Ranger Kathryn's Arches

April 7, 2011

Breeding Bird Census #1

Kathryn listens for birdsong at dawn, with the La Sal Mountains as a backdrop

0445 came early. My eyes opened to see the green numbers on the alarm clock, and I pushed myself to a sitting position. Rubbed the sleep from my eyes, threw on uniform and fleece layers, ate my Cheerios and strawberries, drank tea, grabbed my full pack and a flashlight, and headed down the pitch-black road to meet my boss at the truck.

We had to be at the census plot 30 minutes before sunrise, and it’s about a 40-minute drive to get there; that makes these census days start very, very early. As we watched the La Sal Mountains become silhouetted by the pre-dawn light behind them, we knew that NOBODY in a cubicle in corporate America would be having a better day than ours.

Sol's first rays hit the Entrada sandstone fins of Devils Garden. Photo by Tricia.

Mission: to discover what breeding birds inhabit our census plot near Devils (sic) Garden. (Excuse the digression, but I think it’s a government plot to rid the English language of apostrophes!)

Forty-five pinflags mark a grid, with 100 meters separating each. My task is to walk the entire circuit once a week for ten weeks, clipboard in hand, stopping three minutes at each flag. Any bird I see or hear must be coded onto the data sheet according to its behavior and sex, if known. The entire census will take me one day weekly to gather data and record it on species maps. Sighting clusters will indicate that birds are nesting in the plot; if I always see a pair of Juniper Titmice at G3, for example, there’s got to be a nest nearby.

This is going to be one of my much-loved tasks this season. A day spent in the shadow of mighty Entrada sandstone fins, with all senses heightened to take in every bird I can find, and nobody intruding on my solitude…

Today’s photos taken by Tricia, nature photographer extraordinaire. I left my camera at home on purpose so I could concentrate on birds.

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September 28, 2010

Fiery Furnace fall fuels full-on (f)rescue

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 8:10 am
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Wheeling the litter along the rock ledges

I was in the Visitor Center when a radio transmission came in from the head law enforcement ranger. She needed helpers on a litter carry-out from the Fiery Furnace, where a portly 66-year-old man had injured his ankle while on the ranger tour. In the maze-like Furnace, the more helpers the merrier; it’s rough, difficult, challenging terrain that often requires lowering of a litter via ropes over edges. It’s also a labyrinth in which people get lost.

Fitting fifteen people and a litter through a narrow crack in the sandstone is tricky

The litter isn’t more than two feet wide at the shoulders, but the patient was located in the most distant area of the route and we’d have to squeeze through several cracks in the Entrada sandstone fins in order to get to him and carry him out. Not overly difficult with a light empty litter; another story entirely with an aging uncomfortable injured man on board.

Fifteen (15) park workers took part in this rescue. It took a few hours. The patient wasn’t hurt badly but he could not walk. In thin or bouldery places we had to pass the litter forward with carriers peeling off the back and scurrying to the front to receive the next hand-off. This was not easy. Nor was it easy to carry him through places which had 5-inch widths for feet and about 18 at shoulder height.

The Furnace is a place of extreme handsomeness

My mind flashed back fifteen months to my very first day ever in uniform at Arches, when a man fell from Turret Arch and needed a helicopter to pick him up and take him to Colorado to repair his broken femur. Sunday’s incident was my last day at Arches 2010 — a fitting bookend to my first rescue event.

The injured man will remember this day long after his sprained ankle is healed. For us rangers it was just another day on the job. Part of the (unwritten) Ranger Code includes always being ready to help when needed, and I am glad I was able to be part of a resourceful team that solved problems handily. My uniform sure needs a washing, however, and my boots some more polish…

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