Hidden in Plain Sight: Adventures with Rocks and Grasses~! \(^_^\)

Alternative Training: Boot Camp for Grasses!

Since I have already attended the CBG training two years ago, I was fortunate enough to go on an alternative training opportunity in the city of Seattle. The opportunity involved an intense three day course on grass identification. We were given a plethora of grasses to observe and identify throughout the three day period. The first day involved a few lectures on grass identification and the importance of grasses. We were given over fifty samples of grasses to look at. Glumes, awns, ligules, paleas, anthers, culms, and every part relating to grasses was observed! By the end of the day, I was exhausted due to the shear amount of key features per grass I identified. This session really helped me out! In the past, all my botany classes concentrated on forb, shrub, and tree identification and always skipped over grasses.

Grass identification is serious business!

Grass identification is serious business!…Also, when identifying grasses, sun block is essential.

Everyone's favorite brome, cheatgrass!!! Kidding! ;)

Everyone’s favorite brome, cheatgrass!!! Kidding! 😉

The second day brought us out in the field to Discovery Park! We identified all the invasive and native grasses in the area. There were many interesting grasses that even grew in Illinois (where I am from) that grew in the fields here! Some of the grasses that stood out were ripgut (Bromus diandrus), quackgrass (Elytrigia repens)…..the genus has changed considerably, and American dune grass (Leymus mollis). Ripgut was a brome species and basically looks like a cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum) on steroids. Thank goodness I don’t see this in the field at work! Quackgrass was a particularly nasty invasive I have always encountered. If you grab the tip of the grass and pull the culm in the opposite direction, you could make all the seed heads move in a quacking fashion like a duck! ^_^ American dune grass was a massive grass found along the shorelines of the Sound and was planted to control the erosion of beaches. Overall, the day required a lot of walking and identification, but I loved it!!

The groundskeeper was curious on why so many people were on their knees picking grass.

The groundskeeper was curious on why so many people were on their knees picking grass…

The third day began with lectures and a chance to look at the herbarium they had at Washington State University. I had the privilege to look at many herbarium grasses that were collected along the Northwest corridor. Some of the collections were over 100 years old!! We met an artist that was working on the new taxonomic key for the Hitchcock guide book. There were other people that were working on the herbarium website. I use the Hitchcock guide book and the website all the time for plant identification and now I got to meet the people who actually worked on it all! I was so happy!! At the end of the class, I learned over 80 genera of grasses. The huge amount of species I have learned would help me in the future when I begin plant monitoring soon. Hopefully, I will see more grasses beyond the Stipa, Elymus, Leymus, Bromus, and Festuca species.

Looking at some herbarium specimens.

Looking at some herbarium specimens.

Eaglet Names!!

The eaglets have hatched and were very active in their nests recently. Some have started to explore the perimeters of their nest and beyond! O_O Recently, Jenny and I have been doing revisits and have observed many of the eaglets in action. I gave them names that suited them. I am sure you recognize Boo from my previous blog! Most of the active nests were up north towards the Canadian border. The central and southern nests did have some success as well!! Here are the names for the eaglets.

Site Name                       Eaglet

Bridgeport Bar East:        Bosmin

Douglas Creek:               Roseluck

Enloe Dam:                    Wyatt

Francis Canyon:             Eclipse

Grimes Lake:                 Boo

Hull Mt:                         Moonshine

Ice Caves:                     Dipper

Palisades North:            Lily

Pomona:                      Goldie

Saddle Mts:                 Star Buck

Sheep Creek:               Mable

Sinlahekin Loomis:       Fig Newton

Siwash Creek:             Truffle Shuffle

This is Truffle Shuffle doing his thing. It is really hard to take pictures of the eaglets. Haha!

This is Truffle Shuffle doing his thing. It is really hard to take pictures of the eaglets. Haha!

Rock and Mineral Adventures

I have been busy on the rock hounding front around Wentachee, Washington. From petrified wood to opal to geode nodules, Washington state has it all! My favorite rock hounding spots were the Saddle Mountains, Douglas Creek, Red Top Mountain, and Crystal Mountain!

The Saddle Mountains were known for their petrified wood. Limbcasts and large logs of petrified wood were littering the ground on top of the mountains. This area had so much petrified wood, it was incredible. There were calcite and silica deposits as well near the petrified wood, so you could collect neat specimens!

Petrified wood and limb casts from the Saddle Mountains!! \(O_O\)

Petrified wood and limb casts from the Saddle Mountains!! \(O_O\)

Douglas Creek has a lot of silica/ opal deposits at the top of the hills. The colors of the rocks vary from red, orange, pink, green, and white. The opal rocks look constantly wet and with cleaning they turned out to be top quality stones!

(/O_O)/ Douglas Creek Silica rock and opal!

(/O_O)/ Douglas Creek silica rock and opal!

Red Top Mountain has Ellensburg Blue Agate. Those rocks could be easily dug up from the ground from the breccia deposits. The nodules and agates have a vivid blue color that could be used for jewelry. I went after a thunderstorm in search of the nodules. People left piles of dirt next to the holes and left everything. When I came after the storm, the nodules were exposed and washed by the rain. I could easily find the nodules in the piles. I spent a few hours early in the morning collecting samples.

Ellensburg Blue Agate and Nodules.

Ellensburg Blue Agate and Nodules.

Crystal Mountain was an amazing place to search for blue nodules, agates, and other various large crystals. I hiked in and slid down the talus slopes to the geode piles. The talus slopes I was sliding on had many agates and blue striped nodules, so I quickly grabbed as much as possible while sliding down. At the bottom of the talus slopes, you could find huge geodes and nodules weighing 10 to 15 pounds! Geodes literally covered the ground in a few areas. Thanks to a fire in the previous year and the sheep eating grass in the area, everything was exposed! I hiked out of the area with 40 pounds of rocks! ^_^; The hardest part was carrying everything up the talus slopes. Haha!!

Blue nodule!!

Blue nodule!!

The Bounty of Crystal Mountain!!!

The Bounty of Crystal Mountain!!!

The Great Transition: NISIMS

We were finishing up in Sulfur Canyon on NISIMS reports. Jenny and I have been going into the depths of Sulfur Canyon and recording wildlife observations, anthills, various bird species, and invasive plants. Cheatgrass, tall tumble mustard (Sisymbrium altissimum), Dalmatian toadflax (Linaria dalmatica), whitetop (Lepidium draba), Russian knapweed (Acroptilon repens), diffuse knapweed (Centaurea diffusa), and common woolly mullein (Verbascum thapsus) were the most prevalent weeds that were growing in the area. We hiked up various hillsides and narrow ravines to get to some of the most isolated sections of the allotment. By the end of each day, my shoes and pants would be covered with needle and thread (Hesperostipa comata) and cheat grass seeds. The area in my  shoes and pants that were exposed were pierced by seed, which was pretty painful, but I survived. <_<

Doing NISIMS data collection!!

Doing NISIMS data collection!!

In the future, we will be transitioning to many sites that had a fire within the last three to five years. These ESR sites would have basic transects that would help identify the plant population and the amount of invasive plants in that allotment. We will be traveling all over the state, including the other resource area to monitor the sites. In Burns, OR or Buffalo, WY, some of the sites would be two to three hours away. In Washington, some of the sites would be a lot further, because the Spokane District of BLM is basically the entire state. After the July 4th weekend, we will be starting with Watermelon Hills to do NISIMS and to monitor a rare SIlene species!!

Moment of Zen

A "bumbled" bee collecting pollen.

A “bumbled” bee collecting pollen.

Bonus Sheep Herd:

Sheep herd relaxing.

Sheep herd relaxing.

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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.

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