The shorebirds are coming in by the hundreds! I have never had to count so many birds in one sitting or location. I was extremely overwhelmed by the large quantity and variation of shorebirds at the Blanca Wetlands for the fall migration! After a couple hours, I became used to counting that many birds… here is a hint for all birdwatchers out there: if there are more than 300… ESTIMATE!! It comes in handy, haha.
I also had the opportunity to go on a Bighorn Sheep Survey with Taylor and Loree. I was extremely excited to see some big horn sheep. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see any! It took a three hour drive to get to our destination, a one hour hike to reach the top of the mountain, and three hours of looking at rocks. After a while I started imagining the rocks to move. I’d say “look it’s a bighorn sheep!… oh wait… just another moving rock!” hahahaha. Overall, it was a great experience and I was happy to find out that we weren’t the only ones that didn’t see any big horn sheep. Only one person out of 7 different teams was able to spot the rare creature known as the bighorn sheep.
I continue to help out with the macro-invertebrate surveys, organizing the macro data, and preparing last minute things for our festival/competition in a month. Wish us luck!
A lot of my time at the Elkhorn Slough Reserve has been spent in the plankton lab that is offered to school groups as part of their field trip. It is a really neat lab because it allows students to interact with microscopes, something that some students might not have a chance to do within their regular school year curriculum.
The key to a good lab is collecting a good sample from the slough. This usually requires a pair of rubber boots to get into the water and collect some big chunks of bryozoans, which are a plant-like colonial animals that the benthic invertebrates like to hang from.
Some of the most commons benthic invertebrates we see in the lab are Caprellids, also called skeleton shrimp. When most students first see them under the microscopes they are a little spooked because of their alien-like appearance. Most people think they look like mantises of some sort. Another critter we often see are sea spiders from the class Pycnogonida. Students usually ask if they’re actual spiders and they are not, they just look like land spiders. We also get brittle stars and small sea jellies.
The best part about the lab is seeing how excited the students are looking at their samples. Especially after they’ve had some initial trouble focusing the microscope but then eventually get it right and are able to see the critters clearly and sharply.
Helping in the labs was always a fun activity. And it was also a reminder about how we are surrounded by micro and macroscopic life, and that sometimes it’s important to appreciate it and observe it sometimes.
This week I participated in a walk-through of the Least Tern site in Venice, and we counted 53 nests! Most of the nests have been around for about two weeks, and they usually hatch at about three weeks. Then, it takes the chicks another twenty or so days to become more independent. The crows seem to be staying away from the area where most of the nests are located, and when a crow does get close, it gets bombarded by over 60 terns flying at it. The terns are doing a great job at keeping the crows away from their nests. We do see some predated eggs but it is not as bad as when the terns first tried nesting earlier in the summer. It is a bit unusual that the terns have tried to nest again so late in the season because in most seasons they are usually leaving the site by early or mid July. This coming week we will do another walk-through to see how the nests are doing and we will set up a fence within the exclosure to help keep the chicks inside the exclosure if they start hatching. It is very exciting, and I am looking forward to seeing chicks at Venice soon.
This week I have worked on more habitat restoration and I have been monitoring the Least Terns at the Venice site. We have started to plant native grasses at Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook in places where we have weeded. It looks great when all the weeds have been removed and there tiny bunch grass has been recently planted. I am hopeful that many of the grasses that were planted will survive and the area will look a lot different than it did with the weeds.
The Least Tern monitoring is also looking promising. The terns are sticking around this time and the crows seem to be staying away for the most part. There was a walk-through of the exclosure to check for nests and eggs and they found over forty nests! This is very exciting news, and I am keeping my fingers crossed that we will be seeing Least Tern chicks soon.
This week I also attended an orientation to become a volunteer at the International Bird Rescue Center. They deal with injured water birds and try to rehabilitate them to release them into the wild again. I will learn to handle the birds while they are being taken care of and I will learn how to prepare their food when they are too weak to eat on their own. I am very excited to begin volunteering and to learn many new things while helping injured birds get back to health.
I don’t think I am the only one that feels this way, but being Latina our motto is “Si se puede!” Whenever I am told I cannot do something, I make sure I do it plus ten more things. That being said, I was told it would be impossible to pull off a festival in the little time that we have for this internship. Well, of course, I have taken matters into my own hands and am doing the opposite. At this point I am juggling all the roles I play outside of my job, on top of purchasing materials for work, participating in surveys (morning and night), and now piling the wonderful event planning duties on top of that. Deisy and I have had this goal from the start; however, we haven’t truly taken measures until now. I can now say all things are moving smoothly. The mission to our festival (Family Feathers) is to educate Latinos about their place in the environment. We have the main bosses on board which truly helps things go on. I honestly can say we would not be making it as far as we have without Jill, Sue, Andrew, and Paul’s help. Although the festival has taken over my life at this point, I am proud to say this upcoming week we will be participating in a Summer Latino Leadership Summit at Adams State University. I am stoked to get time again with some students and teach them important lessons to becoming outstanding citizens in their communities.