The First of Many

It has been an eventful and uneventful month. Now you might be wondering how it can be both. Well, as I looked over my camera roll to determine the subject of this month’s blog, nothing stands out. That’s not to say that I didn’t do anything exciting this month because many interesting things happened at work as well outside of work that included many of my first.

First Seed Collection

For instance, Peter and I started our first seed collection of the season since seeds here are finally starting to mature. Our first collection is none other than the lovely Allium cernuum. However, this was after a few failed attempts to collect seeds from Mertensia franciscana and Mornada fistulosa. The plants were either grazed by elk and wild horses or most of the seeds dropped. It was a bit discouraging at first and a learning lesson, but I knew there was other species to collect from.

First UTV Ride

We spent the rest of the month scouting for more species across the forest and monitoring the phenology of scouted populations. As a result, we had the privilege to ride a UTV at the Sacramento Ranger District (SRD). Angie, the Wildlife Biologist at SRD and the one who drove us around, insisted that we take a photo in it to brag to our Wildlife Crew members as they don’t have any.

Although it was a fun experience, I don’t think I will ever get on one ever again. That’s because as we drove, a long stick went through the UTV floor and hit the seat next to me all while making a loud noise due to a stainless steel bottle on the floor being shoved out of the way. At the end of the day, I rather not be impaled by a stick while riding a UTV just to get to a location faster.

Peter and I awkwardly smiling while seated in a UTV.

First Salamander Encounter

The amazing part of being at the Smokey Bear Ranger District is the opportunity to join the wildlife surveys. Usually, the Wildlife Crew at the district joins the Salamander Crew to survey the Sacramento Mountain salamander (Aneides hardiiI), but Peter and I were able to help them for one day since the Wildlife Crew was busy with other surveys. I had never seen a salamander in person before, so I was excited not only to learn the process of surveying them but also to finding one myself.

So after disinfecting our boots to prevent any possible spread of chytrid fungal pathogen to the salamanders and going over the protocol at the site, I was ready to find salamanders. The process involved flipping a lot of rocks and logs, but eventually I was able to capture a few. Initially, I was afraid to pick any of them up as some were tiny that I thought I was going to harm them in the process of putting them in a bag. Moreover, I didn’t know how the salamander would feel. However, the fear quickly went away.

In the end, different data was collected that included surface area of the object where the salamander was found, soil moisture, the weight, and length the salamander captured. Any new adult salamanders that was captured, were marked with a “tattoo”. Which really involved injecting them with a needle filled with fluorescence pigments in a specific sequence to help with identification if they are recaptured again in future surveys. Once all the data was collected, the salamanders were placed back to where it was found.

First Meteor Shower Party

Growing up in Chicago, I never had the chance to stargaze due to the light pollution. As a result, I never knew about the Perseid meteor shower. Peter, on the other hand, knew all about it and that’s because he watches it every year on his birthday. Now, that I reside in smaller town with minimum light pollution, I was determined to experience my first meteor shower.

I searched up places that had a meteor shower party and found that El Malpais National Monument was having one after Ranger-led bat outflight guided walk on August 11. Bats and meteor shower on the same day? Count me in! The only problem it was 3.5 hours away and there was a chance of rain, but I figured it was a perfect opportunity to do a weekend road trip.

In the end, I got to see some bats despite it raining, but I didn’t get to see the meteor shower due to the clouds blocking the night sky. Thus, my first attempt to watch a meteor shower was unsuccessful. Fortunately, I returned to Ruidoso in the afternoon the next day and there was no clouds in sight. Spontaneously, I and a Wildlife Crew member from SRD decided to camp at a lookout that night to see the meteor shower.

Not only was I able to see my first meteor shower, but also the Milky Way!

– Evie