The Student Conservation Association's Online Community
My work day began at 2pm. The wildlife crew piled into a couple cars and took off towards the main office. I got a tour of the place and acquired field equipment for the summer, including binoculars, a handheld GPS, a headlamp, a flashlight, a personal first aid kit, a bee sting kit, and an oh-so-fashionable vest with lots of pockets. Melissa (crew leader) took us out to Juanita Lake to look for owl "artifacts" as a training activity. First, we stopped on the side of a road and looked at an eagle's nest. A fledgling occupied the nest as we could see using binoculars and a scope. We saw the parent fly in then zoomed in on it as well. The image was so clear and amazing.
Once we arrived to Juanita Lake, mosquitoes were everywhere, clinging on to my pants, jacket, and buzzing annoyingly in my face and ears despite the insect repellent I sprayed just minutes before. We all spread out and walked in straight lines, looking for any clues. I began to sweat and the mosquitoes kept coming. This wasn't going very well... until I stumbled upon a cluster of feathers. I called Melissa over and she explained that it was a kill site. A mallard duck had been killed, its blue-green feathers giving a big hint to its identification. Although no owls were involved, it was an interesting site to see.
Pretty soon, we all headed back uphill toward the truck, still combing the woods for owl evidence. After a lot of huffing and puffing (the altitude is at least 4000 ft), I stumbled upon another treasure. This time a single, large feather lay on the ground. It had alternating bands of light and dark brown with white sprinkled on the edges. I marked the spot with my GPS and took the feather back with me to the office. Jamison helped me identify it as a secondary Cooper's Hawk feather. I got to add it to the 2017 Feathers binder and record the location, type of feather, and date found. It was my first accomplishment as an intern.
Once nighttime came, we headed back toward the barracks to check out the mouse house. The mice used to attract owls are kept here and eventually we'll take about 5 at a time out with us. Next, we headed out with Debra to a call route. As someone played the spotted owl call through the speaker, another recorded notes while everyone else looked and listened in different directions. No luck on the first couple besides the sound of a Sawhet owl in the distance. Eventually, we caught sight of an owl on about the 5th stop. It swooped overhead but disappeared into the trees, making it difficult to identify. It began to get colder and standing in place for 10 mins at a time didn't help the matter. However, it did help me gauge what I should bring and wear. We hiked out to the last call point of the night which didn't get any response. However, I did stumble upon a baby bird on the path as well as some scat, most likely from a coyote.
We hiked back and, with dreary, tired eyes, returned our equipment to the office at 1am and headed back toward the barracks. I had a bowl of cereal, showered off the day, and went to bed. It was a very long but rewarding day.