Didn’t really do much birding this morning…too much rain. As I was walking to work, though, I spotted a pair of Arctic terns diving for fish. One of them stopped on a nearby rock…I decided it would be worth it to attempt some pictures.

He really didn’t seem to mind my presence, although I kept a respectable distance from the small seabird. I didn’t want to abuse its patience with the clumsy, hairless (…well, not quite) ape with the little silver box that occasionally made flashes of light appear.

I also finally got a decent picture of a magpie. The bird certainly didn’t make it easy, and this shot only came after a string of epic fails.

On the other hand, some relatives, the Northwestern Crows, are completely desensitized to humans. If you are walking down the bay trail, crows foraging on the side may hop a little closer to investigate you, probably recognizing humans as a source of the occasional scrap of food.

On to food prep. There were more dead fish, squid, clams, and krill in that room than you could shake a frozen Pollock at. I need to find a similarly demented and utterly silly individual or individuals so I can recreate the Fish-Slapping Dance with herring and frozen salmon.

Only fish that meet government standards are fed to the animals, the rest are tossed into the Grinder, which is somewhat like Donald  Trump’s hair in the sense that it is a sentient being capable only of malice and hunger. It occasionally likes to spit out chunks of annihilated fish at the user, which is why people on food prep often put a makeshift lid over most of it. Still, life, or rather the mechanical incarnation of everything bad you’ve ever done in your life, will find a way, and it spits food out of the tiny opening at the user with the sort accuracy normally only achieved by a military-grade sniper rifle. It was a fun few hours.

But in all seriousness, food prep was actually pretty fun, because you get to see just how much it takes to feed all the birds and mammals in the exhibits. Half of it probably went to Woody.

Natalie and I then did the normal business of feeding the eiders and cleaning their enclosures. After that, we had the great pleasure of scrubbing the lab floor until lunch, when I went to grab my sandwich…only to realize I had left it at the apartment. So lunch was at Thorn’s Showcase Lounge (if this happens on Sunday, I shall most certainly throw myself off Mount Marathon). The place was mostly empty for lunch, which I thought was something of a bad omen at first. It didn’t help that the place was poorly-lit as well. It looked like the place was mostly frequented for its bar…they offered the full arsenal of the Jim Bean line, in addition to countless Alaskan beers, wines, and other varieties of hard liquor (Alaska is big on its alcohol, I don’t know if I made that clear yet).

Thorn’s Showcase Lounge is apparently renowned for its Bucket of ‘But,’ the loving name they give to their signature buckets of fried halibut. At $21 a pop, though, I decided to opt with the cheaper halibut basket, just because I figured, “Why not get halibut if I’m in Alaska?”

I made the right choice, since the portion was just right, and the halibut was delicious. I imagine the only place to get better would be Ray’s Seafood, which is on the harbor. But I don’t feel like growing broke until later in the summer.

Unfortunately, lunch took most of my time, so I didn’t get to take many more pictures of the sea life center’s critter collection. I did get some footage of the behemoth Woody though, which you’ll be able to see once I set up a Youtube account tomorrow when I have some time to do some major uploading. I also got this nice shot of the resident male King Eider, never mind the reflection.

After my break it was back to scrubbing floors. Natalie left me to my own devices…probably the first mistake. I was scrubbing under a pen and really gave myself a good knock. It must’ve been louder than I thought, because a few moments later Natalie was in as I was nursing my head. I think she took pity on me, telling me I could just rinse off the rest and report to Heidi for fecal sample collection 101, not that I wasn’t grateful.

Basically, what I do is sit upstairs at the research area overlooks, and try to catch any of the breeding eider ducks (Spectacled and Steller’s) in the glorious act of defecation, at which point I would run downstairs, quickly change into the proper clothing, and immediately collect the sample, noting who did the dirty deed and bringing the sample to the freezer. I would then store it, and head back up to my post to start from square one.

This, of course, goes under the assumption that the ducks will actually poop during the observation time. Heidi assured me I didn’t just have to collect during that set observation time, which means that if at any time I see someone dump ballast, I can immediately drop what I’m doing to nab it. If nobody goes number two, I’m basically just sitting around watching the ducks, which is what happened today. Though I was a little disappointed at the lack of fecal bounty, it was nice to have a relaxing end to my work week.

So my first week is officially over. It’s been really great, but it will be nice to have some time off from work to bird, relax, and get some personal missions accomplished, like setting up that Youtube account for the benefit of people who don’t have me on Facebook or lack the impetus to get one.

Total Alaska Life Bird Count: 14 still (no new birds today).

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