Another month in Crawford..

Hello fellow CLMer’s!

I’ve spent the last month in and around Crawford, Colorado, one out of only three locations (or two, if you consider that at one of the locations birds haven’t been spotted in years…) where you can find the elusive Gunnison sage-grouse. According to the Fish & Wildlife Service:

The Gunnison sage-grouse (Centrocercus minimus) is a species of sage-grouse found south of the Colorado River in Colorado and Utah. They are about one-third smaller than the greater sage-grouse, and males have more distinct, white barring on their tail feathers, longer and more dense filoplumes on their necks. Female Gunnison and greater sage-grouse have nearly the same plumage, but the female Gunnison is again about one-third smaller than the greater sage-grouse. Male Gunnison sage-grouse conduct an elaborate display when trying to attract females on breeding grounds, or leks in the spring. They will strut, flap their wings against their white pouches and utter a distinct series of sounds by vocalizing and popping two air sacs within their pouches. Nesting begins in mid-April and continues into July.

Gunni Sage-grouse strutting for his lady.  Pic taken by Missy Siders.

Gunni Sage-grouse strutting for his lady. Pic taken by Missy Siders.

Anyway, while those wildlife biologists have been doing their thing out there (actually pretty neat stuff, catching birds and putting little radio backpacks on them to track their movements) we botanists have been doing the grunt work, out there day after day doing HAF inventory to assess the habitat. Crawford is any interesting area… both cattle and sheep graze there, not to mention substantial migratory deer and elk populations. Between those impacts, and a road right through sage-grouse habitat, the population isn’t doing so hot (like a lot of Gunnison and Great sage-grouse populations for the matter). While I find the work meaningful it’s definitely tedious and I’m excited to be moving on to new things soon (like hiking into this little canyon drainage to do owl surveys next week!). This isn’t my best map, but this is the project as a whole – SageGrouseHabitatInventory2013.

Two years of hard work, and I’m not gonna lie, I’m really proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish. We’ve read probably 100 transects in approximately 20,000 acres (I think that’s what my boss said) and I’ve literally been to every single one of those transects, except maybe 8 of them. I’ve done almost all of the data management and entered most of the data, so needless to say this project has been my baby. I’m excited to send the rest of today and some time next week wrapping up the loose ends before I start entering all the data into FFI. And it hasn’t been all work out there, just the other day I ran into a web of baby spiders (pretty neat!) and nearly stepped on a baby dear hiding out in some sage. Additionally, my boss has really lightened the mood every time he’s come out with us… he wears this awesome sombrero he calls, “The Nacho.” Very entertaining, pics to come soon.

Oh - and the view doesn't suck :)

Oh – and the view isn’t bad 🙂

Thankfully I’m passionate about the work we do out there and Ken (my mentor) has me convinced that it’s really making a difference in future management decisions (thanks for the optimism Ken!).

Signing off –

Brandee Wills
Uncompahgre Field Office
Montrose, CO

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About Brandee

Hello! My name is Brandee and I was born in St. Louis, MO, grew up in the beautiful New River Valley in south-western Virginia, and have spent the past five years going to school and bumming around the western slope of Colorado. Recently, I decided to quit my day job as a telemarketer/ski bum and start doing work related to my Biology major (hence this CLM internship).

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