Galveston Beach at Dawn

Galveston Beach at Dawn
Galveston Beach at Dawn

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Looking Back Over 2014: Memorable Animals

Since I work at National Wildlife Refuges, knowing at least some of the names and life histories of the animals on the refuge is mandatory.  But I probably work on the refuges because of the animals, so I spend a lot of time looking at them and being awed, amused and amazed by them, when working or not.

Okefenokee was all about the birds and alligators. There were a lot of waders on the refuge as well as lots of other birds, but there were few ducks.

Bathing hooded merganser

I never realized how beautiful anoles are until I took this closeup on the observation tower

Red-shouldered hawks were very common

Sometimes we had over 500 robins near the Visitor Center area

This blond racoon was often seen along the boardwalk

I don't often give yellow-rumped warblers much respect but they are pretty. 

American Tree Sparrow - love that sweet face

Baby alligators are really cute

Palm warblers were everywhere - I saw my first one here

I was at Okefenokee for the beginning of breeding season - here
a Carolina wren is singing his heart out

Bachman's sparrows are very hard to find until they start singing

I got my second snowy owl - this one in Florida

This was the rare Sherman's fox squirrel - I spent months trying to bag one

The pig frog - often heard but seldom seen

At Red Rock Lakes, one of the projects is to learn more about the Arctic grayling.  One of only two populations in the lower forty live here.  The refuge is working to restore more traditional habitat for them.

A beautiful fish I got to see when I  photographed the Fish Guys tagging these fish. 

I got to see the breeding pelican's horn

Got a rare pose of a common bird at Elk Lake

A lot more antelope calves survived at Red Rock Lakes

Moma, last year's son and this years infant - taken past sunset and camera could not shoot fast enough

Carole showed me a lot of wonderful animals when I visited her in the Rocky Mountains.  A few of them I only saw here.

Pine Grosbeak

A pica, one of the species severely impacted by global warming

The National Bison Range was established to save the Bison.  Last year I got to see them in the rut but this year I got my first picture of them in Mission Creek looking like water buffalo.  And I was able to enjoy weeks of the elk rut.  In fact, the morning I left, I photographed a really tired elk walking towards  a little grove of trees next to the bunkhouse. 

Bison in Mission Creek

Some of the cows - and calves - of the most dominant bull elk

Top bull running off a challenger

A little lagniappe found on my search for fall color

An engaging beggar/robber responsible for dragging my jacket out of my car in Canyonlands NP

I'm thankful I get to spend so much time observing animals.

Merry Christmas.  Hope you get to help with one or more Christmas counts.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Looking Back Over 2014: My Favorite Jobs

One of the best things about volunteering is that you get to do lots of different jobs.  And I often volunteer (beg) for jobs not on the docket. 

My described jobs at Okefenokee were to run the visitor center, work as a wandering docent, and help with educational activities. 

Doing the wandering docent job

I helped with the pond and boardwalk stations for a school group

I met interesting birds and people while helping with the Big Backyard Bird Count

But some of my best jobs were ones I asked for.  Someone has to clean the porty potties on the camping shelters.  I begged to go with Wild Bill, one of the volunteers who keeps the canoe trails open and the camps clean.  We took a motor boat over ten miles to clean up two shelters.  I did the toilets while cut firewood, cleaned up trash. and killed and scrubbed algae off the walkways.

Scrubbing off mold and dirt
The refuge is still rebuilding after a huge wildfire burned over 80% of the refuge.
I asked to help rebuild one of the shelters.  I mostly hauled of the damaged wood and took pictures.

All new wood came in by boat and then we loaded the damaged wood on the boat and hauled it back to land to be hauled to a landfill

Red Rock Lakes didn't have a lot of visitors and there are a lot of research jobs there.  I surveyed the bluebirds - and tree swallows and house wrens - once a week. Getting to snoop into the nest boxes was one of my favorite jobs.

Hatch day for bluebirds
I spent two days most weeks supervising the Ecology International kids set up insect traps, then collect the trapped bugs and sort them into bees, ants, beetles, grasshoppers and everything else.  We collected the insects from sites where radio-collared sage grouse hens had foraged with their chicks, as well as nearby sites that hadn't been used by the grouse.  This was part of a big study to determine optimal habitat for the sage grouse, whose numbers are in steep decline.

Building a trap

My favorite job all was helping to trap, band, and get measurements of lesser scaup ducklings.  I only wish that I hadn't fallen on my camera.  One day of paddling almost did me in so I didn't help the other three days I had planned to. And I had to leave before the second week of roundups happened.  I'm hoping my rotator cuff will be healed by next year's roundup since I'm going back there next year.

Paddlers deploying to start the duck roundup

I went back to National Bison Range to (finally) get to help with the annual bison roundup. We got a new calf squeeze this year and had to build new gates around it out of sturdy metal pipes. One of my jobs was to paint the gates as well as several pieces of plywood to attach to the inner fences so the calves wouldn't see the people as they came into and out of the shoot.  I ended up putting the first coat on in the shop and the second one on after everything was in place.

Newly painted panels drying all over the shop.

A selfie of the paint doctor

During the actual roundup, I spent one day working with the kids.  We provide a matching game about animals found on the refuge,  a build the bison skeleton, and a movie which explains roundup.  Area schools bring the kids in to go through these stations and then go observe roundup activities.

Figuring out where the bones go

The second day I helped with roundup. One job was to get the labels on the blood samples we took from the calves to find out their genetic profile.  My other job was to open a gate -which then directed the calves into their chute.

Labeling the blood samples

My other favorite job was to drive the nineteen mile auto tour to make sure everyone was off it.  These were the times I got some of my best pictures of views and wildlife.

This was a very good year for work, play and friends. I'm looking forward to another wonderful year.

Merry Christmas to all of you.  Thanks for reading my blog. I'm looking forward to visiting with all of you.