I’ve only got a few weeks left with the BLM, so I’ve packed in the field surveys and am holed up in the office going through my data.
Not that being at the office is a bad thing.
(Also incorporating some sightings that my co-workers have passed along over the course of the season—thanks guys!) So far, I have learned the following:
Buckle up, this post may be what my stats professor at Indiana would call “chewy.”
The wildlife surveys are still going strong—pronghorn fawns started showing up about a month ago, and I’ve collected quite a few data points on nesting and chick-rearing for some of the BLM and Wyoming Game and Fish’s birds of concern.
American avocet (Recurvirostra americana), trying to distract us from its chick farther down the road.
Although I haven’t actually run any numbers yet, the distribution patterns I’m noticing make me much more confident about the conservation prospects of some species than I am about others. Part of that seems to depend on basic habitat requirements—I am increasingly suspecting, for example, that the sage thrashers I mentioned a couple of months ago are more adaptable to habitat variations than has previously been recognized—but how different animal species respond to habitat changes in one location can also be very important.
Well, add another entry to my list of stories about loading up on coffee and heading out before dawn to chase birds. This time, I had jumped at the chance to help Jay Carlisle, a researcher from Boise State University, track and capture long-billed curlews at the base of Heart Mountain, north of Cody.
Spoilers: We were successful. Meet “JT.”
I keep expecting it to snow one last time, as a kind of parting shot from this past winter, but for now the dial seems to be pointed squarely toward “spring.” The road into Yellowstone was opened a few days ago, and the Bighorn Basin itself is greening up nicely.
Castilleja sp. (probably chromosa), a.k.a. Indian paintbrush
Last Friday, I woke up before my alarm. This in itself wasn’t unusual—even for me—but the fact that I’d jumped the gun on an alarm I’d set for 4:00 A.M. was. I was due to meet my mentor, Destin Harrell, at the Cody BLM office, and ride shotgun with him to count grouse.
Both species of sage grouse—the “greater” found across much of the west, and the “Gunnison’s” limited to Colorado and a sliver of Utah—gather at sites called leks in the spring, where dozens or hundreds of males display and occasionally clash in the hope of attracting mates. Continue reading