“Nothing is obvious to the uniformed”
A dedicated park volunteer told us this quote I really liked!
As I was walking slowly along the meadow and looking for butterflies I reflected on this. I am a person who at times finds it hard to speak up for myself but this quote really helped and made me realize there is no reason to not speak up for yourself after all, we are interning at national parks to learn!
I have really been enjoying the walks along the transects for my butterfly monitoring project. Before this summer, I had never walked along the path and paid attention to insects. Typically I would look up at the trees, look for birds at times, look for large wildlife, and look at the shrubs and grasses on the sides. Now, as I walk along trails even when I am not looking for these fairly small insects, I find myself paying attention to the smaller details that many people don’t usually find the time to stop and look at. This project has allowed me to slow down in this often fast paced world to observe and appreciate the little details.
“Ouch, I lost count how many times I poked myself with these pins.” Pinning insects can be delicate work and requires a steady hand and a gentle touch. After weeks of collecting across different sites at the park, the collection for this year’s project is coming together. If you are wondering how insects are preserved, it requires little labor compare to other animals. For my project, bee specimens that were collected have to be washed first. Wait a second, washing bees! Yes, bees require “washing” to get rid of pollen and to overall clean specimens. All that is needed to do this is a sealed container filled with soapy water. Bee specimens are placed in the container and the container is shaken up for 10 mins. After they are washed, then they are gently patted dry with a paper towel. Dried specimens are then ready to be pinned. Pins are placed through each specimen on its right thorax (near wing joint). Pinning on the right side of the thorax is the standard for pinning insects. Pinned specimens are put in a display case to store for future research. Often, specimens that have been stored for decades are still used today by researchers doing studies on the species. Many insect species may look similar, but small characteristics identifies the differences between them.
About a month ago I visited the Santa Cruz River and observed all the different species of animals. Since then, I visited the river two more times and each time there was water. On July 6th I visited the river again. To my surprise the river had no water flowing in its banks. I have visited the Santa Cruz River many times in the year, especially during bird walks in the months of January through April, but I have never seen it dry. The celebration of the summer rains of El Dia de San Juan have passed and so far very little rain has fallen since. We may be looking at late monsoon this year.
Yet life is resilient. I walked to where the stream usually is and to my astonishment I saw jumping frogs. Then, I got startled by rustling leaves on the ground; it was a whip-tailed lizard (Cnemidophorus sonorae). Above me, I heard all kinds of singing birds. To my right was the sound of a well concealed Yellow-breasted chat (Icteria virens). On top of
the Freemont cottonwoods (Populus fremontii) was a gray hawk (Buteo plagiatus) in search of its next prey. All over the river I could hear lesser goldfinches (Spinus psaltria). Life at the river continues its usual course, but for how long? Eventually we are going to need life’s most precious resource: water.