GIS / Remote Sensing Update
I am almost done with my main project for this internship!! I have been working since February on mapping cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum) for our field office. After hours upon hours of processing, I was able to complete a large map of the cheatgrass densities for the Upper Powder River Basin area for our field office! Now, my main goal was to create a similar map for the southern section of the study area and then I will be done with this assignment! After creating these two cheatgrass maps, I would have to ground truth the Upper Powder River Basin Study Area to confirm that there was cheatgrass. After ground truthing, I would be able to move on to other projects like mapping sagebrush densities, doing vegetation monitoring, and working on NISIMS! Hopefully, the next assignments should start around August!!
During the various processing assignments I had to do, I received many side quest missions from the BLM staff regarding GIS! Most of the quests were pretty simple and could be completed within a few minutes, but there were some quests I had to do some research on before I was able to help people out! Almost everyday I learned something new regarding GIS. Working on GIS projects had been rewarding and I am very confident that I would be able to use these skills that I gathered for my next job!!
Spooky Nightjar Surveys
One of the most unusual experiences for this internship was doing nightjar surveys in the Bighorn Mountains. One of my bosses, Bill, wanted me to go up into the Bighorn Mountains and perform a nightjar count along a specific mountain route. I had to do this survey around 12:00am when there was a full moon in the sky. My goal was to listen for different nightjar species such as nighthawks (Chordeiles minor) and common poor wills (Phalaenoptilus nuttallii). I had twelve stops along the highway and twisty side roads. Each stop had to be around six minutes long in order to properly listen to bird calls.
The first couple of stops were a little spooky. I was by myself, surrounded by forests, with large animals roaming around such as moose (Alces alces) and elk (Cervus canadensis). I usually heard a few great horned owls (Bubo virginianus) in the forested areas. The second stop did have two nighthawks, which I was very happy to hear! The rest of the remaining stops were not as productive. Many of the park (open areas) stops had Wilson’s snipes (Gallinago delicata)! These birds were “winnowing” up a storm. Winnowing was the sound and action a snipe makes to defend its territory or attract mates. Sometimes it would be very silent and then a snipe flies near my car winnowing, freaking me out! Haha! They absolutely loved to surprise me!
Overall, this was one of the most bizarre bird monitoring I have done on this internship. I loved viewing the full moon and listening to different birds, but it was rather creepy being up on the mountain by myself with an unnatural amount of RVs driving through the Bighorns very early in the morning.
Recently, I have had a great opportunity to do more bird monitoring! I went out with BLM Legend Don to do two routes in Northeast Central Wyoming. The towns we passed through were extraordinarily small and had a grocery store and a few barns. The landscape on these routes was beautiful!! There was so much diversity of bird species, we easily saw fifty or more birds. We passed wetlands, farmlands, grasslands, juniper stands, badlands, prairie dog towns, streams, ponderosa pine forests, shrub lands, rivers, savannas, towns, and disturbed areas. Each area offered unique species of bird! The most common bird species we did encounter were the western meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta), vesper sparrow (Pooecetes gramineus), and brewer’s sparrow (Spizella breweri). Some of my favorite bird species we saw were the red headed woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus), Sora Rail (Porzana carolina), Upland Sandpiper (Bartramia longicauda), Red Head (Aythya americana), American Avocet (Recurvirostra americana), Wilson’s Phalarope (Phalaropus tricolor), Greater Sage Grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus), Rock Wren (Salpinctes obsoletus), and the Bullock’s Oriole (Icterus bullockii)!
We had two very long routes around Arvada and Recluse, Wyoming. We had to stop every 0.5 miles and record the bird species we saw and heard in the area. We stopped fifty times along the route and looked around the area, noting weather conditions and excessive noise. Most of my bird monitoring I did relied on my hearing. I could pick out specific species of bird just by hearing them. When we stopped near a lake, we would get the spotting scope to see what we could find. Most of the time, we saw gadwalls (Anas strepera) and mallards (Anas platyrhynchos) swimming around the small lakes. Some reservoirs did contain some rare bird species! After six hours per route, both Don and I were exhausted! We had to wake up 3:30am and travel to a route that would be over an hour and half away from Buffalo, Wyoming. By the end of our work day, we would go to the Breadboard Sub shop for lunch before going home for the day. This type of bird monitoring was very rewarding, but also it was very draining to the system!
Tis the season for vegetation monitoring!!! Recently, we have been doing S&Gs, rangeland health assessments, and a whole bunch of vegetation monitoring projects! I have been working entire weeks and weekends on various vegetation monitoring projects. Beyond bird monitoring and GIS, I have been helping the Resources Staff and range interns get settled with vegetation monitoring. I am also helping out with University of Wyoming vegetation studies on the weekends and some days during the week. Hopefully, I can acquire a lot of comp time!!
Welch Recreation Area
For two days, I had a great opportunity to help out the BLM Recreation Department (Rachel and Damen) with nature education with a local Sheridan Library Summer program. We took nine kids to the Welch Recreation Area and taught them a series of subjects ranging from plants, birds, geology, and entomology! The first day we went to the seed plots and collected green needle grass (Nassella viridula) and bluebunch wheatgrass (Pseudoroegneria spicata) seeds! Afterwards, we went to another location to do a plant scavenger hunt! The kids had to find the difference between a tree, shrub, grass, forb, and grass-like plants! Next, we went down by the river to look at all kinds of macroinvertebrate! We had the chance to actually go in the water and look for insects! The kids loved walking through the water and they picked up rocks to look for more insects!!
The next day we started off under the bridge to look at the cliff swallows (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota) and talked about other bird species. The kids were not as interested, so I shifted gears and talked about rocks. The kids loved this idea!! They were picking rocks up from the river and were showing them to me! I had to identify all of the igneous and sedimentary rocks that were in the river! Some of the kids found really cool agates, which surprised me!! We went across the river and decided to learn about crickets and grasshoppers. After a brief educational experience regarding those insects, we decided to use bug nets to capture and look at various insects. Mostly we encountered crickets (Gryllidae), grasshoppers (Caelifera), and katydids (Tettigoniidae), but there were spiders to look at as well! We ended the day with another river exploration activity!
Overall, this educational experience was amazing and I think the kids really enjoyed the experiences. I loved helping Rachel and Damen teach the children about all kinds of sciences. Another bonus was to spend time outside in a Riparian Ecosystem instead of the Sagebrush Steppe for once! ^_^;; I loved doing these kinds of activities!!
Bird Banding Experience
On a Saturday, I had another great experience! The activity was to bird band cliff swallows and other song bird species!! We went to Welch Recreation Area and put up mist nets for cliff swallows by the bridge! BLM Legend Wyatt and myself helped the Rocky Mountain Audubon Society with their efforts!! The cliff swallows were wary of our presences and it was difficult get even one bird to band!! We did catch one female cliff swallow! We were by a very tall bridge and it was hard to reach the swallows without them seeing us. In our songbird net, we ended up catching a male Lazuli Bunting (Passerina amoena)!! This bird looked very beautiful!!! Even if we were not as successful in banding birds, I ended up with a good education of how to perform mist netting. An added bonus, I got to meet many Wyoming birders!!
Call of Duty
One of my bosses, Bill, needed my help for a special mission. Since the BLM Recreation Department was busy with field activities, I was selected to help out with the task. Bill wanted me to go with him to Moiser Gulch for clean-up duty. Apparently, some people over the weekend thought it would be funny to put an eight feet long log in the local picnic outhouse. Bill and I had to dress up and take the log out of the outhouse. With quite a bit of effort, we were successful! We had to get rid of the bio-hazard material, which took another fifteen minutes to do. We were also the local entertainment for the picnickers who were watching. ^_^;;
The Bat Festival and The Mighty Wind
Recently, I helped BLM Legend Chris and his wife with the Bat Festival at Devils Tower! The BLM joined many Department of Interior Legends such as the National Park Service, the Forest Service, and Fish and Wildlife with the festival! It was fascinating working with each of the DoI Departments! Their techniques and hierarchy are completely differed from the BLM! We all set up many different booths regarding bats such as bat ecology, bat monitoring, White Nose Syndrome, finding bats, bat housing, bat coloring activities, and bat detection technology! There were many people that stopped by to learn about bats! Many of the kids loved to learn about bats, and they were quick learners!! Some of the 5-7 year old children knew about bats already based on their schooling!
Around 3:00pm, we got a severe thunderstorm warning!! There was supposed to be 75mph winds and golf ball sized hail! We saw the large cumulonimbus in the area, and we had to pack everything up! We quickly made it to the National Park shelter just in time! The storm was not as severe and it just heavily rained out! There was some hail, but the ice stones were pea sized. Afterwards, we went back to the picnic area and continued our Bat Festival!
We continued another few hours of more educational activities before our bat night walk! When it got darker, we got our bat detectors that would listen for bat sounds! We found many big brown bats (Eptesicus fuscus) and hoary bats (Lasiurus cinereus) flying through out the campground area!! They were neat to watch and hear through the devices, unfortunately, I did not get any good pictures of them! Someone even had a infrared detector, which was neat to use! Overall, this was a great day full of bat activities!!! ^_^
Moment of Zen: Cloud Edition!!!!