Friday, March 1, 2013

My Big...BIG Year

This year I am taking on two very big feats: (1) finish my Master’s degree and (2) bird Cache Valley like a maniac. That’s right! I am going for the ultimate BIG year. I figure that finishing a Master’s is stressful enough, so what better way to distract myself from the chaos, hours of statistical analysis, and late night writing sessions than birding.

It is scary to think that it’s already March 1st. It doesn’t seem like enough time to finish all of the work that I have left on my Master’s. Just thinking about the list of tasks that I need to conquer nearly gives me a full on panic attack. In fact the overall stress and hardship this degree has caused me so far has made me question my future motives (on multiple occasions). It’s true, I have considered quitting, getting a job, and moving on with my life. However, the amount of work and sometimes torturous hours in the field that I have put into this project keeps me from quitting (no matter how bad the circumstances...and trust me they have been unbearably bad at times). Ultimately, I think that this year when I stand up to defend I will feel like I truly earned my degree, because I managed to work through very difficult scenarios (including 3 advisors), overcome a strong desire to quit, and finished what I started.

Lately, I have tried to think back to all the times I wanted to quit something, such as when I was on a baseball team as a kid, or part of the band in middle school, or doing math homework in high school. Of course I didn’t quit, because my parents aren’t quitters (thanks Mom & Dad) and it’s a good thing too because it turns out I actually needed math! I tried to remember all of the benefits that came from not quitting and how great if felt to actually finish. From these experiences I learned to overcome stinky, twit boys (on the baseball team), I learned to play an instrument and hold my ground against bully's (band class), and I even used cosine the other day to transform my data! However, I think that everyone reaches that breaking point at least once in their life (maybe even multiple times...depending on how dramatic you are). You feel that the easy way out is to quit and move on. I have felt like this many times while working on my degree, but then I stop and contemplate if I can truly live with myself as a ‘quitter’.

If only quitting felt this good? I suppose sometimes it can...

Of course I absolutely cannot, that would drive me crazy for the rest of my life (good thing my parents taught me right and Matt is so supportive)! Therefore, I have decided that the key to not quitting (unless we are talking about bad habits, then you can reverse this sentence) is to ‘distract’ myself with something that I love.... BIRDS!

I haven’t been an avid birder for very long and I have certainly neglected birding over the course of the last 2 years. So this year I am going all in. I am dedicating my ‘spare’ time to doing a big year in Cache Valley. It is unclear whether I will stay in Cache Valley for the entire year, but I am still going to bird ‘til my heart’s content. So far, I am off to a really good start. It is not entirely clear what has prompted so many rarities to turn up in Cache Valley this year, but the winter bounty might be partly due to the very frigid weather we have experienced. This year I have already had multiple lifers in Cache Valley thanks to several rare visitors:

Common Redpoll: An arctic tundra visitor that . They have been overwhelmingly abundant and a fist at my feeders.

Common Redpoll: My Yard, Cache Valley, UT

Greater White-fronted Goose: Tundra goose species that has one of the largest ranges of any geese worldwide.

Greater White-fronted Goose: Cache Valley, UT

Snowy Owl: By far the best visitor ever (at least in my opinion)! Snowy Owls also breed in the arctic and are the largest owl in North America. Certainly one of the most exciting sightings for me.

Snowy Owl: Cache County, UT

As of today, I am already at 104 species and trust me there are some good ones! My goal is over 200 for the year, so I am well on my way. Seeing that March is already here I am giddy thinking about what spring will bring!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Capitol Reef...The Final Frontier

I have spent part of my last 2 summers in Capitol Reef searching for Mexican spotted owls and studying their habitat characteristics. This past summer I spent an entire month hiking the backcounty to past and present spotted owl sites in order to measure vegetation associated with breeding habitat. My time in Capitol Reef (as with all of the other parks I hiked) was full of challenges, adventure, new experiences, fun, hate, and natural wonders....
Dry hike turned wet and muddy in Upper Spring Canyon.
Lower Muley Twist

Secret Canyon
Climbing out of a slick mud pit at night

Out of the three National Parks (Zion, Canyonlands, and Capitol Reef) that I have worked in, Capitol Reef is above all my favorite and will always hold special memories for me. Unlike many other National Parks in Utah, Capitol Reef still offers solitude and true adventure.

Five Mile Canyon (view from the top)


HOLY CRAP! It has been a year since I have done anything with this blog. I blame it on a crazy life, lack of motivation, and rough times with my research project (which yes...I am still working on). I have set a new goal to keep up with this blog in order to have a future record of what I spend my time doing (or not doing). Here is a very quick re-cap of last year:

April: Earned my Black Belt in Kyu Shin Ryu (and yes...I am damn proud of myself)
May: Started my last field season for my research on Mexican spotted owls
June: Hiked Capitol Reef National Park
July: Hiked Zion National Park
August: Hiked Canyonlands National Park
September: Took a long and much needed break from hiking!
October: Established a new advisor (3rd time’s a charm!)
November: Freaked out about what I am supposed to be doing with my project.
December: Realized my data was not ‘working’ and dealing with vegetation really sucks...then freaked out some more!
January: Pulled my life back together and prepared a plan of attack with the help of an ‘un-official’ advisor.

There you have it...a short re-cap of what I have been up to. From this point on I will cover a random assortment of my daily (and past) adventures.