Monday, July 30, 2012

An Invasive Species

Thursday, our last day of work for the week, we searched for this.

Yellow Toadflax, an invasive here at Arapaho.  Better known to me as Butter and Eggs.  This one by far stood out because it was in full bloom.  We walked all day searching and marking these plants.

There were 6 of us, Kurt, Virginia, Wallace and Charles shown in the of our YCC gals, and me.  We started out forming a line with about three feet between each of us, walking and looking for this plant as we kept our line straight.  I was knowledgeable about this plant because it is so abundant in Maine.  Some of these plants were only a couple of inches tall making them harder to find.

By the time we got to the other location where they had been spotted, we all had gotten very good at finding them.  Here we are just doing a random double check after Charles found more scattered around.  After flagging the plants, Virginia went around GPSing them all.

It was great fun, kinda like looking for Easter eggs with me finding the golden egg, the one in the first photo.  That was an easy find!!!

After finishing up our search for toadflax, we had some time left to help with the counters where we found this little Barred Tiger Salamander enjoying this little puddle.  Be sure before you pick up anything like this, that you do NOT have bug repellent on your hands!!!  It will kill them!!! 

This is a Richardson's Ground Squirrel.  Kurt had cleaned out the Tree Swallows nest after they had fledged and found a dead one in the nest which he pitched out on the ground.  This little squirrel found the bird and had steak for lunch.  We had never seen this behavior before.

We finally got our hummingbird feeder up.  I had seen them buzzing around the red spots on our rig.  We were pleasantly visited by this little male Rufous Hummingbird.  This one migrates the farthest of any hummingbird.

Another great day on the refuge.

Until next time...

Saturday, July 28, 2012

RMP...Part 2

This day we entered the park from the east side through Estes Park.  You know, the town crawling with tourists!!!

But first, let's start at the beginning of the day.  We left our abode traveling through the refuge on county road 31 (Allard Road) at 6:45am.  Our trip started out with three groups of Greater Sage-Grouse, a total of 19.

We are off to a wonderful day.  This county road connects to highway 14 that goes through Poudre Canyon, an earlier blog.  This is where one of the fires burned, closing the road for a while.  One photo I left out last time, and some of the fire below.

To enter Rocky Mountain NP from the east meant going through Fort Collins, but that was what we wanted to do anyway since we were switching from ATT to Verizon for our internet needs.  My goodness, what a difference this has made.  I can now blog from our rig!!!  We had lunch at the Black-eyed Pea where we purchased two bottles of their famous Fort Collins honey...the best honey we have ever eaten.

We entered the park at the Fall River Entrance Station where we were soon in West Horseshoe Park.

This is a good area where you are likely to see Bighorn Sheep grazing, but not while we were there.

There are many pull offs for photos...

Estes Park can be seen from this area...wayyyy over there.

In this shot you can see the road below in the bottom left corner.

Another one of my favorite shots.

This big 6 by6 bull Elk grazing in the tundra.  It won't be long until one can hear the bugling.  This we will experience in September when we return to Wichita Mountains NWR.

I found this American Pika at one of the spots, and learned they do not hibernate.  Always a neat find.

The highest point on the road is 12,183'.  We went from treeline to tundra.

We are thinking of making yet another trip back.

Until next time...

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

ATV Certified

We finally are certified on ATV's.  Wallace is already certified but left his certification back in Texas in storage so he needed to take it again today with me.  This class was quite rigorous and we both learned a lot...much better training, in fuller detail!!!  Jeremy Jones from Ouray NWR in Utah taught the course and now even I can trailer an ATV and back it off a pick up truck or trailer...he left no stone unturned.

All lined up and ready to go...Jeremy, Matt, Charles and Wallace.  There are four of us taking this being the only female, I was determined to do well!!!  

Here I come around the cones.  The training lasted all day.  We started out with this obstacle course driving around cones, doing slaloms, backing up, doing figure eights with all of us on the course at the same time and going clockwise as well as counterclockwise.  

Next, we were taught how to navigate over obstacles, driving straight over the first one, then one wheel at a time...up and back.  Next, we were taught how to handle the atv on a hillside.  Then how to trailer it driving up onto a pickup truck and trailer using a ramp.  

That's me again ladies.  We were also taught how to roll it off if we were'nt comfortable driving it down...we all opted to learn to drive it off.

He also showed us how to strap down the ramp so it stays in place while we go up into the pickup, and safely strap it down when transporting it down the road.

We also took turns driving a utv.

as this refuge will soon be getting one.  This one was borrowed from the forest service with their fire fighting equipment on the back, making it harder to see.  We had to do slaloms using this utv as well, quite a bit harder to manuever.  

My little white Honda is automatic, but Jeremy wanted me to learn how to use the other kind as well.  I have put my claim on this one.

The utv is bigger, has six tires, and clumsier to drive.  A little trick that Jeremy taught us is to speed up on the turns making the rear whip around, missing the cones.  I did not hit even one cone!!!  All the while, Jeremy is grading us.

Now for the written course.  We all passed with 100's.

This class for me was a lot like taking the gun class with the Border Patrol.  I was so timid in the beginning but my confidence was gained.  Good teachers make the difference!!!  I have a photo of one of my targets from the gun class.  Wallace says you better not mess with me!!!  ha ha.

I can't even begin to explain how much fun this class was.  I appreciate and thank this refuge for offering this training to us.

Until next time...

Monday, July 23, 2012

Rocky Mountain High

In Colorado....

We got really high when we reached Milner Pass at the Continental Divide at 10,758 feet traveling on the Trail Ridge Road.

Let me start at the beginning of our day.  On the drive over, not far from the refuge, on highway 125, we encountered this moose with her calf.

At the end of this blog you will see a good parting shot of this cow moose.

We entered the park from the west driving past Grand Lake.  The lake is Colorado's deepest and largest natural lake.

The park is called "The Nation's Backbone".

We stopped at this cabin where we were greeted by a volunteer.  

Then hiked on down to the lodge where people visiting the park would stay the night.

This is Mama's House.  We took a tour.

One of the things that caught my eye was this old sewing machine and this German Bible.

The volunteer suggested Wallace try on this bison coat.

One of the pull offs gave us this scene.

At Milner Pass, crossing the divide where Poudre Lake is located, we got our first Gray Jay for the trip.

I love the tail feathers!!!

Up on the tundra.

At the Alpine Visitor Center's gift shop, it was time for lunch.  We were lucky to get a window with a view while we dined on pulled pork sandwiches with a side of the best coleslaw I have ever eaten!!
After lunch, we backtracked with plans on coming back another day and entering from the east side.

We stopped at Lake Irene for a quick walk to the lake where we got this Clark's Nutcracker...the little scavenger...and there are still plenty of people who will feed even though they know  better!!!  Check out that bill.  We also found these Elephantheads, a new flower for us.

Aren't they neat?  And their trunks are up which means good luck!!

This blog has taken me three and a half hours!!!  This is our journal to have forever and at the same time share it with you, so it is worth the time spent.

Here is the parting shot I promised...

For those of you who like butt shots, this butt's for you!!!

Until next time...

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Vegetative Transects

You ask, "What is that?"  We did...well here goes.  Just another one of our jobs while here at Arapaho NWR.

Armed with all the gear we would need to accomplish our task:  Trimble (gps), survey sheets, orange measuring pole, measuring tape, chair, compass and metal detector.  Wallace is putting in the information on the gps to get started locating this little round metal device called a monument.  The size of a half dollar.  No easy task.

It's kinda like looking for a needle in a haystack!!!  Once it is found, we place a spike in the ground on the right side and attach the measuring tape to it.  We then set the compass to a pre-determined heading, then walk straight out 100 feet and secure the tape at the other end with another spike.  Now the fun begins...Wallace has the hard part.  He now uses the orange measuring pole, puts it straight down the mark that is on the measuring tape and tells me what plant, the height and what is touching the bottom of the pole.  Everything that touches this orange pole gets recorded.

There are 100 readings, and it is backbreaking work!!!  He is the brain and the brawn in this effort...I am just the scribe.

Sound like fun?  There are over 200 transects and everybody pitches in at different areas on the refuge.  These are upland transects.  Next we will be doing them in the meadows and riparian areas.  Anyway, it is something else new we have learned how to do.  Variety, the spice of life.

Monday, July 9, 2012


We helped out the state of Colorado with their "goose round-up". 

The geese were herded into a holding pen by using kayaks.

Approximately 500 geese were captured, caught, handed over to us to pass on to the banding team who not only banded but sexed them.  After banding 100, the rest were released.  This was an extra day of work for us.

Some were previously banded and let go.

Comforting this gosling until the banders were ready.

Then the great exodus...

The geese are captured at this time because they are molting and will not fly.  We greatly appreciated when the birds head was tucked under their wing by the handlers before they were passed off to us making them easier to handle.  

We have also done some plant transects.  This week we will be doing some fencing...taking them down.

We have gotten a lot of rain, finally...hooray!!!

Until next time...

Arapaho Duties

We have been asked, "What do y'all do at Arapaho?"  Here goes!!!

This refuge makes sure all paperwork is up to date.  We needed to take defensive driving again.  It's been five years since we had taken it, so it needed updating.  Gotter Done!!!

Our first assignment here was doing a Colonial Bird Nesting Survey.  I had no idea what I was to do since the biologist wasn't here to train me.  Charles handed me some papers to read!!!  I take my jobs very seriously and was really stressed out over this...but I did my best.  We found 15 Eared Grebe nests and 8 Black-crowned Night-heron nests.

Here are the grebe nests, some of them.

Then we saw this little red headed baby swimming around.  What in the world.  Have you ever seen a baby coot?  We had not.

There will be a follow up on the nesting birds in a few weeks.  We have also seen baby avocets...sooo cute.

We have been busy taking refuge vehicles to Laramie for repairs.

This one needed charging.

I'm ready...let' go.

We have made 5 trips with 2 of them being on the same day...140 miles round trip.  Just last week, we drove to Denver to the regional office to have our radios reprogrammed.  My, is that a really big place.  We seem to be the ones to make road trips which suits us just fine.

One day we worked on updating the MSDS data (material safety 
data sheets).  We checked all supplies in various places, and removed a lot of old paint which we took to the recycling place west of Steamboat.  While there we did some shopping at Ace Hardware for the refuge purchasing over $600.00 worth of tools, etc.  Every truck has its own tool box.  We will be working on
MSDS for some time.  Sound like fun?

Another work day was spent with the satellite refuge manager driving over to Hutton Lake in Wyoming.  It is 1928 acres.  There are 5 lakes within the property.  While there, we cleaned out the building and removed a pile of rubbish that we took to the recycling  and dump.

The bottom truck was left in Laramie to repair dents.  After lunch, we boogied on over to the university where we got to see the Wyoming toad tadpoles being parceled out.

They were then transported over to Mortenson Lake, another refuge property.  

They were released into these mesh cages, fed spinach, and allowed to grow into the toads.

Here's what it looks endangered species.

I am starting to have trouble again.  Come back for the rest of the story.

Until next time...