Sunday, May 15, 2011

Montana field work

I’m currently sitting at the gate in Denver International Airport waiting for my flight to Missoula, Montana. This summer I will be working for the University of Montana – Avian Science Center conducting point counts throughout the state. After a week of training at the Condon Work Station in Swan Valley, I’ll head to my designated region of the state – Central Montana. I’ll be surveying everywhere from Big Timber to Miles City north of I-90 to Lewistown and Glasgow (not where you’re thinking). This also includes Billings, the capital, where I will get the chance to shave the beard and clean up every once in a while. The rest of the field season will involve camping wherever I can – mostly BLM lands.

Map of Montana showing Swan Valley (upper left), Missoula and my region 

Keep checking back as I report on the field season, post photos and try to catch up on the past 16 months!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

16 Months

Well, I asked for it – not updating my blog for 16 months means I have a lot of catching up to do. To make life easier, I’m going to do it in two, three, maybe four posts. Since my absence, I’ve done a lot of birding in South Africa, worked on the Ohio Breeding Bird Atlas, took a road trip from Oklahoma to New Mexico, explored Algonquin during winter, birded England and France and now back in Ohio enjoying spring migration before heading to Montana for another field job.

Starting where I left off on January 18, 2010, the following day, Gerald Wingate and I drove 120km north of Cape Town to the West Coast National Park. This 106 sq. mile park hugs the South African coastline and offers some of the best shorebirding around. WCNP has several bird hides situated along Langabaan Bay and if timed right, shorebirds galore. By the end of the day we had: Black-winged Stilt, Common-ringed, Kittlitz’s, Chestnut-banded, White-fronted, and Black-bellied Plovers, Blacksmith Lapwing, Sanderling, Little Stint, Curlew, Common, and Marsh Sandpipers, Common Greenshank, Bar-tailed Godwit, Whimbrel and Ruddy Turnstone. Other interesting birds include Cape Crombec, Cape Penduline-Tit, Southern Black Korhaan and several Gray-winged Francolins (see below).

West Coast National Park mudflats

 Grey-winged Francolin (endemic)

Verreaux's Eagle - nesting nearby

This pretty much concluded birding for a while as I attended lectures. After exams were over in late-May, I flew back to Ohio for my second field season working for the Ohio Breeding Bird Atlas II conducting point counts throughout the state. This year was pretty uneventful unlike two years prior when I recorded Upland Sandpipers in Ashland and Harrison Counties, Golden-winged Warbler in Summit County, Clay-colored X Field Sparrow hybrid in Lorain County and helped discover Ohio’s first breeding Common Raven in over 100 years. At the end of the field season, I was Cape Town bound again...