Again. Continue reading
Again. Continue reading
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
A while ago I went to City of Rocks to climb some rocks (I’m a bit behind in blog posts, too busy doing things outside. Sorry. Sorta. But not too much). It was awesome. I’m pretty sure I kept saying that about every five minutes, how cool it was.
Because it was really cool.
Except it was actually pretty hot, as being out in the scrub in July generally is. Continue reading
On Sunday last week I decided to go for a short hike.
First though, I slept in til 8 a.m. (that’s super late for a bird bander, we normally wake up around 4 a.m.), then spent a leisurely morning over my coffee and Annie Proulx’s book Bad Dirt: Wyoming Stories 2.
“They made a trip out to scout around. Mitchell was stunned by the beauty of the place, not the overphotographed jagsof the Grand Tetons but the high prairie and the luminous yellow distance, which peased his sense of spatial arrangement. He felt as though he had stumbled into a landscape never before seen on the earth and at the same time that h had been transported to the ur-landscape before human beginnings. The mountains crouched at every horizon like dark sleeping animals, their backs whitened by snow. He trod on wildflowers, glistening quartz crystals, on agate and jade, brilliant lichens. The unfamiliar grasses vibrated with light, their incandescent stalks lighting the huge ground. Distance reduced a herd of cattle to a handful of tossed cloves. HIs heart squeezed in, and he wished for a celestial eraser to remove the fences, the crude houses, the one he bought included, from this place. Even the sinewy, braided currents of the wind, which made Eugenie irritable, pleased him.”
(I apologize for the massive paragraph, but that’s how it was written in the book.)
After my coffee and reading, I headed out to Grand Teton National Park and the Taggart Lake Trailhead.
At first, the trail looked like this:
I wore my usual hiking shoes:
I saw some flowers:
Then, the trail looked like this:
And then I was there:
It was such a nice day, I decided to hike on the mile and a half to Bradley Lake.
On the way, I saw a pine cone and some moss:
And I saw another pretty flower:
However, after a short while the trail started to look like this:
Good thing I wore my postholing Crocs:
The view through the trees of Bradley Lake looked like this:
I wasn’t that impressed, and the trail was knee-deep in snow in some places, so I turned around.
And then I saw a marmot:
After the marmot excitement, I braved my way back through the snow to Taggart Lake, where I could kick back, snack on some carrots, and take in the view.
It was a pretty good day.
Like planning our post-apocalyptic commune, or our skunk ape/NASA/unicorn conspiracy theory, or pretty much any time Meghan, Patrick, and I opened our mouths.
And here’s a video of what is probably a Ruffed Grouse on Game Creek. It’s a good thing I ride slow, otherwise I might have run it over. These birds could definitely use some street-smarts.
Look both ways before you cross RUGR!
I have quite a number of close friends who are male, and, for the most part, I really enjoy hiking with them. This list isn’t pointing fingers at any one person (okay, maybe it is a little bit– or a lot a bit. I’m sure some of you can probably figure out who I’m talking about here…). But I’m not naming any names.
I know some girls who are guilty of a number of these as well.
You are also annoying to hike with.
They have longer legs and therefore a slightly bigger stride, which is annoying. I’m a tall gal, and I still can’t keep up. Maybe I need to find some shorter hiking companions. Or just more people like me who like to shift into first gear and stay there. What’s the rush anyway?
Some of us prefer to walk downhill, not Buzz Lightyear it, aka ‘falling, with style:’ a combination of running/controlled falling down the trail. I hurt myself when I go that fast. Slow down!
You know that thing where they get way ahead of you on the trail, eventually stop and wait until you catch up, and then as soon as you reach them they take off again?
I’d punch you if I had the breath, and if you stopped long enough for me to catch you. Just because it took me more time to get to where you are doesn’t mean it was less effort. Maybe I’d like a break too. And if I stop to take a breather while you keep going there will still be a gap between us on the trail. That gap will not go away the more you do this, either. But let’s keep trying it, shall we?
Some males don’t understand that for women, peeing involves more than just standing to the side of the trail for two seconds. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve come up on my hiking partner, about to ask what he was looking at, and then realised he was peeing. For girls, it’s a process: taking your pack off, searching out a discreet place, positioning so you don’t pee on your shoes/pants.
So hearing “you take forever” is not helpful. I can’t just whip it out, so take a chill pill.
Also, I’m amazed at how small their bladders can be. Maybe I’m just really good at holding it, but still. Five times in two hours– you might want to get that checked out.
“Wow, look at that view of the Himalayas. It’s breathtaking. I can’t believe we’re actually standing up here at Annapurna Base Camp.”
“Nice. You’re really enhancing my experience here. Wait. Oh God. Was that you? Dude, my nose hairs are burning. You really need to take some Beano or something, your farts are potent. Holy crap, I think I’m gonna pass out. Man, I think your farts are 10 times worse at altitude.”
Sometimes it’s a semi-pleasing funky, other times not so much. There is something to be said for pheromones, but there comes a point where the B.O. is overpowering.
There are two parts to this.
1. They don’t sweat at all, which makes you feel way out of shape, and like a nasty, disgusting slob of goop. Whoever said “Girls don’t sweat, they glisten” has obviously never hiked to Annapurna Base Camp. Or done field work in South Carolina in the summer.
2. They sweat too much, and then you feel weird for not being as gross as they are. As I generally seem to only go hiking with boys who are in much better shape than I am, I get distrustful when they’re sweatier than I am. Why is this not as strenuous for me?
Also, the sweat increases the funk smell. Like dogs, most boys tend to smell worse when wet. Deodorant is not a bad thing, just sayin. If you’re worried about the aluminum, get some Tom’s of Maine. They make super-fancy natural aluminum-free stuff. USE IT.
I don’t want to see your poo when we’re indoors, what makes you think that I’d be interested now that we’re outside?
And heck no am I ever ever EVER doing this with you, so stop asking:
Not only is it gross, but I don’t think there is anyone on this planet I trust enough to link arms with while I poop in the woods. There are just too many things that could go wrong with that picture. Especially if one person doesn’t have the greatest balance…
I enjoy my privacy and alone time, thank you very much.
I don’t care that we’re outside, it’s still gross. Especially because you’re so far ahead of me that I get to walk past all of them. Nasty.
From the website The Trailmaster—
One day three men were hiking along and came upon a wide, raging river. They needed to get to the other side, but it looked impossible to ford, and they had no idea how to do it.
The first man prayed: “Please God, give me the strength to cross this river.”
Poof! God gave him big strong arms and legs and he was able to swim across the river, though it took him two hours to do it.
Seeing this, the second man prayed: “Please God, give me the strength and ability to cross this river.”
Poof! God gave him a rowboat and he was able to row across the river, though it took him three hours to do it.
The third man had observed how this had worked out for his two hiking buddies, so he also prayed, saying, “Please God, give me the strength, ability and intelligence to cross this river.”
Poof! God turned him into a woman. He looked at the trail map, and in a minute walked across the bridge.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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?
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?
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…
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.”
And one more:
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.
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.
If you haven’t been reading Rebecca’s nature blog, Rebecca In The Woods, you should be! She’s a fantastic writer, and always has interesting observations about the natural world. She also has a link to my Cuteness Scale Poll, which if you haven’t taken yet you should! I’ve only had 12 people take it so far, I’m shooting for a much larger sample size before I start doing any stats. We need significant numbers here people, so let’s go!
And in the meantime, also check out Rebecca’s blog. Makes for some great reading!
Guess who had a giant picture of their hands in the Jackson Hole News & Guide! Yes, that would be me. My hands are famous! I would even venture to say more famous than Sarah and Keegan’s faces, which are printed decidedly smaller, and also below the fold (We learned in Editing that whatever goes above the fold needs to be eye-catching, to entice readers to unfold the paper and read the article).
I mentioned in a previous post that we host Feathered Fridays once a week on the appropriate day. My parents and brother came to the one last week, and I had a fantastic time showing them what exactly it is I do when I go off to band birds (Grandma, I hope Mom showed you all the pictures, especially the one of the Red-naped Sapsucker clinging to Dad’s pant leg before flying off. That was pretty neat). All of the Feathered Fridays have been fun, so if you’re in the Jackson area and looking for something to do, come hang out with the bird banders! We’re all pretty awesome peeps, if I do say so myself. (Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.)
For a link to the Feathered Friday registration page, see my blog post What Is A Mist Net?
If you’re interested in reading the article, here’s a PDF version for your perusal:
The good stuff (i.e. my hands holding an American Robin) are on the third page, but there is an interesting article about a roadkill study. The Teton Science School Conservation Research Center was contracted to do the GIS work for the study.
We’ve got all sorts of cool stuff going on here in Wyoming, so you should definitely come out for a visit and check out the bird banding and the roadkill. Or maybe just the bird banding.
See you at the banding station!