Hello again everyone, hope you all are doing well! It has been an exciting first few days here in Colorado at the Blanca Wetlands. I started a few days later than miss Tifany so I’ve been on the catch-up game. Nonetheless, it has been a productive couple of days. We began by exploring the Blanca Wetlands to become familiar with our survey areas. This area sits at the base of the Sangre De Cristo Mountains and consists of over 200 ponds, marshes, and playas in an area of 8,757 acres. For anyone who is unfamiliar, this area can be extremely frustrating to navigate primarily due to the lack of landmarks to base your direction. As was the case for us as we ventured down yet another sandy road, this time CERTAIN we were headed in the right direction! Somehow we managed to find our main survey ponds and areas thanks to Tifany’s top-notch map interpretation skills! After a good half day of exploration, we managed to find our way out. When we returned to the office our supervisor (Jill) bubbly greeting us and asked how things had gone. After we vented our frustrations she chuckled and said that it takes a few days to learn. She then began to highlight sand traps and mudholes that countless interns have fallen victim to. This was very helpful, and hopefully, we never find ourselves stuck in one (If we do, you’ll hear about it!).
The next day we were fortunate enough to be able to participate in a Gunnison Sage Grouse lek count. These are an endemic species to North America and an endangered species here in the area. Their range occupies about 40% of public, BLM land, therefore, the BLM has taken initiative to protect this dwindling species. Unfortunately (as Colorado weather would have it) it decided to snow that morning so it was not the ideal time for a count, however, we did manage to count 3 birds on the old lek and 3 on a newly established lek. The grouse were less active than they would have been if the sun was out but we still managed to see some male displays. Although the weather did not permit us to see a whole lot of action, the data was useful in observing the behavior of these grouse in inclement weather conditions. This trip was great, and the trip supervisor (Loree Harvey) was very knowledgeable, helpful and patient. These experiences and people are what I love about biology and the resource agencies! We will soon be doing some educational outreach to local schools in the area. This both excites me and makes me a bit nervous, but look forward to it nonetheless! Until next time pajaritos! Take care and have fun!