yellowstone national park

Yellowstone: My Peeps

Robin nestingA robin made the not-so-brilliant decision to make a nest right above the front door to the dorm. Normally, both female and male robins take part in the child-rearing process. The couple will even stay with their young for a few weeks after fledging to teach them how to survive on their own. Then they either use the same nest or build a new one and start the whole rigorous process over again. In this instance, there was only the female left to carry the burden of both. These things happen unfortunately. It’s the fickle finger of nature.

At the time she built the nest the location was ideal because the dorm was unoccupied. However, by the time she laid her eggs, our field season was in full swing. This meant having to fly off her nest every time a person approached and not being able to incubate her eggs for long periods because she needed to feed herself. She even had to endure snow storms and extremely low temperatures for the first few weeks of incubating with very little shelter from the freezing wind. Many people didn’t think the eggs would ever hatch but I knew she could do it. I spent long periods sitting under her, getting her used to people and after a while she didn’t fly away anymore. And after a rocky start, she eventually proved the naysayers wrong…

Robin babies

Here they are! Little mama did it! There were four of them and they were so darn cute and totally cool with Auntie Jaime taking their picture…all the time. And mama was cool too. I’d even leave insects on the step for her so she didn’t have to forage as much. We were a good team. The work paid off and they grew by leaps and bounds! Eventually, the little lards got so big that they flattened the sides of the nest and couldn’t help but lay on top of one another. It was getting a little pathetic, as you can see…

Robin babies too fat

So the morning I took this photo I decided it was time to have the “leaving the nest” talk with them. At this point, I thought they were never going to go and it was just getting ridiculous. So I actually told them it was perhaps time to spread their wings a bit and give mama a break. A few hours later I came back to an empty nest. They took my advice and moved on.

I never used to think much about robins. They were just there. Whenever I saw one, I’d subconsciously mumble (in my best Hannibal Lector voice) “Robin redbreast in a cage. Puts all of heaven in a rage.” Besides the Silence of the Lambs reference, that’s pretty much all the attention I gave them. But now after seeing that mother’s dedication and perseverance and those adorable babies, I have complete respect and admiration for them. I’m so glad I had the opportunity to help out and at least be a positive ambassador for my species. Oh goodness, I’m getting a little weepy as I write this…I clearly need some sleep.

Travel, yellowstone national park

Yellowstone: July 8th, 2013

DSCF2151I woke up and got right down to the business of catching up on my journal entries from the past week. I was so engrossed in writing that Andrew busted in and lit a fire under my ass. It was noon and I hadn’t even gotten out of bed and here he was, having just driven 5.5 hours from Casper, ready to survey site 13 of the Shoshone catchment with me. Yup, only one survey today because the hike in and out is going to be tricky. I hustled and we were on the road in no time. The off-trail hike was moderately strenuous and took about two hours each way. The wetland was well worth it. We found tons (okay, not literally tons…but close) of chorus frog tadpoles. And you know how I love them! My only complaint was the sheer number of mosquitoes and biting flies. Holy gawd! As soon as we got to the pond we were absolutely devoured. These blood thirsty suckers completely laugh at you when you frantically try to apply repellant. They laugh…you can hear them chuckling in your ear if you listen hard enough. Overall, it was a high-quality site to survey, despite the blood loss. After work I treated myself to a black bean burger with fries and a scoop of ice cream at the Fishing Bridge soda fountain. Yum! Sometimes running out of food can be a tasty dilemma. Then it was back to the dorm to goof off with my other dorm-mates for the rest of the night. All is well in my world.



wpid-IMG_20120524_071852.jpgwpid-IMG_20120522_090038.jpgwpid-IMG_20120522_090045.jpgOne of my favorite birds of all time, a house wren, has taken up residence in the funky bird house on my porch. I just assumed that the bird house would end up being a wasps nest so I was delighted to see the tiny little male building a nest in it the second day it was out. I left him some cotton from vitamin bottles to pad his nest with. It took a few days for the bird to trust my gift enough to use it but eventually he couldn’t resist. So hopefully if all works out well and the female approves, I will see 5 to 6 little wren chicks on my porch. I’m crossing my fingers.

At the same time of the move in, I found a dead baby bird in our driveway. I buried it in a place where I can easily dig it back up a year from now to collect the bones and re-articulate them.  The world works in strange ways…life just beginning and ending. But I don’t believe in either really. I just believe in transformation. It’s moments like this that I find the 1st Law of Thermodynamics insightful: energy can be neither created nor destroyed. Energy can change forms and energy can flow from one place to another, but the total energy of a system remains the same. It’s a comforting thought.