Every morning, Jhonny and I drive to Reedsport and enjoy the beautiful views. Even though this has been a rainy week, I have been enjoying the coniferous forests and the beautiful coastal views. We have been extremely busy and our schedule is filled with meetings, paperwork, and research. One of the things I have noticed is that the majority of conservation work takes place in the office. On a particularly noteworthy and sunshiny day, I spent the majority of my time reading.
The first topic I read about was the effect of human disturbance on shorebirds. I was surprised to learn that the mere presence of people, just the noise and sight, can alter their behavior. When people walk by, even at a distance, birds stop eating and start watching or start escaping (by flying or swimming away). Although it does not seem like a struggle, these escape activities are energetically costly. So now we have a bird who hasn’t eaten that has to run away. Migratory birds are especially vulnerable to human presence and altered feeding activity because they have a “marathon” ahead of them and cant “carbo-load” with people around.
The second article I read was about the Siuslaw hairy-necked tiger beetle, one of the rarest beetles in the world. I know, this is a “bird” internship, so why am I learning about bugs? Well, they have one particular thing in common with the snowy plover: habitat requirements. Both snowy plovers and tiger-beetles prefer open sand, which is becoming a rarity on the Oregon coast due to human development and invasive European beach grass. The article I read, published by the Xerces society, found a higher abundance of the hairy-necked tiger beetle in areas where snowy plovers prefer to nest. The snowy plover has proven to be not only a key indicator of the coast’s ecological health, but an acting umbrella species. By restoring habitat for the snowy plover, we are protecting several species of tiger beetle and improving the habitat for others.
Dedicating that one beautiful day to research I was able to reinforce my knowledge and gain the ability to explain why the forest service biologists do what they do, and why we set out protection signs where we do. As we left work later that day, we spent a quick twenty minutes enjoying the sunset on the coast and watching the sea lions swim out to sea, thinking about how lucky we are to be here in Oregon.