Bird banding station conversations.
Jim Steele, Alex Chadwick
Habitat discussion. Includes unidentified voices.
NPR/NGS Radio Expeditions
- Carmen Valley
- 39.6500042 -120.4881763
- 2060 meters
Decoded MS stereo
Log of DAT #:8
sheep ambi (bleeting and sheep bells).
Slate, the Bill staple will probably be better but as they were coming up the hill, where Bill was at the bottom of the hill, I noticed they were all coming towards me so I quickly turned on the tape machine and they came up towards me surrounded and then moved off to the left, my left. And you can hear the, coming towards and then moving on.
They actually surrounded you?
Yeah, they actually surrounded me.
Were they making noise?
Yeah. Well what happened was, I was sitting there watching Bill work. That's the way I learned, and all of a sudden they cross and then there was this one section that went behind him, which was this section and they all came up. So I sprinted back, got the stuff, planted myself there, and they were over there, over here, and over here. And they just moved that way. Like I said I was watching Bill and I saw them running.
sheep ambi. Sounds of walking.
I know Bill's tape is better but I just had to roll.
It's pretty good down there.
Yeah, well I was, I came halfway down and had my binoculars so I watching Bill, because, ya know, that's how I learn. And there's _?¬¬¬_ Alex's in one section, right behind you guys, and then there's this wall of sheep coming towards me so I grab the stuff put it there and then I planted myself and didn't move, so they thought I was a tree and they came around this way and then about this way, they were about four feet away. And then I saw them move that. So I was like, I can't let that opportunity, at least for my own tape.
See, we did this track this morning. Where we talked about driving down this road and suddenly the sheep magically appeared and come sweeping past us. I think when the sheep go running past Bill we could use it.
That's was great, cause I was watching that. I was like, oh now that's just good.
Did you get coffee?
I'm all set. It's empty and we have finished it off.
All right this is slate, we are back now, uh, we are back at the banding station for some interviews.
And I'm just testing a few things here. Testing.
mumbled conversation in background. Not very discernable.
That was a song sparrow
sound of wind picking up
laughing. He had that look, his eye's were pretty clear. Sometimes they just go quite./ Humming birds sometimes will almost go into a toper for a while so sometimes you can roll them around for a while before they just take off. He was just quite, but his eyes looked fine. If their eyes look droopy, then as Mack had that one earlier, his eyes looked a little bit droopy, but he was fine. Ya know I think sometimes, some of these birds fight and some of them are passive. The warblers and the flycatchers tend to be passive in the nets. It's easy to take them out, there's no pecking no nothing. The passive ones are just kind of waiting. And maybe it's like, uh, if an animal takes you in the mouth you just go passive and then sometimes you'll see cats will put them down and play with them and poof, they'll shoot. So that's probably part of their personality, so-to-speak.
Now, can we just talk over here for a minute. Just about general . . .
Here, I'm just gonna take off my, uh, . . .
How many more runs do you think he'll do today?
What time is it now? Ten?
So we have an hour and a half. We try to do a standard protocol, the Institute for Bird Populations does this maps program, so it ahs to be for six hours. We start within fifteen minute of sunrise and then run for six hours.
Tape is stopped. Starts again.
This is good. So just say who you are first, ok?
My name is Jim Steele.
And what do you do here?
I'm the director of the Sierra Nevada Field Campus and probably the lead researcher in this, we call the Sierra Nevada misnetting effort, reparium(?) misnetting effort.
Can you tell me about the history of this valley where we are? What is this valley?
Part of the Carmen Valley Watershed. This is, where we're standing right here is considered noots and meadows. Um, it's in the late eighteen hundreds this whole valley and Sierra Nevada just over the ridge were pretty much just dairy farms and other farms to try to feed the minors who were working at Sierra City, just over the ridge. And, uh, first they started hunting and then they brought in dairy probably in the late eighteen hundreds as the Swiss and Italian moved in.
Probably what's disrupted the valley the most is when they started doing logging in the early nineteen hundreds. They would do railroad logging and from the town of Calpine, where we came up, they would just radiate their tracks out throughout the forest, collect the trees, then get rid of their tracks and move onto to somewhere else.
So there used to be a railroad running through here?
Yeah, You can see the railroad broom(?) when it came in right across from where the old sheepherders cabin is. Right along this edge you can see the old remnants of the railroad track. It goes across and up, where you guys where with Cornell. It goes right across and there is sort of an old well. There used be like a train station there. It's an arch site so that they won't let us mess with that but they're gonna let us remove any of the burms(?) here that might still be affecting the flow of water.
What are you doing this morning here with the birds?
Ok, we're part of a monitoring effort, it has man facets to it, but what we're doing is monitoring the bird population using these nets. And so you put up ten nest and spread out through this whole meadow we run them for six hours. You catch the birds and you identify them to sex to age. And we're trying to get a handle on productivity, how many birds are being produced, and survivorship. There's a national program run by the Institute of Bird Population called MAPS Monitoring, ¬¬¬¬¬____?___, Productivity and Survivorship. The idea is with bird population is that they move. It is a tremendous problem to figure what is affecting their populations. They could be things in the breeding ground that causing them to have lower productivity; It could be things in the winter grounds or in transit in migration that are causing lower survivorship.
By putting a band on them and then getting an estimate of survivorship we can see how that changes by knowing the exact ages we can get a sense of how much productivity has happened every year. One of the ways people have monitored bird populations is they do two of these point counts and then they listen and I do two of these breeding bird surveys. But you're only monitoring singing males and you're making the assumption that that represents a breeding pair, approximately, but you don't have any estimate of productivity. The only way to really get the different age classes is by doing this misnetting. So I was blowing on their feathers, looking at the cloicas(?) and broi(?) patches and seeing what kind of breeding condition they're in. And doing different aging.
And how long have you been studying this meadow?
This particular meadow, we've been here for ten years. We set up six different sights. We try to get an elevation gradient because with snow pack we see bird populations will shift up and down, with different precipitation regimes in dry years we will tend to see more birds go up. In places like this if the if the hydrology is messed up then the birds will be fewer and they'll have to move upwards where the late snow thaw will have the vegetation a little fresher, especially the insect cleaners, like the warblers. So, we have a couple on the east side of the Sierra slope and some on the west and some on the ridge. You can see these kinds of shifts in population which I think is valuable because a lot of people just have one sight and they get very, they get to provincial in what they analysis is, like our birds our going down when they've really just shifted in elevation. We use all our six sights. All our data we pass on to the USGS bird-banding lab and to the MAPS people. And then we do our own analysis of what's going on here, so it's used on a local level and a broad level.
And what has he been seeing over the course of the past ten years?
Yeah, ok. And over the course of the ten years?
Well, there's a number of things and it breaks down to species by species, but in general I would have to say that we have seen a decline in our numbers. Some of that data is skewed. In 92-94 it looked like we had a whole lot of productivity and we had very high numbers and some of our sites were catching, in six hours we had four hundred or five hundred birds. Here we used to average back in those days 70 to 90 to100 birds, especially in the early spring. And the sound here was at least three times as much. I don't know who you give that a number, but. Our numbers our now down to where our average of the day is at 30 birds. So you see this decline. Some of the breeding bird surveys are showing decline in general in the west.
This particular site, the decline is much steeper. Some places are bouncing back. If you look over ten years, you going to see this variation, but this one has been steadily going down hill. And what we've seen, the correlation is that the hydrology, the old stream bed used to run right here in the middle of this old meadow. Because of what happened with the railroads the streambed has been moved off of its official course and channelized. In attempts to bring the water back with check dams those check dams broke loose and then the headcut worked through and drained the meadow. So this meadow has been drier than it should be in the last five or six of years and the birds have just plummeted with that.
And certain species have almost disappeared. Like we used to have purple finches always in here breeding. We just haven't seen them in a few years. The orange crows would come up from the lower elevations and stay here and molt, and they'd stay here for two months, three months, and then take off for migration. They can't finish their molt here. There's just not enough food here because of the dryness. So that's what's prompted us to push for the whole restoration here. At other sites we don't see that dramatic decline so we're not sure its part of the natural precipitation and snow regimes here.
You're trying to restore the stream to its former state or something like that. How long is this stream here.
Well the watershed here is maybe about, it's a small watershed, it might be six to nine miles. I'm not sure of the official length. This particular meadow is the first segment that we're going to try to restore and it would run right between these willows, over on the other side of the willows. Now a lot of the sage brush has come in, or a lot of these pines have come in. You can see different ages. Pines only come in when it's very dry. We think that a lot of this dryness has probably come in since the 1900s when the first did logging. They've tried to bring it back but check dams would start to work and then they'd fail. But if you look around you'll see all these pines creeping into what used to be a wet meadow. And you'll see these patches of old sedges that are just kinda barely holding on, these old clumps. That means it used to be a very wet place. And now instead you're seeing sagebrush and pines come in.
So, what we see will happen is when we bring the water back, the water will run back through here, it'll keep the water table fairly high through the whole growing season so instead of drying out in mid-June it could last for the whole year until the next rains or at least run through August when the birds are able to finish molting. So, ya know, the prediction I put out is that you would see birds that are more moisture dependent come back. And one that we're, that I really think will happen Will Flycatcher which is close to being endangered. Mostly, there's a battle, what's causing them to disappear? And where we see them the strongest is where there's some kind of wet habitat with slow moving water, enough to breed certain kinds of insects for them. In real wet years they'll be here, but it dries up to quickly so they'll leave. So one prediction when the restoration comes is that we'll be able to bring back an endangered species.
And hopefully if that happens it'll give more incentive for them to do more restoration elsewhere. Cause right they don't really know. They're just monitoring and watching the decline. The orange crown warblers that come up here, when it was wetter they would stay and finish up their molt fatten up and then leave. When it's dry now they're leaving before they can finish their molt. So I would predict them and a few other species would come up and we could watch them, we'd capture several times throughout the season. We come back here once every ten days. We'd watch them continue that process through September, which means, it's just sort of the vigor of the meadow has been restored and allows them to kind of stay here and take advantage of it. We'll see some species disappear out of the meadow proper like the bruer sparrow and probably the vesper sparrow but the wetlands species would come back and I would even expect to see water fowl, snipe spotted sandpiper, whatever. As the emergent vegetation comes back as we rewater it. So if you, uh, I don't know how much sound you recorded here today, but I'll make this bet that if you come back after we restore it that you'll hear at least three time the level and twice the number of species probably.
And how long do you think it will take to restore it?
In part I think in one year you'll be able to hear a significant difference. A lot of times these willows they try, if it's wet you'll see lots of shoots come out, lots of growth. A lot of insects will be attracted. And there could be other factors with some of these insects there might be a lag time before they can repopulate and so we might see bigger differences over in five years. But I think one year's difference, I wouldn't be surprised if we had Willa Flycatcher back here in one year. Whether they're successful breaders, that remains to be seen, but one year I think would make a big difference and two or threes years, for sure.
Alright. Good. Thank you. Carolyn, I see Goddi(?) over there if you want to go ask him.
We thought that because he could actually be able to hold a bird in his hand he could tell us a little bit about what he talked about last night, particularly about a bird's eye. So, um . . .
Ok, next up, I'm gonna go ahead and take some sound from where that interview just took place We'll call it a minute. Minute mark.
ambi sound. Crickets in the background, light wind.
Alright, that's one minute. I'm going to now walk into camp so you should be able to hear the hub-hub at branding station with the group there and I'm just gonna walk straight through.
ambi sound of footstep in the forest.
ambi sound of camp ground. Conversations in the background. End of a discussion of where the channel is going to go and how the restoration will work.
What they're gonna do is dig a pond, make a plug sound you'll have a pond behind it and it'll force the water to come back and take it's regular channel right through the middle these willows. And then they're gonna have plugs all the way down that channel so if it tries to get back it can't. And hopefully overtime it wills just keep its channel and those ponds will fill in. Otherwise they'll just remain as ponds.
Well, I hope you'll be able to repeat that for the group.
Oh yeah. That's what I'm saying. I can go and show the channel and give you a sense of what the problem is.
I think time wise we won't want to go out in there again or we won't get back to the camp at a reasonable hour but if you can point . . .
Well you see that deep trench and I can show you where it's cutting back up and this place is where they brought it back almost to the surface with check dams. But if you look out here you can see those willows straight across here, that's the level that the river was but if you go right to that spot you see there's a trench that drops down fifteen feet. And if you go down almost to where there's a little dip in those trees, right about there, you can see where a check dam broke. You can see where all this water has been coming down and slowly breaking pieces of earth as its fallen in. Basically what happens is they cal this a headcut, as the water falls the turbulence at the bottom undercuts the bank and the bank falls in then it works its way upstream. This has done this a number of times and basically you've had this headcut that's gone six miles up the whole watershed and pretty much dewatered all these meadows. So, these meadows could be sponges that would hold the water all throughout the year and instead by June they've been drained.
Now was this a planned thing to dig that dam, that ditch in there?
No, that ditch happened by this headcutting process. What happened, where you down where the sheepherders cabin was? No, well there's a big railroad burm that cuts across where they ran out to do railroad logging. And to dig this burm and put the railroad tracks on top you dig a ditch and borrow the dirt, pile it up. Well this ditch is now very deep. In the natural stream it would only be a couple of feet deep and a couple of feet wide, where this is now ten or fifteen feet wide, it captures the water.
The function of a flood plain is to dissipate the energy so when you have these high water events, and in this area you often have these rain or snow events that are very destructive and can rearrange everything, but a flood plain can handle that and the sediments basically just get shifted around. All the cutting power spread out on a flood plain and the stubble and everything kind of slows it down, but once it's channelized it stays there. The sediments just get shooted out. So instead of being redistributed and built up wherever it's cut down it's taken out of you meadow. Instead of the water spreading over the flood pain and rewatering the water table it's shooting it out so it's not rewatering it as much. And then once the rain stop it keeps cutting and now its so deep that now the water table is draining into this and carrying it away instead of a stream that's near the surface, it's still carrying water and keeping the lateral flow of it which would keep the meadow wet almost all summer.
So this kind of channelization process, and it could happen for, this happened because of railroads, sometimes it happens when the cows can break down the side, they can eat the vegetation destabilize it. It could've been, sometimes when these dairy farmers came in they tried to irrigate things so they dug their own ditches and tried to redirect the water. Or when people place roads, and you can see the road up there cut across so that kind of affected stuff. Right now what most people in the west, most environmentalists, are targeting is grazing and what I think the grazers can't do anything anymore right now. It's so dry basically they're gonna go out of business or you evacuate, you leave the meadow completely. But if we get all these cows out of here the birds are still gonna go down, cause it's not the cows that are causing the problem. We read some of the documents and they used to run ten times was many head through here and keep them out for ten times as long. And now they've cut it down for management reason, but it'' not helping because sort of what's gonna produce the capital for everything to eat and until that's fixed nothing can happen.
So who's coming in to fix it? The Forest Service or?
We pulled together a partnership. I had a mou(?) man five years ago and we got the Forest Service, we got the EPA, a group from Plumice Corporation whose done restoration work, some people as consultants from the San Francisco Estuary Institute and brought in the Sierra Valley Resource Conservation District. We all worked as a partnership. Sierra Nevada Field Campus with San Francisco State University is doing the biological monitoring and Plumice Corp. was doing a lot of the consulting, designing, and helping for the restoration for the hydrological stuff and the Forest Service has brought in their hydrologist and done a lot of that work with the Plumice Corp.
Is that why you're banding here then? Is this sort of a long-term census of . . .
This is a long-term monitoring, it was part of the partners in flight money that was awarded to us through the Forest Service, so we put all of our six sights on Forest Service Land, something I forgot to say last time. So we looked for Forest Service eland sites where we could find as many birds and riparian habitats as possible.
So are you going to continue to monitor out here after they've . . .
We're hoping that, ya know, it'll take five to ten years for the total restoration effects. I think after one year your gonna see some changes, but it takes a little while for the vegetation to come back, build dense roots, whatever bug populate to rebuild and birds to follow up on that. And you're not sure how many birds are gonna find their way back here to repopulate so after ten years you'd have a really good picture, so it'd be nice to have another ten years.
Oh that'd be great. Ten years at this site?
We have six sites and we've been ten years on all of them, so we have some pretty strong data to show, and I've seen a lot of studies that just have two data points and they'll say here's high here's low, so this is good or but we see within ours the different seasons you see the numbers going up and down a so you can get a good average and correlations with weather and everything else that some short term studies can't do. Unfortunately a lot of time people are pushing quick studies. They don't want long-term unless they know what's going on. So we feel like we're in a good positions and if the restoration works I think they'll want to give us the money to make sure that we can show this because I think it'll be a good model for people to show in other places.
Have you seen the populations go down some?
We're down at least than half the number of birds that we usually have. If we can get a tape that Dave has, he recorded the bird sounds here, and really it was so many birds that you could barely pick out the individuals and now you come here and it's really, it's dull.
breaks into different mumbled conversations
sounds of footsteps/walking in forest, branches crackling. Also some more mumbled conversation.
Sounds of car door closing
Recording is stopped. Start again.
He cam out right in front of us! That's one of those . . . Look at that!
Ambient sound -bird
Yeah it's windy.
sound of car doors closing
Stop, Alex, Alex, stop (whispering)
You go first.
ambient sound birds. Intermittent sounds of walking.
That's was about four minutes right under the bridge at the meadow on the first day we were here. Trying to get something. I hope the wind wasn't too bad. It was a very brisk wind coming through. The growth and of course some birds, but I'm not exactly sure how that came out. Something natural I can use to my advantage.
ambi sound birds
That was a few minutes more down. Again the wind picks up and we have some problems.
We're gonna try to put this almost right in the water, on a rock.
ambi sounds -birds
1:04:20's - good
Alrighty, that was more, the microphone was on a small rock and its overlooking the entire little pond here right by the second bridge at the same location we were on Day 2. Hopefully you hear some of the wind rustling through but not the wind itself. I'm turning it down for a second now.
volume decreases. sounds of walking. Intermittent bird tweets in background.
We're just gonna listen to something here. See if the wind crept in too much or not.
Tape is stopped. Recording starts again.
Conversation and laughing in background
I'm just hanging, just hiding behind you.
When I grow up I'd like to be just like you.
I was actually talking to my fiancé the other night and she was like well tell me some of the people. I was like well this there is this wonderful man, can be more than slightly over the other side of fifty, gonna retire. This is what their gonna do. What do ya think sweetie? She's like, ¿What a great idea. ! But ya know I don't camp, ya kow I don't really like the woods.¿ I said oh yeah I forgot that there was something that we disagreed on.
Well, my wife said that same thing but they come around.
They come around (laughing).
mumbled conversation in back ground
tape is stopped. Recording starts again
You'll get all the feeding noises of the rhinoceros over there. (laughing)
It's all right. We're with a group here. Just say who you are and how we should identify you.
I'm Gahdikatzia(?) from Israel, from Hayfor(?) University in the North. I'm here at Cornell University on sabbatical leave and I'm attending this course in field recording systems.
And you're a professor
A visiting professor
And what is it you teach?
I'm basically an ethologist, a zoologist trained in animal behavior. And I'm working mainly in vision and visually guided behavior in birds, but also in fish and other vertebrates.
That first morning, after the first recording session, I heard you talking with some other students about you impressions. Can you just tell me what you were experiencing and what it seemed like to you.
It's a very unique experience. I think that we, as human beings we are highly visual and highly auditorial, custical creatures, but usually vision dominates your movements al around. But suddenly you put these headphones on and you've got a microphone that is very sensitive and it gives you an additional space. It's as if you ability to attend to stimuli, to incorporate information, is far greater that anything you've experienced so far. It's in order of magnitude if you like. In getting sounds from long distances with very high acuity and it provides information of what's going on about you as if, a sphere beyond what you've been experiencing so far.
But you're a trained animal observer. You've been doing this for many years.
It's true, but every time you are exposed to it anew it's a totally new experience because the are is new the acoustic features are different and the animals you are attending to are different. You find lots of lines of parallelism, of common denominators, but lots of new features are all the time incorporated. It's as if you're floating, really floating, in a space that you have not been aware of in a long long time. And I think that the instruments here are making you aware of your capacities. It's very unique. Very unique, very exciting.
Why did you take this course?
Two basic reason. One is as a biologist interested in animal behavior, communication, localization of sound and so forth are extremely important even if you not in that field. I think that for animals, both vertebrates and invertebrates, you have to understand their sensory systems and their capacity to utilize sensory information for their everyday life, for movement, for predator action, for escape. You have to experience it yourself. You can't just read about it and hear about it in books. You have to feel and get you fingers wet. The other issue is my own research program. I'm very interested in acoustics as well as vision and I aim in the future to go into programs that will utilize acoustic communication, both vertebrates and invertebrates, for processes of evolutionary reasons.
If you could talk about the process of discovery and seeing things new and fresh. When you put on the headphone for the first time, and that microphone, what happened to you, inside you?
First of all, as I said, it's the burst of new information that you are exposed to and the other thing that happens is that you suddenly realize that you can close your eyes and create an image of the surrounding using sound a lot. And usually we are dominated by vision, we attend to a lot of acoustical information, but we usually guide our movements and so forth more by vision. And a lot of our communication is visual and acoustic. But here you have a chance of putting a blind over your eyes and just attending to the acoustical features of the environment starting from the physical nature of leaves rustling and ending in what you are trying to attempt to do and that is voices or acoustic of animals around, both invertebrates and vertebrates.
But something does happen in your heart because you get this enormous grin.
Yes. It's a feeling that something, ya know, in a puzzle, that something fell into the right place. For a long time there was a vacant space that had to be filled and the experience and the real sensation of feeling the acoustical world around you. And I think this first experience cause the grin to widen. I think that was the experience. Now you know you can listen much better, get more information and feel things that you haven't felt before.
Yes, feel them. (laughing) People will say, well, it's to the psychophysicists to test what you are actually feeling, but it's a new feeling. Feeling the sound world around you is a very unique feeling and it comes anew every time that it dominates you it comes anew.
I don't know the answer to this question and I don't know that you know the answer to this question and there probably is no answer to this question, no right answer. But why is it that you repeatedly have this experience with people that put on headset and a microphone and they listen out there and they hear these things and they just start grinning. They just start smiling. It makes them happy.
I think that it's the deep response to, it's like, let's put it like this: Climbing up a steep slope and suddenly coming onto a beautiful valley or gorge or scenario. It's a feeling of awe, it's a feeling of such a unique experience that you want to float within it. I mean, reaching a mountain peak, you've been walking all the time, using your other sense to a given extension and suddenly a whole new domain is opened before you. Not that we don't use audition al the time. We do it extremely well and we do it so well that we are not aware of our use including now that we are talking face-to-face. But I think that the headphones and the microphones provide you and extension, a much greater extension of your own capacities, and I think that floating feeling within a world of sound is what causes people to respond so deeply.
I'll get this on you guys go get some dinner.
Don't go starving.
No I won't.
This is about a minute of sound at the same location that previous interview was at.
1:24:15 Tape is stopped. Recording starts again.
1:25:32 - 1:24:58 Shawn
Alright, we're gonna slate this water, and it's the water of what I believe is the Yuba River just outside of the camp by the parking lot. Carolyn and Alex will know what river. But this is a full clone river. It's recording and I am in the center of the river on a big old rock.