Friday, March 30, 2012


For The Birds…a fitting title for this blog seeing as that is what my life has become. For the past few years I have started my career as a field biologist, primarily working with raptors (No, not the dinosaur…I still have recurring nightmares of Jurassic Park!) also known as birds of prey to most folks.


Velociraptor (Very Scary)
 
I decided to create this blog as an outlet for myself, a place to share my stories and possibly even teach my readers something new. I will also let you in on the peculiar life of being a biologist and how it is more than a job, but a lifestyle. The pay is low, but the rewards are unforgettable! (Even if my family and friends think I am a little crazy)

Modern Raptor, Rough Legged Hawk (Not So Scary)
As a kid I was always found outside looking under rocks for life and bringing home injured animals to take care of. Our house was full of pets as well except recently it is down to just a cat and dog seeing as I only live there sporadically due to my ever changing seasonal jobs. It only made sense I went to college to earn a degree in wildlife science. 

Since earning my degree I have been out in the “real world” trying to gain more experience in working with wildlife which is where this blog comes into play. If you’re still with me I’ve decided to share a story for this post, so here goes:

A Bored Cop and a Quail Dump

My first job after college was working for The Peregrine Fund in New Mexico. I was lucky too that my best friend was working alongside me on this job. She always kicked my butt in gear while I usually showed her how to take a break every once in a while. Over all we worked together really well as a team. Our job basically was feeding and observing Aplomado Falcon chicks that were being released into the wild.

What is an Aplomado Falcon, you might be wondering? Check it out here: http://www.peregrinefund.org/subsites/explore-raptors-2001/falcons/aplomado.html

Our work site was located in the Chihuahua Desert on a cattle ranch. We were so far south we could see Mexico from our site! Aplomado falcons tend to be bird hunters so we fed them a healthy diet of quail on feeding platforms. (Our field house had a gigantic freezer stocked full of dead quail for these guys. It took up a good portion of my bedroom and really added to the d├ęcor of the field house.) After each feeding we had to clean up after the messy eaters, one of the less fun parts of the job. Our boss showed us an area outside of the ranch to dump the quail remains so other critters could finish it off.

Once we had our work routine down, everything was going smoothly until one evening. Some days we ended up working past sunset (yeah no 9-5 jobs here!) so we would end up dumping the quail in the dark. One night I noticed a police truck parked near our quail dump site. I didn’t think much about it until it was there again the next evening. My friend and I debated about dumping the quail. It must have looked very fishy to the cop, but at the same time the quail would rot in our garbage. We did have a cockroach problem which still makes me shudder, and half our fridge was occupied with quail in various thawing states (As a field biologist you get used to having your food next to dead things, after all that’s what we eat as well.) We ended up not dumping the remains and headed onto the interstate to head home. The cop followed us immediately. Crap. I knew we were going to get pulled over. He followed us for a couple miles until finally the lights and siren went on. I pulled over and my friend rolled down the window for the cop. Our conversation kind of went like this:

Cop: License and Registration….New York, huh?

Me: Yes, Sir.

Cop: Where were you coming from?

Me: The ranch, we work there for The Peregrine Fund.

Cop: What do you do there?

Me: We are reintroducing Aplomado Falcons to the area. We basically feed them and observe them every day.

Cop: You do what?

The look on the cop’s face was pretty funny. I’m not sure exactly what he was expecting from two twenty something girls in an F-150 working at night near the border. I am pretty sure he checked over our truck to see if we had illegals or drugs. Instead he pulled us over for a broken license plate light. We got off with a warning of course.

Our boss burst out laughing and shook his head hearing of our adventure that evening. The light was fixed immediately and we went back to dumping quail in our usual spot. Little did I know that was the first of many experiences I would have with the police or border patrol due to my work, but those are for later blogs.

Photos:


Rough Legged Hawk: by William Blake