The worldwide Augustana College experience

Rain Delay

This past week due to rain and heavy winds, the group has been stuck on base. Nevertheless it’s been a fun week full of new experiences.

-We’ve said hello to a new team member (Doug Cause) and goodbye to another (Calen Offield).

-We’ve spent a considerable amount of time trapping birds in the tank farm in between the bouts of rain and when the wind dies down. Surprisingly, we’ve had some exciting moments out in the tank farm this week too! All in one day, we caught Common Ringed Plover and Dunlin chicks running around the truck, and instead of a bird, we found a fox in one of our traps!

As we were driving through the tank farm checking traps, we saw plover chicks right in front of the truck.  Immediately Calen hopped out and I followed in pursuit of a chick. They are tricky little buggers and like to suddenly switch directions, which doesn’t mix very well with clodhoppers.  While running “away” from me, the chick darted under my foot (I swear).  I tried to avoid it, but ended up on its wing.  The poor thing lost a primary feather, but not too much blood was shed. Even though I pretty much had the chick pinned under my foot, I still wasn’t able to catch it without Kurt’s help.  Chick chasing is certainly not in my future. We caught the Dunlin chicks after one of the adults dive-bombed our truck.  Kurt instantly recognized the defensive behavior and we pulled over and caught a chick on side of the road and shortly after we found another out in the tundra. None of the team had ever caught a Dunlin before (although they’ve been known to be present in the area) so it was quite a novelty! All four of the chicks were super cute too! As we were finishing up our round of traps, Kurt spotted foxes running around the last two.  With his binoculars he noticed that there was actually one in a trap.  We quickly headed back to the barracks and grabbed some leather gloves and a camera! Then we maneuvered it out of the cage and took some samples: claws, whiskers, fur and blood for an isotope test, DNA, and mercury. It was quite a feat!

-Since we’ve had some down time, we’ve had some fun this week too.  Almost every night, we’ve broken out the poker chips and have battled each other in Texas Hold’em.  The game can get pretty intense with their betting strategies, seeing as $5 is on the line each time we play. Even more intense, however, have been the racquetball matches. It’s pretty funny seeing grown men diving for balls and running into each other.  Some play with grace, while others *ahem, Kurt* barrel into the walls, the ground, and other people. Despite their blundering skill, I certainly admire their tenacity.

-Despite all our time for fun and games, Dr. Burnham has been hard at work analyzing the data collected from the kittiwakes. She’s faced some challenges figuring out the geolocator program and it’s glitches, which includes going through the data and eliminating the erroneous points, establishing a light threshold for the data, and the sun angle for this threshold.  I’ve helped by formatting spreadsheets of the data that she has compiled from each bird so that it can be imported into GIS software to create maps of the migration of the birds. We’ve found some interesting results: although the majority of the birds winter Southwest of Greenland, one shows that it travels East to Iceland. Pretty neat!

All in all even though we’ve been limited in what we can do, it’s been a fun week, but I hope we get to go out soon! The weather should die down tomorrow, so with our fingers crossed we’ll be out by Monday!


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