Reflections of a Summer in the Field

Summer 2011

Six months. The Sonoran Desert. Six months that ended in record breaking days of 126 in Lake Havasu City, Arizona. Two more bird projects under my wing. The first was a project studying the territories of breeding birds along the Lower Colorado River. My favorite aspect was visiting one plot sixteen times to hopefully identify 95% of the breeding birds. After sixteen times,  it becomes like a familiar friend and I hesitate to leave on the last visit. I trudge through the thick sand and brush the sweat from my brow as I made the long trek back. An inevitable four hours of data awaits me, and I get my usual breakfast burrito to power me through.

The second project directly followed and consisted of studying and capturing the elusive Yellow-billed Cuckoo. A lot of time was spent sitting waiting for the sounds of cuckoos doing a vocal nest exchange. This generally happened when the male and female switched turns incubating near sunrise.

July 2011  “The sun hangs below the rocky horizon and crawls slowly from its fiery bed. The birds all join in on a rather noisy pre-dawn chorus. The Summer Tanager’s sweet song rises above the obnoxious Yellow-breasted Chats. His song is somehow romantic, lonely. He sounds as if he lost his lover and is trying to seek her with his melancholy song deceived as a happy jingle. I head down off the upland hill and into the dark abyss of jungle and spiderwebs, waiting eagerly for the call of a cuckoo.”

The epic Great Basin Bird Observatory crew of 2011.
The epic Great Basin Bird Observatory crew of 2011.
Bill Williams Wildlife Refuge
The beautiful Bill Williams Wildlife Refuge, just a typical hike to work.
Yellow-billed Cuckoo in hand
Vitamin T holds the first cuckoo our crew caught.
Kayaking in the Bill Williams River
Peaceful morning kayak ride to one of our research sites.

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