2023 Wildlife Internship; Veda’s August Update!


Hi again Friends!

July has been a rewarding month. As mentioned in my previous update, Lin (the Portland Audubon intern) and I had the opportunity to travel to Grays Lake National Wildlife Refuge in Idaho. There, we learned how to identify common aquatic vegetation in the Pacific Northwest. This information is essential for both of us, as Lin and I will be performing submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) surveys starting next week. Adonia Henry, Zone Biologist for the USFWS National Wildlife Refuge System, was our teacher. Days one and two involved very in-depth PowerPoints on species-specific identifiers between the various submergent and emergent vegetation. Adonia also had us practice how to estimate percent cover for different species within a sample frame. At the end of day two, we practiced our newfound skills in the field. This was my favorite, as applying our knowledge greatly helped me remember plant names and how to distinguish between families. My only qualm was that the mosquitos there are worse than at Malheur!

Young biologist wearing a headlamp and chest waders is holding a duck to attach a leg band.
Here I am banding a cinnamon teal.

Last week, I helped with duck banding both here at Malheur and at Summer Lake Wildlife Area. Thus far, this has been my favorite activity throughout my internship. We began bright and early at 8pm (ha) at Boca Lake. Alexa gave us the fundamentals on what to expect, and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) provided a detailed explanation for that night’s procedures, how to properly handle the ducks, and how to band them without causing harm. For capturing the ducks, two people were stationed at the hull of an airboat holding salmon nets. The airboat’s driver spotlighted the ducks on the lake, careful to select adults and avoid broods. The driver maneuvered the airboat so one person could scoop the selected duck into the salmon net. Once that duck was successfully caught, the lookout for another began. Captured ducks were placed into duck crates carefully placed within the airboat. After the crates were filled, they were brought back to shore, unloaded, and the capturing process would restart. The duck banding occurred on shore. Experienced ODFW biologists quickly identified the ducks down to species, sex, and age (hatch year or adult). Us interns and volunteers soon became experts ourselves with identifying these characteristics after handling so many! We were then handed a stainless-steel band corresponding with the duck’s information. Bands were carefully secured around the left leg so both sides were flush and felt entirely smooth. Banded ducks were placed into empty crates, separated by size (ex., mallards with mallards and teal with teal) to prevent injury.

Young biologist wearing a headlamp and chest waders holding a male ruddy duck. The duck has a bright blue bill.
Take a look at this male ruddy duck’s bright blue bill!

I went out on the boat first at Boca Lake, and I quickly got the hang of netting! Not to toot my own horn, but I captured two ducks in one swoop after a few tries. The night flew by (faster than a duck!), and by sunrise we had banded every captured duck. As sunrise is the stopping point, we helped release the ducks and packed everything away. My favorite species that we caught that night were ruddy ducks, cinnamon teal, and a Canada goose! For the next two nights, I accompanied Alexa and Lin to band at Summer Lake Wildlife Area. Considering we were out from 9pm to 5am for those nights, we all had to become completely nocturnal. My capturing and banding skills quickly improved. I wouldn’t say I’m the best, but I think I’m pretty darn good! Across both nights, my favorite species captured were a female bufflehead, a male canvasback, and a female pintail!

I am so thankful for this experience, and I am even more thankful that I’ll get to do it again in two weeks! I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I’ll be able to capture and band a northern shoveler; I just adore those guys. I suppose y’all will find out if I fulfill my dream with my final update next month! It’s hard for me to believe that I only have one month left at this beautiful refuge. I plan to soak up every remaining minute! 😊


Pictured Below (Left to Right): A female bufflehead. A male cinnamon teal. A canvasback.

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