28 June, 2002
For some pictures, check out Ogallala Web site www.esu16.org/~ops/ complements of Susan Krab for putting them up and Robert Suydam for taking them!!!!
Week 4, Day 1 - can you believe that! Time is going so incredibly fast! Not that I haven't missed a few modern day conveniences, but I can't say I've thought that I'd rather be anywhere else, either. Now, I hesitate to mention this for fear of warding off a repeat performance, but today's weather was a "primo" arctic summer day! We had blue skies and LOTS of sun almost all day, high temperatures reached about 51, a slight breeze to keep a few bugs away - WOW! So, after a day filled with bugs, then a day of cold, dampness and wind, we are given this & I believe I appreciated it more today than I would have a few days ago.
Anyway, with such great sunshine, my legs felt a little more energized (as well as my mood), and I spent the day walking further than I intended, but thoroughly enjoying all I saw, smelled and felt. The primary job of the day was to go to South Marsh and Stick lake to download hobo temp data from 3 king eider nests.
I took a detour from the start, and went a little out of the way to check out Swan Lake. After swamping around for awhile, a bird flushed from its nest. It took off pretty rapidly, so I didn't get a great look at it. It was definitely an eider - but I wasn't sure if it was a king or spectacled eider (main difference is that spectacled have a white patch around eye. Looks like spectacles?). Well, the biggest problem with this is that the spectacled eider is on the endangered species list. Because of that, if a nest is found, we are required to stay away from it and not spend any time near that area. To add to the problem, there were 2 hungry looking glaucus gulls circling above. To play it safe, I recorded the latitude and longitude, covered the nest, and left. I am pretty sure it was a king eider, but I guess we'll go back another day to confirm it.
While in South Marsh, another strange thing happened. I downloaded both hobos I was after (while trying to ignore a sabien's gull and arctic tern as they battered by head!), then was searching for more nests when I found this lone egg. It looked like a king eider, but was just sitting in a slight depression. Not being sure, I again got its lat and long recorded, measured the egg, and plan on a return visit to that one as well . . .
After that, the day went by quite smoothly. I walked over to Stick Lake (remember, it was named for Yumiko's sighting of the "stick" on the horizon?), checked out a nest and just thoroughly enjoyed the late afternoon. Stick Lake is one of the larger lakes in the area we search, it has fairly high bluffs on the N and S side, and the W side is wide open. Reminds me of a real large hay meadow from back in the midwest! As I walked around, there were more birds out enjoying the weather and making lots of sounds. The female geese, pintails and eiders that did not find a mate and nest this season appear to be congregating on bigger lakes - there were at least 30 king eider hens on Stick Lake alone! They will get ready to leave for the season, as they have no reason to stay now.
So, for the king eider count - with those 2 uncertainties (the first being 95% confident), Yumiko's and Rebecca's finds today, we are at a group total of 43 - this matches the number of nests found last year! It also provides one more subject than past research based their conclusions on. Thus, Rebecca is quite pleased with the research so far. But of course, she would like more!
Oh, and a couple more things on bird behavior in relation to protecting their nests. First, I can't believe I didn't describe the loons behavior to you! It is believed that loons, like swans and geese, are monogamous (mate with just one). When you approach their nest, both are usually present and will begin doing some sort of "alarm" splash in the water (similar to the eiders). Loons are great divers, so mixed in with the splashes they will dive under water for awhile - when they come back up, they do this "yipe" sound! I always laugh because it is like they come up, forget you were there, see you and let out this "yipe - where did you come from" kind of sound! It's great!
Then, with Tundra Swans, I've been trying to come up with a reason why they don't protect their eggs more aggressively. One idea I have is that, since they mate with just one and live for about 20 years, they will have more opportunities to combine similar genetic material in upcoming seasons. So, maybe there energy is spent more wisely by conserving it at times and then waiting for the next season ????? Just a thought - anyone have any other ideas?
Finally, Susan K, with Ogallala High School, has been so helpful to put up some pictures through the OHS website. To look at these pictures, while waiting for me to get all my problems fixed, please go to www.esu16.org/~ops/ These pictures were taken by Robert Suydam - so thank both him and Susan for helping me out!
We've agreed to have an easy day tomorrow, so may attempt to wash a few clothes - but mainly I'm going to give my legs and feet at least a half day off!
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