Monday, May 25, 2015

Free Ranging Ducks and Chickens - Hide and Seek with Eggs

Geo-caching is a high-tech version of hide and seek, complete with GPS and computer resources.  Our decidedly low-tech version is finding where our free-range ducks hide their eggs every morning.
Waddling home, always single file

During the winter, Mrs and Daylate, our harlequin females, lay their eggs in the nesting boxes of the coop they share with our Rhode Island Red chickens. But as soon as the snow recedes around the roots of trees, they explore options for future nests – waddling under overturned root balls and digging their bills into rotted trees and surrounding earth to assess softness. When the top several inches of a desirable location has warmed up, we no longer find eggs in the coop and start our morning game.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Citizen Scientists Monitor Lakes in Alaska

Once a month from May to October, Laura and Bryan Emerson squeeze into their blue tandem kayak surrounded by $4600 worth of scientific equipment and paddle out to the deepest section of their remote lake to measure water quality. An hour or so later, they fly the samples and notes via their 1954 Piper PA-20 to a staff member of the Mat-Su Borough Volunteer Lake Monitoring program, who meets them at a roadside lake in order to whisk the time sensitive samples to a lab near Palmer.
Kayaking out to test the lake water
photo by Howard Feldman

To date, the Emersons are the only volunteers monitoring an off-road lake, and the program coordinator, Melanie Trost, would like to recruit additional flyers for the summer of 2015.  Even people who cannot do monthly water sampling can help with occasional observations,” says Melanie. “We welcome reports of dumping, pollution, and invasive plants in our lakes and rivers. One concern is old polystyrene docks, which beavers and muskrats chew and burrow into, and the sun deteriorates, releasing the little foam beads into the watershed where it looks like food to birds, fish, and mammals. Pilots can tell us what they see on a particular time and day at a lake they visit.”