Sunday, June 17, 2018

Birds galore

Today I helped one of the student teams with their research project. Andrew, Brooke, and Christina (the ABC, as we call them), are looking at how bird behavior might be impacted by human activity in Kilpisjärvi.

Kilpisjärvi is actually a fairly new town, only about 10 years old. We also have a fairly main road running by the station, the E8 that goes into Norway. Of course, the traffic on a "main road" in Lapland is very different from a "main road" in Phoenix! But many cars and trucks, and their associated noise, are a factor here. Brooke, Christina, and Andrew wonder how that impacts the birds who live in the otherwise undisturbed habitat here around the research station.

For the past several days, they are counting birds at regular intervals from the E8 road to see whether birds avoid being near the road. They also then create disturbances at each of those regular distance intervals to see if the birds near the road deal with disturbance better than birds further from the road.

To count the birds, all three of them spread out along the road, then walk to their first 50-meter stopping point. I was one of the three counters today. We sat still at our marked spot to let the birds forget we're there, then created a disturbance using the horn sound on our phones. We then counted how long it took for birds to come back, and how many of them we saw of different species. Then, we moved to the next spot and repeated the process.

Because the three counters are spread out, they are able to count the birds over a fairly large area. I was on the end, at transect "C". Here, you can just barely see Brooke on transect "B", beyond the end of my finger. And you will maybe notice the blue flagging, marking my spot to stop and count.
I enjoyed helping, because it meant I could sit quietly and observe. I saw a bluethroat, pied flycatchers, and house sparrows. I also happened to see a vole and some bees!

Christina, Andrew, and Brooke are also working on collages that will communicate what they learn about how birds react to the human disturbances. They have been collecting natural materials that they will use and making castings of bird sculptures. Andrew will be making his collage in video format, which is his favorite format. You can find him around the station in the evenings getting his recordings. Near the bird feeder is a great place to record the redpolls and bramblings!

So, students today have continued to work a bit on their projects, even though technically they had the day off from classes. (They just work THAT hard!) We did plan one activity for them today, which was to go to the "3-Country Cairn". It's the point that marks the corner where Finland, Norway, and Sweden meet. It represents how the borders have fluctuated  over history when Finland was ruled by the Russians, the Swedes, and fought for their independence. At the end of WWII, they celebrated the departure of the Nazis by raising a flag over this cairn. Since we've learned a bit about WWII history as we walked along or by remnants during our field work, it was interesting to visit this historic location built in 1926 (to replace the one built in 1897 that eroded). So, we're learning a little history, along with our BioArt!
Guillermo, Christina, Manny, Diego, and Gina waaay over in Sweden, taken from waaaay over here in Finland!