Weigh and measure, measure and weigh

Part 24, plumb tuckered out

Alaska, Cooper Island, Barrow, The Arctic Circle, Svalbard, wild, Black Guillemots,

Whale vertebrae come in variable sizes, including Black Guillemot lounging size, Cooper Island, Alaska

17 Aug

Back to Cooper – gray day with passing showers, and mist, but pretty mild temp and little wind until this evening. Now it seems to be settling in again to the old pattern. I started collecting down today. As if NWFing yesterday wasn’t enough of an exercise in futility, try collecting down from starving, stressed, uncooperative chicks on a typical Cooper damp, windy day. Yeah, right. Egad! Even still I collected quite a bit and will continue to do so over the next few days as the chicks reach 25 days old. I need to start cohort banding also; a chick reached 125 mm wing chord today– still a few days short of fledging but it better be banded before it goes.

It seemed a slow day. I slept late, waited out the rain this morning before starting nest checks and then spent all afternoon weighing and measuring. It’s dusk-like now at 2230 – the sun is setting earlier and the evenings show that deepening glow. I got up at 0312 this morning; even in what is considered the middle of the night, there was plenty of light. It’s gray, like the early morning or late evening light on an overcast day – and it is cloudy again, so… I wonder if the light is like that when the sky is clear or if it is brighter – although that seems an obvious question I don’t think it is.

I finished reading Zen in the Art of Archery today – I haven’t read it since college – and it made me remember that idea of selfless consciousness, being one with your art and not being aware of your self at all. Something I must practice in everything I do – start small, begin by breathing.

18 Aug

I am field weary; plumb tuckered out. It is that time in the field season where you say, “ok, I’ve had enough. It’s time to be done now.” Of course, that always happens a few weeks in advance of the actual end of the season. I was dragging today. Collected more down and cohort banded several birds. One little bugger walked right out the back of the nest site and into Little Guillemot Pond. Not a chance I was going to catch him. Hopefully, he’ll turn up in another nest tomorrow so I can weigh and measure, measure and weigh. Yup. Plumb tuckered out.

I had a nap this afternoon. It was wonderful. It was misting all morning and has been mostly raining since. Back to the old Cooper Island days. The helicopter just went right over my head – checking up on me since last week perhaps. I was almost hoping they would land and tell me they were taking me in again…

I was very weary tonight and needed a little stroll, so I walked along the Lagoon-side water’s edge. There were hundreds of gulls and phalaropes and terns. The terns kept lifting and flying to me and then hovering above my head and calling – 35, 40, or more at a time. It was as if they were trying to give me some of their long-distance energy and stamina to tell me to hold on just a few more weeks. I carry on as best I can.

19 Aug – Auntie Carolyn’s birthday!

Typical Cooper day, gray and sprinkling all day. After nest check this afternoon I washed all the body parts I could without stripping entirely in the cold air, then put on clean underwear and clean socks. I’m a new woman. Amazing how these simple things make such a difference.

I slept in, ate a lot, and stared out the door of the tent quite a bit today. Went for a long walk on the tundra and along the beach, found several more vertebrae – giant whale vertebrae and smaller ones of all different sizes. I don’t know who they belong to, but they are cool. Hundreds of glaucous gulls, Sabine’s gulls, and terns this morning (and phalaropes). Also saw three sanderlings and a lot more dunlin. Quiet, low key day for me.

20 Aug

During radio call today I asked George about getting off Cooper soon. It does seem likely that most of the chicks will leave by early Sept. He plans to be here next weekend and stay until the bitter end – but probably only the first week of September. I can catch him in Fairbanks to disgorge info and debrief.

That changes everything of course. There is an end in sight, and although I’ve enjoyed my time here, it is time to move along.

Craig and Lincoln stopped this afternoon on their way back to Barrow from caribou hunting. They got 5 – wow! They approached camp calling, and when I appeared from the tent, Craig said, “meat delivery.” He had a big hunk of caribou for me.

We walked back to the boat, along the way I showed them a couple of chicks – beauties all salt and pepper. I browned some of the meat, made gravy, and ate it with rice. Yum. There is enough left for breakfast and another hunk I haven’t cooked yet. I don’t know what I’ll do with that. I was just going to have lentils…

Sleep. I must sleep.

21 Aug – Sister Carolyn’s birthday!

There was snow on my tent this morning when I awoke… It steadily snowed most of the morning – sometimes hard. There is a good NE wind to go with it. I went through all the nests, chick by chick. Today is day 30 for the oldest. I really can’t wait for them to start fledging – it will be so cool to see them disappear one at a time knowing that they are on their way. That one crazy chick that dodged out of the nest site and into the pond the other day did the same thing again today. Bugger.

The snow is beautiful; it’s not sticking to the ground yet. It is lovely in the air and on my clothes. I’m sure I won’t be so thrilled when it piles up, and I’m just cold…

My knees are bothering me again, and still. I pulled up my longies to have a look; they are swollen and bruised. They are always cold, kneeling and trudging in the sand. They will be happy at the end of this season. I promise myself a sauna if I have time when I get back to Barrow.