Thursday, September 16, 2010

This Chapter We've Been Writing Is Getting Awful Hard To Read

Crested Auklets over Buldir's Main Talus.

So I finally got to go out in Homer for a couple of nights.  It was a lot like Arcata, except there are no street kids heckling you.  There’s even a bar called The Alibi.  One night there was a hipster 80’s cover band playing at the bar we were at, featuring a gifted keyboard player, a standup bass player who sang most of the songs and a striking Samantha Fay-esque banjo player.  The similarities were uncanny.  My camp leader from Buldir kept heckling everyone and at one point was offered $500 to go home with an old woman from Texas.  Unfortunately for everyone, she did not follow through with this.  Good times.

As you can see, we’ve made a few changes to BB&B at great effort and expense, but the rave reviews and frenzied feedback have made it all worth it.  As its been well over a year since I’ve been to Midway, its probably time to do something about our masthead….but with such an ambitious agenda on our cracked and calloused hands, its going to be difficult.  But make no mistake, we are up to the task at hand.

Many great pictures have been taken of the Tiglax over the years.  This is not one of them.  The Tiglax is the primary ship that ferries refuge personnel around the Aleutians, and was how I made it to and from Buldir.

So, back to last spring.  On May 29 we finally arrived at Buldir.  The seas were still rough, so we had to land some distance from our camp.  With the skiff parting a big raft of Parakeet Auklets, we were finally ashore.  Under a puffin-filled sky, we trudged down a cobbly beach toward camp valley.  Wandering Tattlers and Eurasian Wigeon flushed from the water’s edge, while Harlequin Ducks and Common Eiders bobbed offshore amongst auklets and puffins.  The place was brimming with birds.  Distant flocks of thousands of Crested and Least Auklets snaked through the sky, constantly changing formation and direction in order to avoid some real or imagined predator.  It was going to be a good summer, at least as far as birding was concerned.

Northern Fulmars (FOULGULLS) are common in between the islands and nested on Buldir.

Arriving in camp was done with relatively little fanfare, but throughout the day rare birds kept appearing between trips to our distant pile of gear we had to hump over to camp.  Four Sandhill Cranes, which were to stay with us for the rest of the year.  An Eastern Yellow Wagtail.  A male Rustic Bunting.  A female Bar-tailed Godwit.  I was feeling a little melty-faced, I can’t lie.

The view looking east from Northwest Ridge on a nice day.  A glut of Whiskered Auklets nest on this hillside in rock crevices.

Over the next couple weeks camp was set up.  Temporary, canvas-covered weatherports were erected for food storage and for Hannah and Sarah, the Canadians doing auklet studies for much of the summer.  A shower stall was erected, an outhouse set up.  The main structures were the sleeping cabin and main cabin, which included a fully-functioning kitchen (sans refrigerator) and stored a lot of work-related gear.  The camp was solar-powered for basic electricity needs (computers, ipods, camera batteries, etc.).  Heating was with kerosene.  Cooking was with propane.  Considering where we were, it was a really sweet living situation.

Wow, that is one of the most boring paragraphs I’ve ever written…but I feel it was necessary.  After a couple days we started with actual fieldwork and thus began the slow blurry smear of hiking, shivering, sweating, falling, shitting, vomiting and crippling that in its sum total can be described as summer Y2K10.

One of the Forgotten Four Sandhill Cranes that summered on the island.  They were probably heading for the Kamchatka Peninsula off eastern Russia but were forced to spend the summer with us due to bad weather.  They were bummed.

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