Rain? In the Desert?

The past month has been full of new adventures, including our first time working under Jeff, on the plant component of our internship. We have had two visits from a group of contract fishers out of Tempe, AZ [and I apologize for not knowing the name of that company]. They come into Bonita Creek and act as a high-effort and high-impact fish removal squad. On a typical overnight set of our nets, Heidi, Rosalee and I typically set out a maximum of 120 nets per trip. These contractors set 500+ nets each night and camp in the area in order to set for 2-3 nights in a row. This allows them to remove fish from a greater area, and in greater numbers, than our BLM staff is capable of doing.

Bonita Creek had begun drying up in a lot of places. Some of the drying pools contained native fish that Heidi wanted us to move to pools that were more likely to stick around until the monsoons came in to raise the water levels. On the day we were out in Bonita Creek cleaning out some drying pools I was stung in the finger by a bee of some kind. I am not allergic (luckily), but I have since learned that you are not supposed to just grab the stinger and pull it out (like I did). This squeezes extra venom into the wound and will greatly increase your body’s reaction to the sting. Needless to say I was surprised when I woke up the next morning to a finger that was so swollen that I could not bend it at all!! I was on Benedryl, elevating my hand and keeping ice on it for 2.5 days before I was able to bend my finger normally again! It wasn’t how I intended to spend the better part of my 4th of July time off, but what can you do?

The Monday after the 4th of July weekend, we traveled for almost two hours to a site along the Gila River called York Canyon. Here we performed electro-fishing monitoring of fish populations. We then turned our sights to preparing for our upcoming weekend “camping” trip. We participated in a restoration planting weekend alongside members of the Sky Island Alliance and the Nature Conservancy in Turkey Creek and Cobra Ranch (in/near the Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness). We spent the preceding week testing and coiling over 600 feet of garden hose and loading trucks full of plants and a product called DriWater. So much cool stuff happened over the course of that weekend and I took so many pictures that I plan to have another post just about that trip (coming soon, I promise).

We have also participated in a Spring Snail survey with Arizona Game and Fish staff on BLM lands. I also spent a couple days calibrating and constructing a Rain/Temperature Gauge that will eventually be deployed at a site called Sands Draw in order for our supervisors to get a more accurate representation of local precipitation levels received by restoration plantings in the area. The most recent project that we have started is a re-organization of our office’s Herbarium. Over the years, specimens have gotten out of order, mis-numbered and mis-entered in our database. It will be a fairly long term project that we will complete before we leave to get everything updated and organized. I know it might be strange, but I enjoy semi-grueling organizational tasks, so I am excited to be working on this during our office time! We are also using this herbarium collection to learn to identify our Seeds of Success Target Species for this year. Once we are able to identify these species (and the rains slow down) we will begin SOS scouting, and further down the line, collection of native seed materials.

And now for something COMPLETELY different: Who knew that the desert could be this HUMID? Well, this California girl certainly didn’t!! June 28th, monsoon season was off to a bang with a huge thunder and lightning storm that passed right by our house. We went to take the dogs for a walk before it started raining too hard and at one point we had lightning strikes on all four sides of our complex. For the next two weeks straight, we had storms roll through nearly every evening. It was pretty incredible to lie down in bed and have the room lit up sporadically by lightning strikes. I have seen lightning in every hue, from white, to blue to orange, and in so many fascinating patterns.

Storm clouds near Cobra Ranch at Sunset

Now don’t get me wrong, I LOVE thunder and lightning, but I highly don’t approve of the humidity that comes with them. Give me dry heat over 105 any day rather than being in the mid-90s and 50% humidity. It just makes you sweat like crazy!! [Or as my boss Heidi says, “Women don’t sweat, we glow”, so GLOW like crazy.] The toughest part of the humidity is that it stops our evaporative swamp cooler in our trailer from cooling down the air. It will still move the air, but it’s not cold by any stretch of the imagination. I actually look forward to driving into town/home from work because my car has actual AC and I can feel cold air!!

It’s hard to believe that with the timesheet I turned in last week, I have completed over half of my hours for this internship. With weekend plans filling up between now and the end of September, I somehow feel like the rest of this experience is just going to blow by! I am still enjoying everything I am learning and doing and I hope to absorb all I can in the last two months I have here!

“A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.”
–Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

Heather Paddock
Safford, AZ
BLM

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