Month one in Prineville

I have now been living in Oregon for just over one month, and I’ve had some great experiences.  I found housing in a small ranch style house on a 5 acre property in Redmond, about 35 minutes from the BLM office in Prineville.  This may seem like a hassle, but the drive is gorgeous; a great way to enjoy the morning or unwind after work while listening to music or a podcast.  I am one of 3 interns on the Assessment, Inventory, and Monitoring (AIM) crew at the Prineville District Office (PDO) this season, but have yet to complete a single AIM plot.  The reason being that we only completed the AIM training last week, and only received our assigned plots today!  Hopefully this means we can begin next week, following at least one planning day.

Although we have been unable to begin our AIM plots, my time here at PDO has not been wasted.  I’ve been performing a variety of wildlife related jobs, including Greater Sage Grouse lek monitoring.  Leks are essentially breeding grounds for the greater sage grouse where the males strut and display the large, yellow gular sacs on their necks in an attempt to attract a mate.  Despite living in prime sage grouse real estate in Wyoming, I had never seen an active lek; suffice to say it was a fascinating experience.  The strut is absolutely bizarre to witness, and I would encourage anyone who has not seen it to give it a google and watch in amazement/incredulity. Unfortunately, none of the leks here in Oregon rival the 200+ grouse populations of Wyoming.  In fact, one of the leks I checked this year was completely abandoned, possibly indicating a departure from the area by the sage grouse.  Some inferences can be made by this as well, since sage grouse are considered an indicator species in this ecosystem.  The BLM may decide to do some habitat monitoring in the area, to discover if any notable changes or disturbances have occurred.

In addition to lek monitoring, I also performed some Golden Eagle nest monitoring.  The nesting season is beginning, and the BLM keeps tabs on all active nests in the area.  I have yet to see any offspring, but I did discover one nest where a large female eagle was sitting low on the nest, likely over some eggs.  This monitoring was a very cool experience, as it involved a good deal of off trail hiking and searching for wildlife in beautiful high desert ecosystems.  I was also able to see some of the cool tools that wildlife biologists use to monitor these birds, including GPS backpacks that can display the eagle’s travel area on google earth, and give us an idea of where to find the nests. Unfortunately, one eagle was discovered dead in the nest, and we are currently unsure of the cause of death.

Living in the area has been very fun, with a variety of outdoor and indoor activities to occupy one’s time.  I have been spending a good amount of time snowboarding at Mt. Bachelor, a large volcano in the Deschutes National Forest that offers 360 degrees of terrain to ride from its breathtaking summit.  Hiking and trail running is very prevalent, and I have taken full advantage of the BLM trails behind my house for these purposes.  Additionally, the Bend area is absolutely packed with craft breweries and distilleries, which prove fun to explore and compare.  Although I have visited Portland once, the west side of the nearby Cascade mountains still remains unexplored, and I look forward to getting over there once the weather improves.  Overall, I’ve had a fantastic experience so far, and I’m excited to explore more of Oregon!

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