Friday, May 20, 2011

Long Hours

After filling him in on my schedule recently, my brother pointed out that I'm not performing like the stereotypical government employee.  Let's just say you get a good return from me on your tax dollars.  I've been putting in some longer-than-usual hours at work just because certain things have to get done.  This week is all about cleaning and organizing the education materials, bird watching programs, preparing for seasonal training, and having my first summer program ready to go when we get back from seasonal training.  Sounds easy!

Yesterday was easily a 12-hour day, but when it ends the way it did, you just don't mind.  It was day 1 of our annual bird watching event, a partnership between us (NPS) and US Fish & Wildlife.  We get a group together and head out to points around town that have been scoped out for birds.  New ones are showing up every day now, and if you're watching and know what you're looking at, you can sometimes catch a rare sighting.  I'm not a birder, but I'm enjoying learning.  Fish & Wildlife brings up volunteers with Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuges, and they help everyone spot and ID the birds.  We provide binoculars, bird books, spotting scopes, and the real draw around here...snacks!  (It's amazing, people LOVE snacks as simple as popcorn.)

We had about 23 people total at 7:00 last night.  That's a pretty good turnout here.  After all, it was the first day and a week night.  I had a good group in my vehicle -- some folks in town for training from the village of Noatak.  They heard about the program, came, and had a great time.  We saw a few shore birds, several kinds of ducks, and a jaeger.  We heard ptarmigan and cranes but didn't see them.  The real treat was near the end when we saw a short eared owl and a muskrat that crossed the road right under our vehicle.  It tickled me to no end to see how excited local folks were about seeing a muskrat.  I've heard from a couple of old timers who have said that when they were younger, the caribou didn't migrate near their villages, and they didn't hunt many of them.  Instead, they would hunt and trap smaller game including lots of muskrat.  Not so much any more.  Most people eat caribou.  So, the cameras were clicking away as that chubby little guy waddled by for us.  Unfortunately, since I was driving and spotting, I didn't get a chance to get mine out.  Add to that the ground squirrel and bumble bee I saw earlier in the day, and it was a pretty exciting day.  You may not think much of those sightings, but the only living things many of us see all winter are ravens and dogs.  Ground squirrels are true hibernators, so it's just one of those signs that mark the changing season, and they're very cute!  The bumblebees are some of the first insects to come out as well.  They have dense "fur" and the ability to produce heat through shivering, so they can tolerate colder weather when they first become active again.  This picture is from a blog post last fall.

Here are a couple of pictures I took along the way at our stops.  At one of the stops we dispense snacks and hot drinks because it's still a bit chilly here, and if there's wind it can be downright cold.  Luckily, it was calm last night.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Spring & Hint of Summer

I've been silent for quite a while.  I just can't keep up with everything, so the blog got neglected.  What have I been doing?  Working, of course.  As my boss says, I'm a victim of my own success.  I've had lots of requests for programs.  Since the beginning of last October (fiscal year 2011), I've given over 130 hour long programs for more than 1,600 students.  Of course, some of these are returning to the same classroom & students with a different topic, so they're not unique "contacts," but that's a busy schedule.  I made it to 8 villages in addition to the school here in town again this school year.  That's 16 village visits over the last 2 years.  In all, I've travelled for work 25 times in the 23 months that I've lived here.

I have been doing other things, though.  I'm still working on the knitting although it's taking less of my time now that the weather is changing and it's more inviting to spend time outside.  I've also been trying to spend some time reading, really reading.  I realized it had been a long time since reading a book that wasn't a textbook, nonfiction or something for work.  I'm also still trying to dedicate as much time as possible to staying active.  It feels great to have lost a little weight this winter, and I can't wait to get out of our little fitness room and do more walking and running outside.  The snow is melting on the roads (there will still be plenty around for at least another month), and yesterday I was able to walk the road that loops out of town around the tundra -- about 8.6 miles.  I wasn't sure how muddy it was, so I wore my boots.  Today's a nice sunny day, so this afternoon after church I'll put on some tennis shoes and jog some of it.  My goal this summer is to run in the annual Mosquito Haven Half Marathon.  I believe it will be in August.  That's about 14 miles, so I have a lot of work to do!

It's nice to have the sun back and warmer weather (relatively speaking).  You can check it out with the weather link here.  Smoky is enjoying the light too.  She's been playing more lately.