Musings of a roaming nature nerd

Archive for May, 2012

A field biologist… Part 3

Another day, another river… learn a little more about what a field biologist studies!

Clicking the link below will take you to vimeo where you can watch the video:

San Luis Rey Survey

A field biologist… Part 2

Try to excuse the camera work and fact that I messed up the color! It’s a start and provides a brief, if somewhat shaky, glimpse of where a field biologist works!

Clicking the link below will take you to vimeo where you can watch the video:

Rifle Range Survey

A field biologist… Part 1

A field biologist wears many hats. She dabbles in botany, explores entomology, finds passion in ornithology and ties together the strands of each into that wonderful web of life, ecology. A field biologist also wears an actual hat to protect her from the sun!

A field biologist rises two hours before the sun. Breakfast is eaten, maps are organized, trucks are loaded. She enters the field as the world awakens… sometimes with coffee in hand to ensure her own alterness!

A field biologist carries a lot of gear. Into her pack goes: 3 Liters of water, lots of fruit and granola, binoculars, a PDA for data collection, GPS unit, maps, compass, flagging for trails and territories, first aid kit, an audio lure, rubber boots for wet sites, snake chaps for snakey sites, a machete for clearing pesky poison hemlock, 3 ID badges, pencils and pens, and a radio for being in touch with the Marine dispatch “Long Rifle.” A field biologist must be prepared for almost anything, including artillery fire- hence the radio to double check for the all-clear!

A field biologist seeks out the small to help explain the big. When she swats at flies that means there is available food for endangered birds. When she hears the endangered birds that means there are healthy layers of vegetation for nest building. When she crawls through the dense vegetation, she is crawling through a healthy riparian corridor. And the healthy riparian corridor means an intact ecosystem is sustaining life on many levels. Every bite from a mosquito and sting from a nettle reminds the field biologist that she is a small part of something bigger, something glorious and something worth protecting!


Breeding Season Begins

My southern California field season began a full two months ago and I’ve spent my days hiking and surveying for Cactus Wrens in the glorious, steep, chaparral country. But the job I was actually hired for (surveying for endangered Least Bell’s Vireos and Southwestern Willow Flycatchers) finally began just a week ago! Funding issues delayed access to river corridors on Camp Pendleton, but the birds don’t wait on budgets and bureaucracy. Breeding season is in full swing!

What a treat to be out over this past week. Although knee high rubber boots were often a necessity and poison oak abounds, nothing beats a sunrise start to the day serenaded by sweet bird song. Walking the channels of the Santa Margarita, San Onofre, and San Mateo rivers resulted in endless discoveries. Coyotes pranced across the empty washes at dawn. Startled whipsnakes darted away like lightning at the vibration of my footfall… except for the poor one I stepped on! He darted away later (hopefully uninjured), and I was just glad he wasn’t a rattlesnake! A little speckled fawn snuggled into the shade while its mother fed nearby. And baby birds were everywhere! Cottonball-like Killdeer, on tall spindly legs scampered around on the rocky sand banks. Hummingbird mamas frantically defended their button-sized chicks. And Least Bell’s Vireo papas, sang and sang and sang, even through mouthfuls of food for their young nestlings. Seeing what will hopefully be successful nests of an endangered bird especially brightens the days. A long season still awaits and if this first official week is any indication of how things will go, I am very excited to be out there in the thick of it!


Least Bell's Vireo nest


A Least Bell's Vireo nestling


A tiny Anna's Hummingbird nestling


An Allen's Hummingbird in brilliant breeding plumage! Look at that sheen of his gorget when he turns his head!


River's end


Dry river bed


Sunrise at the San Mateo