(“The Buffalo, Wyoming CLM Interns! Determined to monitor and collect seeds!” ^_^) (Artwork by Jo Smith)
Monitoring and Seed Collecting in the Wild West
We were getting to the end of the line in terms of field monitoring! The grasses were drying out and the majority of the forbs would be dispersing their seed. Sara and I have been concentrating our monitoring efforts in two places. The Bighorn Mountains and the Cabin Canyon area near Gillette, Wyoming. There were many sites to monitor around Cabin Canyon, so we would be leaving early in the morning and camping over night to try to monitor all of the sites. Cabin Canyon was difficult to travel through. Due to the heavy rains we had recently, many of the roads and small bridges have been wiped out! Sometimes it would take us three times longer to get to a site, because the road had been washed away. Some of the road locations that were digitally inputted into the GIS program in the past were really cow trails! We would be driving down a two track road only to find out that it was really a cow trail. Hahaha!! Despite all of our challenges we were encountering, we had a great time identifying forbs and grasses. Thanks to the rain, the plants held on a little longer, so we could properly identify most of the plants.
The bridge is out! O_O
A common sight to see around canyon sites after a rainstorm.
We have been seeing many cool birds out in the field. We would typically see all kinds of sparrows, kingbirds, grouse, and lark buntings. One of my favorites birds would be the sage grouse. They were not the smartest bird alive, but they were very interesting to watch in the field. They would typically stare at us while walking slowly in front of our truck. We were always cautious around them and made a note of where we saw them.
A sage grouse decided to stop in front of our truck and stare at us for a brief period of time.
One of our side missions was to help Jill and Heather with seed collections for S.O.S. A large amount of seed collections had been completed so far! Sara and I would take a break on some of our work days to help with Jill’s S.O.S. seed collection. We have been collecting seed from needle and thread (Hesperostipa comata), bluebunch wheatgrass (Pseudoroegneria spicata), Hood’s phlox (Phlox hoodii), and Indian rice grass (Oryzopsis hymenoides/ Achnatherum hymenoides) to name a few. Some of the seeds were difficult to collect from, but we eventually made the goal that Jill set up. The S.O.S. collections were successful! Jill still has a couple of plant species she needs to collect from, so she might need our help in the future.
Time to collect needle and thread seeds!!…After we were done picking these seeds, we would find a large amount of them sticking to our socks and shoes. <_<
The Shadows that Roam
Sara and I would usually leave to monitor different sites around 4:00am. We could take advantage of the cooler temperatures and complete our projects before the intense afternoon sun would be overhead. Recently, we have been monitoring up in the Bighorn Mountains. The huge forests of ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa), limber pine (Pinus flexilis), and quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides) could hide a lot of animals and make the trip difficult if we were to hike over a mile through forested, uneven rocky terrain to a site. We would always monitor during daylight, but we would leave early so we could start monitoring immediately when the sun rises.
Everything was very quiet in the morning and we could begin to see signs of dawn approaching. We headed down the main county road known as Hazelton Road. We had to drive slowly due to the roaming shadows. You might be wondering, “What is a roaming shadow?” A roaming shadow was basically a very large animal walking through the darkness. All you could make out was a large shadow. With the intense full moon we have had lately, we would see a lot of shadows on the trip up the mountains. Sometimes you could tell what the creature would be and other times the large creature would appear briefly in your line of sight before heading into the dense forests on either side of the road and you would be asking yourself, “What was that!?” The truck does a good job at illuminating the area in front of us. We mostly see glowing eyes or fast moving shadows. When dawn approaches we could see what the shadows really are. Most of the time these shadows would be large mule deer, cows, elk, and even moose! We would slow down and watch the elk herds cross in front of us or see a lonely moose forage for grasses. Before dawn, these shadows with glowing eyes look pretty intimidating, but when dawn comes, these shadowy creatures become majestic, furry animals.
Roaming shadows looking at our vehicle.
As the sun rises, most of the deer, elk, and moose disappear. The lamb herds usually become active and we get to see fluffy Great Pyrenees guarding the sheep herds. Marmots would run across the road or sit on a rock, chirping at every passing truck. During the day time, the Bighorn Mountains would look totally different compared with the early morning. Monitoring in the mountains was awesome, especially when traveling in the early morning when we get to see the roaming shadows!
Great pyrenees resting near a herd of sheep. IT’S SO FLUFFY! \(O_O\)
CLM Interns vs. Convolvulus arvensis: Field Bindweed All Out Attacks
A month ago, the BLM office had a field day where we would all go out to Welch Ranch Recreation Area and plant native seeds for future harvesting. We planted mostly green needlegrass (Nassella viridula) and bluebunch wheatgrass. One of our bosses wanted Jill, Heather, and I to go out to the site and do a routine maintenance check. We were told to check the water levels and weed all of the field bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis) and Russian thistle (Kali tragus/ Salsola kali?). When we got to the site, we were shocked!! There were weeds growing all over the place! One particular nasty weed was the field bindweed. The weed thought it was kudzu (Pueraria lobata)! D: Field bindweed was growing in the beds, strangling some of the native grasses. The weed was also growing along the beds creating dense mats of foliage covering the ground. Jill, Heather, and I began our attack.
Field bindweed growing around green needlegrass.
The field bindweed was difficult to clear and took a lot of effort to remove without hurting the native grasses. I never seen field bindweed be this destructive. I usually saw it growing at the side of the road in a small patch. The field bindweed here tried to take over the north half of the field! After many hours in the intense sun, we cleared most of the field bindweed and created piles at the end of the rows. The Russian thistle to the south was our next destination. Luckily, the Russian thistle was still soft and not prickly when we removed it. Towards the end of the day, we cleaned up the field and were proud of our hard work. The field bindweed would probably return, but at least we cleared a lot of the bigger plants that were choking out the native grasses.
Weeding for field bindweed.
On one of the weekends the Buffalo CLM interns traveled to the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in Sturgis, South Dakota. There were a huge amount of motorcycles around and everyone was very active in the town. Mostly we took pictures, went shopping, visited different exhibits and went to different motorcycle rally attractions. There were so many interesting people that had some of the coolest motorcycles! We had a fun and exhausting day!!
Sturgis Motorcycle Rally!
When we were heading back to Wyoming, we encountered a thunderstorm! At the state border we got out of our vehicle to take pictures of the Wyoming State sign and the double rainbow that was behind us!
And Now….. Your Moment of Zen….
OH WOW! O_O A double rainbow!! So intense.