Bloomin Bishop

Time is flying-

I’m finishing up my 7th week working out in the BLM Bishop field office. My days are full of plant scouting/collecting, bird counting and luxurious weekends. I successfully completed my first seed collection for SOS of Lepidium flavum– a tiny yellow annual in the mustard family. The plant only grows up to a few inches tall, so I was dreading crawling through the hot desert sand full of Amsinckia tessellata bristles.  But the collection actually proved to be effortless, as each handful of seeds ranged from 100-300 seeds. I made sure to collect well over 10,000 seeds. I wouldn’t be surprised if I actually came close to 20,000-25,000! L. flavum seeds are about the size of sand grains, so accuracy can be difficult but hey the more the merrier. This collection was made in the scenic Alabama Hills, a popular set location for western films due to the striking landscape and juxtaposition of the dry desert and looming peaks of the Eastern Sierra.

The Alabama Hills- my work space for my Lepidium flavum seed collection. Mt Whitney is up there somewhere!

My days of plant scouting have been beautiful. I’ve been collecting vouchers for potential seed collections and I’m up to about 23 vouchers. Ideally I will be able to make seed collections from all of these species. One of my vouchered species (Grayia spinosa) went to seed and got blown out by high winds, which was very sad. But there are two other populations that have great potential and are located in less extreme areas- I’m optimistic!

The Desert Peach (Prunus andersonii) has been blooming like crazy in the central regions of the Bishop BLM property out here.

I’ve additionally encountered interesting insects, which always tugs at my love of entomology. Pollinators like monarchs and sphinx moths are busy at work and colorful sap sucking beetles litter the shrubs. The mosquitoes have not been an issue… yet. With all the water from the snow melt, the mosquitoes are expected to be terrible this year- I’m scared because I’m one of those people they love to feast on.

These playful little guys love to flutter around my bouquets of voucher specimens- Hyles lineata (Hawk/Sphinx moth).

The landscape out here is changing rapidly as the ice and snow sheds off the Eastern Sierras. The days are warming, which is making the early morning Sage Grouse counts more pleasant. I’ve heard tales of single digit temperatures on these mornings in years past, so I’m incredibly grateful to have temperatures in the high 30s low 40s- it’s still freezing for my Southern California skin but well worth it. Sage grouse are the weirdest birds I’ve seen, they’re incredibly entertaining. It would be much more difficult to brave the 2:30 AM wake up times and freezing temperatures to observe a less interesting animal.

We use telescopes to count the grouse and keep our distance from their mating grounds (Leks). Long Valley.

Grouse counts in Bodie can be cold! My co-worker scouting for birds on this blistery morning in the snow and wind.

Strange lighting in the Bodie hills during our bird counts- Bodie is a famous ghost town so you tell me what’s going on here.

It’s not all work out here in Bishop (the work really doesn’t even feel like work) there’s plenty of playtime. Bishop is a spectacular climbing area- climbers come from all around the world to work their stuff in the boulder fields.

Climbing in the caves at the Buttermilks on the weekend.

And the hiking is out of this world…

Things are heating up in Bishop! As the wild flowers keep doing their thing I’ll keep doing mine. Excited to get my SOS collections done and see more interesting animals and insects.

Till next time-

Brittany Betz – BLM Bishop Field Office