I’ve started planning the upcoming field season in a serious way now—deciding on dates, interviewing potential field assistants. It’s made me think a lot about last field season, and about how much I haven’t yet found an opportunity to mention in this blog. So this post is just going to be a selection of memorable things that happened last field season, without any real theme but with lots of photos.
The most beautiful insect I’ve ever seen in person. It looked like a piece of enameled jewelry.
This nest had two chicks in it; when we took them out to band them, we found two unhatched eggs. The lighter one is a junco egg; the dark one is a cowbird egg. These juncos were lucky that the cowbird egg didn’t hatch!
One common bush at our field sites had lots of these fruit-looking things. If you cut them open…
…they looked very strange. Eventually we figured out that these are galls that a certain insect causes the bush to make; the tiny insect larva then lives in the white stuff in the center of the gall.
BAIN has a single white feather under his eye.
We called this The Worst Nest Ever. The female had built it under a single, fairly small fallen branch for cover; one gust of wind could have removed it. In the end the nest was depredated – you can see a broken eggshell off to the left in this photo – but the branch stayed put.
This nest was built in a well-protected spot, but it came to a worse end. Not only were the chicks eaten, but the large number of adult feathers left in the nest suggests that the mother was eaten too. We think the predator was an American Marten.
A storm coming in.
This damselfly has had eggs laid on it (the orange things)!
EDIT: Actually these orange things are not eggs but water mites. They feed on the damselfly and use it for transportation; eventually they drop off.
Nestlings in a hat, waiting to be banded.
A (pregnant, surely?) cow standing in one of our field sites. We thought they were funny until we saw what they did to the habitat and how they trampled nests.
My field assistants looking for the remains of the nest that some enterprising people had decided to drop chopped-down trees on top of. They didn’t even haul away the logs afterwards. The chicks were killed but the mother escaped, and she renested and fledged two chicks.
The male Western Tanager we accidentally caught. So beautiful.
A shrike had taken advantage of the spikes on some barbed wire to hang up his food. Based on the tail, this was a squirrel.
This, about a meter further along the barbed wire, was probably another squirrel.
One evening we came back to camp to find everything we’d left on the table torn and pecked. Initially we blamed Stellar’s Jays, but eventually we settled on ravens as our prime suspects.
Fledgling ERSA, twisting her head around to keep an eye on me. When I put her back where I found her after banding, she ran out of the brush and into the middle of the road. I retrieved her and then we all spent lunch watching the road to make sure she wouldn’t try that again.
This is a fabulous series of photographs. The shrike kills are amazing. I’ve never seen anything similar.
Thanks for letting us see these photos. I enjoyed them. Hanging lunch on a barbed wire really is something else.
Are pine needles really as long a squirrels in those mountains? Amazing! And I love the way the we can see ERSA’s pin feathers emerging.
Haha good observation – the pine needles are quite long! Although the squirrels are pretty small there, the little chickarees (a.k.a. Douglas squirrels).
Galls are very interesting. I have pictures of some that are dried out. The first time I saw them I also wondered what they were.
These photos are a wonderful treat! Makes me wish I were a scientist and could do field work!
I wonder who laid her eggs on that damselfly? Was it another damselfly, or some other insect? I assumed damselflies laid their eggs on aquatic vegetation like dragonflies do. Were they maybe eggs that got stuck during her own laying process?
Now you got me all curious.
I consulted my invertebrate expert about the damselfly and found out that I was wrong – the orange things aren’t eggs, but water mites, genus Arrenurus. Whoops. I’ve updated the photo caption to reflect this. There’s some nice info on water mites and damselflies here: http://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=10971
As for wishing you could do field work – well, we scientists do have a lot of fun :-) but you could see most of this stuff by just being in nature and paying attention. No official scientific credentials required!