it wasn’t long ago that i could do this all night. sunset to sunrise. just load me up with some caffeine, a little nicotine, some data sheets and i was good to go.
ten hours of survey bliss. my life in half-mile, 3-minute intervals. over and over.
get in at 7, sleep until 3.
obviously, things have changed.
i knew it was going to be a tough night last night when somewhere around my eighth stop, my head started to droop. for the unaware, the drooping head of an owler means only one thing: despite high levels of charisma and enthusiasm, he is tired.
sure enough, immediately after the drooping came the wandering, aimless mind.
owl surveys are defined in webster’s dictionary as “monotonous, repetitive, often unrewarding efforts by charming owl biologists and owl biologist wanna-bes, wherein many hours are spent alone at night, listening for the songs and calls of owls, but mostly wondering why they are doing what they are doing.”
last night would afford no owl karma, no serendipitous discovery, no declaration of “this is why i do this.” instead, the storyline was an owler’s dogged determination to finish a survey route and then drive the hour back to his den of disarray for much-needed sleep.
reality tv at its worst.
there was a thin overcast for most of the night but otherwise, nothing endearing about the evening. three listless male saw-whets and one cantankerous barred owl after 25 miles, 51 stops, and another 2.55 hours of my life chalked up to a “stubborn refusal to change his ways.”
the drive home was another white-knuckle, asleep at the wheel adventure which seems to occur more often as i get older and push the surly bonds of aging. at 0130, my inner voice demanded i pull into the cascade river rest area and sleep, even though my home was only 20 minutes away. i slept deeply for 5 minutes and woke up with a convulsion, not knowing where i was.
instant, deep sleep, then panic, then relief knowing the airbag had not deployed.
looking back at the first round of surveys, the most notable feature had to be the immobile high pressure system that sat over me for nearly 2 weeks. it was cold, but calm. rarely at the end of march can i count on anything more than a couple of nights of perfect owling ambience before “poof”, it all gets blown away by a low pressure system from hell.
my summary statement: weather good, owls bad.
sleep: even better.