21 January 2009

A Short Look Behind Matt's Path..

..some jobs, some places, some co-workers.

The picture above was taken at The Nature Conservancy's Davis Mountains Preserve. Yes, Texas has mountains, and those are Ponderosa Pines. This is probably at ~6500 feet elevation.

I did my graduate work, for Sul Ross State University (part of the TX State Univ. System) in the Big Bend region of Texas, and the Preserve was my study sight.

My study focused on the local populations of Montezuma Quail (Cyrtonyx montezumae). Unfortunately, it seems my pictures that I immediately have of this bird are locked up in several old PowerPoint presentations. But you can link on the above common name for a bit of an idea of this bird.

Upon the completion of my M.Sc in Natural Resource Management-Wildlife I agreed to perform some contract work in south Brewster County, TX on a huge piece of property, the O2 Ranch.

I was contracted by the Rio Grande Research Center to perform point counts in native riparian corridors; that is those with Cottonwood (Populus deltoides) and Desert Willow (Chilopsis linearis):

... and non-native riparian areas, that is, those that contained the water-hogging, sun-stealing, asian originating, Saltcedar aka Tamarisk tree (Tamarix spp.) Biologists in the trans-Pecos region of West Texas have been trying to eliminate saltcedar, through various measures, for awhile now.

But, an interesting evolvement began to take place associated with this Tamarisk that has been such a immense scourge to the Pecos and Rios Grande. The federally endangered southwestern subspecies of the Willow Flycatcher (Empidonax traillii extimus) began using this plant as nesting substrate. Hmm... now what to do?? Big question. 'Twas not a part of my job.

I basically sought out both vegetation associations in riparian areas, mapped them out, and did presence/absence point counts of all species seen and heard within 50 meters and outside of 50 meters.

After spending several years in Alpine, TX and the surrounding Big Bend region of west Texas I moved to take a job in the lower Rio Grande Valley of TX.

Employed by the city of Edinburg, TX; I was Park Naturalist at the Edinburg World Birding Center. (EWBC)

On the left, a picture of the 3rd U.S record of Four-spotted Sailor (Dynamine postverta) discovered at the EWBC by B. Basham, photo-documented by MWYork. This individual is a male, warming in the early morning on "Drummond's Turk's Cap," a killer nectar source for hummingbirds, certain warblers, and butterflies. A great native plant to grow if you live in the southeastern U.S.

It was while working in the RGV,three yrs ago, that I encountered an intern on "C-trail" (inspiration for this site's title) at Santa Ana NWR, after ogling a wayward Red-naped Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus nuchalis), and thus, a bird that holds a certain significance in my/our life. This intern became a great friend, companion, confidant. This friend became the love of my life.

Teammate. Partner. Friend that I fell in love with.

I have worked various places since that initial meeting, 3 yrs ago.

GCWA Field Technician for The Nature Conservancy at Fort Hood, TX:

Golden-cheeked Warbler (Dendroica chrysoparia), a federally endanged species. This bird nests only in the Ashe Juniper-Oak woodlands of Central Texas. It does not, however, do so well in parking lots. "Hey Austin .... sloooooow down."

After my time at Ft. Hood, I took a position with the USFWS at Tern Island, French Frigate Shoals atoll, NW Island Chain, Hawai'i.

Tern I. is a 35-37 acre islet within an atoll that is 600+ nautical miles northwest of Honolulu, O'ahu. Yep, 35-acres. That's correct, 600+ miles from O'ahu. It is indeed a blue planet.

I invite you all to check out the archives of my personal blog (not really updated lately) for more about my time in the Pacific. http://mwyork.blogspot.com/

I worked with many bird species, but my particular personal responsibilities involved:

Black Noddy (Anous minutus):

Wedge-tailed Shearwater (Puffinus pacificus):

And Laysan (Phoebastria immutabilis) and Black-footed Albatross (P. nigripes).

Here I am with a BFAL:

After leaving Tern I., I had already committed to a job as Avian Field Biologist for the San Clemente Island(SCI) Loggerhead Shrike (Lanius ludovicianus mearnsi). But my mind was definitely on seeing Heidi. I could not wait to fly back to Texas to see her. By the way, SCI is the southern most Channel Island, a group of islands off the coast of southen CA.

Heidi and I made the most of our time together when I returned to the mainland in early January of 2008. But, I had already commited myself to another job, which grew into a permanent position.

I knew, that very morning, when I left the early darkness of pre-dawn Abilene, that there was something very powerful, very real, very unique yet quite recognizable between us.

That Knowing; it crescendoed that day forward. In fact, it still is.

Every day, I thought of her.

For 10+ months while I worked with the SCI LOSH Recovery and Monitoring Project, it became apparent that I could not continue to be half a continent away from her. In addition, my work schedule would have made things difficult even if our distance wasn't a 2-3 day drive apart.

In a decision that was difficult only due to my loyalty to the project, to these shrikes that I very much care about, and to certain crewmates, I peaced-out SCI and southern CA in mid-December 2008.

The decision most certainly, overall, was not a difficult one due to important priorities.

Within the blur of this whirlwind called life, there are a rare few pillars that stand unmoving, crystal-clear: 1)Friends, 2)Family, and 3) the rare opportunity to be with the one you love and have discovered you would strongly prefer not to live without.

Everything else in life is in motion. This aforementioned third pillar.... This third clarity of meaningfulness; it is a gift that not everyone in this existance discovers.

Yes, this decision was easy. In fact, there was no decision. I am happy, fortunate, grateful, entirely content and at peace.

So friends, family, and supporters; although this wedding ceremony will be quite small and informal, We are most certainly thankful for each and every one of you.

Hopefully this newly hatched blog will become a place that all of us feel comfortable visiting. It's current experimental purpose is to be medium that Heidi and I can use to share more about "Matt and Heidi things."

To members of respective families and friends that may not know about the taller or shorter half of Us yet, this site is meant to be a place we all can visit now, and as June 3rd approaches, and well after June 3rd.

A place that may even, at times, be a location that continues to remind of an important triumvirate to life; to love, to learn, to laugh.



  1. Wonderful excellent beautiful website. Especially the content. I'm looking forward to more See Trail and Matt and Heidi things.

  2. I should have read this later in the day. I hate it when my eyes get puffy first thing in the morning, especially at work. I really like this site. It makes me want to start one. June eh? Heidi, glad you waited so long to find the RIGHT guy. ;>)