village with a population of 88 according to the last census. It rests, nestled just underneath Copper Mountain. Danielle and I were headed there to conduct community owl surveys and give presentations about the US Forest Service and the ecology of forests and owls. After an hour ride on the boat, expertly manned by Law Enforcement Official Andy Morse, we arrived at the dock. Jed Palmer, the Tatitlek school principal, welcomed us to Tatitlek and took us up the road to the school.

When we arrived at the school, the students were at lunch and so Danielle set up the laptop and presentations, while I set up the first activity. After the students came back from lunch and settled into their seats, Danielle, Andy and I introduced ourselves and what we did in our respective work. I spoke about my internship with Environment for the Americas and Andy talked about what it’s like to work in law enforcement for the US Forest Service. Danielle then dove into her presentation about different trees in Prince William Sound and the products and services trees provide to wildlife and also to humans. Midway through the presentation, Danielle paused and told the students they would now do an activity where they were to separate a pile of random products into two groups: made from a tree vs. not made from a tree. Some things were a little easier, such as a wooden pencil, but others were a little trickier, like the bag of marshmallows and tube of mascara. However, the students enjoyed the challenge of speculating what products might’ve come from a tree.

After Danielle’s presentation about forest ecology, I went up to the board to talk about owls.  When I got to the slide about the owl’s vision, I took out an owl mask showing how the owl’s tubular eyes are shaped, and the students had fun holding it up to their face to look through.  As I went through each slide about the owls that inhabit Prince William Sound, Danielle would play a sound clip of the owl calls. The students’ eyes widened with amazement when they heard the Barred Owl’s loud murmuring and the high – pitched too-too-too of the Northern Saw Whet. After the presentation, the students dissected owl pellets and made some amazing discoveries about the owls’ diets.


As class began to come to an end at 3pm, we announced that Danielle and I were going to be doing an owl survey later that evening and they were more than welcome to join us. Since we had a few hours before the survey began, Danielle and I ventured outside to scout out some good locations to broadcast the owl calls. As we walked, I heard the Varied Thrush whistling in the afternoon breeze. We couldn’t have asked for better weather. The clouds had drifted away and it looked like the night was going to be clear. On our way back to the school, we passed through one of the two main streets and a couple of young kids and a big, friendly German Shepard ran up to us. A few of the kids recognized us from school and asked us how our walk went. We told them we had a good time on the trail looking for places to call for owls and that our owl survey was to begin soon.

Jed Palmer and Nichole Palmer, Jed’s wife and one of the teachers at the school, and their daughter, Chelsey, joined us for the owl survey.  We drove out on the road, past the Tatitlek airport, until we reached a trail that led into a forest.  We didn’t enter the forest, but walked out towards the edge.  We stood silent as the broadcast played.  2 minutes of silence, 1 minute of owl calls, 2 minutes of silence, 1 minute of owl calls. This was repeated for 15 minutes. It was getting pretty chilly as the broadcast reached the final track.  Sadly, we didn’t hear any calls at this location and it was past Chelsey’s bedtime so the Palmer family headed home.

Danielle and I, however, went on to the next location near the ferry dock. We didn’t hear any owl calls apart from the ones coming from our broadcast, but as we walked back off the trail, Danielle suddenly pointed to the night sky and said “Northern lights!”

It was true.  There was a single, undulating sliver of green across the sky. Not very strong, but a northern light nonetheless, which was still an amazing sight to behold. We stood in the dark, illuminated just by our headlamps, and watched the northern light roll and expand within the cluster of stars.  Bolstered by the sighting, we agreed to stay up a couple of hours to head out for a second owl survey.

It was nearing midnight when we headed out again.  We were near the ferry dock again, playing the broadcast when we heard what could’ve been our first owl call of the night.  Unfortunately, the owl was a hesitant owl and allowed us barely a second to hear him before he fell silent.  We noted it down anyways, but didn’t record it as a certain identification.

Even though, Danielle and I didn’t hear many owls, the students could hear our owl broadcasts from their homes. They knew it was our broadcasts, but they commented later that they now knew what owl voices to listen for in the night.

Swimming in Mud!

Over the years I have met some outstanding people and made some unforgettable memories.  A memory from last summer that stands out to me the most is when a SCC youth crew came to the Blanca Wetlands to help eradicate russian olives. This was a multiple day project and the students definitely worked hard. On their last day at Blanca Wetlands we wanted to show them what Macroinvertebrate surveys were, how they’re performed, and teach them about the importance behind the work we do as Wildlife Biological Technicians. After giving the students a quick lesson on what we do, we led them into the pond. They all got royally stuck in the knee high, stinky, gooey mud. They were trying so hard to follow Portland and I out to the waters edge, but they did not know the technique for walking in the mud the way that we did. We were all laughing so hard it was difficult to stand up. We tried helping each other and all ended up falling in the mud. Some of the students were army crawling to get out of the mud! As you can imagine, it was absolutely hilarious watching this! We were all covered head to toe and had to wash off in a fish pond before getting back into the vehicles.
Working with the youth of our community is extremely important to me. I enjoy teaching them new things, working side by side with them, but most importantly I like listening to their stories. We have an amazing group of students here in the San Luis Valley. I have experienced first hand how dedicated they are to their work and their eagerness to learn. I feel the reason, for the moment I described above, standing out to me more than any other day of that summer is because I got to really know the students. I saw how they worked hard each and everyday out in the hot sun. I enjoyed listening to their ideas, dreams, and how enthusiastic they are about their futures. That muddy afternoon was not just about work and learning, but it was also about finding joy in the things that do not go exactly as planned. We wanted to get to the waters edge and take Macro samples, and we thought it would only take a couple of minutes, but instead it turned into an event that highlighted my summer. It was very therapeutic to sit in the mud and laugh with the students after a long, difficult day of work. Memories like this allow me to really enjoy and appreciate the work that I do. Not only do we help our environment, but we have amazing people around us to make that difficult work more enjoyable.

Black Oystercatcher Monitoring Volunteers to the Rescue!

The Black Oystercatcher is such an interesting and unique bird that it is no surprise that several members from the community have asked to join volunteer monitoring  efforts along the coast!


A lot of volunteers from the Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History have stepped up to the plate and are ready to volunteer in monitoring different Black Oystercatcher territories along the Monterey Peninsula. A lot of docents from Point Lobos State Reserve have also volunteered to monitor Black Oystercatchers within the Point Lobos Reserve. The assistance of these volunteers is especially crucial during breeding season because we want as much information as we can get about the Black Oystercatchers’ reproductive success.


Although a lot of the volunteers are already acquainted with the Black Oystercatchers, as the birds are loud and conspicuous, they were still asked to attend an orientation with information about the birds and their behaviors. The orientation meetings were led by local Black Oystercatcher experts Rick Hanks and Hugo Ceja. In the past couple of years Rick and Hugo have gotten to know the behaviors and territories of the Black Oystercatchers very well. The meetings were very informative, and the volunteers learned about the data forms that we will be using this season.


The volunteers seemed very excited to pick a territory and to start monitoring the Black Oystercatchers!


Hopefully the Black Oystercatchers have a lot of success this season!

Rick Hanks talking to volunteers about the data sheets we will be using this season. EFTA intern Daniel Gomez looking super focused!

Rick Hanks talking to volunteers about the data sheets we will be using this season. EFTA intern Daniel Gomez looking super focused!