Wednesday, September 12, 2007

What a fab trip!

Just to follow up Elisa's posting, I think we all had a great time (thanks Christina and Chris!). In addition to the work and data we were collecting I was fascinated at the additional wildlife we saw during the two weeks. As I always seemed to have a pen in my pocket here's the log I made of the wildlife, footprints and droppings we saw between us. It was fun some evenings to try and work out from the book descriptions and drawings what creatures we had seen. Apologies for any omissions!

Bat (dead) and pipistrelle Bat (heard); Bear (only Christina and Lycos saw this!); Beaver; viceroy Butterfly; cecropia Caterpillar; Cicadia (heard); Chipmunk; Cormorant; white-tailed Deer; bald Eagle; leopard and green Frogs; Goshawk; black Guillemot;
great black-backed Gull; snoeshoe Hare (Andrew only, whilst watering the undergrowth!); great blue Herons; ruby-throated Hummingbird; blue Jay; bog Lemmings; green Lizard; Loons; meadow jumping Mouse; Muskrat; Osprey; Porcupine; Racoon (skeleton); Ravens; Sandpiper (and other unidentified wading birds); short-tailed Shrew (dead on road!); garter, ribbon and smooth green Snakes (non-poisonous, still enough to make you jump); wolf and argiope Spiders; spruce Grouse; grey flying Squirrel (walking??); red Squirrels; Toads; red-backed Voles; fin-backed Whales (from boat).

Coyote; Deer; Fisher (maybe); Otter; Racoon; Squirrel

Droppings (lots of ‘em!)
Bear; Chipmunk; Deer; Fawn; Groundhog (maybe); snoeshoe Hare; Mouse; Porcupine; Racoon; Skunk

Thanks to the team for their great company and very best wishes to future teams.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Team IV

Team IV arrived on August 19. We were mostly British: Annabel, Julia, Sophia, Diane, Andrew, James, Melissa, and Gill were all from "over the pond." We had one woman from Japan - Mina - and 3 from the USA: Elisa, Ann, and Pat. We were divided up with 8 women in the green house; Andrew and Mina each had single rooms in the yellow house and James & Melissa had their own room there. 'Twas a great Team. and we spoiled Lycos a lot!

This is just a quick post to get us started; I won't attempt to cover it all, and I don't have any photos ready to post. I hope others will contribute, too.

We ate too much - cereal and toast or waffles and optional eggs and bacon every morning; tuna and/or egg salad for lunch, with cheese and/or tomatoes and cucumbers. Who knew there were so many flavors of potato chips! and then every evening, after the delicious suppers Chris prepared, we had choices of ice cream! it's hard to break those habits now that I'm back home sitting in the office instead of tramping thru woods and bogs all day.... to my immense surprise I didn't gain weight.

We had mostly sunny weather - only rained both Fridays of our Expedition - a bit too hot for most of our preferences, I think - 26 - 28 most days, I think. (see - even Americans can learn to think in Centigrade! - that's about 79 - 83 F - but we were often in the sun.)

We caught red backed voles and bog lemmings in the areas that had been cut 15 years ago; red backed voles and a few chipmunks - they are exciting when released from the trap into the capture bag! - in the woods. No mice. Which continues the trend this season - a very dramatic shortage of mice. Everyone got to hold at least one little critter while it was examined to see what sex it was and, if female, whether she was pregnant or nursing or had recently nursed ...

On our "day off" we went to Lunenberg, which is delightful. Most of the Team went whale watching; I didn't - I preferred to wander into the stores and galleries in Lunenberg. Saw lots of things it would have been nice to be able to afford to buy - especially in the gallery selling Inuit sculpture! and the Fisheries Museum is great.

We also went to see the national park, Kejimkujik (Keji for short). We saw fascinating Native American petroglyphs marked in rocks along the lake (the ranger is a member of the tribe), but had to put up with one of the worst-behaved children any of us had experienced (some Canadians need Super Nanny as much as those families on TV in the US). My favorite part was the ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS old growth hemlock forest; I've been in lots of hemlock forests, and some old growth forests, but never an old growth hemlock forest before. It's magical - trees and moss and filtered light.

Enough from me, for now at least!


Monday, August 20, 2007

First day at Cook's Lake

Tuesday July 31st, 2007

This morning I overslept and nearly missed breakfast, which was scheduled for 8:30 am, so I was forced to take an abbreviated shower, dash over to the green house for a quick bowl of cereal, and then head back to the yellow house to gather my gear for the day. We were told that it could get pretty wet and muddy out at Cook’s Lake, so I grabbed my Wellies, and threw them in the back of the van. The drive to Cook’s Lake on average, takes about an hour, over occasionally bumpy, hilly roads, the impact of which is felt the most when riding in the very rear of the van. This morning seemed especially warm, and I made the mistake of sitting in the very rear of the van, where a cool breeze can rarely be found.
The way into Cook’s Lake is by walking down a well worn single track dirt road, about a half mile in length, covered in some stretches by patches of soupy mud and water. Chris is able to drive his Chevy pickup truck over the road, but the van would have great difficulty going over such rough terrain, so it is left parked at the main road. As we walk up the road, Christina stops and points out signs of animals - paw prints in the mud, or signs of scat recently left in the roadway.

Roughly a half mile up the dirt road is a mesh screen tent, which will serve as our base of operations for the next two weeks whenever we come out to Cook’s Lake. It is both a means of getting some needed shade during the heat of the day, and also acts as a barrier to the insect population that is constantly swarming about.
The first order of business is a walk out to Cook’s Lake proper, which is about a mile further away, first down the existing dirt road, and then down a single track trail through the woods. As we left the tent site, and headed up the road, Lycos alerted Chris that there was something in the stand of trees just on the crest of the hill we were walking up. About 30 feet up in one of the trees was a juvenile porcupine, called a porcupet - our first mammal sighting at Cook’s Lake. We continued on to the lake, looked around for a bit, and then took a different path back to the tent site. After lunch we began to assemble the 100 Longworth traps that we would be using over the course of the next two weeks. Each trap was filled with some grass, a little cracked corn, and a bit of apple – bedding, food, and a source of water, for anything that might get caught in the trap. We were divided into teams of two – John and I were assigned row “C” – given 20 traps and sent out to place 2 traps every 10 meters in an area of scrub trees. By the time everyone was through laying out their traps, it was nearly 5:00 pm, and so we walked back out to the main road, boarded the van, and headed back to Cherry Hill.
The evening was spent going over the photos taken during the day, eating popcorn, and playing chess with Eric.

the walk along Broad Cove.....

Monday July 30th, 2007

The bulk of the morning was spent sitting around the dining room table at the green house - first for breakfast, then for group introductions, and finally for Chris to gave a presentation on what is involved in monitoring mammals and the techniques we would be employing during the project.

It was around 12:30 pm when we piled into the van and headed out to Broad Cove for a 3 to 4 mile walk along the coast. Even though it was well past noon, most of the walk was enveloped in a shroud of fog, which lent a somewhat other worldly effect to the hike. This was our first official trek where we were suppose to be scanning the ground for any signs of scat or animal tracks, but the only one who seemed to have any luck locating anything was Lycos.
The last mile or so, I was walking ahead of the main group with Chris, Lycos and Jessica when we spotted a muskrat swimming in one of the small ponds that dotted the shoreline. By the time I had my camera out to take a picture it had spotted us and ducked under the leaves of the lilly pads. The group that was with Christina found some deer droppings, but that was pretty much the extent of our findings for the day.

At the end of the walk, we were rewarded with ice cream cones, milk shakes and cold cans of coke at MacLeod’s Canteen, a small diner right on the beach near Green Bay Road.

The rest of the day and into the evening was spent hanging out at the green house, eating a late dinner, and sitting around talking about prior Earthwatch trips.

Friday, August 17, 2007

The gathering of team three.......

Sunday - July 29th, 2007

At the appointed hour of 3:00 pm, I wheeled my huge red canvas duffle bag down the corridor at the Halifax International airport, pushing it toward the Arrivals section, where I was meet up with the rest of the Earthwatch team and the project PI’s. Over the next half hour or so total strangers from all over the world gathered around a makeshift “Mammals of Nova Scotia” sign that Chris Newman held chest high.

There was Paul and Susann, a married couple from Espoo, Finland; Andrew, a 3rd year college student from Brooklyn, New York; Hannah, a recent high school graduate from Manchester, England; Julie, a kindergarten teacher from Mill Valley in California; Jessica, an elementary school teacher from Rocky Hill, New Jersey; Yukihiro, a school teacher from Aichi, Japan; Kumiko, another elementary school teacher from Tokyo, Japan; and me, from Rolling Meadows, Illinois. Absent from this initial meeting were John, a high school teacher from New York City, and Patti who was a school nurse in Somerset, New Jersey – they had both elected to drive to Nova Scotia, and would be meeting us in Cherry Hill, our base of operations for the next two weeks.

In addition to Chris Newman and Christina Buesching, Eric Knightly a recent graduate of The Ohio State University, would be working with us as a project assistant, plant botanist, and resident blues musician. Since our party was too large to all fit into Chris’s white Ford van, Jessica, Yuki and I drove with Eric in his car for the two hour drive to Cherry Hill. For the most part it was an uneventful ride, the conversations covering a wide range of topics, while a Bob Dylan CD played in the background, and we took in the view of the Nova Scotia countryside.

There are two houses in Cherry Hill that we will be using over the course of our two weeks here, the green house where the women and Paul would stay, and the yellow house where all the men would sleep. The green house will be our base of operations - all meals, meetings and lectures will take place there. I chose to share a room with Yuki, hoping that he wasn’t prone to snoring, as had been the case with my last Earthwatch roommate. After unpacking my bag and arranging my gear, Eric, Yuki, Andrew and I walked 2 blocks down the road to get our first view of Little Harbor, and the Atlantic Ocean.

Soon it was time to go back to the green house for dinner, a meeting to go over the projects scope, and a safety briefing. By the time we were through with the safety briefing it was getting late, so it was decided to hold off on personal introductions until tomorrow morning. I wasn’t ready to go to sleep, so I took a mile walk with Eric and Yuki down to a pond that had a beaver lodge, hoping we might spot them, but unfortunately that wasn’t the case so we walked back to the house and went to bed.

Team 3 Group Photo

Left to Right: John Pritchard, Dr. Chris Newman, Julie Althoff, Yukihiro Nakanishi, Dr. Christina Buesching, Patti Brewer, Andrew Heller, Paul Collander, Hannah Regan, Kumiko Osaki, Susann Uggeldahl, Jessica Kennedy-Delahoy, Patrick Aird, Eric Kightly and Lycos.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

We're in Backpacker Magazine!

Check out the article about team 1 in the September 2007 edition of Backpacker magazine. It's the article about citizen scientists - page 112 or so.