Wednesday, October 15, 2014

We've got a Whooper

Hey lookit! It's a whooping crane! This was a pleasant surprise, definitely wasn't expecting to come across any whooping cranes any time soon. She (yes she- her name is Latka and she was hatched on June 13, 2013) was hanging out with a pretty big sandhill flock (about 8oish).  She was banded and luckily, with the big boy lens I could read the bands...which is why I know her life story now, which is kinda fun.  If you're not aware, whooping cranes are one of the most endangered birds in North America, with less than 400 of them in the wild. I've seen them a couple times on the Texas coast, so it was pretty cool to see Latka in Wisconsin.  
Respect these guys, guys! They've been way too close to extinction in the past (at one point, there were only 16 in the wild. Shit. Unacceptable.) Reintroduction and captive breeding have really helped these birds out and their numbers are up, but they definitely still need our help. 

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Attack of the MOBL

Hey! Lookit. Finally put some birds on the blog. These mountain bluebirds ended up being neighbors for a few days in the Ruby Mountains (Nevada). Did a 4 day trip in the midst of our weird sickness (we're thinking it was a lingering water borne thing? That's a whole other story though). We were forced to kind of wimp out and set up a base camp and do day hikes because of the constant puke-it-out feelings, but, we were able to grin and bear it and hike in far enough to get away from everyone and had a lake all to ourselves, so it all worked out in the end. Also, pikas were only 5 minutes away!
So these bluebirds, unbeknownst to us, had a nest close to where we set the tent up.  Both male and female were making constant food carries to the nest cavity, which was pretty cool. Luckily, they didn't seem to mind we were nearby. This MOBL pair were total badasses. I watched them attack a chipmunk and golden-mantled ground squirrel at least ten times. Whenever one of them would get too close, one of the bluebirds would just try to annihilate them-it was a fairly vicious event.  I was sitting near the nest tree at one point and the chipmunk ran across my lap and the male bluebird landed on my knee, then proceeded to chase the chipmunk around me - yes, bluebird and chipmunk were running over and around me. It was kind of, well, it was kind of awesome. 
One day, (and oh do I wish I had a photo of this...) we saw the female fly out of the cavity with a dead nestling. She placed it about 15 meters from the nest tree in some tall grass. Not sure why it had to die, but I would guess there were too many nestlings, just because the other MOBL nests I have seen, there have been 5 nestlings and things seem to get get a little crowded. Only the heartiest survive kinda thing. Sucky. It was a bummer and I of course cried. Because I cry about everything, I'm not going to deny it. (Seriously, blogger doesn't let me center photos I move anymore...does anyone have any insight on this? It's making me a little bit crazy) Nature Notes

Sunday, September 21, 2014

70 mph winds and a couple curmudgeons

Great Basin National Park, hugely underrated. I'd been before and it was automatically placed in my top 3 favorite parks but I got to spend a lot more quality time here in the last few months. Central and Northern Nevada in general don't get enough credit. But that's okay with me - stay away I say! The less people the better! I hiked up Wheeler Peak (13,065 feet) one of the times I was there. It's the second highest peak in the state and it's pretty gnarly. Or at least it was the day I went up there. Granted, at 13,000+ feet, it's never going to be calm and still, but holy wind, guys! It was up to 60-70 mph wind gusts and temperatures dropped to the low 30's once you got higher up. (Below: Wheeler Peak is the flat looking one on the right. Beast of a hike!)
As you should know by now, I'm no fan of cold weather, but despite basically freezing to death for the duration of the hike (see me smile at the top, yah?), it was pretty excellent and it was only the two of us at the peak (benefits of being procrastinators and getting a late start...) which was pretty great. And another reason GBNP rocks it: take that Yosemite and Yellowstone tourist hoards! We passed maybe 7-8 people who were on their way down the mountain.  Only a couple of them had made it all the way to the peak, and all but two only had terribly negative things to say. Example: "There is no joy in this. There is NO JOY in this hike." MAHH! Gotta love a good old curmudgeon! This will remain one of my favorite quotes for years to come. 
Anyway, let's revisit those 70mph winds. I was legitimately knocked over at least 12 times (I stopped counting after that) and the gusts more or less ripped my eyeballs out of their socket and tore holes in my attire. All worth it though. Oh yeah, saw a couple black rosy finches- they only live in higher elevations, so I don't see them too often. The wind was really messing with their flying attempts and  I may or may not have screamed when I saw them get blown away off the mountain.  It's fine, they know what they're doing, but I was terrified for them. More on Great Basin in posts to come! (side note: blogger is being a butthead and won't let me center the photos....or I forgot how to blog properly)  Our World

Monday, September 8, 2014

Cute in yer face

Do you even know how much I love pikas? I don't think you do. Nature Notes Camera Critters

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Joy of Indoor Plumbing

I've been all over the place lately (not really shocking, I know) but I'm all boring and sedentary at the moment, so I should have some ample blog time, I think. I'm currently hunkered down in Wisconsin, what?  Was in 13 states in 12 days. Got the end of the field season blues. Know what I mean? Some of you know what I mean. I'm slowly (and sometimes reluctantly) being reintroduced back into civilization. This is no easy task, fyi. I'm told I can be a real awkward organism.  I've got a pretty hefty backlog of photos and such from the past few months,  so I'll try to get on top of that stuff, in between job and car searching. 
It's nice to be pooping in an actual toilet again. Indoor plumbing is pretty cool. It's also sort of nice to sleep in a bed for a change, I can't lie. Clean dishes and drinking out of vessels that aren't bacteria or mold ridden? Also a plus. And I'm sooo happy to have my catboys again, holy sh!t they're cute! But! I'm missing those big skies and those wide open spaces reeeaalll bad. Real bad!  *These photos are all from Central and Northern Nevada*  Our World

Friday, August 8, 2014

The Masters

Ohhh la la. Spent the last few days at Great Basin National Park and managed to get to all the bristlecone pine groves. (Two of them are uh, pretty damn difficult to get to). If you know me at all, you know that I basically worship bristlecones. I go all weak in the knees over these gods....

Friday, August 1, 2014

Ramblin' (Wo)man

Got some time to kill in a coffee shop in Elko becacuse...well, let's be frank, guys. I've got nowhere to go, okay? Let's just say it like it is. Last day of work was yesterday and well, now I wander/squat. Squat and wander. And mm, probably wonder, also. Car-less and homeless. Yeehaw! (Above: mountain bluebird nestlings near Blue Mountain, CA and a rubber boa near Steen's Mountain, OR- one of only 2?? snakes I saw all season. Weird. Below: Pretty gnarly- watched a crazy lightening bolt start this wildfire, less than a freaking mile where I was. What? It spread pretty quickly, but BLM was on top of it within 30 minutes (we called it in, somehow had service) with ground and air crews. Note that this is the second wildfire I've seen start because of lightening; Johnny Nutcase on top of one of the point count mountains, somewhere in Utah)
The field season gets two thumbs up! Lots of beautiful sites all over Oregon, Utah, Nevada, Idaho, one in California. Lots of pronghorn, elk, mule deer, coyotes (I watched one chase a jack rabbit - they ran right past me and didn't even realize I was there), lots and lots of nests (and I wasn't even nest searching for work). Snow, freezing weather, wildfires, sun poisoning, yellow jackets in the tent, waking up at 1 a.m surrounded by 600 sheep..You get the point. Lots of weird happenings in the last few months.  The pop-up tent got a little old after a while though. It stopped being waterproof (and dust proof) so there was a lot of wet sleeping bag nights. The door zipper also stopped working, so I was always expecting to come back to the tent and find a baby cow or a colony of rodents hanging out on one of the beds or something. Oddly, that never happened. Tons of golden eagles, prairie falcons, and other raptors! So here's some crappy photos of field stuffs. And here's the link again in case anyone missed what happened to my car recently:  Sad face. 

(Above: benefits of waking up before sunrise; lots of snow during May at the high elevation sites; me with the dreaded ATV. Luckily, only needed this thing for one field site. I think I got up to a whopping 9 miles an hour. Hey! Don't laugh- driving at 3:30 am over crazy two tracks totally freaks me out!; a huge pack rat midden! These were all over the place at the California field site. Pretty cool!) * Sorry again to all my blog friends who I have neglected the last few months. Not really sure when I'll have real-people internet again, but when I do, I sure have a lot of catching up to do!*