Soaring to New Heights!! The Search for the Golden Eagle!

Welcome to the City of Apples

Wenatchee Apple Capital
Hello everyone!! This is Justin Chappelle reporting from BLM Wenatchee Field Office in Washington State! This is my third internship with the CLM and I am very excited to have this great opportunity!

Wenatchee, Washington is considered the Apple Capital of the World. Everywhere you look, you see apple trees or something apple related. The hillsides for miles have orchards of cherry, pear, apricot, and of course apple trees. Apple advertising is everywhere! They even have an Applebees!  We are in pre-spring and everything is ready to bloom! The magnolias, fruit trees, and forsythia are already blooming, and farmers are beginning to spray the orchards with various sprays to make the fruit last longer, grow bigger, and have the flowers bloom for the pollination process. ^_^;

Fruit Trees!!

There are a huge amount of fruit tree cultivars that could be found in the Wenatchee Valley!

My previous internships were in Burns, Oregon and Buffalo, Wyoming. Both of these small towns were peaceful and had a population around 4-5,000. Wenatchee thinks of itself as a small town as well, but there are 40,000 people living in the area! They had the World’s shortest parade route for St. Patrick’s Day. Essentially, the parade was a block long and they did the parade twice to extend the duration. Wenatchee is a new adventure and I am very excited about working for the BLM in this town!

The Essentials

Every internship begins with the essentials in order to work for the Government. We had to be certified, watch all of the safety videos, and take all of the computer exams! This process went pretty smooth and we were certified for everything within a few days! I did have a problem with the FISAA+ exam. Every time I completed the exam, the computer would not print out my certification. I had to take the exam over three more times until I was able to get my certification. By that time, I also found out that the computer was sending the print work to another section of the BLM office, so now I am 4 times FISSA+ certified! No worries about computer safety tactics and malware, I am a pro at all of the computer documentation!

There were a variety of meetings that we had last week regarding weekly updates, visiting bosses, a potluck, and EEO. Everyone here was super friendly and welcoming! Jenny (The other intern) and I were thrown into the thick of everything and learned a great deal about politics, policy work, and all of the jobs each employee at this BLM had. Despite a smaller sized staff, each of the employees were doing all sorts of jobs and tasks! For Jenny and I, we found out that we would be doing a lot for our field season, which was exciting to hear!!! (I am a little nervous, but in a good way! ^_^;;)

This is a horned lizard we found!!

This is a horned lizard we found!!

Enter Into The Palisades

We had our first field day last Tuesday! The field biologist (Erik) and the botanist (Molly) took us to the Palisades, which was an area located to the East of Wentachee. This place had amazing topography, which was carved out by prehistoric floods. Recently, there was a fire that occurred in this area the previous year. We were checking on the seeding efforts that were going on. There was a tractor pulling three seeding devices. These devices made indents into the ground and planted the seeds at the same time. This process looked amazing! The actual process did not till up a lot of soil, but just enough to plant the seeds. The machines even ran over a glass bottle and it was not broken!

The till and seeding process

The till and seeding process

The fire was not very intense, and a majority of plants were recovering nicely. Molly, our botanist, was showing us all of the plants in our area. Normally in March, the other field offices had a different calendar for Spring time and many flowers would start to bloom at the end of April. In Washington, there were many flower species that were blooming. Lomatium, Dodecatheon, and Rancuclaceae flowers were everywhere! I was impressed about the diversity at this time of year. I even saw a sagebrush species I have never seen before, the stiff sagebrush (Artemisia rigida). Jenny and I found a horned lizard that was crawling on the ground and we took pictures with it. Haha!! The Palisades were an interesting place to visit and we were probably going to come back to this area for ESR activities later in the season.

Ranunculus glaberrimus!!!

Ranunculus glaberrimus!!!

The Rundown

Our bosses, J.A. and Erik, were extraordinarily helpful for our first week of the internship. They made sure we were set up and kept us busy for the first week. We recently had a meeting with both of them about the activities Jenny and myself would be doing this field season. They gave us a lot of tasks, which sound fantastic!! Our top priority goal was to perform Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) surveys throughout the massive Washington District. We would travel to the southern border by Oregon to the Canadian border for different nest locations. We would make note if the eagle nests were occupied, if there were chicks present, and if the nest was being used through the whole nesting season. We were to make note of any other bird of prey nest that would be located on the BLM lands of Washington. We were also tasked with doing sage grouse, Washington ground squirrel, and pygmy rabbit surveys. We would be doing various field methods and make elaborate notes on what we would see. These tasks would require a lot of use of GPS systems and the various GIS programs. Combining my skills of GIS with my love for nature, makes this a dream job for me! I am very excited to be doing these tasks for the first section of my internship.

The rest of the tasks would be performing habitat assessments, working with the Great Basin Institute, GPS fence lines, do watershed assessments, make allotment visits, GIS geodatabase organization, and develop ESR reports. Another main focus would be to do sage grouse surveys. Different vegetation surveys would be completed during the Summer time. As you can see, we have been given many huge tasks to undertake! We will do the best we can for this internship, and learn a lot of techniques that will help us in our future careers!!

A local marmot sends her regards.

A local marmot sends her regards.

Can You Find the Golden Eagle Nest?

This is what we first see when we come to a site...Can you find the eagle nest???

This is what we first see when we come to a site…Can you find the eagle nest???

An example of a Golden Eagle Nest

Congrats!!! You found an active Golden Eagle Nest!

On the Search for the Golden Eagle!

Our second week of our internship was to go to various golden eagle nests close to the city of Wenatchee. Some of the eagle nests were built next to each other and had a history of occupation. The first site we went to was the Three Devils. We definitely found one nest, but the other one could not be seen. There was whitewash (bird poop), but we saw no evidence of any golden eagle using this site anymore. We went down to the Douglas Creek site, which had five nesting areas along this butte structure. This area was very slippery from the rain, so we could not drive up the narrow road. We eventually hiked up to the area and scouted to see if we could find any nests. Haha, the eagle nests were very hard to find and we found out that the battery life on our GPS was very short. We headed back to the office and planned for the next day!

Three Devils Nesting Site

Three Devils Nesting Site. The little white splotch towards the top of the rock structure was the whitewash.

The slippery mountain roads we had to deal with on our first day.

The slippery mountain roads we had to deal with on our first day.

The next day provided better results. We went to two sites north of town known as the Wenatchee Game Office nests. At first we drove along the cliffs, but there was nowhere to pull off to search for golden eagles. We eventually went across the Columbia River and visited many fruit stand parking lots that had a view of the cliffs. Again, finding each of the nests proved to be difficult. Our last observation point was in a taxidermy shop’s parking lot. We did see a golden eagle pass through the area and there was a red tailed hawk that thought of itself as an eagle. We could definitely tell the difference. 😉  We did find out later that most of the nests were abandoned the previous years due to the hot summers. Maybe they would return in the future to this area.

Our next stop was in Rock Island. The small town to the south had a huge dam and many steep cliffs. We tried to get a good vantage point, but the nest was hard to see. We did see a golden eagle fly near the nesting area, so we promised ourselves that we would come back after we talk with the electric company, so we could have access to see the potential eagle nest. The last nesting site we visited was the Douglas Creek area. When we exited the car, a sub adult and an adult Golden Eagle glided closely overhead!! We were very excited!!! We looked to see where they were going, but they flew away. We scanned the cliffs for possible nesting sites, but we did not see any activity for hours. During this time we saw two Northern Harriers doing a courtship display….well the male was doing the courtship and the female was just flying around looking uninterested. We also saw American Kestrels, Red Tailed hawks, and Prairie Falcons in the area. Canyon Wrens, Western Meadowlarks, Mountain Bluebirds, Brewer’s Sparrows, and White Throated Swifts were flying all over the place, singing. European Starling and American Robins were also noted. After an hour of scanning the cliffs for eagles and potential nesting sites, we saw a Golden Eagle soaring near the nesting site!!! O_O Yay!!!!! It flew right over the area where the nests were supposed to be, but then a murder of American Crows flew at the Golden Eagle and were pestering it! D: Come on, American Crows!!!! Stop bothering the eagle. We want to see where it lands!!! The eagle flew away into the distance and out of site. :/ When we did our office day research session, we found out that there were many active nests in Douglas Creek last year, so we will try this site again to see if we could find those Golden Eagles.

Douglas Creek Nesting Sites

Douglas Creek Nesting Site Area

The next day we were venturing up North near the town of Chelan! Our first site was called Chelan Concrete. They said it was occupied twenty years ago, but the nest was destroyed recently. We could not find a nest here, but we did watch a golden eagle male fly along the cliffs for a good hour. It landed a few times to preen and look for chukars. We made many notes about this site and a possible nesting area nearby. We made our way to the Ice Caves afterwards! This site was on a huge granitic structure located north of the Chelan Airport. After searching the cliffs for thirty minutes, we saw a male Golden Eagle fly around. Then we actually found a nest!! We watched the male swoop by the nest and we saw a female rise and communicate from the nesting site!!!!!!!! We were both ecstatic that we actually found an active nesting site with a Golden Eagle couple!!! \(OoO)/We watched the site for almost two hours. After taking many notes, we moved onto the next nesting site by the Chelan Airport. The documents said this nest was abandoned in 1981. After a lot of searching, we concluded that the nest was destroyed and was within the territory of the eagle couple by the Ice Caves, so no eagle would like to nest there now. The final project for the day was to do a small ES&R monitoring project on our way back home. The burned site recovered nicely from the low intensity fire. Overall, this day was fantastic!!!

The Ice Caves Site with an active eagle nest...somewhere on the mountain.

The Ice Caves Site with an active eagle nest…somewhere on the mountain.

I was reading many of the blogs recently and it sounds like everyone is having a great time with their internship!!! I hope all is well on your end!

Justin Chappelle: Wenatchee BLM

And now….Your Moment of Spring Zen

Narcissus/ Daffodils!!

Narcissus/ Daffodils!!

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About Justin

Hello! My name is Justin! I am an intern working for the BLM in Buffalo, Wyoming! I will be working on remote sensing and GIS projects. My favorite outdoor hobbies include bird watching, plant identification, rock hounding, exploring, and fishing.

2 thoughts on “Soaring to New Heights!! The Search for the Golden Eagle!

  1. Hi Justin!

    Great blog : )

    So excited you have spring already-lucky guy ; )


  2. Hey Heather!!! ^_^

    Great to hear from you! Looking forward to your blog posts!

    Enjoy the field season!


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