Sunday, November 2, 2008

Letters from the field: Truckee Season 1

Just to add to my previous post, here are some things I wrote during my first season in 2005 on the WIFL project. Amber--you might find these somewhat entertaining. I left a few present day comments after each comment from 2005.

"My first week of work went pretty well. I’m still getting used to how to do everything and I try not to get distracted looking at other birds! Wednesday we went to a field site called Perazzo which was a really beautiful meadow. I saw mallards, buffleheads, cinnamon teals, northern pintails, ring-necked duck, killdeer, and a Wilson’s phalarope. We also saw a beaver for a few seconds…we were crossing one of the creeks in our hip boots just as the beaver tried to swim through. He took off but then surfaced again a little bit later. I’m still learning all my flycatchers and warblers--the main ones we focus on are willow flycatchers, dusky flycatchers, and yellow warblers. But there are several other birds that either sound like one of them or look like one of them…or both. And we have to know all their sounds…even tiny little chips. The sites we need to search for nests in are huge…like 10 woodlots (reference to a 35 acre woodlot that I did my undergraduate research in)! The leg band re-sighting on the willow flycatchers is funny too--there’s only one band per leg and the little guys like to sit on their legs when they sing. Plus the colors are crazy…like electric yellow, mauve, and light green."

Perazzo (pictures above) is still my favorite meadow, hands down. But the meadows seem much smaller now. And the resighting is still a pain, but I don't enter the meadow without my scope! I'm pretty sure I didn't resight many birds correctly until my 3rd year when Heather laid into me for not trying hard enough and only focusing on finding nests. She was right. I can do both now.

"I found my first nest on Thursday…a yellow warbler…I watched the female carry this huge fluff ball of nesting material to the nest. It was so big she had trouble getting it through the branches to the nest. It was 32 degrees this morning when we started and I thought my toes were going to fall off. I had to put gloves on them…guess I should wear three pairs of socks instead of just two!”

I remember exactly where this nest was, in the wet area of LT2, and it took a couple of days for the rest of the crew to find it -- I had to personally show it to Heather because no one could follow my shitty map. Heather called it "snag forest".

So I was watching a Dusky Flycatcher build a nest the other day and all of a sudden I hear this rumble and the ground starts shaking. Yup…my first earthquake. Apparently it was a 4.8 with the center actually being very close to Truckee. It was a really weird feeling. Now when I’m in the meadows and I hear a tiny rumble (from logging) I stop what I’m doing and wait for the earth to move. I can’t imagine what a bigger quake would be like.”

I remember Roy telling us that just prior to the quake that a chipmunk or squirrel had run up his leg. And Heather called on the radio, "Did anyone else just feel the ground move?!" We were tempted to tell her no. Actually one person thought they were just dizzy/hungry and had imagined it.

“We split into pairs to work in South Lake on Monday and Tuesday. We had no idea where any of the meadows were and no one to show us so all we had were some directions and shitty aerial maps--and we had a few different sites in one day. I have never done so many U turns in my life. Aside from trying to find the correct meadows, things went pretty well on Monday. Tuesday we had to do water transects at this place called Tallac which was a complete mess. Thick, huge willows, lots of fallen logs, trees, barbed wire fences, a huge beaver damn, and tons of streams that were too deep for our waders…it was crazy. We had to walk over the beaver damns and jump across the creeks without falling in. At one point I had one foot on solid ground on the bank and the other was a foot deep in muck and 1 foot of water on top of that. My co-worker had to pull me out using the mirror pole. I was quite worried I’d fall in and destroy the GPS unit in my pocket. I think everyone on the crew, except me, has ended up in water over their hip boots or chest waders at least once…so I’m waiting for my turn.”

I filled my waders later that year--actually ended up in water up to my chest and didn't touch the ground. It was near Salmon Creek/Sardine Lake (left picture). And just this year, in year 4, I jumped across a stream in Tallac and ended up covered in mud. Some things never change.

“We have the worst luck when we go down to South Lake to work. When we went down last time I was putting on my waders at a meadow and I realized that I had one of my boots and another one that was way too big. My roommate Angie had somehow managed to mix up my waders with John’s but no one noticed until we all split ways. So I had to wear a size 7 boot on one foot and a size 11 (with holes that leaked) on the other, to survey the meadow. Let me tell you, it is hard to hop across rivers and walk on logs with one boot too big. My co-worker Angela thought it was hilarious when I tried to jump across the river and pretty much fell over tripping over my giant boot. So…I now have the new walkie talkie nickname of Big Foot. I think I’d rather have Sunshine (nickname from college). Somehow poor John managed to squeeze his foot into my other size 7 boot.”

John never told us his story about wearing my boot. Apparently it was simply too traumatizing for him. I really did have bad luck in South Lake. One day Justan and I followed te wrong red truck for an hour. I guess I never wrote about that...

1 comment:

anw said...

I makes me feel so, so good to hear that you found your first year daunting as well! I can't believe you had to do water transects at Tallac!