23 June 2014

Plotting

This past week, I was lucky enough to go to a conference about digitizing biological collections and working on the ecological relationships of insects in Riverside, California. The conference focused on several groups of insects (they people I worked with were interested mostly in the families Miridae and Reduviidae), and we got to swap all kinds of ideas regarding studying interconnected biological systems.

Luckily, not everyone exclusively works on insects, and a couple of us managed to sneak away and do some birding before we got started with lectures on the second day. We followed Two Trees Canyon up above the campus of University of California--Riverside, and thought diversity was low, we got our fair share of California birds. Lesser Goldfinches sang overhead while Song Sparrows sang in the brush and the occasional Red-tailed Hawk flew by. Nuttall's Woodpeckers foraged in the Western Scrub-Jay infested trees and several pairs of Wrentits called the canyon home. It was a good escape from the indoors, and gave me a chance to see many species that I had not seen in several years.

Chamaea fasciata

Wrentits, like this one I photographed several years ago near San Diego, were fairly common near UC Riverside.

Though it was a nice four day foray into the Pacific coastal region, I am now back in Kansas plotting my next moves. Starting Thursday, I will be meeting up with Caroline to do a lower plains circuit. Together, we will drive to Colorado for my cousins wedding and then make our way to Arkansas to see Caroline's family before working our way back up to Lawrence again.

Rough outline of our route, with Lawrence marked by the letter "J".

Along the way, we have the opportunity to visit the high points of three states (Mt. Sunflower, Kansas; Black Mesa, Oklahoma; and Mt. Magazine, Arkansas) as well as explore much of the plains in the central united states. We will be visiting salt pans, xeric woodlands and the beautiful Ozarks. All of this will be interspersed with meeting with family and generally enjoying our time together as we drive across the states. We will return to Lawrence, and the next day Caroline will return to Louisiana and I will head to Cameroon.

Once in Cameroon, I will be attending the week long Central African Biodiversity Alliance conference, where I will be networking, working with GIS and practicing data collection in Yaounde, Cameroon. From there, I will travel west to Buea on the slopes of Mt. Cameroon, and then head deep into the jungles of Korup National Park. If there is time, I will also head north in the volcanic highlands of Bamenda and search for some of the unique endemics found in the mountains of western Cameroon. After three weeks in this amazing country, I will travel to Douala and return home to Lawrence. Need less to say, come August, I plan on sleeping for a few days straight.

Outline of Cameroon route. Equatorial Guinea, specifically in Bata and Malabo (on Bioko) are where I was in November.

I'll keep posting as I can, and let you know how the summer progresses!

03 June 2014

print("Programming Fun")

So far this summer, I have been cooped up in my office working with GIS and programming nearly everyday. And strangely, I love it. Every time I stare at my computer I am staring into a plethora of biogeographic relationships and learning more and more about the geography of South America. My progress is slow, but steady, and my pace is increasing as I learn more and become more skilled.

I have, however, had the chance to get out a few times lately. I have been working on my Douglas County list to keep me motivated to bird near home, and that has largely been successful. I have seen many great local birds around Lawrence, and even saw Indigo, Painted, and Lazuli Buntings in the area this spring. By far the best bird so far though was the first state record Hooded Oriole that visited an area north of town. Seen by many, I was able to stop by and see this wonder on my way home from work.

Icterus cucullatus (cucullatus group)

The first state record Hooded Oriole (Icterus cucullatus) in Lawrence, Kansas

With other birds, I have not been so lucky. A territorial Black-billed Cuckoo has eluded me every time I've searched, much to my chagrin, but other surprises have kept me going. A Bell's Vireo on campus was a nice surprise, and a while back many Black Terns were moving through the area. Now, the birds are settling in to breed, and nearly everywhere I go I hear the incessant songs of the Dickcissels.

Spiza americana

A male Dickcissel (Spiza americana) singing at Clinton Lake in Douglas County, Kansas

I also got an opportunity to upload some of my audio recordings from my Colorado trip. The best recording, a Greater Prairie-Chicken lek in Wray, Colorado, can be heard here:

http://www.xeno-canto.org/180588

For now, it is back to work. Soon, the gears of travel will be in motion for me once again. I have just received my Cameroonian visa in the mail, and I will soon begin the convoluted trip of Kansas to California to Kansas to Colorado to Arkansas to Kansas to Belgium to Cameroon. I'll be looking forward to getting a few days in the same place before too long! That's all for now - hopefully I'll be able to post again soon.

11 May 2014

Grousing

In late April, I led my first solo-tour for Tropical Birding. Having worked with them several times in the past (namely in Texas and Ecuador), it was fun to be able to do a full tour. My targets: all the grouse in Colorado. We drove a circuitous route around the state, finding all but Dusky Grouse and even getting a few surprises along the way. Rather that re-write the entire trip, you can read the trip report here.

Tympanuchus phasianellus male displaying