I have only been at my position here in Rawlins for one week so I am still getting my feet under me and figuring out the lay of the land. I was surprised on my first day by the size of the office. Rawlins is a small town but the BLM Rawlins field office has 3.5 million acres of public lands with around 100 people working here. Everyone that I have met so far has been incredibly kind and genuine and I am looking forward to getting to know them better. I am the only seasonal intern at the office currently and it is likely that will not change for a couple more weeks, I look forward to meeting the other interns as well.
The main project that I will be working on this season will be inventory and monitoring of the amphibians and reptiles in the Rawlins Field Office (RFO). However, since my partner wont start until June, I will be helping with other projects until she arrives. This week I have been helping mostly with Lek Monitoring or ‘Grousing’. This entails rising a couple hours before sunrise and driving to know lekking sites for the Greater Sage Grouse. Around sunrise you count the number of male and female sage grouse that you see. These are amazing birds! A lek is the area where the male grouse preform their mating display and where the females watch from the sage brush to choose their mate.The mating display is unlike anything that I have ever seen. To display, they spike their tail feathers, hold up their wings, puff out their chests 3 time in a row, and inflate the bright yellow air sacs on their chests to produce a type of popping or bubbling noise. The grouse will preform their displays every morning for all of the breeding season, sometime starting in the middle of the night and going until just past sunrise. Grouse return to the same lek every year (with some exceptions of course!) and usually all of the females will choose the same one or two males to mate with. Most of the occupied leks that we’ve seen so far have had around 30 birds on them.
As for the amphibians and reptiles, I have done a little bit of training with them this week. We took nets out to two different water sources to try to capture some amphibians. We heard Chorus Frogs but only caught one Northern Leopard Frog. We also tried to noose some lizards, which consists of lassoing a lizard with a small piece of string (in this case dental floss) tied to a snake hook. For some reason the string doesn’t frighten the lizards so you can slip the loop around their neck and have a better chance of capturing them. My mentor is also working with people from the Game and Fish Department and the Wyoming Natural Diversity Database (WYNDD) who are doing amphibian surveys in the RFO. I got to sit in on their meeting the other day which turned out to be pretty informative. If plans stay the same we will hopefully be working together to survey for Spadefoot Toads in the coming weeks. I’m excited to work with them and learn from these other agencies.
Overall it has been a good first week in the office and I am looking forward to what the rest of the season will have in store.