Posts Tagged ‘Field Work’

Yesterday, I was up in the mountains for my last field day of the year. I spent a few hours in Truckee, CA and after not getting a lot of Evening Grosbeak action, I headed to Soda Springs, CA. Not much going on their either, so it was not a particularly strong finish, but it is always nice to be in the wilds. Just how nice it is to spend regular time in wilderness got me thinking about next year. I am not planning on having field work next year, as I will be working on other projects, and I am really gong to miss my regular mountain visits. I have been spending one day a week, almost every week, in the Sierra for the last two summers and falls. I have seen some beautiful locations and had the opportunity to get to know several areas at a very detailed level. It has been wonderful to feel like I am genuinely getting better at knowing the birds up there by sight and sound. To get more comfortable with a biological community like this has been a really special treat, for me.

I am not sure what I am going to do to fill that gap next year. My research projects are probably going to keep me pretty close to home most of the time. I have already started exploring my local area in more detail, which has been fun and which I will certainly continue to do. But birding in the Sacramento area is just not wild like the Sierra. There is nothing close to me that is. Well, we will see what happens.

I can say that these past two summers have been fairly successful. I have collected enough data for what should become one chapter of my dissertation! I am now going to get to work analyzing the data, writing the paper, and getting it published. That is going to be fun. But it will certainly be good to have this section of my work finished. Feeling like I am accomplishing steps towards my degree is something I have been lacking recently, and getting this out the door will be a big step in the right direction. I will certainly post updates as that process occurs!

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This week I began my summer field season. I am planning weekly excursions up into, and throughout, the Sierra Nevada mountains to find Evening Grosbeaks, my study species. My first day in the field was a modest start. I left West Sacramento at 3:00am and drove up highway CA-49 to the San Francisco State Field Campus just outside of the tiny town of Bassetts, CA. When I arrived, at around 6:00, it was lightly misty and on the cold side. I walked around the field camp a little and heard the forest wake up. It was not long before I heard my first Evening Grosbeak of the day and setup my equipment. As the weather cleared, I got some work done testing how Evening Grosbeaks respond to recordings of various kinds, but there were not that many grosbeaks around. There were a bunch of other birds around that gave me some great looks, including several near collisions. At various points in the morning, I was nearly hit in the head by a Western Tanager, a Red-breasted Sapsucker, a White-headed Woodpecker, and a Mountain Chickadee! I also got to see an Osprey circling high overhead with its breakfast, a moderate sized fish, in its talons. But, since the grosbeaks were not especially cooperative I decided to try a new spot. I continued east on CA-49 to Yuba Pass where I was happy to find more grosbeaks along with a few Red Crossbills, lots of Cassin’s Finches, and several Chipping Sparrows, one of which landed on the side of the road not five feet from me and sang and sang. Delightful! After a while, and grosbeaks only showing up few and far between, I headed back down towards Bassetts where I saw Townsend’s Solitaire, which were a real treat for me, and a very lovely pair of Fox Sparrows. Then, after a brief stop in at the Sierra Skies RV Park in Sierra City, I was homeward bound. Odd as it sounds, the RV park in Sierra City was a great field site for me during my Master’s work. All in all, it was great to get out into the field and shake the dust off my methodology. I only got 5 actual trials, and since I am aiming for 10 each day, that was a bit lower than I would like. But there is a lot of summer ahead, so the work will get done. Next week I am planning on heading to the area around Quincy, CA and Bucks Lake to poke around, and hopefully fine more Evening Grosbeaks who will listen to my recordings and let me know what they think of them!

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Yesterday, I was up in the Sierra attempting to do some field work for my dissertation.  As I have discussed, the species I study is the Evening Grosbeak, a large finch that can be found throughout the mountainous areas of North America.  Can be found, that is, if you are lucky.  I was not lucky yesterday.  I spent my day at the Boca Springs Campground near Truckee, CA.  I visited this spot that last year, at this time, and found a decent number of Evening Grosbeaks hanging around the campground and nearby wet meadow, so I was fairly hopeful that this trip would be a success.  Well, as so often happens, nature did not fit in the nice tidy box that we humans frequently try to put it in.  There were no Evening Grosbeaks at Boca Springs.  Amusingly, there was a flock of about 8 or 10 Red Crossbills this visit, where there had been none last year.  This just serves to illustrate why both of these species are examples of nomadic species, and one of the major reasons they are hard to study.  Still, I did get to spend a lovely morning birding in the mountains which included seeing all three species of nuthatch that occur in California, so even when field work does not go well other rewards are there for the taking.

The full list of bird species that I saw this trip included: Steller’s Jay, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Mountain Chickadee, Dark-eyed Junco, American Robin, Northern Flicker, Clark’s Nutcracker, Mountain Bluebird, Green-tailed Towhee, Pygmy Nuthatch, Acorn Woodpecker, Yellow-rumped Warbler, White-breasted Nuthatch, Chipping Sparrow, Red Crossbill, Song Sparrow, Savannah Sparrow, Townsend’s Solitaire, Brown Creeper, Red-tailed Hawk.

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