Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The TCBO routine

Pulling early platform watch (Michigan's Ile Royale at left)
Nick and Ollie holding down the 'form
Ollie's platform shenanigans
Blister in the sun
The elusive Thunder Ape
"Do you have bags?"
Nick and I in the N2B Grotto, watching the Nighthawk nets
Banding a Dark-eyed Junco Junco hyemalis
About to release a Black-throated Green Warbler Setophaga virens
Ollie extracting a Sharp-shinned Hawk Accipiter striatus
Nick giving Sharpie release tips to Maina 
Sharpie cans by a hawk net
The sacred binder
10:30 a.m. Elvis-wiches = vital
Entering banding data
  It's been a week since I left the TCBO, and I'm still waking up at 6:00 a.m. er're day, mumbling "Early nets," as I blink the confusion from my eyes. Early nets were followed a half hour later by the start of watch hours from the platform, which was never left unmanned until six hours later. Every half hour saw net rounds, which entailed going around (You going right or left?) a series of mist and hawk nets checking for/extracting/bagging birds, and finishing off with an HT (Heligoland trap) drive. The ground traps/jay trap were also checked every half hour. Extracted birds were processed at the lab, which meant IDing, banding, and taking biometrics (age, sex, fat, wing chord, weight, notes). If you weren't banding in the lab, you were scribing for the bander. Platform observers marked all birds down as either 'Obs' or 'Vis' - birds just observed at the site, versus birds seen visibly migrating (heading southish towards Pie Island or Ile Royale).
  When the watch ended in the afternoon, there was a rotating list of chores to attend to, which ranged from cooking dinner or doing dishes, to doing the log or entering banding data into the computer. There was also the first week of endless weed-whacking, which shall never be mentioned again. An afternoon nap was an important ritual, but not always possible. After the aforementioned downtime, dinner at 6:00 p.m. was followed by the checking/entering of the log by the group, which could take 30 minutes to an hour, depending on Ollie's desire to argue about vizzing eagles. The start and end of my TCBO sojourn were marked by additional nighttime net hours - nighthawks in August, and owls towards mid-September. These efforts were undertaken from 8:00 p.m.-past midnight sometimes, so those days were getting pretty long by the end.
  Anyway, that's my thumbnail sketch of the TCBO routine. It was a helluvan experience.

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