Monday, June 30, 2014

My Year of Darwin 6/30/2014:More rainforest looooove

 Charles Darwin

"The glories of the vegetation of the Tropics rise before my mind at the present time more vividly than anything else" Charles Darwin, Autobiography

Costa Rican rain forest at La Selva  Biological Research Station

Sunday, June 29, 2014

My Year of Darwin 6/29/2014: Darwin's medical misery

 Charles Darwin

"I was also troubled with palpitations and pain about the heart, and like many a young ignorant man, especially one with a smattering of medical knowledge, was convinced that I had heart disease" Charles Darwin, Autobiography

Wait a minute! I thought Darwin's heart issues arose after the Voyage. I even suggested that it might be linked to Chagas! But here he is explaining why he my be asked not to go before they set sail. So Chagas had nothing to do with it and I was under that impression for decades. Geesh. 

Set the alarm for 4:07 AM... will be here all too soon. 

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Research Roundup: Week of 6/23/2014


Writing this on Tuesday and I already can't remember where I was yesterday. Ah yes, Lackawanna State Park. There's an hour glass shaped field and I did a point count (listened for birds for 10 minutes standing in one spot). Not much there at all. The fields had Red-winged Blackbirds (RWBL) but not much else. This field reminded me of the cool-season grassland at 205. Lots of RWBL and milkweed. Two points = 20 minutes of surveying and two hours of driving. I need to figure out something else to do while I'm there. I ended up with one tick that I found on my clipboard. Hooray rubber boots. The coolest thing were the tree swallows. 

Then I went to scout the Jacob's Property gas pipleine. Here's the site looking one way then the other. Surveyed it because they're going to widen it and I wanted to get a baseline. Plus, we can consider this a grassland too, right? Maybe.

Here's a cool lichen. Wait, what did I just say????


Surveyed the gas line easement on our property on 115 that we should call the Jacob's Property after the family that gave it to the university. This is one of my favorite places - not the gas line but the woods around it. The gas line had lots of Common Yellowthroats, and Indigo Bunting or two, and an Eastern Towhee. The pond had a few Tree Swallows that ventured into the easement. Here is a flower growing in the pipeline and in the woods. No idea what is. 


Then I went off to the smaller grassland site at SGL119 (Francis Walter Dam). There was a Red-tailed Hawk sitting at the edge and I was fussed at the entire time by Killdeer. Then a few of the usual suspects (=Field and Song Sparrows, Mourning Dove).

Went back to school met up with the crew and went to Wilkes-Barre Mountain. I just needed to see how to get there. Holy hell it's not easy: steep, rocky, giant puddles. Oh well. It was worth it. A nice view of the valley.  Lot's of Allegheny Mound Ants and some interesting flowers. I've give details of the birds when I do the surveys. Had no ticks on me and one in the sweep sample that I did.


Took the day off since it was supposed to storm. Not so much. Wish I could say I was productive in the office.


Back to Wilkes-Barre Mountain. Did two bird survey points. The Ford Explorer, by the way, does much better off-roading than the Silverado. Nothing unusual up there. Again, no Indigo Buntings although I know they're there. Is there a mid-summer lull in calling??? Tomorrow is the farthest site. Let's see if I can get up in time.


Went to State Game Land 036 this morning. Left home at 320 AM and got there around 530. A beautiful site. A huge site. Coolest thing that happened was the the three Common Ravens that come out from the woods to inspect what I was doing. They flew within 20 meters are less then circles and went off. Hair on the back goes up when you see a flock of ravens headed directly at you. The site is full of Grasshopper Sparrows and other GMS (grassland, meadow, savannah birds). A Northern Harrier (gray bird below) flew across the site being chased by Red-winged Blackbirds

Done with my first round of point counts!  Monday starts anew. 



My Year of Darwin 6/28/2014: young Darwin feels old

 Charles Darwin

"Of late, anything which flurries me completely knocks me up afterwards and brings on a bad palpitations of the heart" Charles Darwin, letter to Prof. Henslow, 14 October 1837

Darwin was explaining to Henslow that he does not want to be elected Secretary of the Geological Society and came up with several excuses. This quote relates to his health and you'd think this was written by an old man worried about his heart but Darwin is only 28 at the time. I'm no epidemiologist so I won't even speculate but those that have, suggest it was Chagas disease. A disease caused by a parasite so it wasn't just specimens that Darwin sailed back with.  

Friday, June 27, 2014

My Year of Darwin 6/27/2014: I'm baaaack

 Charles Darwin

"My dear Fox, It is a very long time since I have heard any news of you; why have you not written to tell me how you are going on? - Are you turned idle, or do you think I am too full of South American bird, beasts and fishes to care about old friends?" Charles Darwin, letter to cousin W.D. Fox, July 7, 1837

Gone for 5 years, Darwin is back home and ready to connect with old friends.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

My Year of Darwin 6/26/2014: Hey ocean, see yaaa!

 Charles Darwin

"This zig-zag manner of proceeding is very grievious; it has put the finishing stroke to my feelings. I loathe, I abhor the sea, & all ships which sail on it." Charles Darwin, letter to sister Susan Darwin August 4th 1836

Instead of rounding Africa and returning hope, Fitzroy goes back to Brazil to get more measurements and delays their homecoming. This sets the crew and Darwin on edge. Darwin never returns to the sea even though he is returning a young man. 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

My Year of Darwin 6/25/2014: How to be a good traveler

 Charles Darwin

"In a moral point of view the effect out to be to teach him good-humoured patience, freedom from selfishness, the habit of acting for himself, and of making the best of every occureence" Charles Darwin, Voyage of the Beagle

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

My Year of Darwin 6/24/2014:Strong words about slavery

 Charles Darwin

"picture to yourself the chance, ever hanging over you, of your wife and your little children - those object which nature urges even the slave to call his own- being torn from you and sold like beasts to the first bidder! And these deeds are done and palliated by men who profess to love their neighbors as themselves, who believe in God, and pray that His Will be done on earth! It makes one's blood boil, yet heart tremble, to think that we Englishmen and our American descendants, with their boastful cry of liberty, have been and are so guilty; but it is a consolation to reflect, that we at least have made a greater sacrifice than ever made by any nation, to expiate our sin" Charles Darwin, Voyage of the Beagle

wow! and ouch! 

Monday, June 23, 2014

My Year of Darwin 6/23/2014:

 Charles Darwin

"if the misery of our poor be caused not by the laws of nature, but by our institutions, great is our sin" Charles Darwin, Voyage of the Beagle

TREE SWALLOW UPDATE: So long and thanks for all the bugs

They fledged! Somewhere four newbie Tree Swallows are zipping along the banks of the Susquehanna River. 

I'm left with a box full of bird crap.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

My Year of Darwin 6/22/2014: Chuck really doesn't like slavery

 Charles Darwin

"On the 19th of August we finally left the shores of Brazil. I think God, I shall never again visit a slave-country. To this day, if I hear a distant scream, it recalls with painful vividness my feelings, when passing a house near Pernambuco, I heard the most pitiable moans, and could not but suspect that some poor slave was being tortured..." Charles Darwin, Voyage of the Beagle

The irony is that I hear many religious people claim that slavery is the result of evolutionary thinking, yet some religious texts are essentially how-to manuals on slavery. 

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Research Roundup: Week of 6/16/2014

Monday: Rickett's Glen: The Hayfield's Site

Cold morning eventually led into a hot afternoon. Started out with most of the regulars: Song Sparrow, Field Sparrow, Tree Swallows. Notably absent was Indigo Buntings, which we ended up catching! Not sure if they don't sing when on the nest or not or what was going on but the individual we captured was responding to playback. There was a Yellow-billed Cuckoo in the blueberry bushes in the middle of the fields. I have seen this before where there obvious leaf damage on shrubs. Other interesting birds were Least and Alder Flycatchers, White-throated Sparrows. in the fields. A Red-shouldered Hawk was in the far forest edge.



Did three points at the Trumbower farm in Hunlock Creek. Site is full of Song Sparrows, Tree Swallows, and Common Yellowthroats. I kicked up a hen Wild Turkey with chicks. No Indigo Buntings or Common Ravens although these were picked up last year.



Thursday: SGL221, Cresco, Pennsylvania 

This shrubland was created by cutting down the overstory trees and then burning. It must be a few years since the shrubs, mostly young oaks and sweet fern, are head high and DENSE. It rained early in the morning so the shrubs were soaking wet. After a few minutes of walking through, so was I. Then it rained for 15 minutes or so, which saturated me completely.

There are few grasses so I wouldn't call this a grassland. The birds are more suggestive of a shrubland too. I picked up tons of Eastern Towhees, Gray Catbirds, Common Yellowthroats, but I even picked up a number of Field Sparrows. Again, there were few Indigo Buntings although I did have one come in in response to playback. I didn't get Golden-winged Warblers, despite the habitat being appropriate (I wouldn't call it perfect). There were a number of large trees left, which had Baltimore OriolesGreat Crested Flycatchers, and even Scarlet Tanagers. 

Walking to the site was interesting too. There was a Least Flycatcher on the road and I kicked a Wild Turkey up on the edge of the site. There were some interesting plants on critters on the road too.

Friday: Lehigh Gap Nature Center and Kittatinny Ridge

Beautiful sites for sure. Not too many surprises except a Blue Grosbeak (BLGR) at Lehigh Gap Nature Center, which I picked up there for the past two years. Any female BLGR? That would be fantastic! And I also got to see a Worm-eating Warbler

My Year of Darwin 6/21/2014: E ai Darwin? Chuck dissed in Brazil

 Charles Darwin

"I must here commemorate what happened for the first time during our nearly five years' wandering, namely, having met with a want of politeness; I was refused in a sullen manner at two different houses, and obtained with difficulty from a third, permission to pass through their gardens to an uncultivated hill, for the purpose of viewing the country. I feel glad that this happened in the land of the Brazilians, for I bear them no good will - a land of slavery, and therefore of more debasement." Charles Darwin, Voyage of the Beagle

Ouch! Yet I found nothing of the sort when I was there. Unnecessary bureaucratic? My God yes. Rude? Never. Perhaps England had just eliminated Brazil from the World Cup???  Highly unlikely (even if there was a World Cup at the time). 

Friday, June 20, 2014

My Year of Darwin 6/20/2014: Tchau Brasil... tchau rainforest

 Charles Darwin

"In my last walk I stopped again and again to gaze on these beauties, and endeavoured to fix in my mind for ever an impression which at the time I knew sooner or later must fail. The form of the orange-tree, the cocoa-nut, the palm, the mango, the tree-fern, the banana, will remain clear and separate; but the thousand beauties which unite these into one perfect scene must fade away; yet they will leave, like a tale heard in childhood, a picture full of indistinct, but most beautiful figures." Charles Darwin, Voyage of the Beagle

Darwin has rounded the world and is back to Brazil in Bahia. This sentiment I understand completely. Eu estou com muito saudades de voce. 

Thursday, June 19, 2014

My Year of Darwin 6/19/2014: You have to be there!

 Charles Darwin

"I wished to find language to express my ideas. Epithet after epithet was found too weak to convey to those who have not visited the intertropical regions the sensation and the delight which the mind experiences" Charles Darwin, Voyage of the Beagle