Bird Camp Dispatch 5


Bird Camp went on one of its periodic breaks (every nine days? eleven? can’t remember) last week, in which the crew decamps for two nights in Flagstaff: motel showers, restaurant dinners, check the email and otherwise get back on the grid for a while. A. stayed in camp with one of the grad students for an extra day because she didn’t want to get behind on some of the recurring research tasks. Some of the data are supposed to be collected every other day, for example, and it’s not so great if that pattern gets interrupted too often.

At that point in the week, the area was plagued by extremely high winds, high enough to cause some tree falls out on the plots and to make the jobs at hand frustratingly difficult. You try measuring wing-markings and otherwise handling a tiny, fragile nestling while buffeted by gale-force winds. (“Gale force” is a technical term meaning, I think, winds with per-hour speeds in the upper thirties; I don’t know what the actual wind speed was at Bird Camp.) A. and her helper returned to camp, eager to get to town, only to discover that the tent housing the camp’s video equipment had blown down, although fortunately no damage had been done. (And fortunately they hadn’t gone to town with everyone else the day before, or the tent would have been down and the equipment uncovered for several days, instead of just an hour or so. Who knows what might have happened then. I mean, bears might have eaten all of the cameras or something.)

In Flagstaff, A. had a full plate. She had to reorder supplies, purchase some items for the camp, arrange for an oil change in one of the vehicles, and make all of the final visa arrangements for the Englishman who’s been hired in a hurry to make up for the crew’s having lost three members since the season started. But she stayed an extra night at the motel and managed to fit it all in.