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23 July, 2002

July 23, 2002

Waiting - although I believe I've learned a little more about the virtue of patience, and I believe I've become a more patient person, these last 9 days of waiting has made me doubt my improvement. It is difficult, even for me, to understand the frustration and disappointment I've felt at times when the helicopter was again unable to make the flight out here to take me back to Barrow. I know it is not the leaving that I anticipate, as every extra day I've had here has been enjoyed and appreciated. I believe it is more the mental aspect of expectations. I'm not sure if it is a human flaw, or more just my own personal flaw, but the unknown of daily activities wears on me. The lack of control for planning, for events to be anticipated, for jobs to be done, and for thoughts to be thought is a frustration I've never felt before (at least not at this level). Again, the irony is that I really do not anticipate this summer's end - I would gladly stay another week or two or more. I struggle only with the ups and downs, of expectations not met, of plans that can't be made. Maybe, more than anything else, it is just one more lesson being taught to me this summer. I am trying to rationalize the feelings, as I know my disappointments are irrational. Skills of patience are being practiced, whether rational or irrational.

After our 9:00 am check-in call with Robert back in Barrow, we knew a helicopter would not be coming again today. So, I quickly packed my gear and headed off with Rebecca to Twin Lakes to finish up habitat evaluations. We figured we walked at least 12 miles today, and with the work Yumiko did up north, we are now finished with all habitat evaluations and nest re-checks. It was a good work day to end on! The work was relaxing, and I think I finally feel more comfortable with the information we are recording about nest habitats. The weather was actually perfect for a long walk - around 50 degrees and just a slight breeze, overcast skies and no mosquitoes. The weather wasn't the only nice part of the day, though. As we walked, I saw two different semipalmated sandpiper babies - they are so cute! Their legs are way too long for their tiny bodies and they have what look like little tufts of fuzz on the ends of their feathers, thus making them extra soft to hold in your hands.

I also saw a female king eider with her 4 ducklings swimming down the Kealok River. The mother actually saw me first and caught my attention with her 'alarm splashes' on the water. I guessed she was probably trying to distract me from her babies, so I searched the shoreline and was rewarded. Watching the 4 little ones behave with their natural instinct to escape was entertaining. They would swim really fast, or try to run on the water, or even dive and swim underwater. The water in the river is clear enough to see in, and I really enjoyed watching the little ones as they used their little legs to propel themselves through the deeper water.

The other highlight of my day was seeing a new bird. This bird was a little smaller than a plover. It was a shorebird with long, dark, orange legs. When it flew, the colors on its wings were dynamic - rusty oranges, blacks, browns and whites in a very unique pattern. As it stood on the shoreline of E. Twin Lake, I noticed its belly was all white, the top of its head was a grayish color, and it had a black ring around its neck that branched up and reached its eye. I sat and watched and wrote all the descriptions of it I could observe, then the first thing I did when I got back to camp was look it up in the bird book - it is a Ruddy Turnstone! First time anyone has seen it around here this summer! New is always exciting!

Other new things caught my attention, as well, today. I saw an Unalaska Paintbrush flower, 2 different types of yellow daisies, and 4 helicopters that flew right over the top of us at different times of the day (I swear they know I am anticipating a ride!!! What a cruel joke!) Anyway, again, I can't complain about the additional day spent here on the North Slope. I really don't know if I could ever tire of looking around and seeing how the landscape changes with new flowers, bird activities, and water levels. We'll now see what tomorrow brings!

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