This week I worked alongside biologist, Monica Alfaro, to try a new type of bird surveying in which we listened to the sounds of the Least Bell’s Vireo and tried to find their location. Before arriving, Monica had advised me to wear full-length pants, a long-sleeved shirt, a hat, and mosquito repellent. My first initial thought was that I was going to be too hot, but when I arrived I was glad I had listened to Monica, because there were mosquitos everywhere the whole time I was there. We had gotten an early start at 5:50 a.m. at Border Field State Park. We walked to different parts of the area and, at each stop, we paused and listened to the birds chirping and listened specifically for the vireo. In the beginning it was hard to know which sound was which, but once Monica mimicked the sounds for each bird, it got easier for me to learn them. Also, she had an accompanying partner, Tom, who was knowledgeable as well, and he taught me some fun facts and tips about the different birds there. I learned that there are parasitic birds, such as cuckoos, that don’t bother to build their own nests and instead just steal other birds’ nests to lay their eggs in. This causes the other birds to simply abandon their own eggs, leading to a decrease in reproduction. In addition, I got to see what a Least Bell’s Vireo actually looks like.  When I saw one I noticed that it blended so well with the willow tree branches, which is also where they typically build their nests in order to keep themselves camouflaged from predators. It was amazing to learn about these small birds, and also to learn from Monica and Tom how they became biologists and what made them want to focus on studying bird sounds. I am so grateful to be able to meet such inspiring individuals and create connections with them so that I can reflect on what my interests are, whether that will be studying birds or anything else environmentally related. I enjoyed being out in nature with Monica, and I hope I get the chance to do it again soon.

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