Desert Life

The best thing about my internship here in Escalante is that we’ve been able to experience so many different aspects of the BLM’s conservation work. While our primary job has been collecting the seeds of native plants for the Seeds of Success (SOS) program, our CLM mentor is a wildlife biologist for Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument here in southern Utah, so we’ve been helping out with a lot of different projects.

Whoever thinks the desert is devoid of life will find themselves sadly mistaken if they ever come to the Staircase — at night, insects buzz and chirp and whir, and during the day birds soar overhead and chatter in the juniper and cottonwood trees. We’ve been catching bats to learn more about the different species that live on the Monument, and when we set up mist nets in the dark over rivers and streams, a chorus of croaking frogs and cicadas drowns out the silence of the dark.

My mentor works with the National Hummingbird Monitoring Network trapping and banding hummingbirds to study migration patterns and population dynamics, so every other week we get up long before dawn and head out to our monitoring sites to trap the tiny hummers. What an amazing experience. We have two native species on the Monument — the Blackchin and the Broadtail. Another species, the Rufus Hummingbird, migrates through every summer on their way from Alaska down to Mexico, an incredible journey for a bird weighing only about 3 grams.

In our spare time, we catch lizards and amphibians as part of ongoing baseline species surveys. The lizards I’ve talked about before in another blog, but we recently traveled up the Boulder Mountain north of the Staircase and found ponds full of morphing tiger salamanders. Weird little creatures, but so much fun to study.

All for now —


BLM; Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, UT


Feeding hummingbirds after we weigh, measure, and band them


Tiger salamander working on growing legs


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