Hummingbird Monitoring in the Grand Staircase


Rufous hummingbird–  The birds often rest for 10-20 seconds to recover from the stress of handling before they fly away.

As I sit in the office in Escalante, I can’t believe my time here is almost over! The fall rains have come to this formerly hot and dry desert landscape, and a familiar chill is in the air once again.  Except for the one main highway that runs through town, none of the roads here are paved.  The remaining roads are made of clay and silt, which makes them pretty dangerous when it storms, and impassible when the scourge of floodwaters literally wash them away.  Back when summer was in full swing and the area was more reliably safe to traverse, our team was able to conduct surveys of many different animal species on the monument.  Our boss, Terry, partners with the Hummingbird Monitoring Network, so we spent many early mornings driving to beautiful sites along slick-rock rivers and in the crisp mountain forests.

A typical day goes something like this:


Drop-net feeder trap

We arrive to work between 4:30-5:30 am in order to make it to the sites early enough.  The birds are more active and numerous before sunrise.  We begin by getting all the banding equipment in order and setting up the drop-net traps.  If we have time before the survey begins, we scramble to make a fire to keep the frigid winds at bay.  Then, eyes still red from lack of sleep, we begin trapping! The traps have a feeder hanging in the center.  Once a bird lands and begins to drink, we trip a wire from about 15-20 feet away.  A circular net drops around the feeder and makes contact with the base.  The bird is unharmed and still free to fly around in the enclosure.  We simply grab a small mesh bag, walk up to the feeder, and very gently reach in and get the bird.


Teeny tiny hummingbird band!

Terry is trained by the network to examine and band the birds, so once we deliver the birds to him, we begin to take data.  First, exact species, sex, and age is confirmed.  We then look to see if the bird already has a band.  If not, the bird’s tarsus is measured to make sure the band will fit.  Too big and the band either falls off or gets material wedged inside.  Too small, and you risk injury to the bird.  Each band has a unique number used to identify the bird if captured again. Banding species of any kind is a very precise and meticulous process, but is especially important in this situation as hummingbirds are obviously very small.  Can you imagine using a special pair of pliers to apply a metal band to an ankle that’s barely bigger than a piece of pencil lead?  Special care is always taken to make sure the birds are not injured.  I’m glad Terry knows what he’s doing, because I’m not ready for that kind of pressure!


Feeding post-banding

Next, we gather information about the bird’s specific markings, colors, and condition.  We measure the birds weight, length of the wing chord and culmen (bill), how much fat is present, wear on the body’s different feathers, and more.  The four most common hummingbird species we encounter are: Black-chinned, Broad-tailed, Rufous, and Calliope. We all try to work as quickly and efficiently as possible, so that the birds don’t endure more stress than necessary.  Hummingbirds have extraordinary metabolisms, so they lose a lot of energy in the short time we have them. Because of this, we make sure to feed each bird before releasing them.



Fire: our saving grace on the mountain during those cold 30-40 degree mornings

Each survey period is precisely five hours long.  We take care to measure the change in temperature, wind speed, and cloud cover every hour.  We also record the number of birds that simply fly by to check the feeder out, rather than stop for a drink.  Birds are discerning creatures, and many of them are rightfully skeptical that their usual feeders are now surrounded by a mess of unintelligible equipment.  Usually after the first 1-2 hours, the number of birds we trap takes a dive.  This is a time for us to  desperately run to the fire and warm our freezing hands.  Once the survey period is over, we pack up and find a nice spot overlooking a lake or river to eat lunch, remembering all the fascinating species we caught that day!


Though getting up at 4:00 am wasn’t always easy, it was definitely worth it.  Those early mornings were some of the best of the whole season, and I wouldn’t trade them for anything- not even more sleep.

Lauryl McFarland

Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument




Autumnal Equinox


Yesterday was the Fall equinox for our latitude, which means our days are drastically getting shorter: approximately 5:35 minutes per day in the months of September and October. At this rate, although the day length difference does begin to decrease with a tapering effect, at the end of October we have a sunrise at 9:30 am and sunset at 6:00 pm. At the end of November, 9:44 am and 3:52 pm. Aye, winter is upon us.

The Equinox also allowed the opportunity to reflect on a productive field season; friendships made, concepts learned, surveys conducted, data collected and water conserved (who needs showers?).


Field-family photo


Too much time in the backcountry can make you behave quite strangely.

After a season of primarily surveys and monitoring, it was refreshing to finally do some seed collection for the Wrangell-St. Elias native seed bank. Since our focus for the seed is restoration in disturbed areas of the park, primary successors were the focus of the collections. Two weeks were spent scouting and collecting from Calamagrostis canadensis and Elymus trachycaulus and Oxytropis campestrus populations, while also finding time to obtain some smaller collections of various wildflowers and some less abundant grasses. We were lucky enough to have a lovely SCA crew working with us during this period and it dramatically increased our productivity. As it turns out, 10 individuals can collect an awesome amount of seed in 2 weeks. Thanks guys! As far as seed processing and refinement goes, we processed most of the small collections ourselves, but our larger collections will soon be sent off to a plant materials center once dry.

A seed mix was derived from a portion of this years seed, along with that from previous years. The goal was to restore vegetation with this seed mix to a series of gravel slopes in the Kennecott Historic Mining District within the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. With the help of the SCA crew that aided us in our collections, the first stage of a small restoration was conducted in the areas. Fingers crossed for successful germination!


Native seed mix to be sown in Kennecott


Collecting Bromus ciliatus in the Wrangell Mountains

As the field season is officially over, we start to find odds and ends things to fill our days; Preparation of voucher specimen for placement in the herbarium, seed cleaning, educational programs and so on. Without a doubt most time consuming of tasks will be writing our 2016 Summer Report. The end is near, and it certainly feels odd writing a summary report for this season.

Synced with the Equinox are many more Alaskan pleasantries. Here in Alaska, this part of the year is a wonderful time for folks to come together and celebrate with recently acquired game, particularly moose and caribou. I am not much a fan of red meat, but caribou heart just may be the most incredible muscle tissue I have ever consumed.

In other news, a winemaking project with blackcurrants and blueberries will be wrapping up soon, and we are quickly accumulating snow on the glaciers in Thompson Pass, which means backcountry ski/snowboard season is here. October will be swell.


Delicious caribou heart.


This candid male moose had an uncomfortably small flight zone earlier this summer. I wonder if he escaped the ravenous hunters this fall.

The summer—no sweeter was ever;
   The sunshiny woods all athrill;
The grayling aleap in the river,
   The bighorn asleep on the hill.
The strong life that never knows harness;
   The wilds where the caribou call;
The freshness, the freedom, the farness—
   O God! how I’m stuck on it all.
The winter! the brightness that blinds you,
   The white land locked tight as a drum,
The cold fear that follows and finds you,
   The silence that bludgeons you dumb.
The snows that are older than history,
   The woods where the weird shadows slant;
The stillness, the moonlight, the mystery,
   I’ve bade ’em good-by—but I can’t.
– Robert Service


I’m beginning to wonder if I’ll ever leave this place.


Above Nabesna Mine with a glimpse of the Nabesna River. The Nabesna River is famously fed by Nabesna Glacier, the longest valley glacier in North America.




Winter is coming

Summer ended with a bang here in Vernal, and across the rest of Utah as well.  The official first day of fall coincided with a massive cold front that brought torrential downpours, high winds, and even a few tornadoes across the entire state.  It started snowing again in the Uintas.  That trend will probably continue until the peaks are buried deep under 4 feet of snow.  That was something I learned firsthand in May about 2 weeks after I got here, when I tried to climb Marsh Peak and ended up fighting through waist deep snow for hours with nothing to show for it.

We are still in limbo over most of our collections.  We have our eyes on two different eriogonum species that will probably be collected soon, but we are worried that most of our remaining collections won’t be ready until after we leave.  The Sarcobatus vermiculatus seems to be coming along well and will probably be caught, but Most of the artemisia species are still barely flowering.  The only way we could get those is if me or Hannah extends into November.  That’s a possibility but not likely.  I’m waiting to hear back for a job that starts in November and Hannah has her own plans.  I guess we will have to count on next years interns to get those collections.

Work and Play

The Work (The Weeds)

Since wrapping up our main portion of the field season we have been doing any and all tasks that have come up. Corinne and I have been primarily occupied with the many weeds-related activities. One of which includes pulling weeds quite regularly for a vegetation plot found on BLM land within a special recreation area known as Welch Ranch. While pulling weeds on a vegetation plot may sound like a relatively simple task, (and at any given moment it is) never could I have imagined we’d be needing to pull out what seems like 99.9% of the plants found on the plot. While progress has been made, progress has also been slow, and a task that started a ways back still requires work to be done. The weeds are certainly relentless.

Since weeds not only grow on research vegetation plots, we were honored to help out Justin with his weed mapping activities. We joined in on an adventure to help locate the many invasive and weedy plants that had grown out in the field. The database we were adding to, known as NISIMS (the acronym is a difficult one to remember what it stands for), is one we are becoming familiar with recently. And so we had a fun filled day of hiking and mapping, and with this training we are now involved with a large-scale weed mapping project at Welch Ranch.


Justin and Corinne on a mission to find the weeds.


Justin mapping weeds with tenacity. As Justin may say: No dreams weeds, only tears.

While we’ve just recently begun our time at Welch Ranch, we have certainly been shown quite the task ahead. Welch Ranch, the location of the infamous vegetation plot, contains a great variety of NISIMS species requiring mapping. With many walking points to map, and hills to traverse, we may be looking at many many miles of fieldwork over the course of coming weeks.


Located at Welch Ranch is a coal seam that has been on fire for some time. Fairly surreal to stand over smoking, hot, moist air coming from deep underground. The cheatgrass sure loves it though.

The Play

Recently I took off for an 11 day adventure across Colorado and primarily Utah. I had been looking forward to taking off a chunk of days for quite some time now. And with Labor Day around the corner I got to planning. The trip would include friends visiting in Fort Collins, Black Canyon of the Gunnison NP, Moab, Arches NP, Canyonlands NP, Zion NP (the main goal), and visiting a friend in Salt Lake City. Quite the adventure ahead with an unfortunate amount of driving.

The first stop was Fort Collins, and with lucky timing I was able to make the annual Tour de Fat put on by New Belgium Brewing Company. Missing this event the year prior it was great to finally make it. And what an event it is. Also a difficult one to fully describe. Involved is a celebration of biking and dressing up in costumes with no discernible theme. The highlight for me may have been a 4-person tandem bicycle pulling a giant rocket with a man playing guitar and singing atop. Beyond the fascinating costumes and bicycles comes the multitude of strange events, such as the slow ride, live music, and a bike pulled karaoke stage.


A glimpse of the Tour de Fat action.

But eventually my time in Fort Collins was at an end, and I was off to see some nature. The first trek was off to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. At first arrival I decided to shake out the legs by going on a 6-7 mile trail run atop the canyon. And what a canyon it is. The scale is pretty incredible and also difficult to fully capture in pictures. With steep, dark, hard rock walls, the canyon is very dramatic. But sadly I was still on a self-imposed schedule to make it to Utah the next afternoon so I did not get to spend nearly as much time as I would have liked there.


The Black Canyon in all its glory.

Southern Utah, National Parks, Moab, trails, biking, running, where to even start. This section of the trip was a blast. Never having been to the Southern Utah region and always hearing about it, it was finally time to make the trip. Starting off in Moab was a fantastic dive into limitless recreation activities. With Arches, Canyonlands, and extensive opportunities on BLM and Forest Service land nearby it’d be hard to run out of things to do there. Arches proved to be even more fun than I had originally expected. While I only had an afternoon to explore, I went on a long and scenic hike/run in the Devil’s Garden. This may have been the most fun I’ve ever had on a trail. Beyond the obvious scenic locations (arches, etc.), was traversing atop sandstone ridges, following rock cairns, and moving along sandy trails. It truly felt like a natural made playground.

Canyonlands was filled with some massive views. Most of my day there was spent on short hikes, and I can say for sure that I saw a good chunk of the Island in the Sky region. And after attempting to take it easy that day (a sure failure on my part), I ended up going on my first mountain biking ride outside Moab. Finding a significantly more difficult trail than I was capable of doing was apparently my choice for the day. With the grace of a fainting goat, I tackled the trail and was off to Zion the next day.

The three pictures blow are: Arches (Double O Arch), Canyonlands (the view from Island in the Sky), and Zion (Angel’s Landing)

20160905_17195420160906_11515220160907_172352 Zion National Park was easily the highlight of the whole trip. Seeing pictures and being blown away by the supposed views, I had to set several days for the park. The first hike I attempted was the well known Angel’s Landing hike, a hike known for multiple reasons. One, the views are incredible atop Angel’s Landing. Two, it is known to be a semi-dangerous hike with a fairly exposed scramble to the top. And three, it has a steep section of switchbacks known as Walter’s Wiggles. While several people have died here over the past 12 years, and with nearby drop offs sure to challenge those with a fear of heights, it is fairly reassuring knowing how many people make it to the top daily, and that chains are present to grab all along the way.

My last and worthwhile adventure in Zion was a solo backpacking trip through Echo Canyon. I was off to the East Rim of Zion, a location that appears to see somewhat little backpacking, likely due to the lack of water once reaching the camping zone. And the hike I chose to get there wasn’t lacking on the elevation gain either (roughly 2,400 ft in 4 or so miles). But setting up my hammock atop a mesa overlooking the canyon was a great end to my outdoors portion of my trip. My last several days were spent in Salt Lake City for the cozy household life, and ultimately making it back to Buffalo.


The spot for the night in Zion

All in all it was an incredible time and a rejuvenating break from the work-life. Now back onto the weeds.

Nick Melone

Buffalo, WY



Bonus: Little lady dog creeping out the truck, silently judging our Chinese Buffet food choices.


Grand Junctions


Eli Lowry,

Kremmling, CO field office, BLM


A pic of me pretending to know what I’m doing.

Spending time in grand junction

For the majority of the month of August AIM crew and I were trekking southwest to Grand Junction (GJ) CO. Its about a 3 hour drive from our field office in Kremmling and camping out for the week is a necessity. I’m not sure how many other CLMers out there are also in the AIM program so I’ll explain quickly. AIM mostly involves taking vegetation surveys of predetermined sites that are randomly selected across BLM land. Our goal is to survey at least 4 plots a week, Mondays can be long when you include loading up the truck and commuting. We are narrowing down on available sites for this field season, and there just so happened to be more sites in the GJ area.

This is by far the most transient job / lifestyle I have ever had, as the random plot selecting machine decides our fate and sends us out into some very remote and strange areas. There are times when we hike into backcountry away from trails and roads that I wonder if anyone has ever stepped foot on the land before me. Then I come across a dried up cow pie and know that at least some brave cows have made the journey before. For an idea of where we have been here is a map of plots completed over the field season. We are the Kremming field office, (the purple dots).

aimplotssep222016 Rejected plots

Not all plots are winners, and when they are too far out, steep or just plain dangerous to access they will be rejected. Some plots are obvious rejections that are clearly too difficult to access, while others are rejected only once you get up close and personal. GJ is riddled with steep cliffs and deep gullies and sometimes our plots lie smack dap in the middle of them. This happened twice, but all is not lost, as even rejected plots provide data on the slope and aspect of the area.


Here you can see me measuring out where our plot would extend to. In this case we would be going off the cliff near the very precariously placed boulder. Needless to say the topography was grounds for rejection.


The second rejection lies along the steep face of this cliff, nope.

The little things

The drive is not all that bad.  We pass through the spectacular Glenwood canyon and drop down 1,400 feet into a warmer, sandier and fruiter area. GJ is adjacent to the Colorado National Monument and features some pretty Grand Mesas, actually the “Grand Mesa”, which is the largest flat topped mountain on the planet. We had the privilege to camp there for a night, I’ll get to that later. There are also some pretty greet farmers markets in the area that stock delicious Palisade peaches

Fruita is a funky little town outside GJ that is a haven for mountain bikers and pizza lovers, which happens to be two of my favorite things. One night after a long day of looking at plants and digging holes, we decided to reward ourselves by visiting the Hot Tomato, an infamous pizza shop that prides itself on creative topping combinations and bike themed décor. It’s the little things in life that make it worth living, specifically melty cheese.


There can only be one, off to the highlands.

The beauty of Colorado is that if you are too hot all you have to do is climb. During our most recent visit to GJ we had to cross over from one end of the Grand Mesa to the other. We left a plot from a base elevation of 4,593 ft. and climbed up the 11,332 ft. Mesa. As we passed switch backs after switch back, the hot cab of the truck began to cool, soon enough we were scrambling for our long sleeves and turning off the AC. Suddenly we reached the top and the arid high desert became a montane conifer forest, dappled with vibrant almost turquoise lakes. There was good foraging, with currants and raspberries galore.


To give you an idea of what the landscape looks like, the Grand Mesa can be seen to the left of the mesa in the foreground.


Eggleston Lake on top of the Grand Mesa

Cactus Tax

I feel these little buggers deserve their own subheading, as they found their way into my foot several times hiking around GJ. Watch your step folks.


Opuntia polyacantha being fed on by what I believe to be cactus bugs (Chelinidea vittiger aequoris)

Stay tuned for the next entry of Aspens turning yellow as Autumn makes makes its way through the Rockies.

Everyday is a New Adventure


My internship originally was a whirlwind of scouting areas for seed collection. While doing this I got to witness majestic views of the high dessert. So far I have sent off 24 of my 32 seed collections to Bend Seed Extractory with a total of 74 pounds of seed shipped to date. My supervisor and I have laughed many times about my hidden box collection in the garage that I use for shipping seed off. The dessert has gone from the annual and perennial forbs painting the dessert a mirage of purple, pink, red, yellow, and white, to now being a sea of green and yellow as the rubber rabbitbrush and various sagebrush species are blooming. Last week I joined the Friends of the High Rock/ Black Rock Desert with taking out old fence in the Little High Rock Canyon Wilderness. Next week, if the weather holds, I will be picking my first cone producing species, the Washoe Pine.

But as the season has changed I have been working on a water resource project that spans 2 states and 5 counties.  At first it was nerve wracking to come up with a way to find over 500 water resource sites and organize what paperwork was needed for each site. I also had to find what documentation was needed to update the out of date water resource files. For this project, I turned to ArcGIS and a pair of Trimbles in order to run the program that I established in ArcMap. Trimbles are great for field work and sometimes can prove difficult when they don’t always want to work. Learning how to program and use Trimbles has been a great experience for me and has given me another great skill to use for future field work.

Sometimes my sites aren’t where my GPS unit says they should be, so occasionally I end up going on a bit of a search to find them. On flat and open ground areas finding pit reservoirs, stock ponds, stock tanks, and other water resources are easier, but in dense vegetation or in mountains it gets a bit more difficult. Some of my favorite places to see are Graven Reservoir and Likely Mountain. Many of these places are very hard to reach by vehicle and most of the time I hike into the sites. At one of the sites I got within 100 yards of a coyote and at another site I saw an antelope with triplets. Now that fall has hit, the days are getting cooler and shorter. Today we had our first snow storm, though it rained in the valleys, and this change in weather is a signal that the seed collecting season is almost over and that it’s time to wrap up projects.

Graven Reservoir looking back at Likely Mountain Fire Lookout.

Graven Reservoir looking back at Likely Mountain Fire Lookout.

The pronghorn with triplets below Alturas.

The pronghorn with triplets below Alturas.

Finally, I was ready to conquer a day of rain, hail, and snow on my quest to find stock ponds.

Finally, I was ready to conquer a day of rain, hail, and snow on my quest to find stock ponds.

I hope everyone else has enjoyed the changing of the seasons where they are stationed!

Questions? No Answers.

Throughout this field season I’ve found myself questioning a lot of things, amongst them I’ve questioned why non-native species are where they are, how they’ve migrated, who brought them and the stories + logic that came with bringing some of them to where they are. I believe most species have explanations requiring nothing more than some time and online research to find answers. Other questions, however, will remain unanswered.

Recently, we were at a Pinyon-Juniper site and everything seemed so ordinary. There weren’t many plants out of their usual ecosystem, or prominent wildlife but there was something a little strange. As we evaluated the plot, we started to notice random burn scars on tree logs. These pieces were somewhat blended into the environment so the burn marks weren’t noticeable until I stood right in front of one. I found this all strange because clearly there wasn’t a prescribed burn, the damage wasn’t vast enough to say that there was a fire in the area. In addition, there was one burned log that upon further analysis appeared to still be rooted. This burned rooted Pinyon crossed out the possibility of down wood from a fire, since we were on a slope. So why in hell would this burned tree be here, in what seemed like the middle of nowhere. I sat there and pondered on the possibilities, the explanation I settle on was that lightning hit the one tree, setting it ablaze. If trees would talk, I’m sure the stories they’d tell would be fascinating, limited but fascinating. I picture them talking really slowww and with a deep monotonous voice, droopy bark mouth and bushy bark eyebrows all related to Sesame Street’s Snuffaluffagus. I remain in question but shift my outlook to he thought that maybe it’s better this way, helps my imagination fly as free as the birds overhead.

I’m generally a rather inquisitive person but questioning everything seems to be my theme this field season, I feel as though I’m 5 again asking why the sky is blue. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but these unanswerable questions sometimes make me feel the same way as I do when I try and key out the species of a plant and I’m not happy with my final answer. However, I look forward to more unanswerable questions that I can try and piece together answers to.

Cheers fielders!

Going batty at the BLM

While the field season is winding down and things may have started to become routine, I can promise you that I am not going crazy.  Instead, I am starting to work more with bats now.  For the past couple of weeks I have been putting out audio surveying equipment near water sources to collect bat calls.  The audio equipment records the calls that they use to echolocate and then software at the office can transform the call into a sound range that we can hear and even identify the species of bat making the call.  This is a part of an ongoing effort to learn more about bat distribution in central Oregon, especially determining the distribution and habitat of each individual bat species.  I have really enjoyed this break from my typical routine as it gets me to new areas.  


Audio recording device at a watering trough.

I am about to transition to working more directly with bats, but not in actual contact with them due to the threats of White-nosed syndrome that has recently been detected in Washington State.  We will be going through decontamination procedures, which are crucial in being able to go into caves safely and minimize and hopefully eliminate the possibility of disease transmission.  My supervisor has many years of experience working with bats, so I will get to learn more about bats from her and watch as she and other experienced professionals remove bats from mist nets and take some measurements that are used to conclusively identify the species.

Recently we headed out before dark to set up mist nets at a cave just outside of Sisters. We drove on Forest Service roads and then parked on a non-descript pullout.  We then proceeded to walk about a quarter of a mile and a cave suddenly appears out of nowhere. I was not expecting a cave out in the middle of the forest, but there it was.  We set up three mist nets near the mouth of the cave and then waited.  Shortly after the sun set (and I think that we even got a couple while it was still light) we started getting bats in the net.  I was not able to handle the bats as I don’t have a rabies shot, so I helped to record data. The bats were removed from the net, the sex, age and species was determined and then we tested them for Pd (white nose syndrome).  In the end we captured four different species of bats (California myotis, Western long-eared myotis, Long-legged myotis and a big brown bat).  This experience turned out to be much more fulfilling than my previous experience, where we were only able to capture one bat the whole night.


Big-brown bat caught while mist netting.

 Now I leave for a week of vacation touring the National Parks before heading back to work for the BLM and exploring caves and searching for bats.  I am really excited to be able to take a break from work and go explore the West, but I cannot wait to get back and start going Batty with the BLM.

First Day of Fall

It’s hard to believe summer is officially over! Though the weather supports the calendar. Temperatures have already dropped with most days lingering in the 70s while nights have become brisk. However, it’s even chillier outside the valley. We’ve done a couple of camping trips these last 2 weeks for work with more to come in the next couple of weeks and it’s dropped down to the 40s some of those nights. Fortunately my coworker and I have kept warm in our sturdy bags and tents, but it takes extra will power to part them in the chilly mornings, especially now that the sun refuses to rise before 6:30. Our work this week was the usual noxious weed surveys at an area called Watermelon Hill, but unlike what the name suggests, there is sadly no watermelons of any kind present (It was a bigger disappointment than it should have been). On the contrary to delicious fruit, the place was covered in noxious weeds. The area is roughly 1.5 square miles and nearly all of it had invasive weeds present. Don’t get me wrong, it was still a pretty area and if I had still been back in the days when I was blissfully unaware of what a noxious weed even was I’d surely find it an “ideal” natural area.  But regardless of the weed situation, the trip was a fun one and I could never complain about having to hike around all day.


Watermelon Hill (oh look, no watermelons)


Chondrilla juncea or Rush Skeleton Weed, a Class B noxious weed.


Taeniatherum caput-medusae or medusahead, a highly invasive grass.


Cynoglossum or houndstongue and you guessed it, another noxious weed and obnoxious to remove from your pants.

Next week we travel to another area with a fruit in the name, Huckleberry Mountain (it seems more realistic to hope for the actual presence of huckleberries this time). It’s supposed to be a beautiful area, perhaps even the nicest place we’ll see during our internship. And instead of the usual crew of two, two others will be joining us as well. It’s time to spread our knowledge of the ways of the weeds, as in I’ll take on a crazed Newman alter ego from Seinfeld “The weeds never stop! They just keep coming and coming and coming. There’s never a letup, they’re relentless. The more you take out the more that come! And then the Trimble dies and weeds consume you!” It will be a great time for all. Last week I helped out at the annual Salmon Festival that’s held at a salmon hatchery in Leavenworth (30 min north of here). Elementary school kids from the area come to the hatchery, where several different federal and state agencies have interactive setups to inform the students on a variety of subjects. Ranging from salmon life history and other cool wildlife (mammals, birds, other fish) to learning about Native American culture. Our booth was particularly popular, an obstacle course to represent what salmon have to go through to reach their spawning grounds. Kids had to run through the fish nets and hooks (streamers with hooks drawn on them), over the dam (slide), under the wildfire (more streamers), past the bear (cardboard cut out), over the rapids (speed bumps), and finally through the culvert (an actual culvert) to spawn at their nesting site (dropping a wiffle gulf ball in a kiddie pool filled with gravel). To make things more interesting, I hid behind the cut out bear and surprised kids by roaring and having it lunge at them. It always startled a squeak out of the first kid before throwing them and the followers into fits of giggles while they attempted to dodge me. It was actually really fun and I was sad when my shift ended!

Anyways, I brought this up to make another point but got carried away. One of the booths was run by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and they had an assortment of mammalian skulls. I got to talking with the woman running it and she mentioned that there is an established wolf pack up in the Huckleberry area we will be camping in next week. She said that if I wait until dark and do a little howling I may get some return howls from the pack! How cool would that be? A pack of wolves howling with me. I’m super excited to try it out, though the thought of being out in the woods in the dark being howled at by wolves even now makes my hairs stand on end. But she assured me that of all the wildlife out there, wolves were the least to worry about due to their extremely cautious and shy nature.

Howl ya later!