Friday, October 16, 2009

Attack of the vampire seal!!

Yesterday we were catching seals and putting them into kennels to transport them to our release spot (we released 7 seals!!). I was helping try and get these heavy (most close to 70 lbs... some over) seals into kennels. This is a difficult task, and during trying to wrestle Fritz into his kennel he turned and in a split second bit me on the left wrist. The bite is quite deep, it penetrated my entire dermis, so I could see down to my muscle. I have been taking steps to make sure that it doesn't get infected (seal finger is a possibility, however with all the supplies we have here I'm not worried about it). I now have a nice little vampire looking bite on my wrist. I hope it scars because if you're going to get bit by a seal, it might as well scar so you have evidence of the tale, right! :P

In other news, we got a new seal in a few days ago. It was about 30 some lbs when she came in (she was named Harrington), so she has only been on fish mash for a few days and is now on whole fish. I don't know how much longer they'll have her in iso, but I don't think it'll be very long as she's quite big at this stage.

Also, the other day I went into Ganges (the main town on the island) to pick up a Cooper's Hawk from the water taxi. There were a bunch of high school kids coming in on the taxi from other islands (I have been told this is the only high school amongst the Gulf Islands) and one of the students brought the hawk with him in a box. The poor thing has head trauma and has a bit of a tick (it moves it head back and forth like it's reading something). We have been tube feeding it as it still isn't feeding on it's own. It doesn't even move when you approach it in the kennel. It is a juvenile, but has all of its adult coloration at this point (at least as far as I know). :)

Twice now during browsing (collecting browse for the fawns) I have been a part of finding a bird and bringing it in. The first time Saff and I were out and a robin was standing in the middle of the road and I actually had to swerve to miss it. We pulled over and Saff walked over to it and put her vest over it and picked it up, the whole time it didn't even flinch. The whole ride back to the Centre it didn't move. We we got back Yoch was checking it out (seeing if a wing was broken etc.) and it was making some noises, which we took as being fluid in the lungs. Once she put it in the basket it twitched its head and two sizable berries flew out! It then tried to take off! It was just choking! I think when Yoch stroked its crop that must have dislodged them. She let it go later that day.

The second time Lauren and I were on the side of the road when a lady pulled over and told us that she had just moved a little bird out of the road and it was in the bushes on the side of the road, and she told us where. We didn't think we'd be able to find it because it was small and she didn't give the best directions. We stopped and got out and in a few seconds after starting to look Lauren found it and picked it up in her gloves. We drove back to the Centre. We think it had head trauma (most likely from hitting a car). It seemed fine that day but it died the next day (most likely had a swollen brain etc.). It was a little fox sparrow.

Last but not least, I have decided to head out a few days earlier due to the fact that we have much less seals and the fawns were released this morning, so we won't have to browse much more (we still have the one that is too friendly), so things will be even slower around here with less to do. That and because the earlier I get home the earlier David and I can leave on our road trip (so we can have more cushion time for any weather difficulties). :) I love everyone here, and I really love the seals, but I am ready to go. :)

Sunday, October 11, 2009


On Friday morning I left on a ferry to go meet David in Sidney (where the Anacortes ferry comes in). He was going to meet me on the street where the bus stop was and we'd catch the bus together into Victoria. His ferry got in at 10:45 and the two buses we were going to try and catch were either the 11:10 or 11:40 (depending on how long it took him to walk there). I arrived around 11 and I waited and waited. I don't have a cell phone and no one could let me use their phone in businesses because it would be calling long distance. It was about 11:30 (I was getting quite worried as I knew it wouldn't take him that long to walk to the bus) when he came running down the sidewalk. He had been searched at customs after getting off of the ferry! They had asked him questions about what he had and because I couldn't remember everything he put (if it were just clothes or not) he hesitated in answering some of their questions so they took him aside and searched his bag and his person for 30 min!!! I told him he has to learn how to be less suspicious. :P We caught the 11:40 bus and made it into Victoria. We had lunch and walked around, checked into our hostel, which was very nice (Ocean Island Backpackers), and for dinner David surprised me by bringing me to a German place! It was so cute, the waitresses were wearing german dresses and there was a guy playing the accordion and we had schnitzel and bratwurst. :) It was really yummy. We caught the bus early in the morning back up to Swartz Bay were we were meeting David's parents and we were all going to Salt Spring together. They were just getting off of their ferry from Vancouver when we got there and so we didn't think they'd make it on the 9:00 ferry so we waited until we knew before we bought our tickets. It was hectic and confusing, but after buying our tickets and RUNNING to the ferry we all made it on together and were amazed that we were able to do so. :P We spend the morning on Salt Spring at the market and eating brunch. :) It was very nice. They brought me back to the Centre and I gave them a bit of a tour. Then I had to go back to work.

Late that night Yoch cooked a turkey and they made a big Thanksgiving meal as (as Lauren who's been going to school in Victoria for years told us that today [Oct 10]) it was Thanksgiving in Canada. David's family and I went out to eat at a place and we kept seeing signs that said they'd be closed or open on Thanksgiving Oct 12. I I was curious about this as Lauren said it was the 10th. The lady assured me it was the 12. When we got back I told Lauren and she was sure it was the 10th. We looked online and it said it was the second Monday of October, so it was the 12th and Lauren felt betrayed and lied to!! ;P It was quite funny, but she couldn't understand how her and everyone she knew had been celebrating it on the 10th for years!! Poor Lauren. :P When I got back they were just cleaning up and then we all had pie together. :) (pumpkin). It was a good time.

On another subject, David is going to be getting done with his work earlier than expected and so (as there's less and less to do here and we're going to be releasing most of our seals when Marielle comes back from her vacation this week, and the fawns are leaving Wednesday) I might just be leaving sooner as well. If I do so, David and I have decided to start out on our road trip a bit earlier so we have more leeway for weather problems.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Slowing down

Things have really started to slow down here at the Centre lately. Almost all of the interns before me have left (Dana's the last to go before I do and she leaves on the 6th) so in that sense we don't get as much time off as we used to (less people=less time off), but we also have very few animals left. We only have one seal in iso right now and she's almost off fish mash, close to free feeding. There are two seals in pool 1 and we just released 5 seals yesterday. The only animals we have left on birds are: A robin, two cedar waxwings, a finch (who's going to get release asap), pigeons, a crossbill (that apparently came in today), and the deer. The deer we are hoping to get rid of in the next week, two at the most. We have started to make it so we don't go into the enclosure with them (as they are very friendly and come up to us which is a bad thing). We are having a harder and harder time finding suitable things for them to eat when we go browse as the fall is progressing, which is the biggest reason we want to get them out, that and we want them to be in the wild again while there are still some things they can eat as they don't know how to scrounge and dig for food yet. We are still in the process of finding a suitable place to release them (looking for somewhere where they won't be hunted because as they are friendly that would not be a good situation for them).

Anyway, so a lot of our extra time (as feeding now doesn't take very long at all) is spent cleaning. We have to get the centre cleaned and prepared for winter (which is usually done by Marielle and another lady that comes to help clean after the interns leave, but the lady isn't coming this year and we have so fewer animals than usual). We are nearing completion on the cleaning side of things though, so it is being talked about that if it comes down to it and the staff have to start finding things for us to do then we might as well go home early. I don't know if it'll come to that yet, we can only really wait and see, but it is a possibility.

Today we had a booth at this lady's house for the Apple Festival. She owns this amazing property (most properties on the island are amazing) right next to the ocean where she has this huge plot of amazing gardens and apple trees! They make apple sauce every year and she is a big sponsor for the Centre. She invited us there because so people could get to know about us and the financial crisis that we are in. As the government has cut funding for environmental groups in order to help pay off their deficit, the centre is now out about $65,000, which they were not informed of until just a few weeks ago (not enough time to try and do much about it). We have been sending out flyers to everyone on the mailing list and so far, apparently, have raised about $10,000, which is amazing, but still not enough. Every year the Centre relied on that money and now we don't know even if they'll get it back again in later years. Sucks. The Centre usually stays open through the winter (Marielle stays as vet) and even though they don't get as much action, there are still animals to help. This year though because of the $ shortage they're closing for the winter (although Marielle is still going to stay). What a mess. It's sad that the environment is so low on people's list of priorities, if it weren't for the environment we wouldn't even be here!!

On another note, I think I have found out what is wrong with my computer. Apparently there is some sort of card thing that I forget the name of at the moment that Apple has found failing in a lot of Macbook Pros, which is what I have. They say that if you bring it into an Apple store, and it's within 3 years of the purchase date, then they will fix it for free!! I believe I bought my computer Nov or Dec of 2006, so it looks like I'll make it just in time. I'm going to bring it in to an Apple store in Seattle when I get home. That's about all for now! :)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

no raccoons, no seagulls, no computer

Today the raccoons left!! That is a good thing (no matter how cute they were) because now we don't have to clean their stinky mess two times a day and now we won't have to worry about contaminating seals. Also, yesterday a group (names were picked from a hat to see who would go and I wasn't one of the ones chosen) went out on a boat release because two of the seals that were to be released and both of our seagulls all like humans way too much! Vivian and Mona Lisa were the two seals to go and we just called the seagulls "Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum" because of their silliness, but they didn't have names. Apparently the release went really well and they all took off without looking back.

I still haven't gotten the situation with my computer figured out yet, mostly because I have limited time off and the times that I do get free rarely are during hours that I can try anything. Besides, I just have to contact this one guy that's on the island, which I did twice today but both times got his answering machine (I hope this doesn't turn out to be like calling the horse lady cause I ALWAYS got her machine and NEVER once was I able to talk to her). Anyway, so I guess I will see what this guy things when and if I can get him to look at my computer (or at least listen to what's wrong). I might have to make a run into Victoria to get it fixed, but even then that won't be for at least another week cause I could only do that one my day off and that only comes once a week. Tomorrow is my day off, but I am sticking around the island because 1) I don't feel like taking any trips right now, and 2) we are preparing to have a "cabin crawl" tomorrow night. We're all making some Mexican dishes and each person (or people) at each cabin will have a different food and drink item. :) It should be really fun, I'm looking forward to it. It helps with all of the alcohol that I have the morning after off too. :P Tee-hee. So, long story short, I have no idea when I'll have my computer back, which sadly makes working on the presentation for this internship (for credit) difficult, and I AGAIN can't put up any more pics. Once I finally get my camera battery then my computer goes on me!! Unbelievable!! Saff has been really nice and has let me use her computer for private conversations with family and David, so that's been nice, otherwise I use the communal computer in the kitchen, but it's often busy and noisy there.

On another note, I got to help doing fecals today (testing fecal samples of seals). Wild seals are very susceptible to different nematodes, but there is at least one that can be deadly, the Otostrongylus tapeworm. Fish are the hosts, and so when seals in infected fish, which is often (however scientists don't know exactly which type of fish carry the parasite), they move to the lungs of the seals. They are dangerous mainly to unhealthy, young seals, which is why we have to keep a look out for them in seals that have recently come in. It's only something to look for in seals that have already been feeding in the wild before they came to us, so Calipto was too young, so we don't have to search her fecies.

Well, I guess that's all for today! When I get my computer up and running again (HOPEFULLY!!) then you'll know immediately and I can post pics again... again!!

Monday, September 21, 2009

late comings

My posts might take a while to come for a bit now as I have just recently had computer issues. My computer screen has gone black and so now I have to try and get that fixed! I am really annoyed and sad, cause now talking to people is much more difficult and I am not able to keep up my journal that I need to keep for credit (I'll have to do writing I suppose) as well as work on my powerpoint that I need to do for this internship for credit. I might have to go into Victoria to get it fixed, and I REALLY hope that they're able to do so!! If not I will be immensely sad. Anyway, I am borrowing a friend's computer right now so I could Skype with David and Seth tonight in private (as opposed to using the communal computer, which is in the kitchen, which is where we do all of our cooking and hanging out and so it is quite busy and loud there. Anyway.

We had another spur of the moment seal release today, Papyrus and Libertine left, and they took their time leaving the shore. :P We're also going to all be placed in a lottery to see who gets to go out to do a boat release as two of our seals are about ready but they are WAY too friendly and like people WAY too much, so would never leave the beach if we let them go on it. I hope that I get to do that, it would be really neat!

I also just got over (am on the tail end of it) of being sick (stomach wise), which wasn't too bad, but there were trips taken to the bathroom more often than I would have liked. I am very glad that I am pretty much over that now. Now much else to tell now, things are slowing down here a lot. We'll be having 4 of our interns leaving in the next week, so it'll just be three of us left! Anyway, I'm off to Skype with David, more later. :)

Monday, September 14, 2009

more pics

Days off with David and pictures!!

My two days off with David were great. He couldn't get here until 1:30 on Friday cause of having to take ferries etc, but we had a great one and a half days. Every place we ate was AMAZING food!! We walked around Ganges, we camped at an amazing place in Ruckle Park, and we got to go kayaking by ourselves at sunset!! It was a great time! I just hated to say goodbye to him again. We plan on meeting up in Victoria the week of our 3rd year anniversary (the week of October 6th), so it'll just be a few weeks until then, so not too long.

Yesterday we got a new seal in that is now named Clearview, and tonight another came in and her name is Alexandria. Hopefully they survive cause we haven't had much luck with the past three. Now I will put up some pics now that I finally have my camera battery! On Sunday we released 4 seals, one of which (Monaco) took a bit of time leaving, so kind of got left behind by the other three, but I hope they met up later!

The dots on their heads is to tell us who is who, the seal with a pink spot is Fontloon, the one on the beach with Monaco on his release (I got to open his kennel door). The sunset pics are David and I on our kayak trip (2.5 hours) out to Chocolate beach and back.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Island Wildlife Natural Care Centre

I just though I should put the website for the place I'm at up in case anyone would like to check it out. :)

Vet school

I just realized that some of you (my readers) may not know that I have been accepted to vet school in Perth Australia!! I will be starting in Feb 2011. I have to get one more class done before I go, so will be taking that at U of I next fall (yes, one more semester at U of I, and I thought I was done). :P I'm glad though, then I get to see people there one more time. :) My new Uni is called Murdoch University. :) I am very excited. David plans on applying to the University of Western Australia to do his PhD in linguistics (it's just across the river from Murdoch). :) It'll be a big move, but it will be a fun adventure I think.

The workout and then freedom

Today we weighed all of the seals in Pool 4, which is the pool we put all seals in last (they graduate up to this level) and so here is where they gain all the rest of their weight before they are released. We try and release seals when they are at least 60 lbs, so most of these are between 50 and 70 lbs. Now, I have to get all geared up in fisherman pants, a rain coat and wellies. To weight these buggers we have three people weighing and one writing down the weights. They drain the tank, and so one person (me in this case) gets down there and wrangles a seal into a net, and then lift the seal up to the other two people (with their help). They then attach the net to hooks on a dangling scale and take the measurement. The seal is then let back down into the empty pool and the whole process starts again (until they're all weighed). :) So, you can imagine, lifting 50-70 lbs about 10 times up and down is a pretty good work out. :P I enjoyed it though. They are so damn cute I can't stand it! They of course are not supposed to be friendly and like people (that's the hope) but they are anyway. There is one seal in pool 4 that is really bad (friendly) named Vivian. Every time I scoop for extra fish in their pool with the net she always chases it and bites it or sits in it (which at first is cute, but quickly becomes aggravating), and when I was cleaning the deck this morning she came up and sat next to me the whole time. And of course, when I move she follows. When I was in the pool clearing the fish from the drain so it could continue to drain the pool, while the other seals tried to see what I was doing and occasionally sitting on the pool and biting my pants, she was constantly getting in my face (luckily she's friendly and doesn't bite) and I guess thinking she was "helping" but wasn't. She's so cute, she's got a little green spot (they all have colors on their heads to distinguish who's who), but she really shouldn't be so nice, that's not good criteria for releasing.
Anyway, after weighing we found that 4 were well over 60 lbs, so they will be released on Sunday!! It was going to be Saturday, which would have been great cause then David could have gone too, but for one reason or another they had to change it. That brings me to my next point, DAVID'S COMING IN THE MORNING!! We are both a bit worried about him being able to catch his ferry (he's taking one ferry from Anacortes to Sidney, then has to catch a bus from Sidney 5 km to Swartz Bay Ferry). Technically he should have enough time, but that depends if his ferry is on time and if he can walk to the bus stop in good time, and then if the bus is on time! I am hoping all goes well, cause if he can't catch the 11:00 ferry, the next one isn't until 1:00, which would suck (for him cause he's got to wait, and for both of us cause I only have 2 days off... precious time!). Anyway, we should have a good time, I have a kayak trip planned and have been trying to get a hold of the people that give horse rides up Mt. Maxwell, but every time I've called so far I've gotten an answering machine (and as I don't really have a good # to give them I have to just keep calling).
On one more note, we had 6 seals in quarantine (so the smallest ones) and we moved all but 2 out into pool 1 today!! I even got to learn how to pick one up and I carried him (Princeton... we call him Prince) to his new home. He's one of my favorites, he makes the cutest noises (which sound like he's blowing bubbles) and he's nice. I tube fed three seals again today with Marielle (the vet) overseeing (I needed a few more times being watched before she would let me do it on my own), and I felt really good cause she had nothing to say, all she said was "C'est parfait" (she's French), which means, perfect. :P I felt really good! :) She told me that she's almost never seen anyone learn tubing as fast as I have. :) Well, that's about all for now, can't wait to see David!!

two lives lost, two lives freed

On Monday our new intern (and the last) came; her name is Saffrina. She was my room mate for 2 nights, but then as they had an extra cabin (due to one of the staff having to leave do to some family health problems at home) she moved in there so as to try and let everyone had their own room. I was sad about it at first, cause I've been feeling a little alone, but I am ok with it now. It will be nice to have the whole place to myself.
The same day Saffrina came we got a new little seal in. She got to name him too (appropriate), and she chose the font Bembo (wich ironically is the nickname she has for her sister and hence why she picked that name). Little Bembo was about 1 or 2 months old they think and should have weighed about 30 lbs, but was only 16 lbs. The poor little thing was so thin that you could clearly see his pelvis and you could even SEE his heart beating!! Sadly, he died the next day around 4 PM. On the other hand, we released two of our older seagulls, and that was a neat sight. One seemed to make friends right away and was at home sitting on top of a light pole, the other took a bit to get going, he just was looking at us like "well, now what?". Finally a dog came and so he took off. I didn't see it but we also let our robin and sparrow go, so that's good! One of our Cedar Waxwings are now gone, send off to a man who has more that he's going to release together as they are migrating right now. We don't know what'll happen with the other one we have as he has to grow back his tail feathers before we can let him go, and as they're migrating right now, he might have to stay over winter, which may or may not work well, we'll have to see. Well, I am exhausted so should head to bed. Tonight we went out to eat all as a group, so that was nice. I have been kind of emotional lately too, which is annoying and probably taxing. I get two days off this week!!! Friday and Saturday and so David's coming up and we're planning on kayaking and (if I can get a hold of the people) horse back riding! We were going to try and stay in some cute little cabins, but they're booked, so it's camping for us. :) That'll be good too, that just means that David has to bring our tent and sleeping bags on the ferry with him (and he's walking on). Oh well. :) I am really excited, I know we'll have a blast!!
Ok, off to bed now.

P.S. David will be bringing with him my camera battery and charger so I'll be able to take pics too and thus post them!!

Thursday, September 3, 2009


So I was cleaning a seal named Forte's tub today in quarantine and so I had my hands full. I felt something fall on my chest, and so with my wrists I tried to wipe away the sensation. It went away but I still felt a bit icky. Once I got done with Forte I took the gown off and my gloves and was wiping and looking for what caused the sensation. I was shaking out my shirt etc. and then I felt something on my leg... I looked down and there was a BIG SPIDER there!!! I freaked out and brushed it off (with a slight scream). I thought from the beginning that it might be a spider, which is why I felt so gross, but I didn't think it'd be that big!! I had the jitters for like 30 minutes afterwards... just thinking about how long it was in there and that it had traveled all the way down!! YUCK!!

Anyway, in other news, three more seals got moved to pool 1 today from quarantine! Yay! I also learned how to tube feed a seal today, I might get to try it on an actual seal on Saturday (tomorrow's my day off and I'm spending it in Ganges). I am going to bike to Ganges (about a 20 min bike ride, and very hilly) and then hang out there all day and see what there is to see. :) I am also going to look into kayaking for David and I when he comes up next weekend!! I am very excited for him to come!! Well, that's about it for now. :)


Well, I guess I should should start by saying (even though it's sad) that the seal I named died the night after we brought her in. We're not quite sure the exact reason, but such is life. The same night a lady came in late bringing a baby squirrel that was attacked by her cat, that also died in the night. On a happier note on Monday I started on seals! I have been learning a lot!! I have learned a lot about the sanitary precautions needed (especially in the quarantine area); it's really strict cause they don't want anything passing from one seal to another. One thing that can really take down a large part of a population of seals is worms (nematodes), which has happened at the center before, so they are very careful. You have a gown and gloves that you wear for each seal and when you switch seals you can't touch anything, you take off the gloves and gown and wash your hands then put on the gown and gloves for the next seal you'll work on. Most of the seals are being moved out of quarantine into the pools (they are graduated up pools according to size, so pool 1 is the first, then when they get to pool 4 they are about ready to be set free. There are only 2 seals still being tube fed in quarantine, and one of which is now being force fed (once they are used to tube feeding we start force feeding them because they need to learn the swallowing action, then once they are comfortable with that it's hand feeding, then free feeding.

I have been on seals since Monday, and I don't go back to birds until Tuesday. The other day we got in a juvenile turkey vulture! I got to watch it being tube fed the other day, they make some really scary noises!! I don't know all of the new stuff in birds as of right now, but I'll find out soon enough. :) I did hear that the pelican is getting sent off today (they're going to helicopter to a site and release it there I heard). I am happy for the pelican but sad cause then we won't get to see her anymore. :P Oh well. :) Big news is that we had a two seal release a few days ago!!! It was great! Prima and Nina were their names and they stuck together even after being set free (which I would do too if that was the only other seal around!). They sat there for a while getting their bearings, but then slowly made out into the water.

As far as I go, I've been feeling a bit down lately, and for reasons that I don't really know. I love everyone here, they're great, but I have been finding it hard to completely fit in, which is understandable cause they have all been here together for longer and so are really close. I am sure things are going to change as two of them have already left (one of them this morning) and we got one new person and will get one more, then that'll be it. The new girl, Lauren, was going to be my roommate but now it's going the be the next one. :) I am looking forward to getting a roommate actually cause everyone here lives with at least one other person and I'm off on my own, which I think has also added to the lonely feeling (and of course being away from David again) :) It's really not bad at all, I just think that my mind's making it worse. I am doing much better now though.

In other news, I finally decided to sign up for the Shimongwe Veterinary Experience in South Africa! I sent off my booking info today along with my deposit. There's no turning back now (well, there is, but only if I want to be out my $400 deposit). Now I just have to raise the $!! I also found a job at the Tacoma, WA Point Defiance Zoo and I sent in my application today. I only found out about it last night and the deadline is tomorrow, so I had to act fast!! Anyway, I am going to go enjoy the rest of my split (3 hours off), and I have tomorrow off!! I am going to bike into Ganges and explore. :)

Thursday, August 27, 2009

pigeons and a baby seal!

Today I was on birds (everything but seals) all day. Me and another intern named Crissy fed the birds before we went out to collect browse for the fawns (we mainly get ocean spray because that's what they seem to like best). I also had fun picking and eating some of the blackberries that can be found all over the place. :) Oh, and when we went out we also got to release the crossbill!! That was neat, I have a pick of me and it that I'll put up later when I get it off of Crissy (as I still don't have my camera battery). We got a canadian goose in the other day that is really emaciated, we think she has worms. Poor thing keeps throwing up when we tube feed her, but I think she's getting a little better.

For lunch the center bought sandwich supplies and we all ate sandwiches together, that was nice. Later on I was sent out to take the ferry from Vesuvius Bay to Crofton (a 20 min ferry ride) to pick up two pigeons. The other day I did the same thing and picked up a Cedar Waxwing that had a bum leg.

At the end of the day I went with the vet, Marielle (she's French), and another intern (from Germany), Anne-Marie, and we picked up a baby seal from some people that brought it from another island in their sail boat. It is of course so cute!! Poor thing is really skinny (about 17 lbs when at that age they're supposed to be about 30-40 lbs), and she is missing her left eye (it's all pussy) as well as has bites all over her fins. Marielle let me name her (the name theme is type fonts) and so as she's a girl I named her Aquilina. :)

Other than all of that I just made food dishes for animals, fed them, cleaned, did some laundry, etc. I don't actually start on seals until Sunday, but I am really looking forward to it! :)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Island Wildlife Rescue Centre

I have just arrived at the Island Wildlife Rescue Centre on Salt Spring Island, BC Canada! David, his dad John, and I all got up at 5:30 AM to head out and catch the ferry at 10:20 at Tsawwaasen (essentially Vancouver). We left some extra time for getting through Seattle traffic as well as crossing the boarder, but ended up having an extra hour at the ferry docks. We ate a little then walked around near the water and while making our way back to the van we heard a call that it was our rows turn to go so we ran. Luckily there was one car parked in front of us who's people hadn't gotten back yet so we didn't feel so bad. :P The ferry ride was about 3 hours because Salt Spring was the 4th stop out of 5. We talked a lot, looked at the scenery as well as had a bite to eat. It was really awesome, we saw two different pods of orcas!!!! That was my first whale sighting!! How awesome!! Later we also saw a sea otter, we barely saw him cause just his head was above water, but boy was he cute. :P

The centre is really neat, very beautiful! I will take some pics when I get my camera battery back. David and I went to Idaho on a camping trip to visit some of our friends from Moscow who live in Idaho City. We had a blast, but I accidentally left my camera battery in it's charger plugged into the wall, so one of my friends is sending it to me. :) One of the bosses here, named Yoch (a woman in maybe her 40's) showed me around a bit today. She's really kind of odd, but I like her a lot. :) She is a bit of a gypsy (she said so herself). She was an intern here last year and now she's on staff. :) She also spent some time in China, so I'll have to talk to her about it more as David and I want to go teach English there for a bit. :) Anyway, I should finish getting unpacked and such. I'll write again soon when I get the chance, it seems that I'll be fairly busy here. I have tomorrow off to get settled in a bit but will also be learning about birds. It's kind of sad they had two eagle chicks that they just released into the wild yesterday, so I just missed it. :( Oh well, :P There aren't any more raptors at the moment, but they have:
pigeons, squirrels, fawns, raccoons, a robin, starling (and two other such birds), a pelican (they plan on releasing her soon), 3 seagulls, and of course lots of seals. :) They are sooooo cute!!!!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Love of the Land Rendezvous

July 24-26 was the Love of the Land Rendezvous, which, among other things, included a pow wow. Arjun and I walked over to the Little Feather Indian Center where we got a "famous" indian taco, very yummy! :) We'd never been in that building before, it's run by a woman from England and a man from The Netherlands. :) They were very nice people. After we got our tacos we went over to the pow wow for a while, I had to run home cause I forgot to grab my camera. After I came back I made sure to take a pic of the dead kingfisher that I saw on the road. Of course after that I got a few pow wow pics, but by then most of the really neat dances were over.

After that I went over to the Song of the Hiawatha Pageant grounds were they had a black powder shoot and booths. The people there were really neat. I got some tips about tanning our own deer hide by one guy, but he mainly said never do it! :P I was thinking since we were going hunting again this fall, it would be kind of neat to try it out and make something of the hide, but it takes too long soaking in lye etc, that I wouldn't be able to do it. One guy let me try the atlattle and I kicked Arjun's butt!! :P Haha, no, he did pretty good too. That same guy showed us his bow and his old style gun (I don't remember caliber etc) that he uses to hunt with. One thing that I thought was interesting (as I've only ever really seen it done in movies) is he said that you never poor gun powder directly from your horn into the gun cause if there's a hot bit and it sparks you're holding a bomb in your hand. If you're in battle that's another thing though as you don't have as much time. Also, there is a different kind of (finer) powder as the charge as there is inside the gun. :) I also got to try my hand with throwing a hatchet, I did quite well! It's actually not that hard really, I didn't realize it has so much to do with where you stand! It makes sense though. If you hit with the back of it then you're too close cause it didn't get enough time to make a full rotation. Also, you can start off throwing it with the blade pointing backwards, but then you have to stand further back, as it makes one and a half rotations and hits your target upside-down. Here's a pic of a guy doing it.

Well, we're almost done at work here. We just have to take vegetation samples at each nest site (we have 14 to do). We were going to do that today, but it's raining, so Arjun is going some data entry since he needs to make up more time than I do. We found out the the turkey nest we've been watching has hatched! Sadly though, the mallard nest we found got eaten. :( Oh well, such is life. One day just after I got done with the rest of my point counts and got into the truck, a red-headed woodpecker perched on the fence right in front of the truck! It was so pretty!! I was trying to slowly reach for my camera but it flew a few posts down before I got it out. So, you can still see it in this pic, but it was a lot closer before.

Also, I got to go into my very first corn field!! Haha, after seeing Forest Gump when I was young I always wanted to go into one, and the corn here is now some of the tallest it's ever been says a local farmer. :) Today I also spent some time taking pics around the interpretive center for your interest. :) I will put them up on another post.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

pics of what we do!

Here are some pics of mist netting, rope dragging, and vegetation sampling, just in case you were curious. :)

Little bits

This is going to be a bit of a ramble about some of the little things that have been going on. For one thing, Arjun and I are back in action doing point counts and vegetation sampling, which we should be done with by Sunday. Sarah should be coming early to mid next week to help us close things out, and we should be wrapping up on July 31! Arjun and I have been working 6 days a week for a bit to help get caught up on time that we've lost due to weather etc... so I am starting to get a bit drained out. I shouldn't really complain, it's not like it's a tough job, but I think that not going to bed quite early enough and getting up at 5 AM every morning wears on you a bit.

Arjun and I found a mallard nest in the field today, she flushed while we were doing vegetation sampling. :P The nest smelled just like Julie (my pet duck), I miss her so much. There are 8 eggs. We have been keeping a close eye on all of the nests that we've found, which lately have been quite a few! The Eastern Kingbird chicks look like they'll fledge soon! Here's a pic of them from yesterday, these are the same ones that I put a pic up of last time, you can see how much they've grown!

Also, once while I was walking on the path, there were two little voles just sitting on the path!! They were so cute, and they didn't move even when I got super close! I even touched one before it moved, and even then it just slowly sauntered away. :P

One bad thing that happened is that Arjun lost his range finder, which neither of us can imagine where it went!! We had it for the last point we did veg sampling at a few days ago, which is really close to the parking lot, and then we walked directly back to the truck. I wouldn't make sense for him to have taken it off before we got to the truck, but it's not there, it's not in our apartments, it's not in our backpacks! I hope that it turns up while we're packing up, cause even though we can get on without it ok (as I have mine, it just means that we have to take turns doing point counts instead of doing them simultaneously) they are a bit pricy, even if they aren't the highest quality, and I don't want Sarah to have that loss. I don't blame Arjun at all, we've all had that happen to us before, and we can't give any explanation of where it went.

Another bit of news is that on Tuesday the 21st we did a little presentation on grassland birds and the project we're doing for the interpretive center. They have scheduled different little presentations every Tuesday for the next few months, and we were the opening act. ;P It went really well, we had a bigger turn out than we expected too, with about 9 people. :) We talked about what grassland birds are, their morphology and how that helps them in their environment, our target species, and about nests. Afterwards we went outside and showed them a Field Sparrow nest that had been abandoned earlier in the season that still has an egg in it. We also took them over to see the Red-Winged Black Bird that is very temperamental about people being around his nest (which is a bit strange as the rest of the RWBL males aren't that aggressive). He actually wasn't very upset this time around. :) Alternatively, here's a pic of him attacking Arjun. :P

I suppose there's not too much else to talk about at the moment, just that we only have one week left, which is really hard to believe!! It's been a good job and I am very glad and feel privileged that I was able to do it! I am, however, very ready and excited to be going home and seeing David again! :) Yay!! I am also excited for camping!! Yay!! I will be flying out of Omaha on Aug 4th, but will be leaving Pipestone (driving the University pick-up down and it will be picked up by grad students) on Aug 2nd. I am going to be staying with Zach and Amber Niebaum, some family friends of ours that I haven't seen in ages! It should be really nice to see them again. Well, that's all for now, I'm sure I'll probably write again at least once more before I leave, then there'll be a bit of a hiatus before I start my next internship Aug 25th. :)

Thursday, July 16, 2009


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Eastern Kingbird

Red-Wing Black Bird nest

Eastern Kingbird chicks


Mom to baby kingbirds in post entitled "pictures"

To find nests Arjun and I mainly would rope drag the fields of the park... this was fairly unproductive. When you rope drag you are trying to flush females off of the nest so you can search where she left and hopefully find it! This happened only occasionally while we were rope dragging. Recently, because of extremely strong winds (we think it's kind of counterproductive that if the wind is blowing the grass over, and this is what you do rope dragging, that it won't make a difference) we've been doing a lot of just nest searching. We've been going through the areas that have denser vegetation that can't be rope dragged. On Tuesday this yielded us 3 nests and we also found a turkey nest while we were mist netting that morning. Yesterday it yielded another 3 nests! We actually found 4, but one is in a tree, so it doesn't count (only doing grassland birds). We are very excited, our goal was to get at least as many as the interns from last year (hopefully more) and they had 15... we now have 19!! I think we will definitely find more before the end too, so that's really good!

Today we started point counts and vegetation sampling again (as we need to do each twice in our time here, so this is the second time around). It's a really good thing we're doing it again cause we can really notice the differences in occurrences of birds as well as the growth of vegetation! There are heaps of birds we don't see much of now that used to be all over (grackles), and we are seeing a lot more of other birds. And of course the vegetation has changed dramatically!

Each morning when we go out there is heaps of dew on the grass, so we get quite wet walking through it. Dad was wonderful enough to buy me a nice pair of gortex boots before I came out here, so my feet could stay dry... well, they are very waterproof for sure but there's a different problem. My pants become so wet while walking through the grass that water drips down my legs and soaks my socks!! Today was especially bad, I was walking around in my own little puddles. I always bring my mesh tennis shoes with me for later in the day because usually it's cool and wet in the morning and then really hot and dry later on and the boots get too hot, well, today I had to change early cause it was like I was walking around with two buckets of water on my feet! I should have brought dad's lower leg gators with me! Anyway, it's not that bad, just annoying really.

We have been seeing more and more baby birds about now too! Today I flushed a female pheasant and about a foot away were at least 4 chicks, they were so cute! We've been finding quite a few Red-Wing Black Bird nests (they are easy to find cause they choose a certain grass/shrub to nest in, usually around water, and chirp at you when you get too close then the female flushes right off of the nest). There is one nest near the pond along the trail and the male RWBL was so mad at me for being there that he was just a few inches above my head swooping me a lot, which for them isn't very normal, all of the others have kept a distance! Just after I found that nest I went to look in some bushes just for the heck of it, and when I was walking through a large patch of bush, I brushed away some leaves and saw the tinniest patch of pin feathers, and there was one huge baby in a nest!! I couldn't believe it!! Out of that whole big patch of bushes the nest was RIGHT next to where I stepped... and really well hidden too! What luck.

baby bird I found... it is possibly a Brown-Headed Cow Bird chick in a Clay Colored Sparrow nest (they are nest parasites)

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Blue Mounds State Park

So this past week, Nathan, one of the guys that works at the interpretive center at Pipestone, offered to take Arjun and I to Blue Mounds State Park (about 25 miles away). It was really nice, a beautiful day! We just walked on some of the trails, the exciting part was when we went on one of the forested trails. We kept going and going and after a while (of beautiful scenery) the trail just sort of disappeared! At one point we went into this field between the woods and the road and were amongst plants taller than us! Upon closer inspection of these plants we were like "these look EXACTLY like marijuana plants (I think most everyone knows what the leaf of one looks like :P) I took some pics and Arjun looked it up later. Nathan called into the park the next day and asked/told about it and the guy said "it very well could be." Arjun looked it up and found that it was! He did, however, believe that is was the type that has low amount of THC more for making hemp and usage of the seeds etc. Still, that was hilarious, and there was TONS of it! Haha. Here are some pics. :)

After that we had to fight our way through the "jungle" :P to get back up to the top of the ridge to see where we were. We finally made it and we still had a little bit until we got back to the parking lot. :) It was a lot of fun. This was the day that we caught the WEME, so afterwards Arjun and I invited Nate to come along with us to have pizza and ice cream as celebration for catching it! :P We went to a place called Dar's Pizza, the most popular pizza place in town, then to Dari King for ice cream, which is also very well known. Yes they have a Dairy Queen too, but Dari King is know to be cheaper and better. :)

Yesterday was the 4th of July, I didn't really do much except for watch some movies on my computer, read a bit and did some sketching. It was a good day, but definitely the least exciting 4th I've ever had. I did see a few fireworks from my window (I'm on the 11 out of 12 floor of the tallest building in town) but surprisingly there weren't very many.

I'll leave you with a few more pics from Blue Mounds.

See the face!!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009


Today is a good day, Arjun and I were only out for about 2 hours mist netting (most of that time was putting up the nets) and we caught one!! A western Meadowlark (alpha code=WEME)! On Sunday we went out into this big field where we had been hearing one, and while we were watching our nets it flew right over them over to the opposite corner of the park. Yesterday (Monday) we went over to that area cause we'd been hearing one quite often there, and sure enough there was one perched on the fence a few meters away just watching us put up our nets. It flew over our nets like 3 times (going back and forth to the same places and singing). At one point it even landed in a tree just about 2 meters away and sang at us, just taunting us! It was really important that we try and get this bird cause it's one of the target species, which are hard to come by here. We have been hearing them in like 3 different areas continuously throughout our point count surveys, but as they have large home ranges and are territorial, and we saw this one fly to one of the other areas, and the one on Sunday flew from one area to the one we were in, we think that it might all be the same bird! There might be more, but we can't be sure. It's kind of funny cause the people in the park tell us that they are all over the place on the sides of the roads/ditches etc in other areas. So, there are a lot in MN, just they seem to like disturbed areas better, not as much grassland. So, anyway, the wind was blowing a bit too hard after we got done taking blood and feather samples and measuring/weighing him, we we packed up and came home. We are going out for pizza and ice cream tonight to celebrate! Now we both feel like our time here is getting somewhere!

Sunday, June 21, 2009


Hello everyone!
So, I've already been here in Pipestone National Monument, MN at my first internship for a few weeks now (first day was May 26th) but didn't really think about doing a blog until recently. I'll just give you a short run down of what I'm doing here. I am employed by a girl named Sarah Rehme through the University of Nebraska Lincoln. I am employed as one of two people (Arjun Potter is the name of the guy with me, he is 19) at her Pipestone location for her Masters thesis project. There are three different sites, that started all at different times. There is a site at Tallgrass, KS, and one at Homestead National Monument, NE. We have three target species: Western/Eastern Meadowlark, Grasshopper Sparrow, and Dickcissel. These three were chosen because they are species that are starting to decline in grassland habitats, and because these three species are at each of the three locations. Sarah wants to find out, by testing stable isotopes, if the birds are coming back to the same place to breed each year. How this works is, what a bird eats/drinks in certain areas as specific properties, which are incorporated into the body of the bird. Now, the birds molt after breeding, thus growing new feathers in the region that they bred in. The properties of that region are then incorporated into the feathers, which after grown do not change (whereas blood does change). So, by taking blood and feather samples of target species and comparing them, if the blood matches the feather samples, then the bird is returning to the same place to breed. This would show that maintaining wild prairie land is important for the function if not survival of these species.

There, now you know the background. :) I will be here until August 4th, when I then fly back out of Omaha. If anyone is curious, my address is:

202 2nd Ave SW Apt 11H
Pipestone, MN 56164

As far as what we do, the first and last few weeks of our time here we did/will do point count surveys in the mornings between 6:00 and 10:30 where find our respective points around the park and stand at each for 5 minutes taking note of which birds we see/hear, what they are doing (flying/ carrying nest material...), how far away are they (for this we have distance finders), and if it was a group, how many. During these first and last few weeks, in the afternoons we also did/will do vegetation surveys of each point around the park, of which there are 58. We use a Robel pole (a long pole that has 2 decimeter long stripes in white, red, and blue all the way up it to 20.0 dm, and has a rope with stick attached to the top) and a Daubenmire square (a square with electrical tape around it in increments) to measure the height (Robel pole) and density (Daubenmire square) of the vegetation at that point. We have finished both of these for the first part of our internship.

Right now we are mist netting in the mornings and nest searching in the afternoons/evenings. For mist netting we put up nets in one area at a time and sit and wait until a bird flies into them, then we carefully get them out, band them, measure their wing and weight, and if they are a target species, take blood and feather samples. so far we've only caught 2 target species (2 grasshopper sparrows) but the 2nd one didn't bleed well enough to get a large enough sample. Then of course we let the bird go. They are all so cute! I'll put up pictures later. For nest searching we drag an extension cord around the fields to see if we can flush a mom off of her nest, then we look for it. I like this part the least, but now we're starting to do it in the evenings when it's not so hot, so it's not as bad. :) We've only found 1 nest by this method, this past Friday, but it was more the bird flew out right beneath me and low and behold there was a nest with 5 eggs about 2 inches away from my leg. :) We then take note how many eggs there are, then candle the eggs to try and tell the age, and so we can figure the rough hatch date. If they are target species we will band the chicks and take a feather sample when they are large enough to do so. It is actually a myth that a bird won't come back to the nest if you've touched it, it's more that you shouldn't touch the nest much cause then it'll be easier for a predator to find. Because of this, we check the nests every 3-4 days, and always try to come at the nest from a different direction, and handle the eggs as little as possible. So far we've found 5 nests, 2 of which were depredated, and one was abandoned (we think even before we found it). Well, that's about all as far as the general stuff, I'll write more about day to day stuff later.