Musings of a roaming nature nerd

The Intensives… A

Our third survey tour just ended, which means the halfway point of this season has come and gone. I will visit 3 “Intensive” plots 8 times each during these months and have now visited each 5 times, watching for breeding evidence, mapping territories and occasionally being rewarded with a glimpse of fledglings following parents around, begging endlessly for food.

Intensive A has proven difficult to understand, being half flooded by a rank water and mud, smelling of rotten sauerkraut. The rest is covered in tamarisk and arrowweed and nearly impenetrable, but for the narrow trails hacked out by crew members two months ago. Black-necked Stilts, Cliff Swallows, Yellow Warblers, and the occasional Lesser Nighthawk share this space and don’t seem to mind the disgusting stench in the air and oozing glop on the ground. Although the birds are not plentiful somehow they manage to eke out an existence in the dense vegetation.

With each visit to this muddy tamarisk haven, I find myself covered in salt. Tamarisk, an invasive shrubby tree commonly known as Salt Cedar, drinks copious amounts of water, taking up and redepositing salt on the ground; then leaving the soil covered in salt without sufficient nutrients to encourage other plants’ growth. Wriggling through the tamarisk maze leaves me covered in their residue, every sip of water I take from my encrusted camelback hose leaving just a hint of the ocean across my tongue.

Salty plants and barren soil, birds in unpredictable locations during each visit, mud caked on my boots and the smell and taste of some sort of primordial sea in the air and on my lips. Although I enjoy every minute I spend outside each day, I’m rarely disappointed to leave this plot each week. I am often escorted out of the plot and all the way back to the car (about a kilometer away) by a noisy Killdeer, doing its damnedest to ensure I leave immediately and go nowhere near its precious nest. Its distraction technique works; by the time I’ve walked away from the plot, from the nest, from the salty plants and stinking mud I am once again thoroughly distracted, not only by the¬†bird’s¬†endless calling but by the beauty around me and the blindly hopeful thought of what I’ll discover next time.

Dragonflies of all sizes and colors call this plot home


One would never guess that such a beautiful scene could smell so bad


Tiny mushrooms pop up in the mud in areas where the stinky water has receded



Low and narrow path through the tamarisk. I've seen hummingbirds trying to feed from the biodegradable orange flagging we use as trail markers, mistaking it for bright flowers. Other birds eat it out right!

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