Travel, yellowstone national park

Yellowstone: July 15th, 2013

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Adult spotted frog.

The hike into the Grebe Lake took one blazing hot hour. My stomach was already killing me from last nights pizza, not to mention the lack of sleep so I wasn’t as enthusiastic as I should have been. Don’t worry, I gave myself hell for my bad attitude the entire walk in. I haven’t forgotten how extremely lucky I am to be here, not for a second, and a bad day working in Yellowstone is equal to a good day anywhere else. Sadly, my time here is quickly nearing an end and I only have two more days in the field after this one. My body will be thankful for the rest but my heart will miss this place immensely. The surrounding forest was burnt and the ground was covered with fallen deadwood but luckily we had a well-groomed path to follow. I have to give Yellowstone trail crews some major props for clearing hiking paths. It’s a lot of work and that‘s putting it very, very mildly. What would take us several agonizing hours to hike off-trail only takes us one thanks to them. Just last week we got to see an aerial view of Grebe Lake during our hike to Observation Point so it was kind of cool to finally see it from the ground. Most of the wetlands we had to survey around the lake were completely dry this year with the exception of a tiny pool of water in the middle of what was once a wet meadow. The pool was absolutely filled to the brim with large spotted frog tadpoles. I’m crossing my fingers that the little guys fully metamorphose before the pool dries up. It’s definitely going to be a tight race. Surveying the lake took each of us 100 minutes. Previous years took over 200 minutes so we were super speedy by comparison. Most of it wasn’t even close to being amphibian breeding habitat though. Each of us saw about ten adult spotted frogs along the shoreline (the largest, fattest spotteds we’ve ever seen!) but they were just hanging out. Most of the breeding would have been done in the–now dry–nearby wetlands. We weren’t able to survey the entire perimeter of the lake because of a beaver lodge being in the way and a precarious area of downed trees. There were white pelicans along the shoreline and I collected some feathers while they enjoyed a swim. Let me tell you, their scat looks just like bear poop. It’s enormous! Andrew is convinced it was bear poop but I stand by the fact that what we saw littered along the shore, among a whole lotta white feathers, was indeed pelican poop. I’m certain. I thought goose poop was large but it doesn’t even hold a stinky candle to a pelican’s. Along the way I stopped to photograph a skeleton in the water, which I presume belonged to an ungulate of some sort. Submerged in water is an unusual place to find the skeleton of a land-mammal so I just had to spend some time examining it and seeing if I could find all of the pieces scattered about the bottom. Perhaps it got stuck in the muck and just died…we’ll never know. I also netted a fish head and a dead bird but alas, no tadpoles. And speaking of fish, they were jumping near me during the entire survey. Jerks! Every few seconds either a view of one jumping or a splash taunted me. All day I had to jealously maneuver around anglers catching mostly rainbow trout. Oh how I wish I had brought my pole with me. We stopped to watch two loons dive under the water and catch fish right in front of where we were sitting. Every once in a while they would call to one another. I love the beautifully haunting noises they make. Throughout the day, a bald eagle circled overhead and on the way out, we saw an osprey dive down and catch its dinner. How cool!

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A buffle head mother with many babies behind her.

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Travel, yellowstone national park

Yellowstone: June 27th, 2013

DSCF2381DSCF2381The morning was spent reviewing our data quality with Deb. Nez Perce was a disaster in more ways than one. The GRYN whippersnapper data was a mess, but luckily that wasn’t our doing. Otherwise, we hadn‘t screwed up anything too bad. We said a final goodbye to zee Germans, exchanged contact info and I, of course, sent them on their merry way with some soap to remember me by. Awe! Alex was blown away that my last name was Hazard and that I didn’t make a point to tell him earlier. He was certain that I was lying to him, but luckily Deb and Andrew were there to back me up. He felt completely robbed of several weeks worth of teasing me about my last name. Perhaps from now on, I should just introduce myself as Hazard and drop my first name completely. That way no one will ever feel deprived of humor again. Then we hopped into Andrew’s car, head-banged to Metallica’s …And Justice for All for an hour and we were back at the trail head of our five-star catchment, with Deb in tow. This time we surveyed the sites furthest away, which was a 2-hour hike in. It was our warmest field day thus far–an unexpected 85 degrees–and by the time we arrived at the first site, I was completely overheated and parched. These particular wetlands were like old friends to me. I remembered every one of them from back in 2006 and my site drawings were still being used as a reference. You could tell that I enjoyed these sites back in 2006 because I took my time trying to capture all the little details I loved about each one–in my own third-grade way. I’m sad to say, many of the wetlands are dried up now and very likely will never come back. There were two sites across the Lewis River that Polly and I swam to back in 2006 that no one has attempted to swim to since. Looking at that river crossing made me incredulous. Sometimes, I can’t believe all the crazy stuff that I’m willing to do. We really laid some impossible groundwork in 2006 that no other team could sanely replicate. No tadpoles or frogs were found in any of the wetlands surveyed today. Ugh! All that hard work for nothing sometimes feels like an enormous letdown. The hike back was awesome though. A male and female osprey were nesting near the Lewis Lake beach and good gracious did they have some words to say to us. They were not happy sharing their beach and I can’t blame them. Their spot is sweet! During our surveys we also saw two ravens who clearly had chicks because there was the ruckus of hungry babies coming from the nest. Mom told them to shut up whenever we came too close to their tree and the babies obediently listened.

We got back to the dorm and started the arduous task of disinfecting our waders and nets and downloading catchment data from the pda and camera. After that, I spent the rest of the day in bed. The Germans were now gone (sniffle, sniffle), the Wisconsinites were still away, Andrew had left for Casper, Deb had left for Jackson, and the sociologists were entertaining family members in the kitchen. I had no one to play with. There was nothing to do but read and sleep and that was more than okay with me.