Life as a falconer, insect systematist, and double Masters Student (or a look into the mind of someone who is questionably sane).

25 July 2006

Since my last rambling ive swapped out traps again, released birds, changed a tire, and in general fulfilled my motto: Never a Dull Moment with the P-fund. Traps went well, met Lauren in Valentine and took my truck to daves. The traps were pretty good looking and had quite a few bugs including a bunch of hoppers. Back in Valentine we hung around the house and looked through old issues of American Falconry until it was time to go back to our respective sites. Work was uneventful, the young birds look ready for release tomorrow. Back at the otel we cordinated the release plans and that sort of thing. I also got the final abstract submitted for ESA, so I can finally check something off my list. We got to sleep in until 7! very exciting. When we arrived at the site however I saw 4 head of cows in the road and an aditional 25 head on the ridgeline maybe 300yrds from the site. As soon as they saw the truck they took of running, not a good sign. Pretty soon we discovered the cause of the problem- the cows had gone nocturnal and overnight had demolished our electric fence. Every single connecter was snapped, the solar charger piece was hanging upside down, and the ground cable was broken. I fixed up the solar deal with some creative wiring and used my leatherman (this has got to be the most useful tool ever) to widen a couple holes to string it up since the orignal ones were unusuable. The ground was easy to fix (also with the leatherman), but the connecters were going to be a problem. We only had 2 extras and were going to need about 5. So I decided to get the tower ready for release and deal with the connecters when Chrissy got to the site. She didn't have any with her either, but a quick trip to town (hour long affair) solved that issue. Finished up tower and bird prep then opened the box. Birds were fast to come out for the most part, but no fledges before I left to meet Chrissy and Lauren for lunch in Van Horn. Lunch was very productive and after it Lauren came back with me to the site. I got a phone call from her as i got to the site saying she had a flat. So i reversed a couple miles and as i got to about 1o0 ft away could actually hear the air coming out even with my truck on. Not a good sign. She apparently hit the embakement making a turn and there were a ton of rocks jammed between the rim and the tire. So I grabbed a screwdriver and was able to wiggle it around a bit popping out the rocks so the tire could seal back up. She followed me back to the site so we could change the tire. Both katie and I have changed tires on the beast (the p-fund truck ive been driving for the last couple seasons) more time then wed like to remember. So she and i started working on that while lauren watched our birds. It was one problem after another. Getting the tire down wasnt too bad once we got the various pieces lined up properly. But then we realized the lug nuts werent all the same size. No big deal, Lauren had a socket bit that fit the odd nut. Only issue was the normal lug nuts were not the size of the lug wrench. After messing with it for a while I realized they looked the same size as the ones on the beast. Sure enough the p-fund lug wrench worked. Typical, toyota wrench didnt work on the toyota truck but the ford wrench would. Jacking up the truck went pretty easily, except the jack seemed to stick once we got it up to just a little higher than the bottom of the truck. We pulled all the lug nuts off and then went to take the tire off. Only issue was that when lauren parked her truck the wheel in quesiton was on burried rock and also the lowest spot of the vehicle. Didnt help that the jack point was also over a depresssion. We put a second jack down and started to dig out the tire. After going down 6 inches and hacking apart a rock we managed to pull the tire off. Then we tried to put the spare on. Turned out we needed to enlarge the hole another inch or 2 and then success, tire back on. It only took us 2.5 hrs, about 10 times longer than it normally takes us. Keep in mind it was 105 degrees in the shade and this all occured in the sun, believe me good times. By this time lauren had to go back to her site so she took the beast and we held on to her truck. Never a dull moment, i think thats the modo for this sesaon.

22 July 2006

Got to go to Ms. Tonys with the Millers so that was good times. Went to Ft Davis yesterday, picked up Lauren on the way in then the two of us and katie went to town. Post office was uneventful, couldnt send my paperwork i needed to since I left it at the otel apparently. O well, guess monday will be soon enough. Picked up bluebell at the Caboose then took Lauren back to the ranch. While there we looked at the BC she had found, lots of broken nooses. Walking back around to the front I spotted another one so of course as falconers we had to play with it too. So tempting. Back to the otel then to the site where low and behold our birds didnt show up unti 2045, as has become their custom. Uneventful night spent doing my homework and working on my abstract for ESA. I also got the news of our Dominican bugs arriving at TAMU, mostly in 1 piece. Definatly made my day.
Today it was life as usual at the site then back to the otel where we were soon met by Lauren. DQ for lunch where we all got brownie bater blizards- one of my favorites. Back at the otel lauren and I had a good time talking birds and that sort of thing. Hopefully well meet up tomorrow at the house in valentine then head to davis and swap out my traps. We got a trace of rain today but not even enough to make the roads wet. Hopefully this means itll start raining again, we need it so bad out here.

19 July 2006

Back at the Otel (the M on the motel sign is missing) in Van horn. Had a sucessful visit to A&M- its nice to work with people who know what they're doing when it comes to leafhoppers. I got pretty good at subfamily sorting of the common subfamilies. By the last A-tray there were only a handful of bugs in the wrong group. Next I morphogrouped the Dominican leafhoppers we had in collection and I tried keying them out. This didnt go so well but I got a few right. Just need to learn the key better. We went to the Japanese place for dinner then came back and I got to clear some leafhopper abdomens. Basicly inorder to id bugs to species you have to remove the tails and then soak them in a base to dissolve the non hardened parts. You then look at the genetilia and make an ID. Ive done a bit of this but not much and Chris's method is a bit different than what I've done before. I watched him do one then he had me try on these Gypona from dominica. As usual we only had 1 male (we had a female also, but these are not useful for ID). I grabbed the male, thought about it for a sec thought maybe i should do the female incase i messed up, but then decided to stick with the male. I tried popping the abdomen off but no go. So i pushed a little harder and it went flying. Chris saw what direction it went so he looked around for a while while i looked around my work station. No luck on either count, it happens but it sucks it was the only one I had. As Chris said, guess that one wont be the holotype (bug that is attached to a new species description). I got better at it though and after a few trys I got to move up to bugs chris's 2 phd students needed cleared. These went well except for one cicidellinae that I totally destroyed. By the time I was done with it the head was in one place, a hind wing was on the microscope stage, the other hind wing was attached to a part of the thorax with a forewing. The pieces were atleast fairly intact so out came the elmers glue- my 2nd favorite Dietrich quote- thats the beauty of bugs you can just glue the pieces back on. Today I looked at the genetilia and did a couple of species IDs. Definatly glad I came back to A&M for Dietrichs visit. Im going to try and visit while at the ESA meeting and hopefully go to the Auchenorrhyncha Group meeting, and maybe go up for a week sometime to get somemore experience with ids.

17 July 2006

Made it to a&m without any serious damage although my windsheild did get a nasty pit from being hit by with a rock on 21 comming into caldwell. Usually I can do that drive without even noticing but it totally killed me today, guess it was the extra hour coming from van horn. It just seemed to last forever. First stop was Heep. We figured out the plan for dinner with Dietrich and his 2 grad students and then I went home to try and recover from the drive. Once i was at least approaching coherent it was back to a&m where I had to wait for the worlds longest train (130 cars and I didn't even see the engines) go through campus. Went to dinner at a mexican place- keep in mind Ive been doing field work on the border so i eat mexican every other meal it seems like. The place we went was pretty dang good though, have to remember it and figure out how to get there since I definatly have no idea. Between the drive and not eating breakfast or lunch I was pretty out of it at first. Talked to Dietrichs grad students some and then we discussed possible MS projects for me. I liked the sound of this one Dietrich mentioned that would look at genus level relationships, host associations, and various other aspects. Itd take a while to do, but hey why get out of school any earlier than you have to? Especially since Carla told woolley I should be able to take naps since there good for you. Take that woolley. Then it was back to the lab where I got to help sort leafhoppers to subfamily which is a bit of an adventure for me since I learned leafhoppers backwards- going straight to genus and basicly disregarind any other level. Now that I know better though Im trying to learn the subfamilies so this was my first real test. Well see how it goes when Dietrich looks at my bugs tomorrow.

16 July 2006

Been along time since the last post, its been crazy here. The birds are doing great- flying pretty well and eating a ton of quail. We have 3 birds that come to the tower to eat multiple times a day, and 1 that shows up when she feels like it. We are now on the p-fund exercise plan- raven runs and cow chases. Ravens discovered the site a few days ago and now they can be expected to appear a time or two between 645 and 900 each morning, so we have a nice run to start the morning. The cows discovered the site yesterday and after chewing on the electric fence for a minute decided that it was worth persuing more so they went through the fence. After chasing the cows and repairing the fence the next adventure was announced- change in hack partners. Apparently there one of the other pairs wasnt going so well so they decided to split the falconers. Too late- we had already decided we were trapping passage hen goshawks together in 2007 (well unless we decided to pull eyas prairies). We went home cooked up some dinner and did what falconers world wide do- drink beer and talk birds. By the end of the night we decided it was a ton of fun to have someone to discuss the evils of 186-a's with and that sort of thing. My new hack partner is pretty cool, she use to fly birds for the air force and she wants to be a falconer, so it should be ok. I leave tomorrow for bcs, so hopefully I can post pictures from there- I have a ton.

11 July 2006

Release day!

It went pretty well, birds were slow to come out of the box and all but one cropped up before fledging. None of the birds went too far for their fledging flights so that was also a plus. We even had 2 land on the shade blind for a bit- always nice to be able to read bands without any optical assistance. Other than that not much going on here since we spent all day at the site. Tomorrow will be the same also. Its so nice having cell service at the site, never though i'd see the day. Never did find the USB cord so guess pictures will have to wait for a few days. Thats all for now, more tomorrow internet willing

10 July 2006

So the internet is a bit unreliable here at the otel (the m is missing on the sign). But hey, normally we dont get internet at all so any bit is nice. Internet was finally back up today so that was exciting. Since the last post weve been out to the site 10 times or so, went to Caralsbad Caverns for a few hours, and I've set up 4 malaise traps up in the davis mountians. We went to ft davis today- got ice cream at the caboose as always. It rained pretty good down there and on the way back. We havent gotten rain to speak of since we got birds, but knock on wood we might get some momentarily. Pictures to follow once I find my usb cord which has gone missing as have my forcepts. Must tear apart my room for those.

06 July 2006

Birds and rain came today. It rained in van horn all day long so when the birds finally got here late this afternoon getting them to the site was questionable. After running back to the motel to pick up the quail we had forgotten we set out through the mud. We made it part way to down the road without to much trouble. Then we got to the lower spots where we had water a foot or so deep on the road. At first no big deal the spots were pretty small. But then we got to one where the foot of water was a good 100yrds long or so. Both trucks made it though but we got to the dryish part only to see a longer strech of deep water. After looking at it for a bit Paul and Angel decided we wouldnt be making it to the site today. So it was back to van horn. Going back through the water was a bit of an adventure, I though the engine was going to die a couple times but my truck fought through it and we made it ok. I love that truck, ive done some crazy things to it and so far so good. Back in town it was decided wed meet at 8am tomorrow and put the birds in the box then. Lauren and i went back to the hotel and tried to think of something to do. By now we had an hour or so of light left so going anywhere far would be pointless and finding something to do in van horn was unlikly. I realized Sierra blanca was only 30 miles away so we were getting online to see what was out there when I got a call from Angel saying there was a possibiliy of getting to the site a different way. This time we took Laurens truck. This other was in was alot dryer although there were still some muddy spots. No major trouble until we got to the gate. While driving through the gate Paul managed to get his truck stuck in the mud. After trying to get the wheel out for a while he managed to bury the truck pretty good, so Lauren turned her truck around and tried to pull him out with no luck. After a couple of attempts it became apparent that this tactic wasnt going to be successful either so it was onto the next plan of putting enough rocks down to get some traction under the stuck wheels which was now both front ones. Paul worked on digging out the passenger tire which was now burried up to the bumper while me lauren and angel went looking for rocks. After putting rocks down they tried pulling it out again. Shockingly enough this too was unsucessful. It was decided to put the birds in our truck and Lauren, Paul, and I would go to the site and place the birds while Angel went to find the shooters that we could hear. We made it to the site with only a few bad spots and took the boxes to the tower. The birds were pretty wild in the boxes. On the tower paul pulled a couple birds and handed them to Lauren and me so we could take pictures. My 1st one was a tiercel that was pretty active and my second was a nice looking falcon. Got the birds in the box and fed for the night. Made it back to the truck where we found the truck still stuck. Guess the shooters never acknowleged him and kept shooting so he decided not to risk meeting a stray bullet on his approach. This time they decided to have us pull them forward out of the holes. This time we managed to get them out of the mud and we all headed back to town. On our way through the gate we saw a train approaching our crossing so we all jumped into the trucks and hauled it to the tracks. We made it across although Lauren got confused about which way to go when we got to the tracks and slammed on the breaks. We were some deeper water and mud so I though we were going to get stuck and have to wait for the train to pass but we got lucky and made it out and across without trouble. On the way to van horn Angel called to see if we wanted to get pizzia. We got to pizza hut and they told us itd be an hour wait pretty impressive since there were only a couple other people there. We decided to stay so talked about birds, hunting, and that sort of thing as usual. Its always fun hanging out with those guys, we have some good times. Around 2230 we decided to call it a night and head for home. All in all a good day, never a dull moment with the p-fund. Tommorow ill have to talk about the day before since im already a day behind. Typical

05 July 2006

Since I never wrote about santa fe heres the long drawn out story of what i did there:

Well we made it to santa fe fine. Left the house around 9am Saturday not the 8pm Friday like originally suggested. Too bad, would have liked to catch Saturday Novina Mass at Rosario. We ate at the mcdonalds in Childress, and for once a mcdonalds in a town beginning with a c didn’t screw up our orders. We timed it just perfectly, the boy scout pack had just gotten their order and the 2 bus church group arrived just after we got ours. The drive was uneventful, made it in just over 10 hours. We had a bit of rain in Clines Corners which made things a bit exciting since all of our stuff was in the bed but after some artful rearranging both inside and outside truck we made it through without getting anything important too wet. When we got to the house it was around dinner time so after unloading we ate guess what- beans, chilie, and tortillas. The even better news was that the dog has finally decided I am friend not foe and so there were no wounds or bloodshed on my part, always a plus. The next day began at the ungodly hour of 4:34 when my grandpa knocked on our door. Nothing like Novina Masses to get you up and going bright and early. Our alarm still had 5 more minutes so Maria and I went back to sleep for a few seconds before deciding it really was time to get up. Breakfast round 1 of rice crispies and we were ready to go by 4:49. So I went back to sleep until 5:15 when it was time to leave so we could be sure of getting a good parking spot. Basicly my grandpa plans all schedules around parking spots. He has what we call the get away spots. These are the ones you can pull into and out of and are as close to wherever the goal is as possible. These spots must be parked in at all costs even if it means arriving an hour early. Mass started at 6, so we got there with plenty of time to spare although my Aunt Celine had already beaten us there. She had staked out a spot on the side pews, the one she had been sitting in for 7 days a year for who knows how long.

Before I get any further I guess I should describe the Novina Mass. Santa Fe was founded in 1608 by a bunch of my ancestors, which has a few major pluses- 1st whenever they hang out the coat of arms of all the original families I’m related to most of them, 2nd- I’m related to everyone in Santa Fe whose family has been around for more than 50 years. This can be a plus or a minus since that’s a lot of relatives to keep track of but believe me family gatherings are really good times. How many families have their own drinking song? 3rd- my history is the cities history which is defiantly really cool. Enough about my family for now. So Santa Fe was settled and the Friars started converting the Indians. Well after awhile they rebelled and drove us all out. Led by Don Diego DeVargas the Spaniards reclaimed the city and in the process he made a promise to La Conquistadora (statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary, oldest in the new world) that if she let us reclaim our city he would hold a Novina for her. A Novina is a series of 9 Masses said for something. Well we reclaimed our city and the Novinas began. The Novina always starts with a Procession from the Cathedral in the Plaza to the chapel at the Rosario Cemetery carrying La Conquistadora. People from all over the Dioceses participate in the procession, theres a lot of singing and rosaries said and that sort of thing. Also the Fiesta Queen and her court are there (a local woman who is chosen to be at all the functions of the city dressed up in really fancy white dresses), along with people dressed up as all the big players in the early history- Conquistadors, Friars, and representatives of the various pueblos. Then every day for the week there is Mass at 6 at the Rosario Chapel. There is apparently an afternoon Mass for those not crazy enough to get up that early but since I’ve never been to one of those I don’t know what if anything is different. Every day La Conquistadora is dressed up in a different dress and they are always absolutely beautiful. The gowns are made by parishioners in the various parishes, and my relatives have made a few in the past. The church is fairly small and only has seats lining the edges. These are unofficially reserved for the elderly although some young people sit in them. How they can survive the glares shot at them by everyone else is beyond me. These seats are basically inherited and if you go regularly enough you recognize people in your area. Even if you don’t have a seat you tend to have a spot you always stand in usually by your elderly relatives. For example for as long as I can remember we stand about ¾ of the way back on the right side as you enter the church. So do my cousins and usually the aunts (collective term for my grandma’s sisters) are seated in this area. So when we entered the church yesterday there was no question where we were headed. As I mentioned 2 of the aunts were already seated and my grandpa sat with them. Me and Maria took our places and within 10 minuets it was already getting crowded. Some of my cousins appeared followed by the last aunt and her husband who sat on the other side of the aisle. Mass started at 6 and was pretty normal. It wasn’t as crowded as usual, normally your packed in like sardines but that’s probably because its Sunday so most people were going to their home parishes. After church we filed out and talked to the relatives for awhile. I made arrangements with Aunt Celine to set up some malaise traps on her place later in the day then we left.
The morning was spent taking naps and eating breakfast round 2 which was eggs, bacon, and waffles at the Flying Tortilla. Then we went up to Aunt Celine’s house in Tesuque. After first finding my uncle who was replacing a doorknob in their other house and saying hi to my cousin Diego who turned 21 today it was time to get my traps up. Maria, Aunt Celine, and me went down the path to the Little Tesuque River which runs by their house. I set the 1st trap along a path with them watching me, then they went back to the house while I found a place for the 2nd trap. I decided on the small clearing where they use to dump junked cars. It looks like a great spot, small clearing in the woods within a stones throw of the river and right by a stream. I’ll have to post a picture soon since the set up is something else. Some of my lines are tied onto a tree growing up through the cars door and one is tied onto what looks like part of the engine. By the time I was done setting up the 2nd trap there were already some bugs in the 1st one. I went back to the house without getting attacked by the bear that was apparently seen down there the day before. Hopefully it hadn’t talked to any of the bears out in the Great Smokey Mountains which have learned that if the pulled the heads off of the malaise traps they got not only a meal of bugs but 500 mL of alcohol. I’m trapping into brine so I can fly home with them so no chance drunk bears running around Tesuque, just really thirsty ones. Much to Aunt Celines dismay we left without eating lunch and went back to Santa Fe. On the way down we stopped at the National Cemetery to visit my grandma’s grave. No mixed drinks for her this time though. Maybe next time I’m in town. Grandpa picked up Lottaburger, a New Mexico fast food specialty for lunch. We left the house for Procession at about 1500. We got one of the most highly sought after parking spots- at the bank right across from Rosario. On the way to the chapel we stopped at grandma Catanach’s grave (my great grandma) and then just hung around the chapel. Relatives didn’t start appearing until shortly before the procession started at 1600 and even then we only talked Aunt Celine. Me and Maria tracked down Fr. Mark, a friend of the family who was looking for his congregation which had apparently decided not to come. Typical Albuquerque people. The procession was uneventful for the most part. We walked with Christo Rey since they’re near the front of the line and grandpa wanted to get to the Cathedral near the front. We were between 2 groups of rosary sayers which were going on in 2 different languages which made things interesting. The singers were not near by so that was kinda sad. We were almost to the plaza when it started to hail on us. Not the golfball size hail we had one crazy night in college station, but still when your walking any hail sucks. Guess La Conquistadora really didn’t want to go home this year. We were met at the cathedral by my aunt patty and her toy poodle puppy. It was cute but too tiny for my tastes. We waited for Aunt Celine and then Aunt Patty dropped us off at our cars, went back to the house and cooked dinner, then went back to Albuquerque since it was past the dogs naptime. We watched the Yankee game and ate dinner. Both were quite good, i love it when the Yankees kill whoever there playing then it was time to go to bed so we could catch the last Novena Mass.
My last day in santa fe was spent going to the last Mass, eating a ton of pizzia (i think i ate 3/4 of a pizza), taking down my malaise traps (some cool looking leafhoppers inside), and watching fireworks with my cousins and other relatives. I left for van horn around 2230 nm time and got to van horn about 6. Good times for sure.

04 July 2006

So lets see since my last post ive made it to Santa Fe, NM spent a couple days mostly doing nothing (well I did set a couple malaise traps yesterday) and now im getting ready to head down to van horn. The plan is to leave after fireworks on the 4th. This is the 1st time in a while I havn't been in west texas for the 4th. No party at the post in Marathon for me this year I guess. In santa fe we normally go to the pancake breakfast for the 4th but apperently we're boycotting it this year becasue the united way which hosts it stopped giving money to a bunch of charities my grandpa likes so no pancakes for me tomorrow. And to top it off home fireworks are illegal because of the drought so the 4th in santa fe really doesnt seem like the 4th at all. Thats all for now, tomorrow ill try and put up the actual post for santa fe.