The American Robin: My Least Favorite Bird

This piece was first published in In The Air, a column I wrote for Montana Woman Magazine. September 2017. 

A young American Robin held in the hand of a bird biologist.

A young robin. Don’t be fooled, it’s just waiting to poo all over.

Of all the birds I’ve handled, robins are my least favorite.

Over the years working as a field biologist, primarily capturing live songbirds for migration and breeding studies, I’ve handled many birds. To catch birds, we set up nets, called mist nets, which the birds fly into and become caught. We then untangle them and record a bunch of measurements, such as age, sex, and weight, put a uniquely-numbered metal identification band on the bird’s leg, and release them unharmed. Continue reading

Bird Banding Selfies

Bird Banders in the News Again!

20140728_091412-3 (Copy)

We caught a kingfisher! And I got to hold it! This is serious stuff. Hence the serious expression on my face.

Last week we had a group from the Martin Meylin Middle School (which is located somewhere in Pennsylvania) visit the banding station. They were such a great group! They were very engaged, and asked great questions. Continue reading

TSS on Wyoming Public Radio

A few weeks ago we had a reporter and photographer from Wyoming Public Radio come out to visit our banding station. They were gathering material for a few different pieces, both about bird banding and also about Teton Science Schools education programs. There might be something more about banding coming out in the future, but for now here’s a radio segment they did about one of the summer camps. You can listen to (or read) the radio segment here: Continue reading

Ohio Wesleyan University Reunion Note

In May of 2014 it will have been five years since I graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University. Five. That’s a long time, and yet not. I feel like I haven’t done that much. Which is silly. I’ve done a lot. Which is why it took me so long to write my Reunion Note. I love how they gave three lines to “describe what you have been doing since your last reunion (use back side if needed).” Hahaha…. Right. I’m not even sure I could list all the places I’ve lived in the past five years on three lines, let alone what I was doing in each place.

I spend a ridiculously long time writing this reunion note, mostly because I allowed myself to get distracted by what-have-you on the internet (and by working, and by climbing things). I’m not sure if this is a good sign for grad school, that it takes me three days to write less than a page about myself. How will I manage to write actual papers on topics that aren’t me? Oh man. Guess we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.

So I thought I would share this with everyone here, since I’m assuming that most of my audience won’t be purchasing the OWU Reunion Yearbook this year. It was also a great excuse to go through some old pictures.


Ohio Wesleyan University Alumni Weekend 2014

Reunion Note Form


Lauren Smith

Class Year:


Classmates can find me on Facebook:


(If you’re feeling extremely bored, just search “Lauren Smith,” and see how long it takes you. I may or may not be in the first 3,000 people that come up). 

Please describe what you have been doing since your last reunion. 

Since graduating from Ohio Wesleyan in 2009, Lauren has been all over the place. She has only once spent 6 months straight living in the same state, and it was a very odd experience. Working as a field biologist and an environmental educator, Lauren has lived in eight different states and one Canadian province. Most of her jobs have involved working with wild birds, though she has also been known to walk dogs and scoop ice cream (and no, she did not go to a special ice cream scooping school, she’s just that good).

red bellied woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpecker trying (unsuccessfully) to take a chunk out of my pinky.


When she’s not climbing trees to study red-cockaded woodpeckers, getting charged by moose, explaining bird migration to small children, or getting pooped on and/or bitten by songbirds, Lauren is usually outside.

When she’s outside and not working, she likes to climb rocks, go for long hikes, and look at birds. Sometimes she does go inside, and then she usually writes things, mostly for her blog: Tales from a Wandering Albatross (*.

Lauren tends to travel as often as she can, both domestically and internationally. She is particularly fond of road trips through the American West and of trekking to Annapurna Base Camp in Nepal. The other parts of Asia she visited were also pretty cool.She also really likes southern Utah.


Contemplating the Tetons. Paintbrush Divide, Wyoming.

This summer (starting May 2014) Lauren will be going back to Jackson, Wyoming, to work with the Teton Science Schools as an avian research technician, where she will be primarily banding songbirds and secondarily educating visitors about bird banding and migration.

In August of 2014 she will start graduate school at The University of Montana in the Environmental Studies program, with a focus in Environmental Writing.


*Yep, I totally just put a link to my own blog in there. Which hopefully you found, since you’re reading this on said blog… But, you know, just in case you needed help finding the home page, or wanted it opened in two tabs. You’re welcome.

What is your favorite Ohio Wesleyan memory? 

I’m particularly fond of my memories of banding birds in Jed Burtt’s backyard. I have no idea why I decided to sign up for his freshman honors tutorial, The Microbiology of Birds. At the time, I wasn’t particularly interested in birds or their microbiology (and I might not have known exactly what microbiology referred to), but it sounded intriguing and I didn’t know any better, so I signed on.

I can say with absolute certainty that this particular class influenced both the rest of my time at OWU and the rest of my life. It was that class that sparked my interest in birds, a spark that has turned into at least a Medium Fire Severity burn (standing trees are blackened but not charcoal; roots are alive below 1 inch; duff is consumed—I like birds, but other things can be interesting too).

NAOC AOU conference 2006 Veracruz, Mexico

The degrading parrot feather crew at the NAOC in Veracruz, Mexico, 2006. Left to right: Kevin McGraw, Max Schroeder, Jenna (Sroka) Smith, me, Jed Burtt.


The research project I started in that class led to a number of ornithology conferences, where, in addition to learning about extremely useful things like hummingbird wing morphology and duck penises, I became much more confident in my public speaking and was exposed to the ornithological research community. That project also led to my zoology departmental honors thesis on parrot feather coloration (I’ll spare you the details), which hasn’t really led to much yet but sure looks good on my resume.


I had no idea then that I would go on to spend the next few years after graduation studying birds all over the country. Every time I set up a mist net or hold a Black-capped Chickadee in my hands, I am reminded of Jed and all that he’s done for me. Thanks Jed. You’re awesome.

flock of horned larks; Edward H. Burtt Jr.

Left to right: Jed Burtt (front), Jack Stenger, myself, and Sean Williams. Bonus points if you can identify what species this flock is made up of. Hint: those are “horns” on our heads. 

Jed also makes superb spice cake, which may or may not have been the main reason I agreed to come back and mentor the freshman tutorial as an upper classman.  I’m not ashamed to admit that I can be motivated to do a great deal for food. Especially Jed’s spice cake.

Please include a current photo with your reunion note. 

presque isle state park owl banding

Northern Saw-whet Owl. In my hand. Best day ever. Erie, PA, 2011. Yes, I know my “current” photo is from 2011. This was just the best headshot I could find. And it has an owl in it. Does your reunion picture have an owl in it? I think not. 


Let’s go OWU!

Kids (and Grownups) Say the Darndest Things

I spent last summer in Wyoming, where I was working with the Teton Science Schools to band birds. I won’t go into too much about what that entailed, but see Bird Banding With the Teton Science Schools; What Is A Mist Net?; How To Catch A Bird in A Mist Net; and Feathered Friday Article for more details.

Sometimes we would have visitors to our banding stations, educational groups made up of school-aged children and/or adults. It was great fun, sharing all the birds we caught with them, and hopefully passing on some of the passion that we all have for nature and birds. I’m going back again this May, and am very much looking forward to it. Songbirds and the Tetons, what more could one possibly want in a summer?


Sometimes people say some, shall we say, interesting things.

I’d written down some of these gems, and then forgotten about them. To stumble upon them now brings back all sorts of wonderful memories of summer in the Tetons. I can’t say I dislike winter in Colorado, but it’s not quite the same. There’s a little more snow, for one. And it’s slightly colder. Like, I don’t know, maybe by 50 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit or so (my car told me it was negative 9 here in Boulder last week when I got up to go climbing at 6 a.m. Yeah, I’m not sure why I thought that was a good idea either. At least it was inside. Climbing and birds are two of the only things I’m willing to wake up that early for). Though the snow did stick around up in the mountains fairly late into the summer last year.

The Flatirons are awesome, but it’s hard to beat the Tetons. I mean, come on. They’re the Tetons.

Jackson Wyoming

My first view of the Tetons last May.

People Say the Darndest Things:

Bird Banding Edition

  • The kid who kept insisting that they were “Warbling Videos” and “Cheddar Waxwings.”

I said, it’s “Vir-e-o,” there’s no ‘d,’ and “Ce-dar,” like the tree, not “Ched-dar” like the cheese. He insisted I was wrong. First time it was cute. Second, third, fourth, etc. times, not so much. He just would not let it go, and wasn’t willing to be corrected.

Jackson Wyoming Teton Science School

Cheddar Waxwing… or a Cedar Waxwing. Whichever you prefer.

Yeah, okay kid. You’re right, I probably don’t know what I’m talking about, and probably can’t read properly either. It’s not like I majored in both zoology and English or anything.

Warbling Vireo_565x461

A Warbling Video (not a Warbling Vireo, as the rest of the ornithological community seems to think).

  • “Look, I can make your scale say Error!”

Definitely one of the worst things to hear someone say about your research equipment. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this was a little boy. We quickly went over (again) the no-touching policy. Again.

And then I said, in that fake-happy tone you quickly learn when working with children,  “Go look at the bird that Sarah has!” (translation: Get Away From My Equipment You Little Cretin).

bird banding scales and weigh tubes

One of the scales and a set of weighing tubes. We stick the birds, head down, in the tubes to weigh them. It’s pretty funny looking. Turns out though that I don’t have any good pictures. Sorry.

  • “So what is there to do around here other than climb and stuff?”

This was a question from a high school student (also male) visiting from Miami, Florida.

I responded to that one with a blank look.

I don’t understand the question. You’re in the Tetons. What else could you possibly want to do?

rock climbing jackson wyoming hoback shield

Bo crushing at Hoback Shield.

  • “Do birds get periods?”

This question came from one of the adult chaperones, because she noticed the rather red stains on some of the bird bags I was holding. A bit of explanation: After we remove the birds from the mist net, we place them in small cotton drawstring bags and securely close them in order to transport the birds safely to the banding station. This keeps the birds from hurting themselves, and from stressing out too much as we carry them back for processing.

The stains were in fact poop stains, because we had been catching a number of American Robins and Gray Catbirds that had been dining on organic locally fresh berries, and when birds get freaked out (as happens when they suddenly and unexplainedly find themselves caught in a mist net) they tend to void their bowels, either in our hands, or in the bags, or all over our log books, or any combination of those places. Or, if you’re extremely unfortunate, in a projectile way all over your face/in your eyes/mouth. Poor Sarah. I’ve never had bird poop in my eye, but I imagine it wouldn’t feel very good. Or be fun to clean off contacts.

Yes, it’s kinda gross, but you get used to being pooped on. Bird bags make excellent poop-wiping hankies, in case you were wondering. I can personally attest that whatever those berries are, they make an excellent dye, both on clothes and skin.

So no, birds don’t get periods. That’s a mammal thing, and birds, as you (hopefully) know, are not mammals. Those red stains are poop, not blood. Also, those stains are huge, and if a bird lost that much blood during the few minutes it was in the bird bag it’d probably be in trouble and I sure as heck wouldn’t be this nonchalant about it.

We take bird safety very seriously, and if there’s so much as a speck of blood on a bird, we notice and do what we can to stop the bleeding before releasing the bird. However, injuries are very rare, and less than 1% of all the birds we capture in our nets are injured. There have been a number of studies about bird safety, and if you want to read one of them there’s a link on my post What is a mist net?

bird banding Teton Science Schools

Bird bags. These have been freshly laundered, but note the permanent poop stains on the bottoms. After a while, bird poo just doesn’t come out in the laundry anymore.

  • “So who can tell me what this bird is?”

“Oooo, I know, I know, it’s a House Wren!”

“Um… actually, wrens are a little bit smaller, and they’re all brown and kind of mottled looking. This one has a few different colors. It’s actually an American Robin.”

This was an older woman, who was really excited to be out banding with us (she was practically bouncing up and down with excitement). I was worried that she would feel bad that I had to correct her, so I tried to be very nice about it. She didn’t mind at all, because she was just so thrilled to be out with us seeing the birds. It was sweet, and her energy was infectious. I loved having people out to the banding stations who were this excited about everything. Though I tend to be pretty even-keeled, this is how I feel about just about every bird I handle– jump-up-and-down-excited. I just hide it well. That, and it would startle the birds, so I reign it in.

In case you were wondering:

American Robins weigh about 77-85 grams, and are usually 7.9-11 inches long, with a wingspan of 12.2-15.7 inches. House Wrens weigh 10-12 grams, are usually 4.3-5.1 inches long, with a wingspan of 5.9 inches. There’s a bit of a size difference there…

Hatch Year American Robin Jackson WY_461x615

Hatch Year (aka baby) American Robin. Note the size in relation to my hand. However, this bird is the same size as a full-grown Robin. Once they fledge, or leave the nest, they are fully grown, and won’t get any bigger. They’ll just grown in different feathers.

Jackson Wyoming Teton Science School bird banding

A not-very-good picture of a House Wren. Again, note the size of the bird in relation to the hand (this time, it’s not my hand, because it would be quite a feat to take a picture with both of my hands occupied by bird).

  • “I’ll bet this metal pole will float.”

That gem is from my brother, while helping me take down nets after banding and apparently contemplating throwing one of the poles in the river. He’s got quite a number of these profound comments, which you can see if you follow the link above.

My dad says, “Yeah Eric, I’ll bet they would.”

My mom says, “Don’t encourage him!” to my dad.

I said, “Eric, if you throw that pole in the river you have to go fish it out, and then explain to Keegan (the crew lead) why the poles are all wet.”

spreading the net_461x615

Spreading the mist net out on the pole. See my blog post What Is A Mist Net? for more info.

And one more:

  • “I’ll bet you can’t carry all 20 mist net poles up to the van.”

Said Sarah, the banding educator, to Keegan, the crew lead, because it was the last day of banding and she didn’t want to carry any of the poles.

To which he replied, “I’ll bet I can.”

And he did.

Up from the riparian area down by Blacktail Ponds Overlook, which involves wading through a few streams and then climbing up a pretty steep, though short, embankment to the parking lot. From the banding site to the parking lot is maybe a 10 or 15 minute walk, through uneven terrain, carrying a heavy load of banding equipment in backpacks and these awkward poles.

I found this video someone took of the overlook (see link below). We had nets set in the first clump of willows you see on the right, and then in the willows to the left of the giant open area. Basically, we were scattered around between the camera viewpoint and the pines along the river. Not real sure why the video is 4 minutes long, but if you just watch the first minute or so you can get a good idea of what Blacktail Ponds looks like.

Tetons from the Blacktail Ponds Overlook video

Grand Teton National Park Wyoming

Watch out for the moose!

Mist net poles are metal electrical conduit pipes, which can be bought at Lowes or Home Depot (which I have done). They are 10 feet long, and not particularly heavy if you have only one or two, but they quickly start to hurt the shoulder after walking any sort of distance. My limit is 10, which I can only carry for a max of 15/20 minutes before I have to take a break (after which I have no desire to resume carrying said poles).

Also, it’s not at all easy to keep them all together if you have any more than 10: they start to go all over the place, like giant Pick-Up-Sticks. There’s a reason Pick-Up-Sticks aren’t 10 feet long and made out of metal.

After he successfully carried all the poles up to the van (and proved, definitively, that he is much more of a man than Sarah, Bo, or myself– who are all female), we stopped at Dairy Queen and bought him a Blizzard. It should be noted though that he did this before he knew we were going to buy his Blizzard, from which I have learned that if you start any request with the phrase “I’ll bet you can’t [task you don’t want to complete]” you can probably get a guy to do it for you.

Anyone who wants to be my designated pole-carryer this summer, I’ll pay you in Blizzards.

The King of Drama hiking in Death Canyon.

I’m guessing Eric isn’t going to be volunteering to carry my mist net poles any time soon. Especially considering that this picture was taken about a mile up the trail.

Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky”: the Owl Version

You may have heard the Daft Punk song “Get Lucky.” If not, here’s a Youtube video:

I enjoy this song, and find it very catchy. I also enjoy those snazzy sequin suit jackets they’re all sporting. Classy. However, I think they got the lyrics wrong. It’s pretty good as-is, but there’s a better way. One involving birds (therefore of course it’s better— see Portlandia- Put A Bird On It).

Here are the original lyrics, as best as I can figure. There is some discrepancy between the different sources I consulted during a quick Google search. Pharrell needs to learn to enunciate properly, then we wouldn’t have this problem. And what’s with the hand in the pocket in the video? Get your hand out of your pants, it looks weird.

“Get Lucky” (original version)

(first verse)

Like the legend of the phoenix

All ends with beginnings

What keeps the planet spinning

The force from the beginning


We’ve come too far to give up who we are

So let’s raise the bar and our cups to the stars


She’s up all night ’til the sun

I’m up all night to get some

She’s up all night for good fun

I’m up all night to get lucky

(repeat multiple times, changing the “I’m up all night…” to “We’re up all night…”)

(second verse)

The present has no ribbon (or possibly rhythm)

Your gift keeps on giving

What is this I’m feeling?

If you wanna leave I’m with it

(repeat the part about cups, then repeat the chorus a gazillion times. It’s a pretty simple song as far as lyrics go).

so cute_461x588

Why stay up all night if there are no owls involved?

Phoenixes, cups, presents, ribbons, all well and good. But owls? Better.

The first time I heard this song I didn’t really listen to the words of the two verses, just the chorus: “She’s up all night to the sun/ I’m up all night to get some…” Obviously, I thought, they’re talking about owl banding. Why else would you stay “up all night til the sun” unless you were catching owls?

So I rewrote the lyrics. Someone had to.

I used saw-whets in this version, as they are the only owls I have experience banding (and therefore the only ones I have decent pictures of), but I’m sure we could easily modify for other species.

“Get Lucky” (saw-whet version)

(first verse)

i am not happy right now_480x461

We are not amused.

We’re gonna catch some saw-whets

They’ll fly into our mist nets

And then we’re gonna band them

To study their population


They’ve flown so far to get to where they are

So let’s raise our nets and our poles to the stars


We’re up all night to the sun

We’re up all night to catch some

We’re up all night for good fun

We’re up all night to catch saw-whets

another saw whet_615x461

Bonding time.

(second verse)

Now hold your wing out lightly

I’ll shine my black light brightly*

What is this I’m seein?

Got my data, now you’re leavin’

(repeat bridge, which I am too lazy to type out again)

(repeat chorus)

*biologists use UV light (a black light) to age saw-whets based on molt pattern (the way their feathers have grown, and how old they are). They do this by looking at the underside of their wings. Young birds will have pinkish-looking feathers, and older birds will have a combo of pinkish and whitish feathers. Check out the McGill Bird Observatory’s Northern Saw-whet Owl banding page for more information and pictures.

trying to fly_614x461

What does an owl with an attitude have?
A scowl!

And here’s one more bad owl joke to send you on your way:

What do you call an owl with a sore throat? 

A bird that doesn’t give a hoot!

All pictures were taken in 2011 while banding in Presque Isle State Park, Erie Pennsylvania. 

How To Catch A Bird in A Mist Net

Or, How to Catch a Bird in 6 Steps



Black-and-white Warbler (juvenile). St. Andrews, New Brunswick, September 2013.

***For those who don’t know what a mist net is, check out this informative, well-written, entertaining, engaging blog post: What Is A Mist Net?***


1. Get up early, as in before sunrise, and get yourself to your banding station. Nets need to be up and opened (able to catch birds) by about a half-hour after sunrise. Coffee is recommended.

spreading the net_461x615

The spreading of the trammels. Much consideration goes into choosing just the right stick for this purpose. 

2. Set up your net. This will involve two 10 ft metal poles (electrical conduit poles work nicely) and a mist net. Slide the pole through one set of the end loops on the net, stand up the pole, and then walk down the net lane feeding out your net. Once all the net is stretched out, slip a pole through the other end and set it up.

2.5 If needed, tie guidelines from nearby trees, or stakes in the ground, to help keep your poles upright.

3. Spread out the trammels*. Make sure they aren’t twisted. Use a stick to get them up high enough.

4. Take a good look and make sure everything is set up right, that the net isn’t bunched up or stuck together, or too loose and saggy, and then go on to set up the rest of the nets.

5. Once all the nets are set up, check them at least every half-hour to see if you have caught any birds. If you have, gently untangle them, place them in a bird bag, and take them back to the banding station for processing.

6. Processing will be explained in detail in a following blog post, but here’s the short speal:

Once back at the banding station, we take a bunch of measurements/observations: wing length (called wing chord), weight, age, sex, how fat they are (by looking at the hollow below their neck, one of the places birds will store fat for migration), molt (are they growing in any feathers?), and flight feather wear (how raggedy are their wing feathers).

st andrews net a1_615x461

A mist net open and ready to catch birds.

It’s that simple!

Haha, just kidding. I wish.

Setting up mist nets extremely early in the morning is one of the few things that has the ability to make me instantly and irrationally angry. When the net is tangled, or your poles keep falling down before you can get them secured so the net falls on the ground and becomes a magnet for leaves and twigs you then must delicately remove, or when your stakes and ropes are missing, or when one of the trammels breaks… Let’s just say that I sometimes have the urge to chuck the net onto the ground, stomp on it until it’s dead, and then throw it in the river. And then punch a panda in the face. That’s how deep the rage can be.


I don’t care how cute you are. You’ve never set up a mist net, so you wouldn’t understand.

It takes lots of practice to be able to safely and quickly remove birds from mist nets, and to process them efficiently and quickly. Note the emphasis on quickly– being caught in a mist net is stressful enough, so we try to get the birds back on their ways ASAP while being as careful as we can while handling them.

As I’ve mentioned, I’m currently in Canada banding birds, so if anyone’s interested you should stop by the Huntsman Marine Centre and check out our banding station. I welcome the company!



Blue-headed Vireo. St. Andrews, New Brunswick, September 2013.

*refer to What Is A Mist Net?


Happy Birding! 

Oh Canada.

Oh hey everyone, I’m in Canada right now. Might have forgotten to mention that… whoops. Anyway, here I am!

water st st andrews

Downtown St. Andrews. This is pretty much it, though there are a grocery store and a few more shops behind me. There are no traffic lights, and the main drag takes up about four blocks. It’s a very pleasant stroll along the waterfront.

I’m working as a bird bander for the Huntsman Marine Science Centre, which is in the town of St. Andrews, which is in the province of New Brunswick, which is right on the Bay of Fundy, and a softball throw from the Maine border (as my mother put it).

Here’s a map:

Google map of HMC

Check out the Huntsman Bird Banding site: St. Andrews Bird Banding Station

My border crossing was not quite as easy as it could have been, since apparently the paper I had explaining my purpose for coming to Canada didn’t pass muster (though it worked perfectly fine for the other bander who flew in from California, and has worked in the past.) But whatever. It was Sunday evening, they must have been bored and wanted something to do. And I really, really, really wanted to sit at the border for over an hour after driving for 8 hours that day on 4 hours of sleep. Really.

After making multiple phone calls to two different people at Huntsman, who tried to explain it all to the guards (and eventually emailed them a differently-worded letter to let me get through, with the promise that it would be printed out and delivered the next day on the proper Huntsman letterhead) I was permitted to pass Go– after I paid for the $150 work visa. I don’t have a problem with this, it does make sense, but I wish they would just be consistent. Apparently this happens every year– some of the banders have no problem, others have hoops to jump through (my hoops were on fire, and I was on a unicycle). It’s easier for everyone if you have one set of rules and stick to them– and if you inform people as to what those rules are. Just sayin.

ship mural st andrews

Ship mural on the side of a building in St. Andrews (if you couldn’t tell from the picture). The town is also sometimes called “St. Andrews by-the-Sea,” probably because of the proximity of the sea.

During our multiple extended waiting periods (seems like just about every 10 minutes or so I’d get called back up to the desk to answer a semi-pointless question), I chatted a bit with the guy processing my papers. First, I explained a bit about what bird banding was. All he seemed to care about was that we put bands on birds. Period. He didn’t want to hear the rest of my spiel, which was slightly disappointing. I like telling people about mist nets.

As he was perusing my passport, he asked, Oh, so were you working in all these other countries? Last year I spent a couple months traveling around in Asia, and I’ve been to a few places in Central and South America as well. I’m very proud of my collection of assorted visas and stamps.

No, I said, I was just traveling for fun. I had a friend who had a Fulbright to study lobster farming in Vietnam and went to go visit him, and then we traveled around a bit. Nepal was my favorite, trekking in the Himalayas was amazing.

Oh, well they’re not countries many people go to just for travel, he replied.

I wasn’t sure how to respond to that one. Huh? I would think more people go there just to travel than to band birds. It did seem that all of the non-natives I met in Asia were there “just to travel” (other than that one weirdo studying lobsters), but what do I know, I’m just a lowly-paid field biologist.

He also mentioned at one point that if they couldn’t get everything figured out I might not be able to cross the border tonight, and I didn’t want to have to drive all the way back to Ohio. Again, not sure how to respond to that one. Because I probably wouldn’t have just spent the night in Maine and tried to get across the next day, but instead I would have turned around and driven the 15 hours back to Ohio then and there. Right.

view of the bay

Passamaquoddy Bay, which I think rolls off the tongue quite nicely. According to Wikipedia, it was the site of a large flour smuggling operation that peaked in 1808. After American flour had its heyday, British manufactured goods and then gypsum from Nova Scotia were the smuggles of choice. (Not sure if that’s a proper way to refer to smuggled items, but it should be).

I also was a little confused as to why I wouldn’t be able to cross as a visitor instead, if the powers-that-be didn’t like my paperwork. I could have signed some paper or something that promised I wouldn’t work until I got the proper forms filled out. I mean, if you can’t get a work visa, can’t you still visit the country as a tourist? I didn’t want to bring that up unless I needed to as I figured it would just complicate matters.

Though it started to get slightly challenging (mostly as I was about ready to fall asleep even though the benches were extremely uncomfortable), I tried to be as pleasant and friendly as I could. They probably feel better about letting a slightly odd, chatty girl into their country than one who has been giving the death stare and monosyllabic answers for the past hour and looks like she’s ready to pass out either because she’s had no sleep or been doing recreational drugs.

But I made it, and this first week has been interesting so far. I’ve seen some old familiar eastern birds that I’ve missed during my time out West, though not very many of them. We have a total of 14 nets in 2 different sites, and John and I each run a site. Mine has 8 nets, his has 6. Today, total, we caught 9 birds: John caught 8 of them, which means I had 1. My busiest day so far has been 6. We have the nets open for 5 hours each day, depending on the weather. At least I’m getting a lot of reading done- I’ve already finished one book (Bonk, by Mary Roach. I highly recommend it, though it’s a bit awkward explaining to your boss when she asks “What book are you reading?”).

I still can’t get over the fact that there are no Tetons in the backyard. The ocean is okay I guess, but I’m definitely more of a mountain girl. You can’t climb on the ocean, though there are some cool birds.

sunset on the water_615x209

And in other breaking news….

Happy Birthday to my fabulous Mother Dearest!

I know I say this every year, but you’re the Best Mommy I’ve Ever Had 🙂

I love you Mom!

lauren and mom grand prismatic yellowstone_615x461

Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone National Park, 2012.

The Cuteness Scale: A Poll

The Cuteness Scale: Bird Edition

Mostly just for fun, and because I wanted an excuse to go through all my cool bird pictures, I made this poll. Please take it, and rank the following 15 birds on their level of cuteness. This is a highly-scientific research study, in case you were wondering. I even have funding from the NSF– the National Smith Foundation, which provides itinerant Smith children with food and shelter while they are in-between field jobs. The only requirement is that you are a biological child of Mike and Vicki Smith, so luckily I don’t have much competition for funding.

This is just the first edition of this poll, I feel like improvements can, and probably shall, be made. I think it would be really fun to do a cute baby bird one next, but I’ll have to go on a picture-gathering mission first. Or just do a few more field jobs.

For more information on the birds included in this poll, check out these links: 

Black-capped Chickadee

Yellow Warbler

Red-eyed Vireo

Black Vulture

Brown Creeper


Blue-footed Booby

Florida Scrub-Jay

Cooper’s Hawk

Waved Albatross

Mourning Dove

Wilson’s Snipe

Red-naped Sapsucker

Common Raven

Northern Saw-whet Owl

Thanks for taking my poll!

Hope you had fun! I know I did.