21 Jul From Mouse Husbandry to Plover Surveys to Raptor Surveys!!
Early in the day’s morning, I’m in this small room with the little white mouse looks back at me with curious beady red eyes, sniffing and scurrying around their cage. I scoot over in the small room, scooping up cups of wood shavings to serve as bedding, ripping cotton from a worn bed sheet to stuff into little cups as homes for the mouse, while my teacher biologist helped refill water bottles and clean the cages.
Who knew taking care of the mouse had so many little extra tips, care, and effort? Not too much cotton! Or else it a lot of cotton can be caught in the mouse wheels, causing some injuries to mouses. Don’t use certain types of cleaners for cleaning their containers! As certain chemicals actually harms/kills the mouse. Position the water bottle at just the right height for the mouse to reach! Gotta help change the mouse wheels as there’s only so many, so each mouse takes turns each week using it. A lot of care for these little furry buddies only for them to serve as owl food or going back to the pet store to be pet food. I felt kinda bad for them but gained new knowledge and experience in taking care of mice!
After taking care of the mice, I accompanied the biologist to the beach shore where my visitor center is at actually! At one end of the beach, survey in hand, we walked through the ashen gray sand, eyes out for birds, seabirds, and plovers that pass our way. Some birds pass overhead, their long necks a bent.
“There off the shore, groups of Murres! See those in the distance? Their slightly upturned “V” shaped wing shape? Turkey vultures!”
I could barely tell their patterning and new calls, no matter, I’m still amazed by how proficient the wildlife biologist is. Sure she’s had a lot of years of practice, but still, knowing all such information takes years of effort, experience, and dedication. Along the way, we also surveyed the temperature, wind, how many people there were, dogs, any tire tracks on the beach (which is bad), as well as important carcass survey. Finding some turkey vultures surrounding a what seems to be a dead gull, we put unidentified, and I put down a #2 which is a number code for the carcass being fresh. 1-4, going from alive, fresh, rotting, and mummified. Every 20 minutes of the hour we also take a Corvid survey, taking note of Jays as well as taking down our UTM number, which I scrambled my head to understand haha. After walking all the way down to a Estuary, where the river meets the ocean, there sat big groups of gulls, terns, and birds together resting as well as some seals. Sadly we saw no plovers, but all of this is still important data! The carcass survey serves to provide baseline data on normal mortality rates along the coast, so we can reliably accuse/point out disasters such as oil spills if we found higher than normal mortality rates along our coast!
On that same day, we transitioned from the cold foggy ocean breeze along the coast to the sizzling heat of the sun of prairies and everlasting hills at high elevation. At an area called Bald Hills, it is on the edge of the National park border, in more dry area with lots of prairies, oaks, and no redwoods anymore. There we must’ve stopped at least 20 points, each time stepping out of the car to stand for a while, looking with binoculars around, and up to (you never know one is flying over your head) look for raptors! Accipiters, falcons, eagles, hawks, are all raptors! We also noted ravens or jays, as raptors as such jays all can hunt the abundant ground squirrels here! Unfortunately I couldn’t get any photos with just a phone, and was busy doing the survey to not miss anything!
“Oh look what’s that?! Oh wait… that’s a turkey vulture.”
I have repeated that mistake at least like 7 times, each time my hopes up in spotting a raptor! When all hope was lost, I finally point in the far far distance over some hills. With my poor eyes and experience, I exclaimed!
“What is that?!”
Then, the biologist looked, and concluded eventually with her expertise it was a Cooper’s hawk. Yes!! Finally a raptor! Eventually we found some more, Accipiters, Red-Tailed Hawk, American Kestrel. We marking how many are observed, their sex if identifiable, activity if they’re flying or resting etc, and the substrate they’re on or if they are high above in the sky! We too, also trace with pens/markers on the maps showing our spotting locations of the movement of the raptors! After watching the biologist do it a few times, I also have a go at it, drawling a squiggly spiral and pointing it off to show the travel paths of the raptors! Even if the raptor survey it self is an old data set, it reflects the importance of control data and new data for changing environments. This raptor survey helped reflect changes in prairies after controlled burnings done in the past by tribes and wildlife team to help new areas prosper. The surveys collected data for how raptor population, behavior, and location changed to see if the impact was negative or otherwise.