Friday, July 21, 2006

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Five days out……and the people, places and trash are all starting to flow together.

The River Gods have certainly smiled down upon us. All whom we meet have either heard of us or are very interested in what we are doing. Short of one broken prop, the equipment has done us well. And the river…..she carries us and fills our smiling faces with bright sunshine as always.

We camp on beautiful sandbars with refreshing swimming holes ; the cottonwoods rise high behind us and sing the wind through their leaves; we take turns making wonderfully tasty dinners; and tell stories late into the night.

Most of us sleep out under the twinkling stars and rise with the cool morning sun. The hiss of the Coleman stove indicates that coffee is on ……one by one the crew arises, stuffs their bags, and starts the methodical migration back to the boats.

Most days start with a brief roundtable about the day to come. We pour over the maps and decide how far we will go. The ground crew makes lists of things the group needs, and gathers writings to pass onto the BLOG.

Media contacts for the day are discussed. Man, have we had good media exposure; 5 TV stations have come out to do stories and a couple of Newspapers. Most of the people we meet have heard of us. The attitudes of the locals indicate a connection to the river and an appreciation of what River Relief does. Does our souls good.

And the mapping of trash is becoming clockwork. We follow our route on fine maps with river miles, towns, roads, accesses and public lands laid deftly on top of air photos. The banks are scanned with naked eyes and binoculars. All concentrations of trash are located with GPS and all reaches are given a trashiness ranking. This all comes together in a database that allows us to show the patterns in trash abundance.

The sun beats down and our tans grow darker. Lovely swimming holes are frequented often to cool our bodies and freshen our minds. Our list of wildlife encountered is growing…..terns, eagles, otters, deer, turkey, and jumping carp amongst many species.

Yet the most interesting species are the humans that cross our path. Interested, red-nosed faces at a Rulo Catfish pub; friendly greetings from the Ponca State Park camp maintenance man; cute TV news girls and their graceful high heeled river rides; enthusiastic Donna at the Sioux City Chamber of Commerce; a family of Omaha Indians that enjoyed their first Missouri River boat ride; barge captains and Marina gas girls; crusty fishermen; and the numerous waving folks passing by in a variety of boats. All make us feel proud to be on the Mega-scout.

They do all flow together into a feeling of satisfaction; that we dared to undertake such an adventure; that it is going so well; and that there is another 600 miles to go……..


At 12:18 PM, Blogger s2man said...

Damn, I'm jealous. But it was my choice - I'm saving my vacation so I can make every MRR clean up this year.

We're waiting for you in KC. What do you want to eat when you get here? We thought you would be craving fresh meat and veggies, but it sounds like the ground crew is keeping you well stocked. I guess we'll just have some spam and tasteless, white iceberg lettuce for you. ;-))

Seriously, what do you want to eat in KC?. Keep up the good work, and have fun.

At 4:58 AM, Blogger Missouri River Relief said...

back to civilization, crew.

Hot showers are underrated.
Warm kitties are underrated.
Family, friends and neighbors are underrated.

It is good to be home...

Beds are overrated. Give me that Platte sand.
Telephones are overrated. I jumped at the first ring of a phone.
Traffic is way overrated. YUK.

I want to go back!

Safe travels, dear crew. See you in Atchison!!

At 4:59 AM, Blogger Missouri River Relief said...

Missouri River Relief Megascout
Bird Species List

Our mission out here is to survey and map the trash on the Missouri River, but we would be idiots if we didn't marvel at all the birds we see. In a way, they are the anedotes to the garbage. For every soggy couch, cast off water heater or rusty barrel we spot, along comes a belted kingfisher, bald eagle, or yellow warbler to remind us why we're really out here. We asked Amy to keep this list because she is an expert birder with years of professional experience working with wildlife and the government agencies charged with looking after them. But mostly we asked her to do it because she loves birds. And she helps the rest of us see them, learn about them, study them in field guides, and love them, too. SO this is a list of all the species we have identified from the Missouri River. And we think it's pretty darn amazing.

For example, by the third day we had seen five interior least terns. They are on the federal list of endangered species, and seeing them on the Missouri has given us hope. We have also seen pectoral sandpipers, who left the Arctic and stopped here--near Nebraska City--on their way to Argentina. Thousands of swallows, five different species of them, have swooped over the water right beside our boat. We have also seen or heard house wrens, Eastern kingbirds, and red-headed woodpeckers flitting along the banks, flying limb to limb in the cottonwoods and sycamores. Our favorite--and the one that has always been River Relief's totem and mascot--is the great blue heron. We have seen hundreds of them.

16-17 July 2006
(Days 1-2)

1. Whip-poor-will
2. Summer Tanager
3. Eastern Kingbird
4. Rough-winged Swallow
5. Warbling Vireo
6. Turkey Vulture
7. Brown-headed Cowbird
8. Yellow Warbler
9. Yellow-billed Cuckoo
10. Bank Swallow
11. Baltimore Oriole
12. Great Blue Heron
13. Red-winged Blackbird
14. Interior Least Tern (Endangered)
15. Barn Swallow
16. Great Egret
17. Belted Kingfisher
18. Rock Dove
19. American Robin
20. European Starling
21. Killdeer
22. Mallard
23. Common Grackle
24. Wood Duck
25. Cliff Swallow
26. Blue Jay
27. Wood Thrush
28. Eastern Screech Owl
29. Northern Cardinal
30. Eastern Wild Turkey

18-19 July 2006
(Days 3-4)

31. Eastern Wood-Pewee
32. House Wren
33. White-breasted Nuthatch
34. Northern Flicker
35. Downy Woodpecker
36. Gray Catbird
37. Tree Swallow
38. Common Yellowthroat
39. Yellow-breasted Chat
40. Black-capped Chickadee
41. Tufted Titmouse
42. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
43. Great-tailed Grackle
44. Mourning Dove
45. Canada Goose
46. House Sparrow
47. Eastern Meadowlark
48. Red-bellied Woodpecker
49. American Crow
50. Louisiana Waterthrush
51. Indigo Bunting
52. Great-crested Flycatcher
53. American Goldfinch
54. Eastern Towhee
55. Hooded Warbler
56. Green Heron
57. Chimney Swift
58. Purple Martin
59. Field Sparrow
60. Hairy Woodpecker
61. Northern Flicker
62. Red-headed Woodpecker
63. Eastern Bluebird
64. Ring-necked Pheasant
65. Dickcissel
66. Northern Bobwhite
67. Northern Shrike
68. Spotted Sandpiper

20-21 July 2006
(Days 5-6)

69. Common Cormorant
70. Muscovy Duck
71. Orchard Oriole
72. Northern Harrier
73. Broad-winged Hawk
74. Ruby-crowned Kinglet
75. Barred Owl
76. Chipping Sparrow
77. Ring-billed Gull
78. Red-tailed Hawk
79. Bald Eagle
80. Northern Parula
81. Red-eyed Vireo
82. Cattle Egret
83. Rose-breasted Grosbeak
84. Song Sparrow
85. Willow Flycatcher
86. Northern Mockingbird
87. American Coot
88. American Kestrel
89. Yellow-throated Vireo
90. Ruby-throated Vireo
91. Carolina Wren
92. Pied-billed Grebe
93. Pectoral Sandpiper
94. Gadwall

22-23 July 2006
(Days 7-8)

95. Great-horned Owl
96. Blue Grosbeak
97. Acadian Flycatcher
98. Eastern Phoebe
99. Cooper’s Hawk
100. Blue-winged Warbler
101. Pileated Woodpecker
102. Kentucky Warbler
103. Scarlet Tanager

At 5:00 AM, Blogger Missouri River Relief said...

Observations from the river by Vicki

I’m not much of a journal writer, but have found myself with a notebook full of incomplete sentences. Snapshots of a week that has rubber-band stretched and snapped into real time.

Boat Day one

We’re getting good at this! Each member of the crew has a niche. Comic relief, food prep, dishes, firebuilder, get the chairs, enter the data all come together daily in an organic way. No one wants for anything. Companionship, solitude- take your pick. The opportunity changes daily.

We board the boats and make our nests. Before two miles have passed we are in the rhythm that will take us through that day. We employ the “dog look”, snapping our heads back and forth. River miles are instinctive now. We know where we are in space.

We relax into the day and begin to notice things. A brick house- the first I’d seen. How did someone schlep those over the plains? Bright pockets of sun through the cottonwoods, just enough to warm the flowers that make riotous spots of color in the green.

Boat Day two

The animal people. Otters on the bank near a grain elevator. Bald eagles flying over the power plant. Signs of beaver everywhere.

Much has been written about the herons that we see. At first they were shy birds, flapping off at the first sign of our boats. In the urban areas, they are acclimated and merely look at us as we power by.

The flies. The vampire flies, says Anthony. So gentle, says Daniel. Biting, nasty, tenacious flies. Ground crew saw to our comfort by supplying swatters for both boats.

We can tell when we motor past public land. The cottonwoods drape the river. It is greener and cooler.

I don’t dare scan the other bank, I’d be lost. It is enough to know I’m immersed in “my” side.

Day three

We are fortunate to live in this time. Aren’t we lucky, says Nancy. The changes are happening right before our eyes. We meet folks every day that are having an impact on the river and charting the changes. You can damn the channel, but we couldn’t use our motors without it. We curse the wing dikes, but love the sandy beaches they create.

The reporter who had never been to the ramp and needed directions from a boat full of grimy river rats from hundreds of miles away.

The chevrons are new and have covered the trash that has accumulated. Have we not yet had the water to deposit the trash? Steve notices that there is driftwood piled along the rock. Perhaps the bottles and cans haven’t yet made it to this place.

A message in a bottle has been dropped daily, the brain child, and pseudo science of Michael. We caught up with that bottle down stream. The bottle got an earlier start than our boats did. It covered 10 miles in the four hours since we threw it in. It feels strange to be throwing trash into the river. I feel a bit self conscious doing it. It feels more like weird science now. A call to Michael to tell him. Science at work!!


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