Last Night I Dreamed of Feathers

White featherLast night I dreamed of feathers, there were feathers everywhere, on my head, my hands, and in between my toes . Some were white with blueish-black dots and a rufous shaft, some were black and brown striped, others were blueish green, but overall they were white. I dreamed that I blew down the middle of a bird’ s body to expose their skin. There were no full images of this bird, all I could see were the white breast and belly feathers. I dreamed that there were many feathers floating in the air as I sat and watched, they were flying with the wind along the ocean and the forest.

You may wonder, why did I dream of feathers? Well, feathers have surrounded me for the last two weeks during my time with Klamath Bird Observatory (KBO). As I learn how to band songbirds in southern Oregon, feathers and overall plumage are one of the main characteristics we carefully observe in order to identify species, determine subspecies, age, and sex.

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Taking the wing length on a female Oregon junco

On a daily basis we either drive to or set up camp at the site where we will be banding. We arrive before the birds are up, while it’s still dark. We then get the banding table ready and fifteen minutes before sunrise, we start setting up mist nets. Nets are checked frequently, birds are quickly extracted, and then processed. Processing time should take no more than two to three minutes in order to minimize stress on the birds. During this time, the bird is identified, banded, its age, and sex are determined, and measurements such as wing length and weight are taken. Additionally, by blowing on the body and wing feathers, one can check if molt, fat tissue, brood patch, or cloacal protuberance are present and record their extent. After all data is taken, the bird is safely released and we move to the next bird.

This may not sound too hard, but one must study a lot to get good at it. Specially to handle days like last week, when we had 109 birds!  Such days can be stressful and require being very efficient. This means already knowing what bandsize the individual needs, as well as, knowing the species-specific morphological characteristics and measurements that aid in determining age and sex. Knowing such, reduces the time one might spent looking through the reference book and allows for a fast processing time which is in everyone’s best interest (humans’ and feathered friends’).

With all the close avian interaction I’ve had and with all the reading and studying I’ve been doing on my free time, it is no wonder that I dreamed of feathers. But dreaming of feathers isn’t bad, I appreciate the beauty in every feather and I find it harmonious to watch them float. I hope I dream of feathers again.

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12 Days Of Shorebird Surveys

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It has been an unforgettable experience conducting surveys everyday since May 1st. The first day I  surveyed I only saw a handful of shorebirds, but by the 5th day I saw shorebirds by the thousands! It was stunning.

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Estimating large flocks was not easy, especially when the flocks moved from one side to the other when I was halfway into estimating the flocks. I had to be really cautious not to recount flocks, and often I had to start estimating my flocks all over again when I was halfway into my estimation. Although it was frustrating when they moved so much, the sound, the shape, the colors they made when they flew in unison was hypnotizing. Often the large flocks were composed of Western Sandpipers and Dunlin, when they flew together the sound of their wings resonated as they constantly changed their angle. When they changed their angle in flight, there are flashes of white from their bellies and suddenly it is dark brown with orange from their backs or when their perpendicular to the horizon for a slight instant they disappear. (Check out this video of the flocks! https://www.facebook.com/CopperRiverDeltaShorebirdFestival#!/photo.php?v=637458752997669&set=vb.292878567455691&type=2&theater)

Not only was it amazing to see so many shorebirds, but this weekend was our Copper River Delta Shorebird Festival (May8-11th), and I saw many of shorebirders as well! During the festival I hosted a children’s activity Friday night, and helped Susan with her kid’s activity the following day. I had a lot of fun during the festival and these events. For my Friday night activity, I created data sheets and a field guide to some of the common shorebirds in our area so that kids could learn about shorebird surveys. During the activity I had shorebird cut outs posted throughout the room where they had to search and identify each shorebird they found. The children that participated had lots of fun, and soon enough some of the kids were identifying birds without referring to their shorebird guides! They shouted WHIMBREL, DUNLIN, DOWTICHER, and WESTERN SANDPIPER with excitement when they spotted them. Using the data sheets I created each child tallied their sightings, recording the species and abundance of each shorebird.

The following day Susan made a presentation describing what makes a shorebird a shorebird. The children who participated were are 1-8 years old, and were very energetic. Susan described how shorebirds vary in size, color, and shape, but they all live near the shore. After the presentation the kids made their shorebird masks, one child named Robert (in the orange T-shirt) even made a giant red worm to go with his mask! We had a blast!

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EFTA goes to Americas Latino Festival!

This past weekend I was able to attend and participate in the Americas Latino Festival which is the first environmental, Latino themed festival in the United States.  Not only was the festival a source of education to learn about sustainable … Continue reading