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Day 3!

My 3rd day in the field

Yesterday I was reconsidering whether or not I wanted to be a field biologist. Today I am thinking I'll give it some more time before deciding. :)



Today started out optimistically. I woke up at 4, rather than 4:15 like I did yesterday. I thought a whole hour's worth of time to get ready would allow me to make a breakfast, and wash and put in my contacts, and get ready for a day's work. It worked out pretty well today; everyone waited for me, like usual, in the living room, but I was not late, and we left at 5am. The drive was foggy, and Cassandra, who I was riding with, had a hard time seeing the turn onto 270th (yes, really) street. We drove to our field we were supposed to survey, but it was really still very foggy. Cassandra called Jen, our boss, and she said to wait and see if it cleared. We waited twenty minutes. I settled back and fell asleep. After twenty minutes, it was still foggy, and after various calls back and forth from Jen and Cassandra, we ended up waiting there in the Jeep about an hour and a half (so it was roughly 7am when we left). The reason we cannot do bird surveys when it's foggy is that you must be able to see the transects, which are 100 meters long total, divided into five 20-meter increments, from end to end to orient the rangefinder binoculars. Anyhow it was pretty boring, but I was happy because I got to get some more sleep.



Around 7 or so, we met up with Erica, and set off to do nest checks. This is fun; I really like doing nest checks. We get a stack of pink nest cards, and are to go check each nest. So we'll do one field at a time. If there are three nests in Meinkein Primo field, we'll check that field for its three nests first, then move on to another nearby field if we have nests there to check. Each nest is flagged on either side with pink flag tape tied onto vegetation, and each nest card has GPS coordinates written on it as well, to make sure you are at the correct nest. Then you find the nest. Most of them are Red-winged Blackbird nests. They are a cute little cup of woven grass, with two to four small, sky-blue eggs with black splotches lying there. If you're lucky, the male RW Blackbird won't dive-bomb you. If you're not lucky, it really isn't nearly as bad as the terns were last summer in Maine. I shouldn't really say that, because I haven't been dive-bombed by a blackbird yet. Still, although Jen said that The Aggressive Male Red-winged Blackbird hit her 87 times once, I still think it doesn't sound as bad as the terns. Anyhow, sometimes there will be nestlings. Jen pokes them and takes their blood. I got to hold one on Monday. It was so small, with bulgy eyes and funny little holes behind its eyes where its ears are. Its feet were overly big for it, and it rolls around in your hand a little bit with its feet sticking out strangely.

So later on today we did nest checks. In one field, Erica, Cassandra, and I each took three nest cards and went to find Red-winged Blackbird nests. The nests were in a bunch of horse-tails, and it was squelchy and wet underfoot. We had to go through spiderwebs and tromp around looking for the nests we had cards for. I liked it. Sometimes it seems that the more adverse the conditions, the more I feel like a "real" biologist. On the other hand, sometimes the exact opposite is true.

Anyhow, the worst part of the job is nest-searching. Nest-searching is not nearly as adventurous and exciting as it sounded to me when I signed up for this job. It mostly involves walking, walking, walking, and more walking, through fields, as we swing long skinny bamboo sticks (about 4 feet long) back and forth to flush any females off of her nest. If we do flush a female, we try to find the nest in the area which she flushed from. Most of the time we just tromp back and forth wearily in our boots, getting sweaty and miserable. My right foot is starting to develop a blister from walking around in rubber boots that have hardly any support.

Luckily, today we only started to nest search, then switched to invertebrate sweeps. This involved sweeping a long-handled net back and forth twenty-five times over one of the vegetation transects. We got a bunch of insects, and then we put them in the cooler, then at home, we put each bag into its respective tubes, and filled up another little bag with alcohol at the other end of the tube. The idea is that the insects crawl out towards the light and then fall into the alcohol bags and die. Then they get sent back to Ames, the city that the university is, to be identified and weighed.

Anyhow, right now, the landlord, Loren, is here fixing a lightswitch. He's a character. I guess he came in once time hollering, "Woman? Where you at?" He was talking to Jen, my boss.


Other things I need to write about:

- at airport: man with overalls, boy with curly eyelashes

- Molly

- grocery store, finding happy eggs, happy meat, no happy other stuff

- horizontal traffic lights

That's it for now.