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A Farewell to Maine

A Farewell to Maine

The other night, my co-workers and I went out at around 9 PM to spotlight for woodcock again due to good (meaning dark and rainy) conditions. We caught a few birds in Barn Meadow, then headed to a blueberry field where we proceeded to catch no birds at all- the moon was unexpectedly bright. Rain started pouring down and as we noted that it was now 1 AM, we headed back, a bit tired, but still in good spirits. On the way back to our home, we just got in a silly mood and started jumping in some pretty epic puddles because we were already soaking wet. After we ran and splashed our way back, I discovered that a rug I had put in the washer had practically disintegrated while we were gone. That was just too much and we laughed hysterically for quite some time. Just the pure joy and un-guardedness of that night will always remain with me when I think of this summer- it was a sweet moment.

Last night, four of us headed over to Grand Lake Stream to trap some ducks! We set up what looked like a giant woodcock trap, threw some corn at the bottom of it, and watched the magic after running to town to grab some dinner. We barely even had time to eat half of our sandwiches before the ducks went crazy and started stuffing themselves into our trap. After getting as many as possible in there, we started netting them out and putting them in crates, where we then banded, aged, and sexed them before their release. We caught SEVENTY ducks- twenty of which were recaptures. We were there from about 4:30 pm to 9:30 pm banding ducks. Whew! We mostly got black ducks and mallards, with some hybrids thrown in there. They were fighters! I’ve got scratches all up and down my arms from their pesky little feet. We’re running this trap on someone’s property and after we finished banding all the ducks, they invited us in for some refreshments. Sitting there on the couch, in their beautiful wooden home, surrounded by dogs and the joy of good conversation, I just felt so content. They really made us feel that we had done something special that night.

After making homemade blueberry pie, spotlighting for woodcock, duck trapping, and spotting a bear and two cubs, this internship has come to an end. It’s definitely bittersweet. It’s absolutely incredible how much I’ve learned this summer- about living on my own, biology, northern forests, cooking, USFWS, technology, career paths, trucks, the government, Canada, birds, trapping, field work, etc. This is really the first time that I’ve spent an entire summer, except for two weeks, away from home, working, and it really has been an eye-opening experience. Also, being elevated from the duties of a typical intern to a biotechnician was something that I never expected. Having more responsibility really pushed me much farther and for that, I’m exceedingly grateful.

In the end, I’m still not sure what career path that I want to take. However, I’ve learned what field work really entails and that working outdoors all the time can be quite difficult. That being said, although I spent almost every single day of this summer outside, rain or shine, I was never bored with the beauty that was being presented. It was nice, every once in a while, to stay in the office and work on data entry or something when it was unpleasant outside, but I’d soon find myself growing restless, ready to get outside and see what was happening on the Refuge that day. It’s all about embracing the circumstances- why fight getting dirty or wet when it’s inevitable? Perhaps this is a sign that I’m at least in the right area for a career! Who can say? I have tons more to learn and I think I’m OK with not having a set path for now.

I’ll always cherish my memories of Maine, Moosehorn, and all of the people that I’ve met throughout this summer.

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Posted by on August 19, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

As the Season Winds Down

As the Season Winds Down

“The morning, which is the most memorable season of the day, is the awakening hour. Then there is least somnolence in us; and for an hour, at least, some part of us awakes which slumbers all the rest of the day and night…That man who does not believe that each day contains an earlier, more sacred, and auroral hour than he has yet profaned, has despaired of life…All memorable events, I should say, transpire in morning time and in a morning atmosphere. The Vedas say, ‘all intelligences awake with the morning’ .” -Thoreau

Today we had the end of season barbecue where each department, such as biology or maintenance, presents what they’ve accomplished for the year. I presented the brood survey part of the powerpoint and it was a pretty good feeling to share all that we’ve done this summer. We then had a barbecue complete with hotdogs and hamburgers (I still haven’t tried those odd, red hotdogs that are so unique to Maine) and took the annual group picture that will later hang in the YCC building. It was a really nice way to wrap up the season, though it does feel weird to be going back to work next week after what seemed like a closing ceremony.

This week we SCAs have mostly been checking woodcock traps on our own, giving us an even greater sense of independence. I’m still amazed at what’s happened this summer- I’m not exactly a beast in the woods and I do get lost on occasion, but compared to how utterly clueless I was when I first got here, I’d say I’ve come a long way! Perhaps I’ll return to the woods, perhaps not, but either way, being smacked in the forehead by a low-lying limb or smelling the piney scent of the forest after it rains will stay with me for a long time.

We recently started spotlighting for woodcock, which requires a very dark night, usually during or around a heavy rain. Basically, you go out with a strong spotlight and search for woodcock on the ground. When you find one, you shine the light on it as a stunning effect and then another person slowly approaches and catches it in a net. You then get the bird out of the net and complete the usual banding procedures. The reason spotlighting requires pretty intense conditions is so that if we flush a bird and it tries to fly away, the spotlight will confuse it and the darkness will be so complete that there is no horizon to fly toward. Therefore, and theoretically, the woodcock will be forced to land again, close to where we originally saw them. It’s actually really fun, though it’s hard to get the motivation to do it at night after a full day of work. I’ve gone out twice so far, and it’s really the only activity where you’re guaranteed to catch a woodcock. I love the intensity when we get a bird in the spotlight and I’ve got the net, poised and ready to drop. You have to be aware of the position of the net and the bird’s reactions, otherwise you could potentially force a really skittish bird to fly away. The other night, four of us went out and caught 5 birds in two hours- not bad for amateurs!

It’s almost time to pack my bags and head home- just one more week of work and then we head back to Bangor, to the airport where we first arrived, so excited and clueless as to what we would be doing this summer. So much has happened since then!

Here are some pictures from loon surveys and general good times at work. Enjoy!

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Posted by on August 11, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

County Style

County Style

We need the tonic of wildness… At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and un-explorable, that land and sea be infinitely wild, un-surveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature. We must be refreshed by the sight of inexhaustible, vigor, vast and titanic features, the sea-coast with its wrecks, the wilderness with its living and its decaying trees, the thunder-cloud, and the rain which lasts three weeks… We need to witness our own limits transgressed, and some life pasturing freely where we never wander.”  -Thoreau

Last Wednesday and Thursday, we went up to Aroostook County, which is the northernmost county of Maine. Aroostook, referred to as “the County,” is full of potato and broccoli fields, a striking change from the Down East area. It was refreshing to see fields and rolling hills again. The County is also prime moose country, and I had dearly hoped to see one at least once this summer. We left early on Wednesday to arrive at Aroostook National Wildlife Refuge, a unique refuge created when the Air Force de-commissioned the base and gave it over the Department of the Interior. Though managed by Moosehorn NWR due to lack of funding for additional staff, Aroostook is an independent Refuge with a singular set of issues. The Base used to hold nuclear weaponry and was never managed with the USFWS’ motto of ‘wildlife first.’ The staff has had to deal with contamination issues in rivers, unsafe structures left standing, and the possibility of leftover weapons.

An entire section of the Refuge, composed of old bunkers and storage facilities, cannot be touched because the buildings have been deemed historical. They’re talking about closing off two of the bunkers and letting bats hibernate in them over the winter, depending on whether or not they retain heat well. We toured the facility and the next day we headed out to pull up invasive plants, such as purple loosestrife and spotted knapweed. Invasives aren’t a huge problem this far north, but the Refuge tries to keep them in check as much as possible. After bagging (and later, burning) the plants, we viewed one last part and then headed back to Moosehorn.

But wait! While we were there… I SAW A MOOSE! AND HER CALF! Finally! One would think that working at Moosehorn NWR, one would see many moose. Not so! I was able to get pretty close to her before she nonchalantly walked away, baby in tow. Man, that was cool.

While watching a few of my fellow interns’ capstone projects, I’ve started to realize just how close I am to the end of the season. Two weeks left. I can very much look back and realize just how far I’ve come. I’m really, really going to miss living on a Wildlife Refuge, where I can bike or run or walk through a fairly isolated, beautiful place whenever I so desire. I think I might go into Refuge withdrawal when I return to college. I can’t even count how many times we’ve looked at each other and incredulously inquired, “We’re getting paid to do this??” Doing loon surveys or testing underwater cameras or sampling in streams for invertebrates is a pretty awesome way to spend the day.

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Posted by on August 6, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Infinite Expectations

Infinite Expectations

“We must learn to re-awaken and keep ourselves awake, not by mechanical aids, but by an infinite expectation of the dawn, which does not forsake us in our soundest sleep. I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by a conscious endeavor. It is something to be able to paint a particular picture, or to carve a statue, and so to make a few objects beautiful; but it is far more glorious to carve and paint the very atmosphere and medium through which we look.”  -Thoreau

I’ve moved on to 1,000 Mile Walk to the Gulf by John Muir, after finishing Nine Mile Bridge by Helen Hamlin, which I believe I mentioned in my last post. I really should be reading my summer assignment, but what better place to read books and journals by America’s most nature-minded?

It’s absolutely amazing that it’s already August. I haven’t updated for about two weeks, but I’ll try to briefly summarize what’s been going on lately. Last week was an interesting change of pace; I went out with the Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) twice to do trail maintenance and sign building. Going out with the YCC was a lot of fun since it reminded me a bit of summer camp and they tend to have a much more laid back pace than the folks in the bio department. We went and moved/cut/ clipped trees and branches that had taken over the trail and we also helped put up interpretive signs around more well utilized trails.

I also went, and have been going, with the Forester recently hired by Moosehorn. His job is to go to points in the Refuge and do a forest inventory in order to gather data to combat spruce budworm disease. I definitely know my trees a lot better after going with him. At each point, we identified the trees, measured both diameter and height, and sometimes took core samples to determine the age.

I also went with the SCEP student for two days to help her sample the streams around the Refuge for aquatic invertebrates. I now have a much greater appreciation for insects! Still no love for roaches though… thankfully they don’t have those here! We used a sampling device called a Hess sampler to trap invertebrates floating downstream and used a D-net when flipping over rocks to catch any stray invertebrates. I’ve really learned a lot about how crucial insects are to an ecosystem. And I’ve dissected a caddisfly! Our group of interns doesn’t ever get very far because whenever we see a bug, a bird, or a plant, we stop and spend like 10 minutes trying to ID our specimen. Good times!

Also, while doing brood surveys last month, I discovered that I was sitting about two feet from a bird’s nest! I went back to the office to ID the bird- a Cedar Waxwing! I was so excited that they left the tree stand up and I’ve been going back to periodically check on the nest. We went back this past Friday and the eggs had hatched! The nest is really well hidden by foliage, but you can juuust barely see some fuzzy heads in there.

Every so often, after work, we bike out to one of the now flourishing blueberry fields and pick (meaning eat) until we’re content. I can just bike 5 minutes down a trail from my house and come across delicious, wild blueberries… How amazing is that?

Ah, I almost forgot! Guess who went fishing for the first time in forever and caught a 2.8 lb Small Mouth Bass?? ME! Oh man, I was so excited. The SCEP student and I went together in a canoe (there were quite a few other people out on the lake with us), which was probably a bad idea as neither of us really knew how to fish. So eventually we figured it out, and after I got over my disgust at piercing that lovely, slimy worm with the hook, I cast off and hoped for the best. Literally, one minute after I set out my first worm, I caught something. And it was big. I struggled while reeling it in, as both of us laughed our heads off, afraid that I was going to lose what looked to be a very promising fish indeed! Right as it was getting close to the boat, my rod snapped in half and I just yanked that sucker up into the canoe. INTENSE!! Then we had no idea what to do with it, so we canoed over to the guys and one of them killed it with his paddle. Oh my. Several other people were catching perch and such, but mine was by far the biggest catch. Then one of the guys who used to work here filleted it and I had it for the lunch the very next day! I think I’ve found a new hobby…

Well, that’s the quick update for now- it’s intensely storming outside so I think I should get back soon (I’m using the wi-fi at the visitor’s center). Here are some pictures I recently took with the Refuge camera (the fish picture will be in the next post). Enjoy!

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Posted by on August 2, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Oh, Canada

I can’t believe it’s already nearing the end of July! I’ve finished Walden, but I think I’ll just keep posting quotes from it, simply because they’re so relevant. I’m now reading a book called Nine Mile Bridge, about a woman who lived in Northern Maine, taught school in lumber camps, married a game warden, and just generally lived an adventurous life.

But let’s backtrack: two weekends ago, four of us haphazardly arranged a trip to Canada, and decided on Halifax, Nova Scotia as our final destination. The border is a measly 15 minutes away from the Refuge, we had no other weekend plans, and we had a car. Road Trip? You bet! We booked some motels, printed off some maps, and hit the road, right after a full week of brood surveys. As soon as we crossed the border, it was as if the whole country had actually changed. I know it’s probably psychological, but seriously, it just… looks different. Cleaner and more spacious, actually. We drove to St. John, about 1.5 hours away, got lost several times, and then slept a deep sleep in our little motel room. The next morning, we headed to Nova Scotia! I understand why the settlers called it ‘New Scotland,’ as the rolling green hills evoked those picturesque calendar pictures of its namesake country. We stopped at the visitor center, which was super nice, and I bought some Nova Scotia blueberry apple tea (yum!) before getting back on the road and eating dinner in the city of Halifax!

It was pretty crazy being back in a semi-large city after being in Calais for so long. Ah, how I’ve missed people watching… we wandered around the city for several hours (no one really had accents… so disappointing!) then headed to our room for a good sleep. The next day, we went to Crystal Crescent Beach, a rather unknown area to tourists, to hike a trail along the coastline. As soon as we arrived, we were all so excited! There was hardly anyone there and that rocky beach complete with a conifer forest was just gorgeous. Northern Atlantic waters are certainly bluer than those of the South! We met a lady from Bordeaux, France, who cheerfully agreed to take our picture and then proceeded to talk about her children and such. We had a lot of good conversations with strangers in Canada. Then we headed out onto the trail, which started out as a boardwalk and later split off in various directions, with a few paths leading through the woods, some weaving in and out, and the most intense way involving some rock hopping/climbing.

Oh, it was so beautiful! Frolicking on the rocks and climbing up boulders, lying down on huge, granite chunks listening to the waves crash, running through the cool, moist forest… it was a great day. It took us 2-3 hours to get to a certain point, and about 30 minutes to get back, mostly because we just took the trail through the forest and didn’t keep stopping to lie down or take pictures. And then the Atlantic Ocean beckoned! We took off our hiking shoes and ran into the water, not too deep, then promptly ran out as our feet had gone numb. SO COLD. So refreshing, though! After some more messing around on the beach, we headed back and had dinner in Halifax again. The next morning, we went back to the city to have breakfast, then got on the road and ended up back in Calais fairly early. It was definitely a pretty epic weekend, even though we got lost every 5 minutes, and I’m glad my Canada experience was broadened past the tiny town of St. Stephen across the river. Canada seems like an amazing place to go explore. As does the rest of the world!

Pictures, anyone? 

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Posted by on July 25, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Call Me Ishmael

Call Me Ishmael

I meant to put some whale watching pictures in the last post, but that just never happened. Blogging takes time! Last week, we went with the YCC group (Youth Conservation Corps) on a whale watching trip over in Eastport, a coastal town about 30 minutes from the Refuge. We went out in a lobster boat, first in the Quoddy Bay, then farther out in the Bay of Fundy, where it then got extremely windy and cold. It was awesome to be out on open water again though, and I do love the smell of seawater. We, being those nerdy, biology interns that we are, brought our binoculars and attempted to ID any passing Seaducks or gulls. We saw harbor and gray seals, one finback whale, cormorants, goldeneye, white winged scoters, several types of gulls, and porpoises. It was so great! Really cold…but really great! And the lobster boat man was really nice as well, letting us go along with him so that he could check his lobstah traps. Did you know that the legal limit for the amount of traps one person can have is 800? Isn’t that crazy? Then we went to eat seafood, I had a lobstah roll, and then we went exploring on a rocky beach called Devil’s Head. It was a great day! That week was particularly fantastic, especially since we did that on Monday, and on Tuesday, the entire biological staff went to Cobscook Bay to search for eagles’ nests in boats. It felt like a grown-up field trip, and oh, it was wonderful to be on the water yet again!! We saw two active eagle nests and one perching eagle through our binoculars. And then, that Friday, we interns headed to Canada for the weekend! But more on that on a separate post… For now, here are the pictures from Whale Watching/ Eagle Watching. Enjoy!

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Posted by on July 18, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Defying Gravity

“Every man has to learn the points of compass again as often as he awakes, whether from sleep or any abstraction. Not till we are lost, in other words not till we have lost the world, do we begin to find ourselves, and realize where we are and the infinite extent of our relations.” –Thoreau

Almost done with Walden! I’m realizing how incredibly forward thinking Thoreau was for his time…when books such as Great Expectations were being published, he was thinking on a much higher plane. Much of what he writes resonates with those who could be associated with the current organic food movement, or the sustainability movement, or the vaguely defined ‘green movement.’ Perhaps others in his time period, in the 1800s, were like-minded and I just haven’t read their works, but he seems different. He’d read the Vedas, the works of Mencius, The Odyssey, The Bible, etc. – the breadth of his education is quite surprising. I’m also glad that I didn’t read this before coming to Moosehorn, as I now understand the inspiration behind his descriptions of lakes as “great crystals on the surface of the earth,” the eerie laughs of loons, and the clever camouflage of a ruffed grouse brood…

But back to present day Maine! We’re officially done with brood surveys, and as much as I enjoyed them, I must admit that I’m happy about not waking up at 3 AM every day. That was getting a bit rough, especially since we woke up for two days in a row at the beginning of the week, only to have it canceled due to adverse weather conditions. Brood surveys really made me feel independent though, and I think that it’s this activity that has pushed me the most. I elaborated on the first round of surveys in earlier posts, so I wont repeat, but this time around I had to navigate my way to a tree stand that I’d never even seen before, just by following flagging in the woods and a map. That was intense. Also, I’ve learned that I do indeed enjoy climbing trees! It’s done wonders for my fear of heights. I have officially climbed four trees here at Moosehorn, one that even my supervisor described as “technically difficult.” I also have a huge advantage because I’m really small, light, and flexible, unlike everyone else here. Finally an advantage!

I’ve hit the halfway mark in the internship, or perhaps over halfway, and I’m suddenly realizing that I’m finally living up to my own expectations. I keep up as well as anyone else when in the woods, I don’t particularly care if I hit my shin or whatever, I’ve learned how to outsmart the mosquitoes (or just deal with them…pesky buggers), and my knowledge of how nature works has exponentially expanded. I’ve still got a long way to go, as always in life, but I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished thus far. I just need to make sure that I keep my drive and desire to learn fully charged as I work through my last month at Moosehorn.

There’s so much to write about! It’s been a while since my last post, so bear with me, please. What I’ve really learned is that, as cliché as it sounds, I am my own worst critic. No one expected me to be perfect when I came, otherwise they probably wouldn’t have even hired me as my I have no background in this type of work. I took things too seriously, causing myself much stress and anxiety for those first two weeks. Of course, there were plenty of other factors to add to that feeling, but I realize that if I had laughed after a fall, or understood when something was too heavy for me, I wouldn’t have put so much pressure on myself to be the perfect intern. I needed to understand that I have an incredible amount of support here at the Refuge and that the only person I would have been disappointing was myself. This is pretty much the story of my life, as I’m extremely hard on myself, but this time the lesson will more permanently stick.

I’m also beginning to trust myself more, which I’ve learned while climbing trees. I have a propensity/ life motto to do the thing that I find most difficult because I believe that it builds character. Who can grow if they never push themselves? And while thus pushing, I learned that believing in your own capacity for success, whether in intellectual or physical pursuits, is 100% crucial to the outcome. I feel like I’ve learned that before, but I never actually remember that lesson (sound familiar?). When climbing a tree 60+ feet in the air, I needed to trust that I could indeed control my arms and legs, and that I wasn’t just going to randomly fall out of the tree. I was in control. It’s such a liberating feeling, and while I’m not going to pursue even greater heights, I’m beyond ecstatic that I was able to successfully push myself in such a manner. I mean, that’s why I came to Maine. I wanted to do something so out of my comfort zone that I could potentially come back after the summer knowing more about myself, Maine, USFWS, nature, and everything else possible. I just need to keep that goal in mind.

Things won’t always be easy from here to the end of the internship, but I think I’ve got the mentality to make it through.

 
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Posted by on July 17, 2011 in Uncategorized

 
 
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