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Western Grebe, Tule Lake NWR

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

A different kind of assignment today

Intern Katie and I headed out this morning on a dual assignment for the refuge complex hunt biologist. 

_MG_2382Notice Mount Shasta above my head.  Not much smoke around today. _MG_2374

We had to go to the Oregon section of the Lower Klamath NWR to install these signs at entrance roads.  There were about a dozen access sites to the refuge, and the signs needed to be put up to keep Oregon goose hunters out.  We had brought some poles along, but luckily, we didn’t need to pound any in.  Empty stakes were available at all of our stops. 

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The area we covered was about 10 sq. miles which was divided up into around 25 half mile square sections.  That was the second part of our assignment.  We had to survey each of those 25 sections and determine for the biologist whether they were Pasture, Grain, or Fallow.  The sections on both sides of this road were obviously G.  As you can see, the roads were not paved, and this is an example of one of the better ones.  We were very careful on some of the two track lanes so that the growth in between the lanes didn’t catch fire as the truck brushed through it.  Don’t need any more wildfires around this area!

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Ha Ha!  Give two women power tools, and we felt like “Charlie’s Angels”.  Out to defend our nation’s wildlife.  Winking smile

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Our ‘missions’ were accomplished by early afternoon, and Katie even got a good look at her first ever black-crowned night heron.  Now this was a fun assignment.  Sure beats sitting in the VC!

I’ll be back out on Thursday morning to do the weekly bird survey.  You can bet I’ll be borrowing that 600mm lens again!  In the meantime, I’ll leave you tonight with a picture vignette from last Thursday:

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                                              Parent western grebe about to take care of its young.

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                                                                           Where’s junior?

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                                                                 Did Dad catch my lunch?

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                                                     Oh boy, I’d better get over there fast!

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                                                                             Here I come!

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                                                                              Thanks Dad!

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                                         Okay, now I have to figure out what to do with this fish.

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                                                                                 Gulp!

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                 Like father, like son.  (or it could have been like mother, like daughter.  Who knows?)

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Bird Survey #2

After my encounter with the coyote at the beginning of the Lower Klamath Basin NWR auto tour route, I slowly made my way down the gravel road.  I was surveying to see what water birds were using the refuge.  In the past, this 50,000 acre refuge was a massive wetland.  Since early in the 1900’s the water in the basin has been controlled by the Bureau of Reclamation.  At the present time, no water is allocated to this refuge in the fall.  The result is that those beautiful 50,000 acres are just about bone dry.  Not very conducive to breeding and migrating waterfowl. 

IMG_0945About all that’s left is some evaporating water in the ditches along the roadway.  Each week there is less and less water. 

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I did find some species using the ditches.  I must say that if you want to see black-crowned night herons this is the place to look.  There is a rookery nearby, and I probably saw over a hundred of these birds.

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                    Because of the drying out, all the herons and egrets are concentrated along the ditches.

IMG_0948There’s a ditch on each side of the road, and the egrets even congregate in the middle of the road.  I think it’s a shame, but I guess growing hay and potatoes and horse radish takes priority.

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On the other hand, Tule Lake NWR harbors two endangered fish species so it gets water allocated to it.  That makes for an abundance of waterfowl on the lake.  Fall migration has barely begun so everything I’m seeing now has resided on the lake and wet soil units all summer.

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                                                                    Eared Grebe with young

Lots of species are still raising their young and going through their post breeding molt.  During this molt they are flightless for a while, so Tule Lake truly is a refuge for them.

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Here’s your bird lesson for the week.  These two birds look a lot alike, but they are two different species.  The one on the left is a Western Grebe, while the one on the right is a Clark’s Grebe.  Both species nest on the refuge.  If you look really closely, you can see the differences.  The western grebe’s red eye is surrounded by black feathers, and the Clark’s grebe’s eye is surrounded by white feathers.  The bill of the Clark’s is also a brighter orange/yellow than the western.  Remember that now because there just might be a quiz someday.  Winking smile

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A group of black-necked stilts was working the shallow water in one of the flooded fields with several white-faced ibis.  I got a kick out of how one of the stilts was peeking over the ibis’ back.

I think that’s just about enough bird pictures for tonight.  Doing these bird surveys is the highlight of my week here, so be prepared for more pics. 

I really liked trying out the 600mm lens for the day even with the loss of a bunch of my photos.  It’s a small thing really.  Rick and I thought we had recovered them, but it turns out all the recovered photos were a bunch that I had sent to the recycle bin on purpose because I wasn’t happy with them.  Who knows where the pics I was happy with disappeared to.

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                                                                             THE END!!

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Thursday, August 27, 2015

A great start to the day, but has a minor disaster befallen me?

I headed out early this morning to start the first of my two weekly bird surveys.  First up was a trip around the wildlife drive on the Lower Klamath NWR.  I took along my cameras, of course, and an extra one.  I had borrowed the refuge’s camera with the 600mm lens to give it a try.  What a treat to have a lens that powerful!  Needless to say, I took hundreds of photos that will take me some time to process.  So, tonight I’ll just show you some pics of an encounter that I had at the beginning of my route.

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As I started down the auto tour route, I noticed that there was a lot of smoke in the air, and something in the middle of the road.  Looked like a young coyote to me, so I stopped the truck, turned off the engine, and just enjoyed the moments. 

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                                                   She got up, but couldn’t decide what to do.

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                                                      First, she went to the left side of the road.

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                                                           “Maybe I should run and hide.”

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                                         “No, I think I’ll lie down on the other side of the road.”

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                                                “If I look the other way, she won’t see me.”

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               Then she ran down the embankment, but still had to check on me.  “Are you still there?”

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Back up again, muddy paws and all.  Eventually, she got tired of me being there and wandered off into the brush on the other side.  I headed on my way, but a look in the rearview mirror showed me that as soon as I left, she came up once again to sit in the middle of the road.  Must be a favorite sunning spot for her.  (I just used my camera for these shots.  That 600mm lens weighs a ton, and hand holding it for shots through the windshield wasn’t an option.)

I did get some nice pictures later with the borrowed camera, but ran into that minor disaster during uploading them to my computer.  Half of them disappeared, and I’ve got a help call out to Rick.  Hopefully he can help me recover them.  I’m sure I clicked the wrong button somewhere along the line on the computer.  Uf-dah! 

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                                                                               THE END!!

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Scratching the surface

Today was my first full day off since arriving at Tule Lake NWR last Monday, and I wanted to get out and about to learn something about the area I’ll be living in for about two months.  There’s actually a National Monument only ten miles down the road from my rig, so I headed out this morning to take a look at it.

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I thought Lava Beds NM might be very similar to Craters of the Moon NM in Idaho, but that isn’t so.  Each place has unique features.  Today’s journey was just a cursory visit to see what all was available.  After four hours in the monument, I just barely scratched the surface of what’s available to see and do.

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My first stop was a view of the Devil’s Homestead lava flow.  It’s hard to convey the concept of this huge amount of lava with a photo.  You just have to come here to see it to believe it.  I decided, after stopping here, to just drive on to the visitors center before looking at anything else. 

It’s a rather small VC, and the exhibits are minimal.  There is a movie on a TV that I found very informative about the monument.  This place has a tremendous amount of cultural and natural history.  In subsequent visits, I’ll get more into the cultural history and the story of the Modoc people, and their war for freedom.  There are also numerous caves to explore that were created by flows of smooth lava 10,500 to 65,000 years ago.  I picked up a pamphlet on the description of these cave hikes for future reference.  I’m planning on giving several a try.  What an adventure this place would be for families with children… exploring caves with a helmet and flashlight!

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While near the VC, I decided to take a drive to see the campground.  Quite a few sites have beautiful views of the surrounding terrain.  I’m guessing it’s at an elevation of about 5000’, and you’re looking over the basin.  There are no hookups, but there is water available and flush toilets.  Rigs up to 35’ can fit into some of the sites.  Only one class C was setting up in the two loops as I visited.

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I was pretty lucky today as much of the smoke from the surrounding wildfires had lessened.  This is Schonchin Butte.  If you look really closely at the top of it, you can see a little bump.  That’s a manned fire tower, and I’m hoping to hike up to it for a visit when it cools down a bit.  It’s at an elevation of 5302’, and I’m thinking there will be quite a view up there on a smoke free day.

_MG_2351As I drove to the trailhead for the fire tower, the view to the north was rather hazy.  Looking down and out, I could make out Tule Lake in the distance with the crop fields in front of it.  That whole area of crops used to be productive wetlands before the Bureau of Reclamation drained the marshes.  The size of Tule Lake and the surrounding wetlands has been drastically reduced over time.  Water, and its use, has been very controversial in this area for close to a hundred years. 

_MG_2354On the drive out, I stopped at Fleener Chimneys for a short hike up to hopefully get a view of Mount Shasta.  Didn’t pan out.  Sad smile _MG_2356

Fleener Chimneys pull off is also a picnic area, and the tables here, and I believe in the campground, were constructed by the CCC in the 1930’s.  The Civilian Conservation Corps is another bit of the history of this area that I will need to explore further.  This monument is quite a place.

When I got back to the rig, Emma and I sat outside for the rest of the afternoon in the low 90* temps.  There does seem to be a nice breeze each later afternoon, and it is a ‘dry’ heat.  While I haven’t been plagued by mosquitoes at this refuge, so far, there does seem to be an abundance of flies.  I have a flyswatter with me when I sit outside.  On a rather disgusting note, after I whack a fly Emma feels compelled to eat them.  Yuck! Smile with tongue out

I leave you tonight with a pic of my biggest victory for the day.  Skies were semi clear enough today to finally get a glimpse of Mount Shasta… more than 50 miles away as the crow flies:

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                                                                              THE END!!

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Settling in and the Tule Lake Auto Tour Route

Well, the training in the VC didn’t happen yesterday, but the water issue was sort of resolved.  Since no one could figure out how to turn on the water spigot at the RV site, a 125’ hose was purchased, and I’m currently connected to water at the end of the fire management building.  Since it’s not drinkable anyway, I thought this would work for me.  However, an ordinary green water hose was purchased and you RVers know what that means.  The water reeks of a hose smell.  Even after bathing, I don’t smell too good.  Brings to mind that old saying, “Up your nose with a rubber hose!”

I did get my request for a picnic table for the site.  Now I have a place to hook Emma’s tie out rope to, and a place to set out my Weber Q.  Haven’t had a chance to put out the grill yet, but that and the tire covers for the rig are about the only things I have left to do.

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I headed out this morning to familiarize myself with the Tule Lake Auto Tour.  As per usual at this time of the year, the skies were heavy laden with smoke from various wild fires.  It sure didn’t make for great photo opportunities.

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I was also doing my first bird survey.  Tule Lake and the surrounding wetlands had an abundance of waterfowl on them, but even using a spotting scope, many species were hard to make out.  Everything just looked black.

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These sunflower (?) plants near the end of the route sure did attract the monarchs.  At an elevation of 4000’, this area is almost like a high desert location.  Average rainfall, if not in a drought situation, is only 15”/year.  These flowers are not abundant, and the insects take advantage of them when they’re found.

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I stopped to take a look at this red-tailed hawk that was perched, and was surprised to find that little California quail in the picture when I got home.  That’s a new species for me, and I’m guessing I probably saw about 50 of them today.  Just like Gambel’s quails, they make me chuckle with their ‘muttering’ and blasting away when disturbed.

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There were also lots of young pheasants along the route.  Seems like it’s been a good breeding season for them.  Somehow I never thought that pheasants would be so abundant in California.  Folks come out to hunt them on the refuge.

Some of the confusion on the refuge this week is due to the fact that Hallie, the volunteer coordinator, has her last day here tomorrow.  Her responsibilities will be taken over by Steve.  Steve has different ideas about how things should be run with the VC and with volunteers and interns.  That creates a bit of a flux in the flow of things. 

When I returned to the VC this afternoon for my training, Hallie was on her way out, and I got to spend a bit of time with Steve.  I think he will be good for RV volunteers.  He has ordered a 75’ ‘white’ water hose for my use.  It should be here next week.  That kind of surprised me as I had decided I’d just buy one myself.  He also told me that there is a DSLR camera with a 600mm lens that I can use any time I’m out doing my bird surveys.  On top of that, I got to choose which days I’ll work, and he only requires two four hour stints in the VC per week.  Now all those things made me one happy camper!

I came back to the rig, had a glass of wine, and dreamt about not smelling like a rubber hose…

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                                                                               THE END!!

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy