Today, I would like to take the opportunity to reblog something written by my friend, Cody Pytlak.
In this post, Cody writes about his experience working for the Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute (ABMI), an experience that I also shared. Working for the ABMI was incredibly rewarding, and this summer remains in my mind as one of the funnest, brightest, and, at times, most challenging. Every day during spring protocol, my partner and I would get up between 2:30 – 3:00 AM to ensure that we arrived at site center a half hour before dawn. This, at times, required stumbling around for 1-2 km in darkness while carrying lots of things on your back and in your hands. Despite the early hours, the barbed wire fences, occasional inclement weather, and the burden of dragging around a large backpack filled with expensive and heavy recording equipment, there was a certain stillness and peace. In the field, you are completely alone for as far as you can see (with the exception of your partner, and the odd cow, deer, or coyote). The prairies can seemingly go on forever to the naked eye, and it’s beautiful. Below, are some of my Instagram shots.
I have one very distinct memory. As Cody mentioned in his post, the bird recorder is extremely sensitive, and picks up every little rustle, fidget, and heavy breath – even though you are standing about 10 m away. While recording, you have to remain extremely stealthy, still, and silent. You are also wearing a very expensive pair of noise-cancelling headphones. You can only hear from the distorted perspective of the recorder, and nothing else. One time, through the headphones, I heard a loud rustling that I knew was very close by. I whipped my head around to evaluate my surroundings, as it was not uncommon for a coyote or deer to sneak up on you while you were engrossed in maintaining a statuesque stillness. There was nothing behind me. Then, I looked down. Literally, next to my right foot, a thirteen-lined ground squirrel had gotten up on its hind legs to do a defensive visual survey. After not seeing anything, it put its nose to the ground and started sniffing around, doin’ its squirrel thang. At that moment, I really appreciated the irony of the situation. Myself, being a perceivable threat, and the squirrel, looking for threats. I guess I was pretty darn good at doing my job. As I observed it carrying out its activities (and it was so adorable), I realized how fortunate I was to be so close to something that is normally unhabituated and skiddish. I was a passive participant in its little world. When I broke out of being awestruck, I tried to (stealthily) reach into my pocket and grab my phone to snap some photos. My new friend became startled, and scurried to its nearest retreat point (with all of its scurrying being picked up on the recording *rustle, rustle, rustle, rustle*). I proceeded to regret my unstealthy move as I waited for the ten minute recording to finish. Then, I packed up and moved on to the next point.