Hydrology: Again!

If you’ve been keeping up with the latest and greatest of the CLM blog, this post might sound familiar. That’s because my fellow intern, Sophie, is working on the same hydrology project, and you could say that we are both pretty pumped about it. So since this project is also taking up most of my time, I thought I’d give my take on the experience as well. If your interested in the details of the project, Sophie did a great job explaining them in her blog.

As someone who has done work in headwater streams before, I was excited to return to this kind of work in a larger river and on a greater scale. Waders were a fun addition to our typical work wear and trying them out was a little scary but a lot fun. Lets just say hiking through water on a hot day is much more enjoyable than hiking through open sagebrush. As Sophie mentioned, colder weather to come will make these thick neoprene waders more cozy than constricting and we have already been experiencing much cooler weather this week (we officially have snow covered peaks in the Bighorns!). But waders aren’t the only new gear we have been dawning throughout this project. Pile on a safety vest, Trimble, walking stick, transect tape, pins, and usually some heavy metal monument caps and you have the full ensemble (pictured below).

Bring on the science!

What I have enjoyed most about working on this project is the opportunity to learn new skills and perfect old ones. The hydrologist at the BFO that we have been working has been extremely open to questions and patient as we learn new methodologies that will be very valuable in the future. It is also great to hear about the context of this study and the way that the data we are collecting in these final months of our internship will be useful in years and decades to come as this river changes and hopefully improves. As someone who was already interested in stream ecology and hydrology, but was unsure if this was a direction I wanted to go, I can now whole-heatedly say that I could wade around in a stream for a while and be content.

Buffalo BLM Resources Intern

Friendly Fences

Across the Buffalo Field Office, whether in the rolling planes or up in the Bighorns, fencing is everywhere. Fence delineating grazing allotments, boundaries between federal, state, and private land, exclosures, and enclosures covers the landscape. All this fencing may provide barriers for the livestock but it can often function in the same way for wildlife. Pronghorn, especially, who evolved on the wide-open North American plains, struggle to cross these barrier as jumping is not their forte. Fencing with five barbed wires or sheep wire at the bottom makes crossing these barriers even more difficult. Creating wildlife friendly fencing means keeping the bottom wire above 14 inches off the ground and making it smooth rather than barbed wire.

The miles and miles of fencing across the landscape also makes keeping track of it more difficult. For this reason, much of the fencing that exists is in need of repair or updating to wildlife friendly construction. This week’s fencing project involved tackling and removing an old barbed wire fence at a BLM recreation site in the Bighorns.

Old barbed wire fence ready for removal

Removing and repairing fence is hard work, best to rise with the sun and get started before the heat of the day sets in. Leather gloves don’t stand much of a chance against these rusty barbs so there is a certain technique and finesse with which I have learned to role and handle this old wire.

To make our sunrise start on the fencing work a bit more manageable we spent the night in the field after our first day of repair at a nearby site. Great sunset views and a hearty campfire dinner are sure to heal the bruises and scratches from a day working to make these fences a little more friendly.

-Katherine, Resources Intern @ BLM Buffalo Field Office

A Band of Birders

This week I had the great opportunity of attending a bird banding session with an Audubon Rockies group in Wyoming’s Keyhole State Park. While this was my first hands on experience with bird banding, it was the third of such events this summer. Like any good birding experience this banding event begins at sunrise by setting up ten mist nets in various locations within walking distance of the processing site. These nets placed in a variety of locations allow for the assessment of bird species by habitat as some nets remain in wooded areas while others are in open shrublands.

The best part about birding is watching the sunrise. Can you spot the doe?

Capturing birds in any area allows for the collection of very detailed information on diversity and health of ecosystems. Seeing birds up close, assessing their health and mating status provides us with much more information than could be obtained by a simple audio and visual survey. Banding birds means that the data collected at one small sight can be applied on an international scale. By entering band numbers into an international database, recaptured birds can be tracked across vast landscapes and even continents. This allows scientists and the public to gain a greater understanding of these impressive migratory bird species on an individual and population level.

So far this year 105 bird species have been banded at this sight in Keyhole State Park. Among the species I identified and was able to handle were Bullock’s Oriole, Western Wood-Pewee, Common Yellowthroat, Yellow Warbler, and this handsome Cedar Waxwing.

Cedar Waxwing posing to show off his one red feather

These banding sessions are open to the public and great chance to see what goes into bird banding and data collection, and even get a chance to hold and release a bird if you’re lucky. There are two more bird banding events this summer on July 25th and August 8th. If you are in the area I would highly recommend checking one of these out and spending a night or weekend in the park while you’re at it! Check out Audubon Rockies for more information on how to get involved.

Katherine, Resources Intern at BLM’s Buffalo Field Office

Welcoming Committee

This past week marked the second week of my internship at the Bureau of Land Management’s Buffalo Field Office in the High Plains District. As I transitioned from formal training to field work, I got a chance to experience the landscape from which this district gets its name. Heading up Route 16 into the Bighorn Mountains, though private, state, and public land was truly a beautiful commute. Myself and our Rangeland Technician were headed to collect an old pile of barbed wire on BLM land. Perhaps this doesn’t sound like the most glamorous of tasks but this is just one piece of making our public lands beautiful, clean and accessible.

The Bighorn Mountains poking up behind the high plains.

Along the way to and from our site we were welcomed by one elk, five mule deer, and three moose, one male and two female. We saw this wildlife wading in wetlands and grazing in the same pastures as cattle, all taking their time grazing on the high plain grasses and shrubs. Traversing this landscape provided views of sprawling sage brush and grasslands on rolling hills with the impressive background of the snowy mountain tops. Looking into the distance at what I thought was more sage brush soon became clearer. A herd a sheep, hundreds, easily the largest I have ever seen.

Rolling the windows down to hear their greetings and say hello to the rancher herding them on an ATV, I felt shift in temperature at this altitude, noticeably cooler than in the valley. We spoke to this land owner about who we were, what we were doing here, as well as the BLM’s role and authorities on the land they manage, asking him about his own observations and suggestions.

While this half day in the field involved several hours of driving just to perform the simple task of picking up barbed wire, this experience gave me a much greater understanding of the land managed by the BLM in this area and the relationships present among humans and wildlife. Boundaries between land ownership seem clear on our maps and are important when it comes to the actions that the BLM takes. However, to the wildlife, good graze is good graze, and they’ll go wherever they can to find it.

– Buffalo Field Office, Bureau of Land Management