Well, one drastic change that I have noticed is that I can no longer sleep past 5am. I get up for Sage Grouse monitoring at 3am all week, and now even on weekends I am up before the sun making breakfast. It is very quiet in the early morning, while drinking my tea I often watch the sun creep over the hills and sagebrush, across West Valley, and up and over Likely Mountain. Although the early morning sunrises are pretty wonderful, my favorite time of everyday is the early evening. As the sun retreats, the sky becomes ablaze with oranges, yellows, and pinks. The Warner Mountain range to the east catches the last rays and turns pink and blue, the snowy tops shining against the deep blue of night’s approach.
I have seen many grouse at different distances. Sometimes I use a spotting scope to look across a dry lake bed, other times I use binoculars and look out the truck windows, and every now and again, I have to hike right up to the proximity limit and count them without any visual aid. One important lesson has been to trust my instincts. Often the GPS points are off or the lek has shifted and/or the map is wrong. Looking through a scope or binoculars, it is easy to misread the terrain as well. It seems very flat and the map does not indicate much topography, the birds are supposed to be right there, but where are they? I hike over and begin to hear them. I keep going and as it turns out, there is a depression that you can only see up close and they are all within.
Many plants are finally beginning to come up and bloom. Many more, however, have yet to show themselves. The drought is taking its toll on many plants. Even some of our invasive grasses like cheatgrass and medusa head have not come up in some locations. The flowers that have come up I have very much enjoyed, they have transformed some pretty bland areas by bringing color into a green and drown landscape. I often wonder how I am going to be able to remember all the plants from Ohio after this, so much Latin so little time.
Pictures from top to bottom
Greater Sage Grouse captured for banding and measurement as Massacre Bench, NV
Sunrise from Cinder Pit, CA at about 5:30am
View from the Top of Tuledad Canyon, CA
Abandoned homestead found in Surprise Valley, NV