The Migratory Bird Protection Team’s second hitch got off to a rough start when a spring on the trailer broke before we left Las Vegas. After a day of having little luck spotting mining claim markers in the southernmost tip of the state, our crew moved north to the Nipton area just off of Joshua Tree Highway. Program Manager Jamie Weleber joined our crew for the third day of the hitch. It was tough to spot claim markers within the Joshua trees and some markers were unreachable due to a large and mysterious fence, but we began to see an increase in the number of markers pulled. Daily totals of claim markers started to increase dramatically as we moved down Joshua Tree Highway. It was nice to see an increase in production of markers pulled, but it was saddening to see the remains of many dead birds inside of those markers.
One hot Sunday afternoon, near the end of a long day of work, Leah Daniel and I stopped near a claim marker to rest and hydrate when I heard a noise inside the marker. I peered over the top of the pipe and saw a bird struggling inside. We had to take extra precaution in removing the marker so as to not injure the struggling bird. I pulled the marker out gently and tipped it slowly. After a few long moments, we watched what appeared to be a brown headed fly catcher fly out the end of the pipe apparently unharmed. We were very excited to have saved the life of a bird. Our team knows that by removing each claim marker, we are potentially saving the lives of multiple birds, but as I witnessed that bird fly away, I felt less hot, less tired, and more motivated. This event boosted the morale of the whole team and was a great reminder of why we are out here.
Written by Joe Felgenhauer