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22 July, 2002

July 22, 2002

BzzzzZZZZZbzzz. TweeDLEtweed. Zzzzbzzzzzzz. WhaaAaaaaaaaa. BBBZzzzzzzzzhhmmmm. Hhooooot. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Wehww, wehww,wehww. BzzzZzzzzzbzzzzzz. Taduttadooo. hhmmmmBzzzzzzzzzzzz. Yikes. Bbbzzzzzbbbzzzzzz. Evening sounds and a new language I have had the opportunity to learn. Written above, is the talking of mosquitoes, black-bellied plovers, pacific loons, tundra swans - both Hhooot-ing and flying over, golden plovers and the pacific loon with its change of sounds from it relaxed WhaaAaaaa to its surprised Yikes. These are the bed-time stories I will cherish and miss - I have even almost come to enjoy the constant humming and buzzing of the mosquitoes.

But, guess where I am right now? OK, I'll give you a few hints I can see light, I am comfortably fed for the night, I am lying relaxed on a cot with the color of yellow walls all around me. Now guess! You've got it! In my comfortable summer dwelling at Camp Olak! No sign of air transportation yet - maybe tomorrow?

I am sort of glad to have had this day here. First, it was a 'camp day' for all of us, as we worked a little on packing things up and preparing for leave. I took a short walk to do a habitat evaluation on one nest, scrubbed our Coleman stove, repacked my stuff, read, took a nap and worked on gathering my thoughts before truly leaving this wonderful place someday. The second reason I was glad to be here was the weather. We've had a sudden change back to 'arctic' conditions. Although last night was warm, buggy, calm and mostly sunny, our high today was only about 48 degrees, no mosquitoes, a breeze and low-lying clouds. We all pulled out our fleece jackets, thin mittens, long underwear and drank much more hot cocoa, tea and soups! I can't believe we were hot and dehydrated yesterday! I was happy to have had the opportunity to fill the chill in the air one more time. It was incredible how it brought back feelings and thoughts from the earlier days here - excellent memories!

As I've had some extra time the past couple of days, I've been jotting notes down to myself of things I wanted to be sure to write about before this ended. Although some of this will seem out of place today, I would like to talk a little more about the science we've done - both officially and unofficially.

Through the last couple of journal entries, I've been attempting to explain the 'why's and what's' of the bird research I've been involved in. As those pieces of data, earlier described, were collected, there were two additional observations we recorded. First, anytime we saw King Eiders, we recorded the # seen, sex of the birds and the approximate location of observation. By so doing, science may gain a better understanding of King Eider behavior. For example, when we first arrived in early June, there were many more birds than there are now. Not only that, but at the beginning, the ratio of males to females was about equal. As we began to observe nest building, we also noticed that the number of males to females was declining. It is believed that once incubation begins, the males' role in reproduction is complete, so they head further north to molt and feed in safer environments of coastal islands. As the summer progressed, we noticed that rather than seeing one or two female king eiders, we were seeing larger groups - anywhere from 5-30 may be seen in one pond or lake. As nesting advanced, the unsuccessful females began to congregate, as they, too, would fly further north earlier than the other females. In the last weeks, the number of individual female birds has also been declining. Where once we would see around 30-40 king eiders each day, we now frequently fail to see one. Even those that successfully brought new life to the tundra are now travelling north to molt and feed in final preparation for their fall migration south.

Finally, as we would do our habitat evaluations, we would collect any remaining down, contour feathers and egg shell pieces or membranes from the nest site. Although this project will not directly utilize this, it is hoped that some day soon, other scientists will extract DNA from the cells. In so doing, the genetic diversity of birds breeding in this area could be determined. In addition, relatedness of eggs in a nest to the mother can be determined. This information could either support or refute past research, as most believe that nests with 7 or more eggs are actually produced by more than one female.

On a lighter, yet still scientific note, I would like to end with mosquito talk. Even though today was not a buggy day, the days we've had has allowed for much research. Research, as you know, is based on trial and error to some extent. More specifically, it is based on questions that you then attempt to find answers to through scientific testing or observations. In regards to mosquitoes, a question I most frequently asked was "how can I get rid of them". As I am truly a scientist, I then performed many tests the past couple of weeks, or observed Yumiko and Rebecca's testing, to determine what methods would most effectively end our misery and the life of the mosquito. Following are my conclusions:

10 ways to kill mosquitoes:

1) Hope Mother Nature takes over and provides a cold front or at least lots of wind to keep them at bay!

2) Use a mosquito coil inside a tent. As it burns, a toxic chemical is released and you get to sit there and enjoy watching the annoying insects fall to the ground (the problem is that you are also inhaling the fumes and hoping you won't join them on the floor!)

3) Watch them land on your field book, then quickly close it to shmoosh them between the pages.

4) Hand-to-Hand Combat:

a. smear them across the tent wall with an open hand

b. smash them, with an open hand, against a hard surface

c. flick them with your forefinger

d. whack them while they are flying through the air (although this method usually only stuns them, and they are soon back to their pestering flight)

e. catch them with your hand as they are flying by and then slam them onto a hard surface

f. grab them and then slowly remove their proboscis and/or legs

g. slap them as they are sitting on your skin

5) cook them with your supper

6) drink them with your water

7) encourage the reproduction of Lapland Longspurs and Savannah Sparrows, as they enjoy eating the annoying critters

8) Set up a tent, watch them congregate on the wind -free side and then bake on the tent wall under the sun's relentless intensity

9) Lure them in by urinating on the tundra, then spray them with bug repellant

10) Lose all sense of control and crazily begin swatting, swinging and carrying-on!

More concluding remarks to come .. just not sure if there will ever truly be an end to the days at Teshekpuk!!!!

Rebecca is in the forefront, putting together the antennae that was used when attempting to track the King Eider hen we were able to attach a transmitter to. Unfortunately, she was never located

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