Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Snickers, Spaghetti and Sunfish

The past few days have seen a turmoil of changes, challenges and chocolate. The change: Brendan having to leave the island early because of health trouble; the challenge: suddenly having to monitor 120 nests, instead of 60; and the chocolate: the grand arrival of Dave's much-awaited package containing three hefty packets of mini-Snickers.

Dave's "care" package
The loss of my co-intern was, to put it mildly, not easy to deal with. I was worried for him, because he was feeling really sick, worried for his nests, that went unmonitored for three days, and worried about myself, for it was hard to walk into the RIFS lab and see his tackle box sitting there, ready to go, and knowing that he wasn't here anymore to pick it up, don his poncho, wish me a cheery “good luck out there today!” and head out again just to finish his nest-checks in record time and beat me yet again. Low morale, demotivation, loneliness, call it what you will, the day he left I found myself not even done with half of my usual nest-checks at 11 o' clock, unable to will myself to go any faster for what was the use without any competition? 

But, what can I say, the gulls, they just have this amazing charm about them that greatly helped dispel my sad feelings. The highlight of my day was when I was checking one of Brendan's nests near PK lab and saw a 15 day old A chick that hadn't been seen in a while. I jumped into the poison ivy, fended off the parent who still managed to leave a few unpleasant, angry red nicks on the back of my leg, and grabbed the struggling chick and ran off with it to the bench where I'd left my equipment. As I was trying to get the calipers to open up, the chick started vomiting. OK, that was normal, but what made me exclaim loudly and frantically call over Lauren, Christine and Andrea, who were just walking into PK, was the fact that the vomit consisted of, well, spaghetti. Yep, you read it right, the chick barfed up pasta. Made. My. Day. And the most intriguing thing about this episode is that we haven't had pasta on Appledore for a while, so where the parent gull got hold of some remains a mystery.

15-day-old chick vomit = spaghetti!

Another exciting thing happening on the island was the dissection of a giant Ocean Sunfish (Mola mola). Sadly, the first time that it was attempted, the fish was frozen solid and needed to be thawed further before an incision could be made in its thick, rough skin. 

Frozen Mola mola
An attempt at thawing the Mola
Thus the dissection was put off and when they finally got around to cutting it open, I was out on Norwegian checking nests. I think I deserve good gull intern credit for continuing with my nest-checks even after receiving two excited Mola dissection texts, but I wish I had abandoned my nests that one time because the inside of the Mola looks really cool in these photos taken by Kayla. Moreover, and to everyone's surprise, the stomach of the Mola, largely thought to be a jellyfish eater, contained small fish! 

Mola innards, photo courtesy of Kayla Garcia
Fish from the Mola's stomach, photo courtesy of Kayla Garcia
Never a dull moment on Appledore and I was kept busy, and my spirits kept relatively high. Kate Bemis and Andrew Swafford, TAs for Evolution and Marine Biodiversity, pitched in and helped me with nest-checks, making the process so much more efficient that I had a hard time keeping up with the unfamiliar nest numbers under the steady stream of squirming chicks.

And today, Michelle Moglia, a friend who took Field Ornithology with me earlier in the month, arrived, to step into Brendan's shoes, and the boat she was on also bore Dave's glorious snicker-filled package. It thunderstormed and rained gloriously in the morning and then cleared up marvelously in the evening. I introduced Michelle to the joys of data entry and we ate cheesecake for dessert. It was a good day.


I wrote all of that yesterday and then didn't get around to posting it and then I made an exciting discovery today so I had to write this and hence the three dashes.

Today Michelle and I were out checking nests in Norweigan when she goes, “Um, B chick leg.” She'd found a chick leg with a blue ring on it! And while it is definitely sad to know that one of the chicks got eaten, it was still an exciting find because we could tell from the blue ring that it was a B chick that got eaten! Unfortunately, I couldn't quite pinpoint which B chick but I have a hunch that it was 12H225's...

B chick leg!

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