Blog Posting for October

Right now, the preserve is filled with birds migrating from the north. Since last month’s post, we filled approximately a dozen more ponds with water and that’s not including the rice and safflower fields. Here at the preserve, we also utilize agriculture fields as wetlands. Some ponds are utilized by birds more than others, only the birds really know why. Currently, there are several thousand sandhill cranes on the preserve, most of which prefer the safflower fields that are now flooded. The survey conducted by volunteers last week estimate the population to be 3,160. This species is arguably the most popular bird species on the preserve.

Another bird species drawing a lot of attention is the greater-white fronted geese. Sometimes when I peek up at the sky, I estimated there to be at least 3,000 birds. And that’s just the ones that I see, we expect their numbers to be in hundreds of thousands. Regardless of the abundance of birds, we didn’t see a large number of species diversity during last week’s waterfowl survey. We saw mostly Canada geese, greater-white fronted geese sandhill cranes, northern pintails, and American coots.

I’ve been spending a lot of time on the backhoe performing road maintenance. The rain is abundant around this time of the year in northern California, which is an issue for us. It’s great since we’re in a drought, the bad thing is that it’s preventing us from driving on the roads. Besides the rain, our resident beavers are also weakening our levees that we drive our rigs on. So, I’ve spent a lot of time patching up potholes, widening the levees, and repairing other forms of erosion around our water valves. It has been really good experience utilizing this heavy equipment.

In addition to road maintenance, I’ve been tasked with maintaining our current office as well. We pulled weeds, sprayed weeds, filled in ground squirrel holes with concrete, rebuild the retaining wall, and trimmed trees. I’ve done some saw work recently too. A portion of our trail had been blocked by a fallen Arroyo willow tree. Another volunteer and I cut down what was over hanging and bucked up the remaining limbs. I love saw work, reminds me of the fire season with the BLM fire crew.

Water primrose and hyacinth is on a rampage. We must have partaken in a least half a dozen spray sessions to remove them. These herbicide applications are only a form of control, the battle is never ending. Some of the spray sessions were at a restoration site owned by The Nature Conservancy called Bjelland, the others were on public waterways. Spraying pesticides is probably the easiest thing to do, but also the most difficult in my opinion. Squeezing the trigger and watching out for back spray is easy, but transporting two full 15 gallon tanks with a large car battery on a canoe down 200 meters to the boat launch is a little more challenging. What’s worse is that you’re now sitting in a cramped canoe after you manage to push over 250 pounds of herbicide into the slough and now you’re stuck in the water surrounding by primrose and hyacinth. Every paddle stroke you make gets you only an inch forward. Regardless, the job was done and it was definitely one of the hardest things I’ve done on this job. What I wouldn’t give for another set of hands on deck.

This job has given me an enormous amount of skills that I wouldn’t have imagined ever attaining. I now know how to operate almost all of the equipment at our facility and it’s given me a lot of confidence. What I hope to happen during the rest of my internship is to become more well rounded as an individual. I can handle much of the physical aspect of the job, what I hope to gather is more knowledge. Knowledge about the grant proposal process, environmental policies, what it takes to manage a restoration project, and ways to better manage the land.

Chau Tran


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