Notes from Buldir (III)

Hi all,

I’ve been on Buldir for exactly three weeks now, which means there’s
still 8 more to go. *eyes widen in horror*. But things are still the
same, the weather, the people, the birds, and my state of cleanliness.
Actually pardon me, my state of cleanliness has not stayed the same,
it has been slowly degenerating the last three weeks. Yes, I have not
taken a shower or washed my hair for three weeks now. However we have
a limited supply of wet wipes which serves as a quicky and dirty
shower at the end of the day. I’m not sure what to do about the hair
though, sticking your head into little mucky lichen-y and poo-y
crevices doesn’t do great things for it except turn it a lovely shade
of green/brown. Someone once told me before that if you didn’t wash
your hair it slowly learns to regulate and clean itself. As of now,
this theory has not been proven. My only comfort is everyone else in
camp is in similar dire showerless situations. We have a solar shower
contraption – but it is simpl
 y too cold to shower!

Recently we have been collecting geolocators back from Jill’s Crested
Auklets. These are little tracking devices that show where the birds
go during the winter. However to download the information, you’re
required to retrieve the geolocator back from the birds. This is
pretty risky, since you assume that the geolocators don’t kill the
bird, they return to the same crevice every year, or that they don’t
divorce their partners. (All of which, we don’t really know yet.) It’s
a little square about 1cm by 0.5cm that is tied onto the birds legs,
and it uses the length of day (it can detect when the sun rises or
sets) to determine where the bird is to a 200km accuracy every day for
about a year.

So this year we’ve been going back to each crevice and retrieving
them. We’ve got 7/31 so far. It’s tricky business because it’s been
said that if you touch a Crested Auklet during incubation, it abandons
it’s nest. And if you get the wrong bird, you have to go back at night
to get it’s mate, which ideally should be the one with the geolocator,
before it discovers it’s nest has been abandoned and then never come
back as well. So what this means is that we have to go out to the
talus at night till about 2am, poking around crevices trying to get
the bird. Jill uses a thin metal pole with a little curved hook on the
end, like a shepherd’s crook, to basically hook the bird by it’s leg
and drag it out it’s crevice kicking and screaming. It ain’t pretty.

This is all and well during the day when you can see where you’re
going, and hopping from one rock to another, up a 2-300m rocky slope.
However at night it’s a whole different matter, when you’re scrambling
around in your red-light head lamps, in the mist and rain. Your whole
body is tensed up, your nerves are shot by the end of the night!
Morever to make things more exciting, now and then you get
disorientated birds flying around and unsuspectingly whacking you in
the head. It’s like dodgeball in the dark. The easiest way to get down
the slope at night is to what the Fish and Wildlife fondly call “Anal
Ambling” (no, not a gay porno) but basically going down bum first.

Luckily, we realised that the birds were less likely to abandon the
nests as we’d once thought so now we go out during the day only. Phew!

On other things, during bad weather days the FWS crew have been doing
little construction projects around the camp. Building new boardwalks
etc. Sometimes I go out and help them, and to my great dismay, tools
are not created for small people to use. So I mainly provide a form of
entertainment as they watch me hammer and saw with two hands. “What
are we? In Santa’s workshop?” they ask. It takes me about 20 hits to
put a nail into a plank of wood, and about 5 minutes to saw an inch.

That is all for this week. Hope all is well! Miss you all.
xx
Michelle

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