12 March 2009

Now...the Science Begins...

06 March 2009 -- combined account of field notes and recall

Image: There were two plants that festooned either side of the entrance of Babylon Cave. The leaves of this plant will stick to every article of clothing, and the hairs on the leaves make you itch. Needless to say, you move through this entrance carefully. Credit: Jon Kalman.

Last night, I slept like a baby. My little sleeping pad tucked amid rocks, creosote and barrel cacti buffered me from the wind. The moon is getting full; I woke up many times during the night to look up at the moon, as well as watch the clouds roll in. It was looking like we might get some rain. Fortunately, we did not, and we were able to sleep outside.

Image: Yucca fiber cord found at the back of Babylon Cave. This cord was left here by Native Americans. Most of the caves in Cactus Canyon have evidence of Native American use. Credit: Ty Spatta.

Despite the fact that I slept well, I had a wierd dream. I dreamed I had placed my bed roll over a den of twin-spotted rattlesnake (Crotalus pricei). These are actually rather small snakes; they often don't get larger than a foot in length; what is more odd, however, is that these snakes occur in southern Arizona. I don't know why I was dreaming about these guys raher than Mojave green rattlesnakes (Crotalus scutulatus). Anyhow, these snakes were mad and were striking me, and one had slithered into my sleeping bag. I remember thinking, "Darn, now I have to go wake up Doc." Fortunately, there were no rattlesnake incidents last night.

Image: A torch remnant. There were numerous prehistoric torches in this cave. Notice the carbonized end of the stick near the carabineer.

I slept so well last night, that I overslept. I woke up at 0730hr. We were supposed to be preparing breakfast at 0700hr. So, once I got up, I rousted the other sleepy heads from their sleeping bags and we started to make breakfast.

While making breakfast, we realized we were going to run out of water. So, we radio-ed Team 1 to let them know of our dilemma. They indicated they would send up Team 3 (Ballensky and Richards), who were arriving today, to bring us water. Team 3 was already scheduled to make the ascent. Ballensky was bringing in the Hilti drill, and we needed them to place a few bolts in some of the more exposed areas of the side canyon. By around 1430hr, Team 3 arrived with water.

Image: Mapping the locations of our arthropod trapping stations within Babylon Cave. Image: Michael Gowen.

By the time Team 3 arrived, my team was well underway, and we were finishing up our work in Babylon Cave. We were conducting searches and deploying traps in this cave. Once done, we went to Two Windows Cave to conduct arthropod searches and deploy arthropod traps.

Image: This packrat (Neotoma sp.) was trying to get out of the cave to go out to forage.

Two Windows was a lot of fun. There was a pack rat in this cave, and he was ready to leave for the evening to forage for food. While we were working in the cave, he went back and forth between the entrance and his midden. He appeared confused. I wondered if "he" was actually a "she" and was returning to the midden because she had baby mice. However, I thought it was rather early in the season to be rearing babies.

Image: Cassidy preparing to deploy pitfall traps to capture arthropods. Image: Jon Kalman.

We completed our second cave by 1900hr. It was a productive day. We went back to Babylon Cave and made dinner. It was almost dark. Clouds were building overhead, and we questioned whether it would rain. We all decided to sleep within the cave tonight.

Kyle's team (Team 1) was working on the map of River Styx Cave. Voyles has anticipated it would take them two days to finish this map. Once done, we would be able to deploy bug traps in this cave as well.

Image: Deploying the AnaBat ultrasonic detector in front of Babylon Cave. We collected data from this cave last night. I am uncertain as to whether we're going to have much bat call data from the AnaBat effort. While we did observe bats flying in the canyon and near our camp, it's still pretty early in the season. We shall see... Credit: Jon Kalman.

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