My Montana

My Montana
My Montana

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Exploring the Refuge

My second great job was to drive all the refuge roads, checking to make sure they were open. (We had a big storm the day before I arrived which took down trees across the refuge.) I documented several downed trees and brought home the waypoints for them so the tree cutters could go find them.  We do woodcock surveys on all the roads inside the refuge, so it was important to be sure we could do the surveys, which will start this week.

Here are some of the views I've found on the refuge.

View of Meddybemps Lake borders our refuge - this picture taken just south of the refuge

Birches at sunset

We have a lot of marches - they seem to be called flowage up here

Coyote or bobcat scat

One of many species of lichens

View on path to the wilderness area

First of season bufflehead  - part of a group of six

A higher than usual lake draining off through a culvert

Longer view of same area

Ring-necked ducks were here when I got here

Another beautiful place

Beaver dam on pond

First mullein I've found here - doesn't act as an invasive as it does out west

This scene was prettier than the picture

I love the mix of plants that colonize the large boulders

I discovered a photo blind  - while have to try it out

We have a lot of water rushing from our impoundments - this was taken
while waiting for rescue - it's just the other side of the pickup below. 

Only minutes before I would have finished my task of checking the roads, I got stuck on a levy trying to turn around.  The cure was to put the truck into 4-wheel drive.  But two staffers came to rescue me.  Pretty embarrassing.  Apparently 3/4 ton pickups are pretty wimpy in 2-wheel drive.  I was rewarded with this wait time by getting to see the first-of-the season tree swallows returning.

The stuck-in-the-mud truck

Monday night, on the way home from writing this blog, I saw a beautiful sunset in the making.  So I came back to town on Tuesday evening to add a picture before going back to run my first woodcock survey with staffer, Murray.  We have to start 15 - 30 minutes after sunset, depending on the cloud cover.

Sunset over one of our marshes

Sunday, April 24, 2016

A Visit to Pittsburgh Botanic Garden

April 5, 1016

While I was visiting my daughter in Pittsburgh, I checked to see what public gardens were available. I found Pittsburgh had a Botanical Garden so scheduled time for a visit.

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This garden is very much a work in progress. It is being built at the site of an old coal mine which is still leaching very acidic water full of aluminum. The garden has built a treatment field for the water and now has a pond that is no longer acidic and in which water lilies can grow. Of course, I was way too early to enjoy the waterlily blooms. 

Bridge of the lotus pond

View from the opposite end of the pond

The garden is also spending a lot of time developing a wonderful children's area with lots of buildings and other artifacts. And on a trail leading into the woods from this area, I found a wonderful dragon.

Work continues at the bottom of the children's garden

A building for the children to explore

The garden dragon

Some birds are always in the children's garden

I was glad to see wildflowers blooming along the trails


Some not-so-welcome garden visitors -staff are building fences to save their plants

Another area in the woods had wonderful thatched roofs on tall tree stumps and quirky little houses that looked like they should belong to faeries or some other wee people. I also enjoyed a pile of wood, that was intricately painted and in front of which there was a dog built from the same wood.

Stumps with thatched roofs

Closeup of carving and painting

Some of the fey houses

More spring bulbs

There is also a meadow which I think will be beautiful in summer. But most of this garden is just native woods with soft trails through it. I enjoyed a peaceful walk of about three miles on the trails. I only found blooming bulbs but expect a lot more will be in bloom by late spring.

The gazebo overlooking the meadow area

The area just behind the garden center is the most formal and is used for weddings and other events. 

A huge fireplace anchors the formal garden

These were the only tulips in bloom

I think these are some very fancy jonquils

The garden also includes an historic farm and has some sheep and chickens. 

The three resident sheep

I can't wait to continue to visit this garden and watch its development.  

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Surveying the Vernal Pools

My first on-going job is to help staffer Mike survey some designated Vernal Pools. This survey has been going on for several years and Mike has been the main guy doing the surveys. So he knows the deepest part of each pool, one piece of data we have to gather, as well as if and where we will find spotted salamander and frog eggs.

Most of the vernal pools are in the woods

The involves a lot of walking. It took us most of one day and parts of two other days to complete the surveys of the twenty-three vernal pools. On those days, we walked over two and a half miles to six and a half miles. And we have to walk around the rocky edges of the pools, and sometimes go into them to look for the eggs so there is a lot of hard walking involved. Three of our ponds are not near any trails, and for one pool, we had to fight our way through small trees, then try to get across a swamp without falling into pretty deep holes. Then we had to continue through the woods to the next pond. I came home from that outing and fell into bed and took a nap before I could cook supper.

Mike taking a picture of a pool

Mike is a forester and is willing to tell me all about the trees here which mostly consist of balsams, white pine, red pine, alders, eastern red ceder, and birch, some kind of spruce. (I'm not the best of students so I don't remember all of them.) He also has retained and honed his curiosity and is way ready to pause our official work to show me wondrous stuff. For instance, we walked about forty feet past our turn to go through the forest to a pool to show me the power of steam. 

The rocks I first noticed - with obviously sharp edges from being cracked

The hole with a little of the rock showing in the ground

Part of one of the largest rocks and the tree it scraped down as it
hit the tree and fell to the ground

Two years ago, lightning struck a pine tree and went down into it's big root, which was growing in a seam of rock. The sap in the tree boiled and formed steam and exploded out the rock from an area, about the size of a spa tub. The seam of rock was split into several rocks, weighing probably 5 pounds to  several hundred pounds, which were blown from five to maybe fifteen feet away. 

Mike also enjoys birds and is sensitive to the sight and sound of them. So I feel really blessed in getting to work with him and learn from him. And did I mention he is just fun to be around?

We are anticipating getting to see these swans babies - they aren't nesting yet

When we arrive at a pool we are to survey, we have to note the start time, enter codes for light and wind conditions, then measure the air and water temperatures, and the pH and conductivity. We also have to measure the length and width of the pool and the depth of the deepest part. Then we have to count the wood frogs and the spotted salamander eggs. We are also looking for the eggs of the more rare blue spotted salamander eggs. We have to take photographs of at least one set of frog and salamander eggs at each pond, plus a picture of the pond itself. And we have to enter our end time. 

Mike entering data - this ended up my job while he measured the stream length, width, and depth

Some of the ponds still had ice on them

Mike trying to keep a white tray under eggs while he takes a picture - and tries not to fall in

The first spotted salamander eggs we found

These are wood frog eggs - there are usually up to 6 bunches all stuck together.  SO glad we don't have that many kids at once

It is such a joy to get to be out and get to see so many neat things. Mike is willing to stop and let me take pictures.  These are some things I had to take.

A pretty pond view

A tiny little "cave" under a root filled with snow

I think this may be bobcat scat - please comment if you know what it is

There are many beautiful lichens

This rocky little bluff is unusual here

And sometimes the long view is very beautiful

I just realized that this is Wednesday night - not Tuesday night. Sorry for the lateness. I did another job today and collected lots of pictures - and only needed rescuing once. But that will be the subject of another blog.