The Wind of the Sentenac
(A time will come to ride the wind and cleave the waves, and we will hoist the sail to cross the sea which raves.)
The wind howled and surged upon us as we traversed the desolate desert, releasing a cacophony of sounds protesting our intrusion. Cold yet unfazed, we continued to scout and explore this barren landscape, looking for the ideal spots to establish our camera traps. The clouds roll in, ominous and dark, yet posed no threat for rain. Such was our first day in the Sentenac Cienega.
It seemed incredulous to think we would ever get any wildlife photos for our Capstone project, yet the signs were there while we walked against the angry winds. A footprint here, a few scats there, a song sung amidst the chaos. Learning these signs was critical for narrowing our scope and establishing our locations for the camera traps . After a few more days battling the wind, discussing how animals use this ecosystem and getting more advice, we finally had our cameras set.
Yet the miasma of misfortune brought by the wind seems to accompany us after leaving the Sentenac. Nevertheless, a potent concoction of communication, collaboration, and gutsy determination mixed into our group after that first trip. Was it that we knew in the back of our mind that COVID regulations were about to change after the November surge, so we were not fazed when our schedule had to change? Were we desperate in our second trip in December under a sunny sky with no winds, knowing that we will not have another opportunity like this, so we completed three-day’s worth of work in less than 9 hours? Did we subconsciously prepare and record all our stories, so when we began writing our thesis, it flowed like water, linking each piece of the puzzle to a grand picture? Regardless of the reason, in each of these challenging situations, with the wind pressuring upon us, we kept moving forward.
We saw no sign of the winds in that mountain lion picture, yet if there was wind, the lion seemed calm and collected in the face of such an environment. A far contrast to our texts, with “OMG OMG” bombarded in the group. The wind seemed to change a tune during our January trip, almost hailing the return of some old friends. 20,000 photos later, the Sentenac is teeming with life and vibrance, from the elusive mountain lions to an abundance of doves to the small critters using the deer corpse as resources. The Sentenac took on a new form, less harsh and more forgiving, as we trod the now-known trails to our camera. The songbirds sang under a gentler wind, and the breeze felt refreshing as we stopped and took a quick drink.
The strong wind still rages in the Sentenac, taking on various forms for its inhabitants and visitors to endure. The challenges we faced in our MCRS Capstone project were many, yet with each hardship, we answered. Let the wind of the Sentenac tell you the tale of our experience and our stories, and may you all have a fruitful and enduring time in the MCRS program.