Wow. Five months have flown by faster than a diving Peregrine falcon. Now I’m here reflecting on the days when my mind wasn’t dominated by bird puns and dreams of field work. Five months ago I was still freezing in the bitter winter of Virginia, anxiously waiting to embark on this new adventure in my birding career. Today, I’m sitting in the kitchen of a student dorm made for biology geeks like me, waiting for my ride to the park, where I’ll watch scope out a colony of seabirds and chicks struggling to survive under the threat of hungry Bald eagles. I’m still cold here in the Pacific Northwest, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. This journey was beyond anything I could have expected.
They say a picture is worth a million words, so I’m not going to pester you with the surplus of extra text. Rather, I invite you: take a trip down memory lane with me…through this photo album.
On my first day of the job I got to drive up the coast (breathtaking!) and join the ladies of the USFWS Shorebird Sister Schools Program in teaching a lesson on shorebird habitat. This is a drawing on the components of an urban habitat that the students directed.
Yes, that’s Stephanie! Last year’s EFTA intern worked with USFWS to faciliate the SSSP. It was a HUGE help to have her as a resource, and I learned a lot from watching her work. She is a wonderful educator, and a very motivated up-and-coming researcher. Her obvious talent landed her a chance to do fieldwork in Alaska this summer. I can’t wait to hear the stories. Watch out for her, biology world!
A video on the stress on Snowy plover caused by human activities in their habitat: beaches. The video ends on a positive note, though, with tips on how to help our shorebird friends.
Je-Bird-y! A bird-themed Jeopardy to test what the students learned about shorebirds in the Shorebird Sister Schools Program.
Students showing off their knowledge of shorebirds. In this exercise, the students have hand signals that demonstrate the feeding behavior of four different kinds of shorebirds, and recall their names in English and Spanish.
This is Meagan, another USFWS educator, counting down for the answer to a Je-Bird-y question. Meagan is also a rockstar in the biology and environmental education field, and a great role model as a professional. We work together now to coordinate outreach programs. I’m very lucky to have her on my team!
This beautiful view is of the Yaquina Bay. My home is off of the opposite bank. This picture captures a portion of one of two survey areas for the Shorebird Monitoring effort I did in the spring. This was captured on one of the few sunny days on the Oregon coast–not a bad day in the office!
This is what I look like about 50% of the time here on the coast: crouched over a viewing scope. This was an afternoon of leisurely watching an active Osprey nest near my house. It was a really cool sight!
A Greater yellowlegs found on one of my shorebird surveys on Yaquina Bay. This is one of many species that make a pitstop in Oregonian estauries before they fly to Alaska.
A treasure I found in one of my shorebird surveys: a pokéball made from a golf-ball. I have it on my desk as a memory of my experience on the Yaquina Bay.
Suit up: This fancy outfit was snapped right before my Kayak Rescue Training. I’m giving kayak tours in English and Spanish on the coast, so I learned how to save someone from a capsized boat. Kayaking is really popular in Oregon. With so many beautiful rivers and lakes, who can resist?
This research vessel carries Oregon State University scientists, graduate students, and undergraduates into the Pacific Ocean to conduct research on anything as varied as birds, mammals, and marine invertebrates. It was incredible to see multiple crew working at once to collect data for OSU research projects!
Dog watch: A fellow OSU Field Tech attentively inspects the ocean for seabirds. These surveys are for the Seabird Oceanography Lab & the Avian Ecology Lab. We conduct 100 m transects to count all the seabirds we see while the boat moves along a specified path.
For science! Trawling the ocean floor for an assessment of biodiversity of invertebrates in changing ocean conditions.
ELK! For a long time I thought people were just kidding about the elusive flocks of elk that roam the coastal highways. I finally spotted these massive beasts in a hike in Lincoln City. From far away, the black head is the main identifying feature.
The Early Blue Violet is a rare flower found on Cascade Head in Lincoln City, OR. This flower is host to the Silverspot butterfly, a beautiful insect on the threatened species list. USFWS does habitat restoration work for the conservation of this animal.
This man is the famed Jack Green, an environmental educator with the University of Utah. He has decades of experience in the field. Jack visited the park in the Spring to consult on our EE programs, and share his expertise. It was an honor meeting him!
Jack Green with the park’s botany experts and rangers. We went on a hike together in Yaquina Head to learn about the plants hosted in our park. Jack and the botanists shared a lot of cool info on how the plants were used by indigenous peoples.
Salmonberry–delicious fruit that you eat right off of the branch. Salmon berries can be found all along our coast.
A wildflower from the ethnobotany walk with Jack. Yaquina Head has lots of pretty wildflowers.
The SSSP Fieldtrip! Students came to visit us in Hatfield’s mud flats to learn about shorebirds in their habitat. This is an obstacle course where the kids learn about the human-induced and natural obstacles that migrating shorebirds face in their travels. Meagan is showing off how to avoid getting zapped by the electrical wire. The tarp is a body of water, and the boxes are skyscrapers.
The boy is a peregrine falcon hungry for a tasty meal. The shorebirds can’t catch a break in this game!
The fieldtrips are organized into stations. I’m here at the mud flat station. We used shrimp suckers to trawl mud from the flats in search of invertebrates. This exercise gives students a close-up view of what shorebirds eat.
Here I am asking the student to identify a clam dug up in her trawl. We use a mini laminated field guide and ask the students to compare what they find with the pictures in the guide.
The students loved playing in the mud. This boys dug up over 30 invertebrates! If they were shorebirds they would have no problem doubling their weight in this stopover site.
What’s in that tree?
Another station is birdwatching. We take the students down a nature trail to see songbirds, shorebirds, and raptors.
Tree Swallow on the Hatfield nature trail. The students really loved watching the swift flight of the swallows.
This is Heceta Head, a lighthouse in a southern town called Bandon. We traveled here to do the SSSP field trips in the mud flats of Coos Bay.
A raptor rehabilitator with an owl. This is a volunteer who joined us for the Bandon SSSP field trip. The students got the unique opportunity to see rehab birds up close.
Peregrine falcon! We have Peregrines at Yaquina Head, so it was extra special to see one so close.
This is spiral staircase of the lighthouse tower. Every morning, I ascend over 100 steps to monitor two Common murre colonies off of the headland of Yaquina Head. It’s a great workout!
The path at the Tualitin Wildlife Refuge led to an array of activities, like my Beaver station, an archery game, a bird banding demonstration, and interactive games related to fisheries.