Tramping in the Heat

It was about 106 degrees F today (41 C), but, when I complained about the heat, Olya (who studies Crimson Finches) expressed little sympathy: “It’s cool out there,” she said, with a smirk. “I had to put an extra blanket on last night!”

Though I had to admit that I turned my fan down to the next-to-highest setting at 1am, nobody can convince me that 106 degrees is anything close to “cool.” It’s so hot that I can’t distinguish mosquit0 tickles from sweat dripping down the back of my leg. Rocks are too scalding for bare feet. Water from my bottle tastes like fire, and I pack three liters to survive a morning of fieldwork. It’s so hot that I sleep on a bare mattress with a fan on the highest setting (usually) blasting me in the face. By 7:30 a.m., the air feels like a furnace. By noon, I feel like a baked potato even when sitting in the shade.

I have discovered a great antidote to the heat, though: Mornington’s walk-in refrigerator. It’s used to store food, but, after 10 minutes in there, communing with hanging slabs of fresh-butchered bullock, my body temperatures cools right down, too. Sweat on my shirt whisks off in impressive, hot-cold steam plumes inside the refrigeration room.

I spent the day censusing Purple-crowned Fairy-Wrens along a hot stretch of the Adcock River, which required walking, er, hacking, about 8 kilometers (roundtrip) through dense riparian vegetation. I fell twice on slippery spots of mud, but the extra dirt just added to my sunscreen. Anyway, the fairy-wrens are quite engaging – it’s gonna be a great field season!

Gone Swimming

Most everyone takes Sundays off at Mornington, so today Sara and I went swimming with Di (in charge of the tourism program here) and Paul (the camp handyman). We piled into a truck with a canoe, paddles, and inflated tubes, and drove about 10 miles to a waterhole along the Fitzroy River.

The pickup truck was a piece of work: it had a missing headlight, no rearview mirror, a broken hood latch, broken spedometer, broken starter, no clutch, and no brakes. The last three (starter, clutch, and brakes) were temporarily fixed by handy Paul, and off we went rattling across the red, dusty roads.

The temperature here reached 41 C yesterday (105.8 F) and today was about the same. The forecast isn’t expected to vary within the predictable future. It’s hot out there!

First Fairy-Wrens

Michelle, the Fairy-Wren guru, spent the day getting Sara and me up to speed on our duties for the next few months. Basically, we will follow a population of Purple-Crowned Fairy-Wrens here at Mornington Station, trying to find every nest and monitor every individual bird. The Fairy-Wrens live along a section of Annie Creek, which flows right through the station, and particularly like a spiky, palm-like plant called pandanus.

Which means that Sara and I will spend our time tramping back and forth through riparian undergrowth, peering at Fairy-Wren legs to read color bands, and avoiding the worst afternoon heat. We will wake up at 4:30 each morning, work outside for a few hours, then do another field session late in the afternoon.

Michelle showed Sara and me our territories today along a 3-kilometer stretch of Annie Creek. I saw my first Purple-crowned Fairy-Wrens – the males are gorgeous, with bright purple foreheads, black ear patches, and long, expressive tails. In the afternoon, we went swimming to cool off. After sunset, I looked up to see the Southern Cross and distant flashes of heat lightning, while night birds made unfamiliar noises.

Driving to Nowhere

After a bit of errand-juggling this morning in Derby, four of us set off for the long drive to Mornington. From Derby, the Gibb River Road takes off like a dirt arrow through untracked bush; we followed this single-track route for three hours before turning on to Mornington Sanctuary’s “driveway.” This added another 90 kilometers and involved fording several creeks.

All told, the drive took between five and six hours, not including rest stops to pamper Teagan’s six-month-old baby, go swimming at a creek crossing, and take photos of enormous boab trees.

In all that distance, we passed only one other car, and saw just one or two buildings alongside the road. This is one of the greatest wilderness areas left on Earth. Kangaroos, White-quilled Pigeons, and Wedge-tailed Eagles skittered from the road as we drove past endless expanses of red dust, green grass, leafy trees, and impossibly blue skies.

I’m now at Mornington Station, getting settled in to my home (for the next six months) and meeting the staff. There are 17 people on station at the moment. Fieldwork starts at five a.m. tomorrow, to avoid the worst daily heat; Purple-crowned Fairy-Wrens await!

Last Day of Civilization

My alarm went off at 2:15 this morning in Perth. When I subsequently presented myself at the airline check-in counter, the attendant said, “Derby? You’ll be off to the mines, then?” I assured her that my business in Derby had more to do with wildlife than ore, and, after the captain quipped, “It’s way too early to be flying,” our plane reached into the Australian sunrise.

Derby is a tiny hamlet (“shire,” actually, according to the airport sign) on the northwest Australian coast. The town’s 4,000 residents, half of Aboriginal descent, are caught between the second-highest tide in the world (usually more than 40 feet) and the most expansive unsettled area of Australia (where I’m headed tomorrow). It was hot enough at 8:30 a.m. that sweat dripped down the back of my neck as I stepped on to the red dust.

I spent the day buying groceries (my last visit to a store for six months) and prowling mangroves. It’s nearly 100 degrees outside with little shade. Tomorrow, I’ll make the half-day drive on a single dirt road to Mornington with two other researcher-conservationists. It’s a grueling, desolate, and beautiful trip by most accounts, with nothing but bush along the way.

Last week, two guys attempted a creek crossing while driving the same route to Mornington. Their vehicle submerged in a flash flood and they both swam to shore, tried to build a signal fire, then walked 30 kilometers in 95-degree heat without water, slept by the side of the road, and reached help the next day. I sure hope we have a smoother trip!

Dryandra Birds and Roos

Maris picked me up in Perth at five this morning to give us plenty of time to make the two-hour drive to Dryandra before the sun came up. We managed not to run over any emus or kangaroos en route, though I saw both by the side of the road (the emus are wild and native here, though some farmers also keep them as pets). The kangaroos ran away, and Maris and I spent the day prowling the birdy forest preserve, among Eucalyptus trees, spiny Dryandra bushes, and red dirt.

Incidentally, after waking up at 5:00 yesterday morning and 4:30 this morning, I can attest that jet lag is an excellent way to stave off early-morning sleepiness. Even with the ridiculous morning hours, I have woken well before my alarm yesterday and today feeling totally refreshed. After all, the middle of the night is actually mid-afternoon back in the US!

It’s a good thing, because I have to wake up at 2:15 tomorrow morning to catch a plane to northern Australia. After seeing about 100 species of birds in the last two days in Perth (more than half of which were “lifers”), I’m headed to bed early, at 7 pm, in anticipation of a day in Derby, on Australia’s north shore, tomorrow.

Americans in Perth

At 5:45 a.m. this morning, I found Maris Lauva waiting outside my Perth hostel, ready for a long day of birding around town. We spent most of the time with Marcia and Bob, from Maryland, who had the day ashore in Perth on a 2-week cruise to Thailand. Turned out Marcia had been on a tour I led during the American Birding Association convention in Eugene a few years back. Small world!

Maris, a local birder, was extremely kind to show us Americans some nice birds. We hit wetlands, lakes, and “the bush,” racking up about 60 species throughout the day, half of which I’d never seen before. Not a cloud in the sky, temps in the 90s. After dropping Marcia and Bob back at their cruise ship for a 4:00 curfew, Maris and I headed into the foothills to watch several dozen Baudin’s Black-Cockatoos fly into an evening roost. The large, impressive parrots, silhouetted against the sunset, capped off an impressive day.

Summah Down Undah

After cutting every line in the Sydney Airport, watching Customs take all of my jerky away, teaching a woman from Venezuela to use her in-flight entertainment system (in return for half a blanket and a packet of M&Ms), and being taxied by a distinctly non-Australian man named Jarko, I am in Perth, in southwest Australia, this afternoon.

Yes, I realize that it’s actually 1 a.m. in the U.S, which means I should be really, really tired after sleeping four hours out of the last 40. But it’s hard not to be energized when I’m looking at palm trees, parrots, and Australian sunshine out the window. It’s currently mid-afternoon, at the tail end of summer, about 98 degrees F, and a man is lying in my hostel dorm room clad only in his underwear, watching kid cartoons in a semi-catatonic state (true story; nothing to do with me; the heat just does odd things to people).

I celebrated my arrival down under with a stroll around town. The walk turned into a blisterfest on my feet, so I retreated before the stove-like sidewalk began to char, and dodged on to a ferry crossing the Swan River (“The River of Swan,” said Jarko the taxi driver) to appreciate the cooling effect of water. I’ve already seen several life birds without even trying – Western Corella, Red Wattlebird, and Singing Honeycreeper. I’m looking forward to adventures tomorrow, starting at 6am, and the next day, starting at 4am, with a local birder named Maris. With jet lag, 4am won’t seem so bad!

Bound for Australia

Day after tomorrow, I’ll board a plane here in Eugene, Oregon. Two days later, I’ll arrive in Australia (skipping over the international date line, of course) – right in the middle of summer.

I will spend the next six months (’til August) working  at Mornington Station in the Kimberley, one of the greatest wilderness areas left on Earth, in northwest Australia. The Kimberley is an area of the Outback the size of California, crossed by only one paved road. Only 40,000 people live there (compared to 37 million in California!), mostly in three small towns (Broome, Derby, and Kununurra, none of which have more than 5,000 people), and between one third and one half are of Aboriginal descent.

It’s an extreme place. In the hot, wet season (“The Wet”), from October to March, highs can be around 110 degrees F. The rest of the year, it’s only 95. Poisonous snakes, biting insects, heat, and isolation are familiar, daily attributes of life in the Kimberley.

So, why do I want to go there? Researchers at Mornington Station, an old cattle station turned wildlife reserve, have been working with Purple-crowned Fairy-Wrens – a tiny, beautiful, endemic, endangered bird – for more than a decade, and I’ve signed on to help with field work this year. I will be searching for nests, color banding individual birds, and observing their behavior six days a week. Meanwhile, I’ll get a taste of life in the real Outback. I hope you enjoy the journey!


Résumé | Noah K. Strycker

Telephone: 541.206.7314
Email: noah.strycker AT
35995 E. Wills Road
Creswell, OR 97426


Avian adventure, research, photography, writing, and illustration.


2021: Master of Science, Marine Sciences, School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences. Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, New York. (Summa cum laude).
2016: Standards of Training and Certification of Watchkeeping (STCW) Basic Safety Training Course, Clatsop Community College, Astoria, Oregon.
2009: North American Banding Council Certification, Point Blue Palomarin Field Station, Bolinas, California.
2008: Bachelor of Science, Fisheries and Wildlife Science; minor in Art. Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon. (Magna cum laude).


Professional Experience | List of Publications

Freelance avian writer, photographer, and illustrator [since 2001]
Associate Editor, Birding magazine, American Birding Association [since 2006]
Ornithologist/Naturalist, Quark Expeditions: Arctic & Antarctic Expedition Cruises [since 2016]
Ornithologist/Guide, Antarctic Logistics & Expeditions: Union Glacier and Gould Bay camps [since 2022]


2022 Author, Birding Basics (National Geographic)
2019 Graduate Teaching Assistant, Fundamentals of Scientific Inquiry in the Biological Sciences, Stony Brook University
2019 Author, Backyard Guide to the Birds of North America, 2nd ed. (National Geographic)
2018 Author, Birds of the Photo Ark (National Geographic)
2017 Author, Birding Without Borders (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
2014 Author, The Thing With Feathers (Riverhead)
2013-2022 Technical Reviewer and Copy Editor, Birding Special Issues, American Birding Association
2012-2015 Ornithologist/Naturalist, One Ocean Expeditions
2011 Author, Among Penguins (Oregon State University Press)
2009 North American Birding Council Certification, Point Blue Conservation Science
2008 Presenter, SMILE (Science & Math Investigative Learning Experiences) workshop
2007 Reviewer, Smithsonian Field Guide to the Birds of North America (Collins, 2008)
2006 Teaching Assistant, Systematics of Birds, Oregon State University
2005-2010 Columnist, Wildbird magazine
2004-2012 Field Notes Editor, Oregon Birds journal
2004-2005 Illustrator, Bird Coloration Vols. 1 and 2 (Harvard University Press, 2006)
2002-2003 Park Ranger, Willamette Valley Projects, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Field Experience

Ecuador (Tiputini Biodiversity Station), Jan 2012-Mar 2012
Field researcher. Tracking Wedge-billed Woodcreepers with radiotelemetry and observing their behavior in mixed flocks.

Maine (Metinic Island), Sep 2011-Oct 2011
Bird bander. Mistnetting a variety of migratory songbirds and Northern Saw-whet Owls for a standardized bird banding project.

Costa Rica (Tortuguero), Dec 2010-Mar 2011
Bird bander. Mistnetting birds, at sites near Tortuguero and elsewhere in Costa Rica, for the Costa Rica Bird Observatories.

California (The Farallon Islands), Sep 2010-Nov 2010
Field researcher. Mistnetting migratory songbirds and documenting Great White Shark attacks for PRBO Conservation Science.

Australia (The Kimberley), Mar 2010-Aug 2010
Field researcher. Studying Purple-crowned Fairy-Wrens and habitat management at an Australian Wildlife Conservancy reserve.

California (Point Reyes Bird Observatory), Aug 2009-Nov 2009
Bird bander. Mistnetting a variety of migratory and resident birds for a standardized, long-term bird banding station.

Antarctica (Cape Crozier), Nov 2008-Feb 2009
Field researcher. Studying life histories, populations, ecology, and behaviors of Adélie Penguins at a large breeding colony.

Hawaii (The Big Island), Jul 2008-Oct 2008
Seasonal intern. Captive breeding of endangered Hawaiian landbirds at the Keauhou Bird Conservation Center.

Oregon (Willamette Valley), 2007-2008
Volunteer surveyor. Censusing wintering raptors for the East Cascades Bird Conservancy Winter Raptor Survey Project.

Maine (Matinicus Rock), Jun 2006-Jul 2006
Field researcher. Monitoring and banding terns and Atlantic Puffins for the National Audubon Society’s Project Puffin.

Michigan (Hickory Corners), Jun 2005-Jul 2005
Field researcher. Monitoring nests on an Oregon State University (OSU) nest monitoring project, W. K. Kellogg Biological Station.

Panama (Gamboa), Mar 2004-Jul 2004
Field researcher. Monitoring nests on an OSU nest monitoring project, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Gamboa field station.

Oregon (Malheur NWR), Sep 2003-Nov 2003
Full-time volunteer. Working with Fish & Wildlife Service biologists on a variety of field projects at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

Oregon (Willamette Valley), 2002-2003
Park ranger. Specializing in bird field work for the Willamette Valley Projects of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Oregon (Willamette Valley), May 2002-Jul 2002
Field researcher. Observing Purple Martin colonies for the Western Oregon Snag-Nesting Purple Martin Monitoring Project.

Awards, Scholarships, and Exhibitions

2021                          MSRC Endowment Award for Best Thesis, School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, 
                                         Stony Brook University
2020                           IACS Young Writer’s Scholarship, Institute for Advanced Computational Science,
                                         Stony Brook University
2020                           J. R. Schubel Graduate Fellowship, School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences,
                                         Stony Brook University
2018                           Don and Shirley Wirth Young Alumni Award, Oregon State University
2016                           Two-month artist residency at Playa, Summer Lake, Oregon
2015                           Finalist for Oregon Book Award (“The Thing With Feathers”)
2011                           American Universities International Programs October Alumni of the Month
2008                           Burlingham Undergraduate Student of Excellence Award, OSU College of Ag. Sciences
2008                           Culture In Writing Award, OSU Writing Intensive Curriculum Program
2008                           Senior Leadership Award, Dawg Brawl tennis club championship, Univ. of Washington
2008                           Carl and Lenora Bond Scholarship, OSU Dept. of Fisheries & Wildlife
2007                           Marshall Scholarship Finalist
2007 and 2006             Morris K. Udall Undergraduate Scholarship, The Morris K. Udall Foundation
2007                           Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship, The Goldwater Foundation
2007                           Mentors Scholarship, OSU Department of Fisheries & Wildlife
2007                           Munson Leadership Award, OSU Department of Fisheries & Wildlife
2007                           Multnomah Anglers and Hunters Club Scholarship, OSU Dept. of Fisheries & Wildlife
2007 and 2006             Vivian Schriver Thompson Scholarship, OSU Department of Fisheries & Wildlife
2006                           Mike and Kay Brown Scholarship, OSU Department of Fisheries & Wildlife
2006                           E.R. Jackman Scholarship, OSU College of Agricultural Sciences
2005                           Waldo-Cummings Outstanding Student Award, Oregon State University
2005                           Cape May Bird Observatory, NJ Young Artists Show (photographs and painting)
2005                           OSU Undergraduate Research, Innovation, Scholarship and Creativity award
2005                           2004 Young Birder of the Year, 14-18 yrs., American Birding Association-Leica
2005                           Henry Mastin Memorial Scholarship, OSU Department of Fisheries & Wildlife
2004-2008                   OSU Presidential Scholarship
2004-2007                   American Ornithologists’ Union Student Scholarship
2003                           National Merit Scholar (SAT score = 1500)
2003                           Outstanding Senior Project, International High School, South Eugene High School
2001-2002                   Outstanding in All Subjects, International High School, South Eugene High School
2001-2003                   Most Valuable Player, South Eugene High School Men’s Tennis Team
2001                           University of Oregon Museum of Natural History Scientific Illustrators (drawings)
1999, 2000, 2002-03     Finisher, Portland Marathon
1999                           2nd Place, Math Skills Fair, Lane Community College
1998                           1st Place, American Mathematics Competitions

Synergistic Activities

American Birding Association (Associate Editor, Birding magazine; 2004 Young Birder of the Year)
American Ornithologists’ Union (student scholarship)
Oregon Field Ornithologists (author/editor of OFO special publications #14 and #18)