When it rains, it sprinkles

It’s incredible how marked the difference in climate is with only a few hours of driving distance from the coast. For all of the days I spent dancing in the rain of Newport, I am now tanning in the endless sunshine of Oregon’s central valley. Of course, there are very logical geographic reasons for this–crossing the mountains one is already very aware of the new conditions that lie on the other side. However informed you may be, the body is still always in shock, helplessly succumbing to the new environmental pressures. Within a few days, I had already forgotten what rain felt like, the scents of dampened soil were nothing but a memory, and I suddenly feared of melting if a drop were to miraculously fall on me.

And then, in the blink of an eye, came the rain. It only lasted a day and a half, but while it poured it seemed like an endless affair. Here at the cabin we watched the skies beyond the tree tops anxiously, awaiting to learn of our fate for the next field day. In my coastal spirit, I ventured out into the storm on my bicycle, trying to brave the cold for a quick workout. I quickly learned how weakened my defenses were–within minutes I was a freezing mess. I must have looked like a street dog with its tail between its legs. The land has long since recuperated: the few drops that did hydrate an over-parched landscape were quickly absorbed. The community, however, was still recovering from the phenomenon. Even until now, it is the talk of the town. At the grocery store yesterday, the cashier exclaimed how unexpectedly early the rains started this year. Anyone from the Coast would chuckle–what’s the harm in a little rain?

Dramatized reactions set aside, the rain does have a very real implication for our work. Rains makes it quite difficult to safely extract birds from mist nets. Their feathers get wet and don’t slide off of the netting easily, putting the bird at risk of getting too cold. On days with a slight bit of rain, all field operations shut down and we have to wait it out. The next morning involved a lot of sitting around the cabin discussing whether or not the periodic pauses in the storm made is feasible to open up nets for an hour or two. The risk was deemed too high–many of our sites are at least 40 minutes of a drive away, and it can take about 30 minutes to set up the site once we arrive. In the process of simply preparing to capture and collect data on birds we were likely to meet face-to-face with a wet situation.

So what do Field Technicians do on a rainy day? We recover from weeks of data collection by finally entering data and then prepare for another couple of weeks of furious data collection. My colleagues spent a few hours meticulously typing in data and I helped where I could with editing some sheets, drying materials, and stocking our kit for the upcoming days in the field.

Meanwhile, I also snuck in a cooking session of camping food and loaded the car. We were setting off to an overnight-session in a site behind a wildlife refuge. This means that we drive out the afternoon prior to the banding session, camp in a small grassy area next to the maintenance parking lot, and wake up the next morning to walk past rehabilitated lions and bears on our way to the site before the crack of dawn. It’s ironic to think that these animals are in cages, secured away from the public, yet we are walking towards the back country where they roam freely. I often take a peak through the fences to attempt facing my fears of large mammals. The bears don’t seem to pay me any mind–they’re too busy scratching their backs against the trees–but the low roar of the mountain lion never puts my nerves at ease. The chances of running into one in the field are close to none, but I still make a small prayer that the upcoming site visit won’t be a first.

Braving the rain was worth it. The mist and dampened weather made it a slow day for us, but we caught site of many migrating species at the site. The Cedar Waxwings are in full swing right now, and we happened across a Western Tanager and a Common Yellowthroat. In the distance we could hear the calls of a Red-shouldered Hawks and Red-tailed Hawks, while an unidentified raptor (possibly a Cooper’s Hawk) soared overhead. Rain or not, the birds are still moving, and so are we in our quest to understand and protect them.

Bird on!

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From Alaska to Cali, Colombia-Following The Birds (Desde Alaska a Cali, Colombia-Siguiendo Las Aves)

(Traducción al español esta abajo de la sección en ingles)

Wow! I have been given the honor to work with the CALIDRIS Association from mid September to early November! Calidris is a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) based in Cali, Colombia. Originally formed by biology students fresh out of college along with the guidance of their former ecology professor, Dr. Luis Germán Naranjo. The organization was inspired to expand their knowledge on shorebirds who annually migrated to Bahía de Buenaventura, Colombia. After four years, Calidris soon realized the need to expand their efforts in order to have a greater impact on the conservation of Colombia’s avifauna.

Since 1993, the Calidris Association was iniciated and continues to contribute immensely to the expansion of knowledge on Colombia’s bird diversity. They have succeeded thanks to their continual effort in the expansion of research, identification and conservation of critical habitat, and promoting stewardship through amazing environmental education programs throughout Colombia!

 Inspired? I know I am!

Currently I am in my hometown of Lennox, California. Where I am preparing for my big trip to Colombia. I have never traveled to South America, so these past few weeks have been a bit overwhelming with emotions and unexpected surprises. For example, learning that I needed to get vaccines to travel… Wow, that’s scary and pricey! Thankfully my parents are very supportive of my career goals and were willing make the sacrifice to help me. I don’t know where I would be if it were not for my parent’s support! Hopefully I can soon be able to pay them back since my father turned 65 this year and no longer has the energy he once had in the past.

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I have also been busy reviewing literature and learning the birds of Colombia. I just received my bird guide on the birds of Colombia in the mail a few days ago, and WOW the biodiversity is incredible! I am excited to have the opportunity to expand my knowledge of migratory passerines along with shorebirds! I feel beyond blessed for this opportunity, and I am extremely grateful for the Calidris Association for allowing me to be part of their amazing organization. I also thank Environment for the Americas for organizing yet another amazing opportunity that allows me to continue learning, and growing as a biologist.

Stay tuned for more updates from my new adventure as I follow the birds from Alaska to Colombia! I will be posting weekly bilingual blogs throughout my internship with the Calidris Association!

You can also learn more about the Calidris Association from their amazing web page: http://calidris.org.co/


 (Español)

¡GUAU! ¡Me han dado el honor de trabajar con la Asociación CALIDRIS durante los mediados de Septiembre a los primeros de Noviembre! Calidris es una Organización No Gubernamental (ONG) con sede en Cali, Colombia. Originalmente formado por estudiantes de biología recién graduados bajo la dirección de su ex profesor de ecológica Dr. Luis Germán Naranjo. La organización fue inspirada a conocer mas sobre la aves playeras que llegaban a la Bahía de Buenaventura durante su migración anual. Después de cuatro años, Calidris rápidamente se dio cuenta que avía una necesidad de ampliar sus esfuerzos para tener un gran impacto sobre la conservación de avifauna en Colombia.

Desde 1993, la Asociación Calidris fue iniciada y continua a contribuir inmensamente a la expansión de conocimiento y conservación sobre la diversidad de aves en Colombia. Logrado gracias a sus esfuerzos dirigidos a la continuación de investigaciones, identificación y conservación de hábitat critico, y la promoción de corresponsabilidad con las asombrosas programas ambientales educativos a lo largo de Colombia.

¿Inspirado/a? ¡Sé que soy!

Actualmente estoy en mi ciudad natal de Lennox, California. Donde estoy preparándome para mi gran viaje a Colombia. Como es mi primera ves viajando a Suramérica, las semanas pasadas han sido un poco abrumador con los costos y sorpresas inesperadas. Por ejemplo, aprendiendo sobre la necesidad de vacunas para viajar…. ¡GUAU, eso es asustadizo y costoso! Mis padres son agradecidamente muy de apoyo de mis metas de la carrera y estaban dispuestos hacer el sacrificio para ayudarme. No sé donde estaría si no tuviera el apoyo de mis padres. Ojala muy pronto podré pagarles por todo lo que me han ayudad por que mi papá a los 65 años ya no tiene la energía que a un tenia antes.

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También estado ocupada revisando literatura y aprendiéndome las aves de Colombia. Hace pocos días recibí mi guía de aves de Colombia en el coreo, y ¡GUAU la biodiversidad es increíble! Estoy muy emocionada de felicidad de poder tener la oportunidad de ampliar mi conocimiento de los paseriformes migratorias en conjunto con las aves playeras. Me siento mas de bendecida por esta oportunidad, y estoy muy agradecida por ser parte de una organización tan increíble como la Asociación Calidris. También le doy muchísimas gracias a Environment for the Americas por otra oportunidad asombrosa donde puedo continuar mi aprendiendo, y creciendo como bióloga.

¡Alertos para más actualizaciones de mi nueva aventura siguiendo las aves desde Alaska a Colombia! Durante mi pasantía voy a escribir cada semana un nuevo blog sobre mi experiencia con la Asociación Calidris en español y ingles.

Para mas información sobre la Asociación Calidris vista su maravillosa pagina: http://calidris.org.co/

The week with a good friend!

This week Cara, the intern from Boulder, came down to Alamosa to see what a day in the life of Deisy and Mianna was like. The good thing is she came down during one of our busier weeks. The three of us had the opportunity to go duck banding with an amazing bird biologist. We also had a class from Western College join us in duck banding. We were able learn how the ducks where captured, how to vent a duck, and how to band ducks. During the duck retrieval from the traps in the middle of a pond, I came to the conclusion that I am horrible and balancing myself when I am knee deep in water. I managed to fall four times in the same exact spot. Mianna and Cara simply laughed instead of helping me. What great friends they are, ha:). After a long struggle, Mike came over and helped me finally find my footing. Although walking through water was hard for me, what was even harder that day was venting the ducks. My first try at venting, I got pooped on! I had to walk around the rest of the day with a giant yellow greenish stain on my shirt. We finished off the day by teaching the Western College students how to do macro surveys at the Blanca wetlands. Overall it was an amazing day 🙂 I have such a blast learning new things here. I am going to be sad when I have to go back home to Denver.

The following day, Mianna and I took Cara on a shorebird survey. She was amazed by the large quantities of Wilson’s Phalaropes we had to count that day. There where over 2,000 in one single area! My head was spinning after counting so many birds. After our survey we went home to nap and prepare for our night amphibian survey. As the sun set, we prepared to head out to the field. I was hoping Cara would hear the large multitude of frogs we usually hear out at the wetlands. Unfortunately, the frog were very shy that night. Looks like the amphibian season is over!
I will definitely miss our night surveys, but everything good must come to an end.

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Departing Alaska, My Unforgettable Experience

It is still hard for me to believe that I spent 5 months in Alaska, and that my internship has come to an end.. As a recent graduate undergraduate fresh out of college, this internship experience was a dream come true. Being part of Environment for the Americas and the USDA Forest Service allowed me to take my B.S. degree in Wildlife Conservation Biology and apply to the “real world”!

Not just any world, but only one of the wildest places in the United States, ALASKA!

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Each month was so distinct and memorable. I was always working on something new. Whether it was preparing for shorebird surveys or traveling to an island to work on a fish pass. I always had the opportunity to learn a new skill or apply a skill had learned in school or on my own. For example, painting! I really enjoy painting and as a minor in Art in college I learned various techniques. Yet, I had never painted on windows! I had the opportunity to do in Cordova, for the Copper River Delta Shorebird Festival. I also helped the Girl Scout’s earn their art badge by painting shorebirds too!IMG_1407

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During the month of May I surveyed shorebirds for 3 consecutive weeks. Each day was also full of new surprises! Whether it was spotting my first black bellied plover or seeing the change from 100 to 2,000 shorebirds over night! Each day I felt thankful for the opportunity to witness the stopover of such amazing travelers.

 

I have a lot of great memories, and experiences which I could write about for days. I am sure you have read my previous blogs which reflect on those experiences. So I thank you for reading my blog! I have decided to summarize my internship experience with a few of my photographs that I took during my term in Alaska.

Thank You!

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Alaska is a very beautiful place. Which I hope continues to be conserved, appreciated, and protected for the wild place that it is.

Shorebirds of Newport, OR

If I had any doubts about my assimilation in Oregon, I confirmed my total transformation into a local yesterday afternoon by foraging a nature trail for berries. In season are the  Himalayan blackberries, an invasive fruiting plant that has taken hold of the coast. In my personal effort to control the pest, I found myself walking the Hatfield Estuary Trail. I know the area well: it was one of my shorebird survey sites. The migrating shorebirds are on their way back south now, and as I cautiously maneuvered my hands through the thorny depths of the blackberry bushes I could hear their “peeps” echoing through the mud flats.

http://invasivore.org -Photo courtesy of Sheina Shim

Himalayan blackberry: http://invasivore.org -Photo courtesy of Sheina Shim

In my closing weeks I am prepping documents for my successor to learn from my experience here. One of these was inspired by a moment of nostalgia that hit me on the trail. The first day I walked the trail I did not know what to expect, or whether or not I would be able to put the training EFTA gave me on shorebird ID into practice. Throughout the season, I slowly came to learn and love the birds that visited the mud flats, a learning process that I hope to kick-start with this shorebird field guide made just for the Yaquina Bay survey sites. While I was lucky enough to have Stephanie around to show me the ropes, I’m hoping this will help the next intern out in case no one is available to walk through the surveys with them.

These do not depict all of the bids that it is possible to see along the Oregon coast, or even within the Yaquina Bay area. For example, Sanderlings are very common to the coastlines. These lists include species that are likely to be seen more frequently than others within the mud flats of a estuary sites a few miles inland from the mouth of the Yaquina River to the Pacific Ocean. Though it is very basic, this could be helpful for someone, like me, who starts off a season with no knowledge of shorebird ID in this area of Oregon.

Enjoy!

Shorebird ID for Yaquina Bay-1  Shorebird ID for Yaquina Bay-3Shorebird ID for Yaquina Bay-2