Thursday, May 19, 2011

Point-Counts and Shell-Shooting

I finally got to do some real bird work today!  We went out early to Birch Hill, normally a ski park but in summer a disc golf course, to work on bird survey training today.  First we stood around and discussed how to do a point-count.  Essentially you stand in one place and count all of the individual birds around you that you can either see or hear in a ten minute span. It is not easy because you cannot count individuals twice and you have to constantly be listening, looking and writing at the same time.  All of this not to mention you must first be able to identify all the birds by sight, song, and call.

Identifying birds by sight is the easiest but also the least likely to occur when doing a point count in a forest.  Among other data you have to estimate distance from you to the bird with an error of 10 yards at the point of detection. I could keep writing more and more specifics about how to point count but I don't think anyone would want to read it and honestly I am just to damn tired to list it all.  We did see a moose on our way to Birch Hill, although i get the feeling I am the only one who thinks it was awesome!

Later on in the day, the main biologist and I went to Chena Hot Springs to attempt to qualify at the shotgun range.  After just a few practice rounds we decided to go for the test.  We loaded some 12 gauge shotguns with slugs powerful enough to kill a bear and let loose.  First we were required to shoot on targets and make 3/3 shots within an 8x11 inch square... Not too hard.  Then we had to hit at least 2/3 shots in the same square on a moving target and I didn't miss a single shot!  That was a serious confidence boost.  Although guns still really aren't my thing, If a Grizzly Bear is running at me I would absolutely let a few rounds loose.  Well now I am certified by the US Fish and Wildlife Service as a Designated Shooter, which means i am allowed to defend both myself and a group of people from danger.  It is the highest rank they have for field crew although I really-really-really hope that it never gets put to the test.

That is about enough "red-necking" around for now and I am moving my sights, no pun intended, back to the birds.

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