Wednesday, September 26, 2012

June 18 - Dunlin nests

This is a view I could get used to - taken from right outside the cook tent

Another gorgeous day here, this one being filled with many new nests as well! Most of the day today I didn’t even need my down jacket, which was a first.
Alfredo and I headed down to the sevens again, with the winds strangely out of the southwest in the morning, making us wary of more storms, but eventually swinging back around to the normal northeast.
The morning started off with our tri-daily invertebrate sampling, of which Alfredo and I did the aquatic section. There are three habitat types that we sample, one aquatic, one dry, and one intermediate. There are five standardized sampling locations in each habitat,  and each are done every three days. It was gratifying today to actually see inverts in the traps today, after having traps almost completely devoid of life the previous times I had sampled.

Alfredo strolling through the part of the study area known as the "sevens" - you can see his short sleeves and the heat shimmer over the ground!

We had eight new nests discovered today between the two of us, one Pectoral Sandpiper, two Dunlin, three Semipalmated Sandpipers, one Red Phalarope, and one American Golden-Plover. Not a bad day at all! Unfortunately we also had four nests fall prey to foxes, giving us a net of +4 nests at least.
One of the Dunlin was incredibly wily, leading us along for over an hour, and ultimately requiring two visits to the nest area throughout the day until we nailed it. An initial flush at over 100m away clued us in as to the presence of the nest, but the bird left the area and vanished from sight. A distant vigil laying in a ditch eventually convinced it that there was no threat in coming back, but we didn’t see it sit down on the nest, just the general area. An approach flushed it again, but we weren’t able to determine exactly where it came from since it was so far away. It was still in the area, so we watched it until it simply vanished in front of our eyes in what appeared to be short grass! We waited for another 20+ minutes before looking for it and it seemed to have just vanished, and didn’t flush from anywhere as we walked up. What a sneak!

To give an idea of how well camouflaged all of these birds are, you can see a Pectoral Sandpiper on her nest just below and left of center here

Frustrated, we left the area but marked it to come back later. Upon returning in a couple hours we walked up, the bird flushed, and we found the nest within 5 minutes now that we had figured that bird out. Far and away the single most satisfying nest that I found out of my ~80 for the season!
It is now after midnight, I stayed up too late photographing on this perfect evening, how can you not when the light is so good? Almost summer solstice. 

This gorgeous pair of King Eider served to brighten up an already great day!

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