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Passing it on

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Today was the day to once again check out the Wauboose Lake block for breeding birds.  Over the last couple of days, Rachel, the intern, had asked me a couple of times if I needed any help with the bird censuses.  I’m used to working alone on these things, but then I got to thinking… she really sounds interested.  So I suggested she ask her supervisor if she could help me today.  Kelly agreed that it was a good idea for Rachel to get some experience in this area, and to learn the structure of conducting such a breeding bird atlas survey.

If I’ve noticed one thing about Rachel in my almost four weeks here, it is that when she gets an assignment, she dives into it full heartedly.  Besides, it was a great advantage for me to have another set of eyes and ears with me, a young strong 22 or so year old to open and close gates, someone to record the findings, and as it turned out, a most eager student.  So, we were off by 7:00.

Even though it was another of those overcast days with intermittent sprinkles, we had a great time and added 18 new species to the list for this block.  We also confirmed three species as positively breeding.  Not bad for one day.

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In the spot near lower Egg Lake where I normally see a pair of adult bald eagles, we found two immature eagles instead.  This one was drying out its flight feathers from the overnight dew (or from a not successful attempt at catching a fish in the lake).  My guess is that this bird was probably hatched here last year.  It takes four to five years for bald eagles to attain their white heads and tails and be of breeding age.

I’ve always thought my hearing skills have been pretty good, and I’ve been thankful that I haven’t experienced much hearing loss over the years.  But I guess I can’t compete with a 22 year old.  Rachel’s hearing was superb.  She doesn’t know many bird songs yet, but those she does know she could pick out from a great distance.  Every time I heard a bird sing, I pointed it out to her and identified it.  She excitably added quite a few new birds to her hearing repertoire.

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Our biggest excitement of the day was finding a nest with eggs in it.  It was a chestnut-sided warbler nest.  I knew a nest had to be nearby as the male was agitatedly chipping away instead of singing.  Between the two of us, we finally found the nest, and I saw mom sitting on it incubating the eggs.  I whispered to Rachel about it, and she whooped with such excitement that mom flew off of the nest.  We got out of there as quick as we could so as not to disturb them any more. 

I guess I’m old enough to possibly be Rachel’s grandmother’s age.  Sometimes we older folks think the younger generations don’t have it in them to care about our wild things and preserving them.  They get put into a box by us as uncaring individuals that spend all of their time on their cell phones and such.  Well I’m here to tell you not to give up hope.  There are youngsters out there that are deeply committed to learning all they can from us oldsters.  I felt privileged today to pass on some of my knowledge and love of birds to a young person that was thirsting for knowledge.  The future of our nation’s wildlife refuges are in the hands of these young folks, and after today I feel confident that these places will continue to exist for their grandchildren to learn from and enjoy.

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                                                                             THE END!!

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

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