To Zion we go!

May 18, 2008
This is truly the job I have always dreamed of doing, even as a little kid. Studying wildlife in an amazing place. I always imagined myself studying large mammals in places like Yellowstone or Glacier. But I think this is better...so far. Today is the third day in Zion. Adjusting myself to the daily routine of taking it easy during the day, sleeping in, staying out of the sun, etc., in preparation for our crepuscular study. Hard work! Last night we went out with all our crew, composed of Kyla, Heather, Steph, Mike, Chad, Kerri, Dave, and myself, to Twin Canyon. A couple of hours before sunset we hiked to the top of the canyon to observe roosting spots or high activity centers. We descended and stopped at a calling station (an arbitrary station set up by the field worker to call/hoot for the owls) to listen. Once the sun set, Dave (our professor and boss) started hooting. He called multiple times with no response. Same result with the next station up canyon. At this point we are feeling hopeless for finding an owl, but Dave's patience pays off. A female owl responded with an agitated contact call, thinking that another owl had invaded her territory. It was awesome being in the canyon at night, scrambling and leaping from rock to rock, hearing the owls hooting. This is going to be a fascinating summer. I will be stationed here in Zion for the whole summer with Mike and Steph, after some training in Grand Canyon and Capitol Reef.
Getting here over the past few days, I took it easy, stopping for the night at Luke's in Pocatello and then in Salt Lake City with Andrew, which was all really great. The first night here we just set up camp and relaxed. The next day we all set out up the canyon on the shuttle system and had a great hike up Hidden Canyon, which we will be visiting tonight to determine owl occupancy. I am very pleased with the crew...I feel relaxed around everyone, which gives me a lot of confidence. Dave is really cool, but he likes to talk a lot and is full of energy. All the other guys like to drink, but they are respectful about it...so far. It has been interesting adjusting to the desert. I definitely do not drink enough water and I have to tone down the adventurer in me so as not to over-exhaust myself during the day with night work still to do until early in the morning.
The desert is in bloom now, with an array of colors, familiar and unfamiliar. Even many yucca are throwing up their last bit of energy into flowering. The birds at our site go nuts every morning. So far I haven't been able to get up to do some hardcore birding yet, and probably won't until my days off. I am very pleased to be stationed at Zion (instead of the Grand Canyon), and very excited to make this place feel like home. There is so much to explore. But the heat is a killer. Nothing can really be done during midday. But that will take adjusting to. My goal this summer is to have fun, not get injured, avoid getting drunk, and enhance my photography skills!

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