Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Off Trail and at Home.

Yesterday was a pretty lax day with me and the other intern walking around identifying birds by ourselves.  I was able to confirm a lot of my more tentative knowledge of bird songs because it was just us two newbies yesterday and I even got to see a Red Fox poke its head out from behind a hill at me before scampering off.  Today was a different story entirely because I got to participate in real point counts.  This marks the end of bird survey training for now and the beginning of the job I really came here to do.

We took off early this morning and set out to Creamer's field, the refuge behind ABO headquarters.  We walked down the trail as usual until we were as far from the building as I though we could go... then we jumped off path and followed the GPS coordinates to a point way out in the middle of a tussock ridden swamp.  There was unkempt Black Spruce forest and heavy Willow underbrush to fight through until finally, and suddenly, we arrived.

We stood at our point for a moment to get our bearings, check the distance of several noticeable landmarks, and to get out the various data sheets that must be filled in at each point.  Justin grabs his watch and announces the start of the count.  

After ten minutes of us in silence and observing the sounds of the world around us, which unfortunately still included the distant sound of the highway, we compared our various notes and counts to see how accurate each had been.  I am very far from an expert but I have made some serious improvement from the first few chaotic counts a week ago.  Even though I am still forgetting what a few calls were and missing out on some of the quieter or higher pitched songs, I feel pretty great about my progress.

After that we split up into smaller groups and continued to hit points spread across the virtually untreadable back area of Creamer's Field.  It was so much closer to the real thing as opposed to stopping in the middle of well worn trails to practice counts.  It was buggy and soaking wet.  I got scratched up and down from fallen spruce.  It was great, and real, and everyone loved it.  These truly are great people and I have rarely felt so included in a group of people with the same values and respect for one another and the environment that I feel. 

Later in the day, after a solid helping of cookies that I whipped up last night, the biologist and I set out a meal plan and discussed tying up the last loose ends to our trip... hopefully with a little time to spare.  I think that I will check to see how my slowly drying electronics are doing after the last few days being submerged in bowls of rice... Wish me luck.

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