Wow this post is super late as in an entire quest late and I’m really sorry about that. Everything just started moving so fast after the last quest, turning in all of my equipment, saying goodbye to my co-workers and then getting on a plane myself and heading back to family in Vancouver. Even though I unpacked the day after I got home and saw the majority of my family and friends within a week of being back, I still don’t feel settled and I’ve had trouble getting my thoughts together to write this post about my last quest, hence the lengthy delay.
I can’t believe that my time in Nevada is almost over. The birding season is over as we completed
the last of the bird surveys on Tuesday and the rest of the time will be spent doing habitat assessments by looking at the vegetation that our birding took place in.
My quest was a little different than all the others I’ve done so far because aside from my usual area searches (which have now been completed, just the paperwork left!) Katie and I were at the same transects with one of us birding while the other collected the vegetation data and we would just switch who was birding and who was working with the plants instead of both doing our own transects.
My time in Nevada is over halfway up as I have officially completed my 4th 10 day work week. It’s hard to believe that I’ve been here for over 2 months now, it feels like I’ve been here forever and that I’ve just gotten here at the same time. The whole field crew knows that the season is coming to a close because we only have 5 more scheduled days of bird surveys and we have moved out of our field house in Moapa. Now our weekends will be spent in hotels in Sparks-Reno. I never really understood why people would go stay at a hotel and not go out and explore the town until now. The hotel room has essentially become my home, poorly equipped as there is no kitchen or fridge so I have to eat out a lot but it’s the only place I have to stay. I’m not complaining considering that I’m constantly camping and sleeping in the back seat of the truck I drive around during the week so having a bed and access to a shower is pretty awesome.
We’re halfway through this crazy whirlwind here in Nevada and the saying “never a dull moment” has never been more true as we reach this halfway mark.
The week started out with me visiting what feels like a second home, my blackbrush area search down by Pahrump, but after that I was on a 5 hour drive along highway 160, the 95 North and then highway 50 to my brand new sagebrush area search. It’s pretty cool out there, lots of sparrows and thrashers of many sorts. It might take me a while to figure out what’s going on there but I’m sure I’ll figure it all out eventually. After that area search, it was a 3 hour drive to camp at our next transect in the Pine nuts. The second transect in the Pine Nuts is when things started to get really interesting. Our second transect was directly up the side of a steep mountain. It was actually steep enough that our boss assigned us both to the same transect and told us to split it. I took the first 6 points and Katie took the last 4. My first 3 points weren’t bad but after that for every step up I took I slid down two steps purely because the soil was so loose and there were a couple of times where I was just hoping that I wouldn’t fall down the side of the mountain and hurt myself. My bad knee did start to ache but that was the extent of it and I made it back down to the truck alright. Katie however after a 1.2 km hike up the mountain side encountered some bears and had quite the exhausting time finishing up her part of the survey. Once we were done, we collected some rocks that we needed to fill a hole in the road on the way to Katie’s area search and headed to Fallon to meet our boss to get some maps from her.
We met at a place called the Daily Grind, the food isn’t all that great but the drinks, I have never had such a delicious chocolate milkshake in my life. It was absolutely amazing. We got our paperwork and then headed to Katie’s area search to fill in the hole with the rocks. Turns out we went to camp Green Lake instead, well camp Green Lake before the curse the Zeronis put on the Yelnats multiple generations ago was lifted and the boys would dig holes 5 feet deep and 5 feet wide every single day because it builds character. You know like the book Holes? We got the truck stuck in a different hole and we spent a good 5 hours trying to dig it out. Turns out the wheels weren’t even spinning and we had to call our boss to come and rescue us the next day. Turns out if you put the car into 4-low (you shift the gear shift into neutral and then you can shift into that gear which we did not know) the truck would’ve backed right out no problem as shown by our boss. We then discovered that our tire issue that had been ongoing since the beginning of the quest (there was no cap on where you fill the tire with air so it was leaking out, we replaced it but still the tire pressure dropped every now and then) was actually a nail in the tire and we were able to get that patched up. Our boss joined us for dinner at this delicious place called the Owl Post. Massive and delicious burgers, I was stunned that I finished all the food on my plate but the stress of the truck being stuck for the past 24 hours had my appetite all worked up.
The next day was exciting because that afternoon we were joined by our colleague Zoey. We hadn’t seen her much since the weekend and never in the field so it was nice to hang out with her. We went out for pizza at Sloppy Joe’s because we had the local scoop that the good chef was in that night for pizza. The pizza’s took a while but the variety of milkshakes they had was amazing. I as also able to catch the 2nd and 3rd period of the hockey game which was nice to watch. Turns out that when I’m not constantly surrounded by hockey news as I am at home, I seem kind of like a hockey fan as I’m always trying to find out the score, I know when the next game is and what the series is at. We also spent a great deal of the next day there just drinking milkshakes, chatting and making plans for our trip to Flagstaff this coming weekend.
One 5 hour drive later and I was back at my blackbrush area search one last time. Even though I was up super early (I was in the field by 4:45 waiting for these birds) I didn’t get too many but it’s alright because I was excited to get back to the house. So for 9 days I was out in the field, had dug in the dirt, been eaten by mosquitoes and gnats, the one thing that was missing was a shower. For anyone going camping for an extended period of time without a shower, two words for you: baby wipes. Sure they’re not much but it’s nice to have a moist cool cloth remove a layer of dirt off of your skin at the end of the day. You end up feeling a little bit more clean than you otherwise would, but there’s nothing you can do for your hair except put it in a buff and hide it until you can wash it out.
It’s really nice to be back in the house, heading out on my first weekend adventure to Flagstaff, AZ with a couple of the girls until Saturday afternoon!
Until next time,
It’s been another crazy 10 day work week here in Nevada, never a dull moment out here and it’s absolutely great! The week started off on a bit of an unpredictable note because we only knew half our schedule for the week, but it was all good because it meant we had to be back at the field house which is always a good thing. Started off by doing an area search in my little blackbrush plot like always, following the birds around to see where they’re fly to. It’s actually a lot of fun following Black-throated Sparrows around from singing perch to singing perch to determine their territories. After that we were off to kill some time before picking up Kelly from the airport. Apparently getting a flat tire is a good way to do that, couple that with some shopping therapy and a couple of hours at our favorite coffee shop (Sunrise Coffee) we picked up Kelly and drove off to Searchlight. After 2 nights in the field doing both avian and botany work, we made our way back to the field house for a night. It was great to be back but I learned that sunflowers aren’t all pretty and fun when they’re over 5 feet tall and you have to plow through it for a few dozen meters.
Our next stop was in the Pine Nut Mountains for 4 days which is a 7 hour drive from here. After leaving in a hurry, we took the extraterrestrial highway up north. Because it was a new area, the birds were quite different from what we were used to hearing down in Moapa (we had heard recordings of these birds during training but birds always tend to sound different in person) we did 2 days of double (well in our case triple observer). I was really lucky that I took to the birds songs in the Pine Nuts quickly which lead to less stress which finally allowed me to see the beauty of the Pine Nut mountains.
I remember when I told people I was coming down to Nevada to do bird and plant surveys a lot of people thought I was lying. Everyone told me that there were no plants down in the desert. How very wrong they were, there were more types of plants than I expected and just a 7 hour drive away from Vegas and the mojave scrub is beautiful Pine and Joshua trees.
On my final day in the Pine Nuts, I got to do my own transect which was absolutely stunning. Within an hour I had climbed and surveyed the points while going straight up the side of the mountain. You just need to learn to watch your step, not every foothold is as sturdy as it looks. At the top of my hike I realized that I could see my truck from the end of my 3km hike that morning. If you look carefully at the picture on the left, you may be able to
see the truck at the intersection of the roads off in the distance. It was quite the hike to be able to get to that point that’s for sure. In case you were wondering the picture on the right is what my hike looked like from the truck. I had to climb that, didn’t think I could but I did. We are often told to asses potential dangers and either classify them as inconvenient or actually dangerous. I thought climbing up there would be rather dangerous at first but thought I’d give it a shot anyway. Turns out it was merely just really really inconvenient because once I started heading up there, I was always able to keep climbing up the rocks. I just needed to be weary of what I trusted as a place to put my feet because not all rocks are as sturdy as they look out here in the desert.
After finishing up the transect and picking up Katie from hers, I began the 7 hour drive back to where we began. Our blackbrush area searches. I’ve been to my area search and camped there so many times, it’s starting to feel like a second home out here. With a view like that and shooting stars that night, I would have to say it’s a great place to have feel like home.
Nothing too exciting for me in store this weekend, just relaxing, cross stitching and gearing up for the next week.
Until next time,
It’s finally the weekend! Well the weekend for me anyway, working 10 days straight then getting 4 days off can be tough but it can be great when the weekend rolls around and suddenly you get 4 days to do whatever you want to do. I have redefined my idea of sleeping in, it’s now about 7 am and if I get a chance to wake up after the sunrise (anytime between 6 and 7) it’s a real treat! No crazy adventures for me this weekend (I had plenty during the week) but I’ve just about finished up establishing things here in Nevada so I no longer have to worried and I can get paid too!
I finally understand why each 10 day work week is referred to as a quest, we’re constantly going to new places, trying to figure out where we need to be and then adapting to the situations quickly at the drop of a hat when plans change in a moments notice. My quest started with an area search this week which is a beautiful place once you get over the unmaintained hilly dirt road you need to get there. It’s interesting how the desert always looks so sandy as if plant life doesn’t exist when looking from above when really it’s fully of plenty of plant species (I’m having to learn the Latin names of all of the woody plants I come across and there are a lot). They just so happened to be spaced out and very small so that there is ground between the plants making it pretty easy to maneuver through and around them, especially when they are friendly plants and don’t prick or scratch you.
The past two weeks have been extremely busy for me. Adjusting to a new place, new people, new job, new sights and new sounds. I have successfully made it to Nevada and I have finished my first work week which is actually 10 days long (this lets us have 4 day weekends to travel and explore the nearby areas).
Our first week was pretty much just training. Waking up at 6 am and heading out to do some birding and practicing some of the protocols we were learning in the afternoon and tuning our ears to the songs of the local birds. For someone who has spent most of her time on the west coast, there is a bit of an overlap between the birds but I have come to learn that birds have dialects because the same species here sound nothing like the ones at home. It’s been pretty overwhelming adapting to everything here but I think once I get into the swing of things in the field, it will all fall into place.
Sorry I haven’t been writing lately but the past two weeks have been pretty busy and now I’m finally in Nevada for my first job after graduation!