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Wildlife!

Posted by Brian on April 20, 2017 at 11:45 PM

The last couple weeks have been characterized by a raccoon that jumped into my car, some questionable deer, and elk herds walking nearby. Last Thursday I had to wake up super early, and I left the back hatch of the car open as I went to grab my tent. I walked back to the car, and a raccoon jumped out and left a trail of tortilla chips behind. Just before I left, he reappeared, and wouldn’t run when I approached him. I had to honk the horn to scare him off and get open the back of the car! At Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, I was walking through a meadow, and as I approached the hummingbird I wanted to set up a feeder for, a couple deer popped up in the grass a few yards away. It startled me, but no big deal. I took another step forward, and a few more did the same, then I turned around, and there were more. Lots of fawns with their moms, so I got out quick. Today, I began work at a field site with a huge elk population. As I was getting recordings, I’d see them trying to get a feel for me from far away, and every hour or so one would run by for some reason. I kept imagining the entire herd running at full speed, trying to figure out if I’d be able to climb a tree in time to get out of the way, but remembered this isn’t The Lion King and I’d probably be okay. However, nearby I did see a herd of about 50 or so elk. Finally, I saw my first ever mountain lion, and it scared the hell out of me. I was walking on the roadside to get back to camp, and the sun had just set, and I thought I saw a deer a few yards away. It wasn’t a deer.

I finished up in Mendocino and arrived in Humboldt Sunday afternoon. There’s only been one day without rain in the last week, although things have still been pretty productive given the circumstances. A couple of my field sites are in redwood forest, which has been awesome to work in. I’ve even been able to work in a closed campground surrounded by redwoods. Northern California is beautiful-endless redwoods, pine trees, ocean, wetlands, etc. I’m grateful to have met CJ Ralph, a legend up here who runs a banding station on his property and contributes a lot to ornithological research.

As far as hummingbirds go, it looks like the hybrid zone extends at least as far south as Arcata, CA, which is much further south than initially expected. The next few weeks of sampling should paint a complete picture of my coastal transect, which will allow me to study phenomenon such as sexual versus natural selection, which characters might be most important in divergence between Allen’s and Rufous Hummingbird, and the role of the environment in their evolution. If a species winds up needing protection, how can you protect it if unsure about the climate, resources, and it’s evolutionary history?

Six weeks down with a few more to go! 

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