The Migratory Bird Crew was able to cover 481920 acres during the season. We recovered 1506 bird skulls from mine claim markers, hopefully preventing 1506 future birds from becoming trapped. The team was able to set two live birds free from two different mine claim markers, a season highlight for all of us. The crew pulled 2176 markers in all, more than half of them during the 6th and final hitch. Work Totals Area Covered (acres) 481920 Claim Markers Found Empty 1644 Claim Markers Knocked Down 2176 Mammals Extracted from Markers 97 Reptiles Extracted from Markers 118 Birds Extracted from Markers 1506 Live Animals Found 10 Special thanks to our agency partners for their support throughout this challenging field season!
The challenges of this project are many. They include heat and the constant sweating that accompanies it, headaches when you do not drink enough water, sleepless nights during the frequent windstorms, hard work under a ceaseless sun, nausea (you may not know exactly what caused it, but trust me it happens regularly out here), fire ants that bite, cactus spines in your feet, and the disgusting feeling that only accompanies 10 days of hard work in the dirt under a blazing sun without showering. On top of all that, this hitch was particularly difficult for me. I learned just before we left for the field that my grandfather had suffered a stroke.
With the knowledge of those challenges weighing heavily on everyone’s mind, the Dead Bird Squad went into our final hitch in Tonopah, NV. The Tonopah area is about 15 to 20 degrees cooler than the Las Vegas area where we had been working until now.
The team experienced a new challenge in this area. Instead of struggling to find mine claim markers, we were suddenly swimming in them. Thousands of markers became a daunting task to pull, especially at the end of the season when everyone is tired, uncomfortable, and beginning to think about where they will be after this internship is over.
The crew managed the daunting task of pulling such a large number of poles admirably. More poles were pulled during this single hitch than in the five previous hitches combined.
It has been a long season filled with many challenges both in the field and out. I have learned a lot about the desert, the SCA, and further identified where my strengths and weaknesses as a leader lie. I am proud of the work that my team has completed for two reasons. One because it will hopefully save birds in the future, and second because it was done to the best of our abilities despite of a myriad of setbacks.
Although these markers cannot be removed from the field, it became legal to pull out PVC mine claim markers in Nevada on November 1, 2011. The Dead Bird Squad would like to encourage anyone who may be hiking around Nevada to pull out hollow PVC mine claim markers and join us in the fight to save cavity-nesting birds.
Desert Eagle. Over and out.
Written by Heather Rogers
Hitch number five contributed many good memories to this project. First and foremost was the beauty we all encountered throughout the eight days in the field. On field day number two Leah and I came back from pulling a pole, sat down in the truck bed to collect our thoughts, and witnessed something phenomenal. Two hummingbirds’ flew separately to the back of the truck, one with a pink stomach, and stared at us for a good five seconds before flying away. To say the least, this event made our day.
On top of the beautiful animals including donkeys and five wild horses, the first camp site we chose was the most spectacular we’ve seen. There was rock coverage on three sides, as well as a stunning view from on top of the biggest rock formation. It has been the little things on hitches that prove to be the most uplifting. We covered many acres, 75,000 on the first day, in hopes of finding what we often call “white pearls.” These pearls or poles need to come out. After seeing the devastation they can cause to birds it is helpful to think of the beauty we come across in order to continue our conservation work.
The Dead Bird Squad is up to any challenge the desert might throw our way. There were a couple of days where poles were pulled in bunches. In total we pulled 136 poles, and found 201 unfortunate birds. The bird lives that we are potentially saving by pulling these poles should never be understated. With our heart and drive, the white pearls will continue to fall, bird lives will be saved, and a team will grow even further.
Written by Matt Hausserman
As a child, I was fortunate to grow up in a small Midwestern town. My younger years were spent being surrounded by the never-ending greenery of trees, grass, corn fields, and wildflowers. Each day I woke up to chirping birds and mooing cows, while eventually falling asleep to the yip yap of neighboring coyote families. My life changed once high school came to an end. After some time had passed, I moved to Florida where I attended college. It was a big change from where I had grown up. Palm trees, beaches, and the warm gulf waters had become the norm. With my college days coming to an end and graduation approaching, I made the decision to move to Las Vegas, Nevada.
While moving from Illinois to Florida was a big change, nothing could have prepared me for this next venture. When I first moved to Las Vegas the bright lights, unique buildings and people caught my attention. Anything you could ever want or imagine is here. Who would have thought that a city like Las Vegas could exist in the middle of the desert? What even comes to mind when someone says the word desert? Desolate? Lifeless? Inhospitable?
I had been living in Las Vegas, Nevada for about two years when I got accepted into the SCA’s Migratory Bird Project. Fortunately for me, the work we would be doing was within southern Nevada. While this was great for me, my other team members would have to adjust. It had taken me a good amount of time to get used to the long hot days that seemed to never disappear with the setting sun. I worried for them, as I knew how hot it would eventually get as the months progressed.
Almost two months have now passed, and I can say that they were not the only ones that had to re-adjust themselves to the desert climate. Our ten day hitches can and usually are brutal. My home during hitch is a small two-person tent. We get up around 5 am and walk on average about four miles a day in sometimes triple digit weather, while at the same time, hiking through steep mountainous terrain, avoiding spiny cacti, spiders, and snakes along our path in hopes of finding a mine marker.
Even though days can be difficult, I have been able to experience a lot of great things just within hitch four. Being an avid birder, I was pleasantly surprised to find that Amelia Savage (our BLM contact) would be taking us out to perform some bird count surveys, where we learned to identify Western birds by call and species. We also saw many other species of wildlife including the rare desert tortoise, roadrunner, golden eagle, coyotes, and a bobcat. And last but not least, we set up the green monster. This is a huge army tent that at first gave us some trouble, but the struggle was worth it because the tent provided us with an immense amount of shade throughout the last few days of the hitch.
While daily life has not been easy during this project, I have discovered through all of the ups and downs to be all worth it. I work with amazing crew members, save animal lives, and learn something new each day. I have found that there ultimately is beauty away from the bright lights of Las Vegas. I have come to respect the plants and animals that spend their entire lives surviving and thriving in an environment that I struggle in for a meager 10 days. If it was not for the Student Conservation Association, I may have never been able to discover this, and that I am truly thankful for.
Written by Leah Daniel
After the first two hitches, the Migratory Bird Squad had removed over 400 mining claim markers in the area south of Las Vegas. At the beginning of the third hitch, I thought that having a goal of 70 claim markers knocked down over the course of our eight field days would be a nice goal for the team. This goal would have placed the Migratory Bird Squad over 1,000 claim markers for the first three hitches.
The third hitch started out with a couple of positive events. Matt Hausserman joined our crew on May, 22nd, and on his first day, he was part of the team which found a living bird, probably a flycatcher, in one of the mining claim markers. This was a huge event for the team and for Matt to experience this on his first day was quite spectacular. The whole purpose for our work in the Southern Nevada Bureau of Land Management District is to save and prevent birds from dying. This specific incident brought me back to the team’s previous off days spent in Zion National Park in which we encountered a family of ducklings who were motherless. The poor ducklings were searching for their mother while swimming upstream and this made me think about all of the baby birds that these mine markers could be leaving parentless or all the potential hatchlings that could have been if It were not for these mine markers. While watching the ducklings trying to find their mother was saddening, being able to prevent a bird from dying and saving a life is our team’s focus.
The second day of the hitch was the most productive day of the project, not with the number of poles removed but with the number of potential birds saved. The two teams combined to find 311 bird remains and potentially save a similar number in the future. While this was an amazing feat and took most of the work day, there was still a great deal of other excitement. The two teams managed to save a lizard and a mouse throughout the day. The two teams also encountered a camel spider, while Joe and I saw a rattlesnake and some other kind of snake that was halfway in a hole and not moving. Hearing a rattlesnake rattle, probably a Diamondback, for the first time and looking down to see it within six inches of your foot is quite the experience.
After two very successful days in the field, we moved to the Jean and Goodsprings area because we were told that there would be a good amount of mine markers to remove from that area. Upon arrival, very few markers were seen and on further inspection of the area, only 26 markers were found over the course of two days. The campsite we had in Jean was probably the best site that we have stayed in visually, but as night fell, the wind picked up to the point where no one slept and one team member had the wind almost completely buckle the tent on top of her.
With the low numbers of markers found in the Jean area, and with half of them already filled in by other people, we decided to try the Nelson and Searchlight areas as directed by our Bureau of Land Management contact. We then spent parts of three days in Nelson, part of two days east of Searchlight, and part of one day closer to the California/Nevada border south of Route 164. We covered a large area of land in Nelson but only found 6 claim markers, similarly, we only found 6 claim markers east of Searchlight. We had a slight redeemer as we moved closer to the border with California near the Crescent Mine, removing 10 markers.
The last field day of the hitch was spent travelling to Mormon Mesa where we removed another 10 markers. Heather and I stumbled across a full desert tortoise shell that looked almost fresh since there were still some visible parts of the tortoise inside the shell, however, a scavenger had consumed most of it. Joe, Leah, and Matt found the largest scorpion that any of us have seen so far, unfortunately it was also dead. While at Mormon Mesa, we ran into a team working on a wild horse project, affiliation unknown, claiming to have been removing or capping mine claim markers. We also learned that California had recently passed a law making it legal to remove the claim markers from their land which is a huge win for environmentalists and wildlife.
Overall, we fell short of my original goal of removing 70 claim markers per day, totaling 214 claim markers removed but we did save three living beings, a bird, a lizard, and a mouse. We eclipsed the 1,000 bird mark by finding 394 bird skulls. This hitch started out as a huge success and then after the first two days we struggled to find work to do and spent most of our time searching for mine claim markers to pull. During this time, we covered a lot of ground but did not find much in terms of claim markers but hopefully because of the work we did, other teams and crews will not have to return to the areas where we were.
Written by Ian Laing
The Migratory Bird Protection Team’s second hitch got off to a rough start when a spring on the trailer broke before we left Las Vegas. After a day of having little luck spotting mining claim markers in the southernmost tip of the state, our crew moved north to the Nipton area just off of Joshua Tree Highway. Program Manager Jamie Weleber joined our crew for the third day of the hitch. It was tough to spot claim markers within the Joshua trees and some markers were unreachable due to a large and mysterious fence, but we began to see an increase in the number of markers pulled. Daily totals of claim markers started to increase dramatically as we moved down Joshua Tree Highway. It was nice to see an increase in production of markers pulled, but it was saddening to see the remains of many dead birds inside of those markers.
One hot Sunday afternoon, near the end of a long day of work, Leah Daniel and I stopped near a claim marker to rest and hydrate when I heard a noise inside the marker. I peered over the top of the pipe and saw a bird struggling inside. We had to take extra precaution in removing the marker so as to not injure the struggling bird. I pulled the marker out gently and tipped it slowly. After a few long moments, we watched what appeared to be a brown headed fly catcher fly out the end of the pipe apparently unharmed. We were very excited to have saved the life of a bird. Our team knows that by removing each claim marker, we are potentially saving the lives of multiple birds, but as I witnessed that bird fly away, I felt less hot, less tired, and more motivated. This event boosted the morale of the whole team and was a great reminder of why we are out here.
Written by Joe Felgenhauer
The Migratory Bird Crew was established with the goal of removing mine claim markers from the Nevada landscape. Before 1993, mine claims could be marked with hollow plastic PVC pipes. Cavity nesting birds, especially mountain bluebirds, have been entering and becoming trapped in these markers. Starting on Novemeber 1, 2011, the law changed to allow for the removal of these markers.
The first hitch for our crew started with the Corps Members arriving in Los Angeles only to be whisked away to Angeles National Forest where they spent 2.5 days earning Wilderness First Aid certifications. The WFA class was followed by a 6 hour drive to Red Rocks National Conservation Area, where the crew spent a windy night under the stars.
The crew received more training from our Bureau of Land Management contact Amelia Savage to pull mine markers and collect data. The first field day after training, the team found 8 mine markers, and 57 bird skulls. Most members took this first field day to reflect on how many birds are killed in mine claim markers. It was disturbing to pull up some markers and not find any dead birds only to pull up markers that contain 19 or more bird skulls. The crew has been learning to adjust to their new life in the hot and dry climate of the desert, and everyone is looking forward to learning to identify the bird skulls they find from BLM staff on the next hitch.
Ian Laing is originally from the small town of Holland, NY. He attended the University at Buffalo earning bachelor’s degrees in both Environmental Studies and Political Science. He has been accepted into law school and hopes to practice environmental law. He enjoys rock climbing, hiking, travel, and snowboarding, and the outdoors. He is excited to be a part of the migratory bird team and saddened by the number of birds that die in mine claim markers.
Joe Felganhauer is working on an environmental science degree at University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. His hobbies include fishing, hiking, baseball, and the outdoors. He looks forward to exploring the scenic Nevada desert and helping to prevent the further deaths of migratory birds.
Leah Daniel comes from the small town of Galena, IL. She attended Eckert College in St Petersburg, FL, earning a bachelor’s degree in environmental studies. She loves to camp, hike, bird watch, scuba dive, kayak, and also really enjoys photography. She looks forward to spending the summer working with other conservationists in the Nevada desert.
Jack Matthew Hausserman currently lives in Ionia, Michigan. He attended Central Michigan University earning bachelor’s degrees in both Anthropology and History. His hobbies include anything that has to do with sports; mainly soccer. He likes to do anything active, or to just read a good book. He is looking forward to gaining experience by challenging himself during his time with the Migratory Bird Protection crew.
Welcome to the Migratory Bird Protection Corps Program!
Project Leader: Heather Rogers
Bio: Heather's passion for the outdoors led her to earn a master's degree in Geological Sciences from the University of Washington. After graduating she worked on a series of geologic research projects with the National Park Service, including flood modeling at Mt Rainier, glacier mapping at Yosemite, and geologic education at Lava Beds. She is looking forward to returning to graduate school in the fall to pursue a PhD in geology. In her spare time, she loves rock climbing, hiking, mountaineering, yoga, snowshoeing, skiing, dancing, sewing, reading, and cooking. She is also very excited to be leading the Migratory Bird Project this summer!
|Migratory Bird Team Season Totals|
|2012 Migratory Bird Protection Project Leader Contact Information|
|Migratory Bird Corps Members|
|Migratory Bird Protection Final Hitch|
|Migratory Bird Protection Hitch #5|
|Migratory Bird Protection Hitch #4|
|Migratory Bird Protection Hitch #3|
|Migratory Bird Protection Hitch #2|