As the weeks progress, the number of shorebirds visiting the wetlands is slowly declining. The few shorebirds that remain, the American Avocets, are preparing their nests in order to bring new life into this world. I am excited to see the eggs hatch and watch as they learn to fly and prepare for their next journey. Although our main focus is on shorebirds, this week I had the opportunity to learn about another bird in rapid decline, the Willow Flycatchers. I thought IDing shorebirds was difficult until I had to identify the different types of flycatchers. They all look the same! The gray, least, dusky, and willow flycatchers that are found in Colorado all look exactly the same. So how do you identify them? Simple… their calls. Each flycatcher has a unique call that allows us to tell them apart. On Wednesday we had a first hand experience out in the field listening to flycatchers make their fitz-bew calls. After a few hours, I finally was able to identify the type of flycatcher, the sex, and the number of birds simply by listening to their calls. As the name flycatcher indicates, they eat flies and bugs, so in order to find them you must visit very swampy areas filled with bugs. We had to wear bug jackets, long sleeve shirts, long pants, and waders as we walked through willow and water. Although I was constatly inhaling bugs, it was definitely a great experience!
To end the week, Mianna and myself learned how to read rain gauges and locate them on a map. The rain gauges are these tiny white plastic containers to help indicate how much rain fall an area recieved that month. It sounded like a pretty easy job, so we gladly accepted to go. Unfortunately, they forgot to mention the rough terrain and desolate areas we had to visit. No phone service, no food, and no people. All we had was a map and a truck full of gas. What I learned from this experience is NEVER trust maps, and there are no such things as shortcuts! A lot of the roads drawn on the map did not exist and we didn’t realize until we were on a top of a cliff or at a dead end. We started at noon and didnt get home till 11p.m that night. Although it was a long day and we constantly got lost, we had a lot of fun and got to visit some beautiful places. Can’t wait to do it again next month 🙂