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Borrego Springs, CA

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Let the surveys begin!

As I’ve mentioned, Patrick, the staff biologist, showed me the twelve waterbird survey areas on Tuesday.  I thought I’d start surveying them yesterday, but it was a dull dismal day that would make identifications difficult.  This morning the sun was actually shining, so I headed out to do seven of the sites.  Five of the sights aren’t worth doing right now since there’s no water in them, hence, no waterbirds.

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As I made my way to a couple of the sites, this vulture was busy doing his job in life.  That’s the remains of a cow carcass.  It’s pretty well picked clean.

Some of the protocols for this survey are very regimented, and others are not.  For example, observations must be made each week from the exact same spot, but the amount of time allowed for each stop is unlimited.  The surveys should be done on the same day of each week if possible, but the time of day is up to the observer.  Since it can be difficult to identify species while staring directly into the sun, I have the option to do some sites in the morning, and some in the afternoon to allow for best viewing.  I like that.

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Here’s an example of the terrain I’m doing my observations in.  This site is a marsh, while others are moist soil units that don’t have the tall grasses and reeds.  Can you find the 24 great egrets in this pic?  I would use my binoculars to count these birds, but a spotting scope to check the open waters beyond.

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This is a moist soil unit that is literally covered with snow geese.  This is only a small part of this 5000 bird flock!  At times, just about the whole large flock will burst into the skies and circle around.  It is an unforgettable sight, and the cacophony of their honking is almost deafening.  Surprised smile

Every year I’ve been at Anahuac NWR, the bird surveys have had different parameters.  With this year’s requirements, I have two challenges to work on.  First, I need to bone up on my winter shorebird plumages and identification.  Those little dudes often take off in a flurry and are gone before you know it.  I haven’t been around many shorebirds in a couple of years, so I have some studying to do.

Secondly, I’m not very good yet at estimating how far 300 meters is.  When I get to one of the survey sites, I’m to count all birds within a radius of 300 meters.  That’s a little less than three football fields, but I just don’t have a feel for how far that is.  Along with that is the fact that when using a spotting scope, everything appears much closer of course.  Patrick said he’d put out some boundary stakes with an airboat, but that hasn’t happened yet. 

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I stopped at the VIS when I was done with my seven survey stops, and this vermillion flycatcher presented himself.  He’s been hanging around the area for a couple of months.  I’m glad he didn’t head elsewhere during the very cold weather we’ve been having.

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And then when I was driving home, my eye was caught by something along the side of the road.  I had to turn around and go back to be sure it was what I thought it was.  Yep, a black-crowned night heron along the ditch.  They do most of their feeding at night like owls.  It was hunkered down and resting, but don’t you just find that bright red eye fascinating?

So my first bird survey of the season was done.  I enjoyed it like I knew I would, but now it’s time to do some homework.  Winking smile

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                                                                               THE END!!

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

29 comments:

  1. What a fascinating job! That vermilion flycatcher is gorgeous... been a while since I've seen one.

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  2. Boy that sounds like a great job. It's one I'm not qualified for but I'd sure like to go along as your student. A 5000 bird flock circling overhead seems unbelievable to me. What a joy to behold. You are one lucky bird! And how in the world did you get that THE END picture??

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  3. It has to be breath taking when all those snow geese take off at the same time. I've seen them only once in my 65 years flying overhead, and their honking was deafening!!1

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  4. I flunked! I could only find 22 in that picture:(

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  5. Fantastic photos! Your story brought out the sounds and beauty of a day in the field. I surely hope I can meet up with you at Anahuac sometime this winter--I'd surely learn a lot!

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  6. You've got your work cut out for you in counting all those birds by hand. Enjoyed the photos! Thanks for sharing.

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  7. Sure is quite a lot of snow geese. But the vermilion is just beautiful

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  8. What a day...I am so happy for you. I can hear the excitement in your writing. The vermillion flycatcher is a beauty, but I'm with you, the black-crowned night heron is the picture of the day...how did you sneak up it in your car? Just amazing!

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  9. Some day, some way or another Peg and I have to find ourselves at a refuge with a couple birders like you who actually KNOW their birds. We REALLY need some help. Right now I'm not sure we're making any progress in that direction -- I think we need to see ourselves right here for the next 12 months at least, but maybe on our days off we'll get out and start doing some birding. Thanks, Judy, for the inspiration!

    Cheers,
    Peter
    A retired photographer looks at life from behind an RV steering wheel.
    Life Unscripted

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  10. Would love to see that flycatcher in person.

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  11. You might want to bring an umbrella with you in case that 5000 bird flock takes off and flies over you. Make sure the umbrella is washable...

    I could easily show you how far 300 meters is. That's about the distance it takes me to get totally lost in the woods. ;c)

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  12. The vermillion flycatcher is my favorite bird. Have only seen one and that was in Texas. I found 21 birds.

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  13. Great post. I'd like to learn more about volunteering like you do. Is there a website I can go to to do that? Love your photos; they're gorgeous.
    Also, I just noticed today that we're not too far apart. Darn, if I'd known I would have driven down there to meet you. Now I'm leaving on Sunday for Louisiana ...

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  14. I get a different number every time I try to count them, but I'll say 20. I would so love to be able to do that kind of job, but as soon as my eyes got focused on the birds they would all fly away.

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  15. I got 20 also. Glad to hear you're back doing what you love best and taking us along with you.

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  16. Nice to hear the survey about the birds. 5000 birds to see at one place is amazing. Beautiful photos!!

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  17. Just love the vermillion flycatcher- one of my favorites.

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  18. Loved your post! Got up to 22. The snow geese will be up here in the northwest in mid- to late January. In fact, we have a snow goose festival here in the Stanwood/Camano Island area at the time they arrive. We love our snow geese and trumpeter swans here in the Skagit Valley!

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  19. I also found only 22. Love the vermilion flycatcher--don't think he is a bird which frequents our frozen north land!

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  20. You have to love you "job". Seeing all these wonderful birds in the great outdoors. Wishing you good weather.

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  21. That's a whole lotta birds in one spot.

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  22. When I visited Bosque del Apache in NM a few years ago, snow geese were abundant as well as sandhill cranes! The noise was almost deafening when they all took off! What a sight to see! Here, at Myakka River State Park, near Sarasota FL, I photographed a spoonbill with a gator headed it's way. But no way is it as tack sharp and well composed as your images! I was so excited at what I was viewing, I forgot the monopod and 300mm lens. LOL! Good job with your camera and your survey!

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  23. I would be horrible at that job. I don't know 3 feet from 3 inches.

    Your job sounds very interesting though. All that beauty in one place would be so exciting. I can only image the noise. Get those ear plugs out

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  24. I found 24 birds in the picture upon my second try but two of them are very questionable. I able reasonably sure of the 22 and would say positive for 20.

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  25. We saw a lot of the night herons at Goose Island State Park in Fulton. I love that park. They supposedly have Whooping Cranes that come in there, but we have never been lucky enough to see any!

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  26. That Vermillion Flycatcher is beautiful! I wouldn't know 300 meters either. All those birds will keep you really busy:)

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  27. Nice Post. Thanks for sharing this in Your blog

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