And you thought I was kidding about Shelob…

So very wrong, you were!

On the bright side, I took these pictures with my new camera so I was able to maintain a relatively safe distance. On the down side, I think I still managed to piss her off because after a couple of minutes of invading her space she scrambled up underneath the porch rail, presumably to plot my demise and eventual consumption. So I guess that means that use of the front door (necessitating crossing into Her territory) is off limits, at least until the first frost. But maybe I’ll not take any chances and just wait things out until spring.

One small step for fish biologists, one great splash for bull trout!

**Please note: this is my personal blog and reflects my personal opinions. Any questions about this project relating to agency positions should be directed to either the US Fish and Wildlife Service or the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. Thanks for reading!**

Sooo…this post is going to be about work. Which I rarely blog about, but last week was a good week, so I’m going to go ahead and share. One of the first projects I became involved with when I started my job here almost two years ago was the reintroduction of bull trout in the Clackamas basin, a little bit southeast of Portland. Bull trout once coexisted in the basin with a suite of native fish species including salmon and steelhead. However, bull trout disappeared from the basin in the 1960s (the last confirmed sighting was in 1963) largely as a result of overfishing and habitat degradation. So, now that many of the issues that caused bull trout to be extirpated have been addressed, the Fish and Wildlife Service, along with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Forest Service, decided that the time was ripe to reintroduce bull trout into the Clackamas to resume its spot in the ecosystem.

Bull trout in the Kootenai River drainage in Montana. Photo by Joel Sartore, National Geographic Stock (used with permission).

The reintroduction project has been in the planning phases since the mid-2000s. Bull trout were listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 1999, and reintroducing them to a part of their native range falls under recovery actions planned for this species. Our office provides technical assistance to the regulatory folks, and it was my task to perform the preliminary bioenergetics modeling for bull trout, as well as lead the development of the Monitoring and Evaluation Plan for the project, which is anticipated to continue for up to 20 years (and perhaps beyond that). I am currently the chair of the M&E committee, comprised of biologists from several of the agencies involved in the project. It was a big task to complete the M&E plan, but a necessary one for a couple of reasons.

First, the bull trout population in the Clackamas is an experimental one. The major benefit of having a strong Monitoring and Evaluation program is that we will learn something no matter what happens – we will learn why the reintroduction succeeded or failed. Either way, we will know more about what might work for the recovery of this population as this project progresses, and ultimately for this species elsewhere in its range.

Second, we need to pay close attention to what these bull trout do in the Clackamas because there are other listed species in the basin, such as Chinook, coho and steelhead. In fact, this project has been fairly controversial because of concern for these other listed species, which makes it all the more important that we have a strong M&E program and dot all of our regulatory i’s and cross all of our regulatory t’s. Because bull trout are top predators, where these species overlap in time and space salmon and steelhead may face an increased risk of being eaten by bull trout. Of course, bull trout eat plenty of things other than salmon and steelhead (other fish, insects, etc.). But part of our monitoring program focuses on the interaction of all of these listed species so that project managers can take action if it looks like the impacts from bull trout are greater than anticipated.

Anyway, there’s a bit more to the story, but I’ll cut to the chase. Last week was a big week for us because we finally completed all of the regulatory requirements needed to get fish in the water. About 30 subadult and adult bull trout were collected from the Metolius, implanted with radio tags so we can keep track of their whereabouts, trucked over to the Clackamas, and released in the Big Bottom portion of the upper basin. Yay! There was a fair amount of press there, and it was great to see these beautiful fish swim in waters they hadn’t seen for 50 years. Let’s just hope they stay there! We’ll continue to move juvenils and subadults/adults through July, and our monitoring program will kick in almost immediately.

You can see some of the video footage and pictures that were taken here:

From the Oregonian – http://www.oregonlive.com/environment/index.ssf/2011/06/bull_trout_released_in_upper_c.html

From KGW News Channel 8 – http://www.kgw.com/video/featured-videos/Bull-trout-released-in-Clackamas-River-124829994.html

And here are some pictures I took – enjoy!

There were plenty of people on hand to witness the first bull trout release!
Above, this bull trout was just taken off the transport truck. The cooler was walked down to the banks of the Clackamas and the bull trout swam in the waters of its new home a few moments later.
This was the first bull trout back in the Clackamas! Good luck – we’ll be keeping track of you!

M is for…wait for it…

…Montana! Ha – I’ll bet you thought I was going to say M is for Marci! But I didn’t – I know, shocking, right? Well, it still is for Marci, but as I initially stated, M is also for Montana. Which is where I went just a couple of days after Chris and I returned from Alaska (July 13-15). I flew out to Kalispell, which is just outside of Glacier National Park. I’d only driven through Montana once, several years ago, so the whole place was pretty much new to me and I will say that I quickly learned that M is also for Magnificent. Yes, Montana is indeed Magnificent, Majestic, Marvelous, and M-pressive!

My trip was only Tuesday through Thursday, and much of the time was spent in a meeting room in Whitefish, just a stone’s throw from Kalispell. I was there for a bull trout recovery planning meeting and while it was slightly dry (as opposed to wet, which fish tend to need), our group did get outside one afternoon for a drive up Grave Creek in the Kootenai watershed. We were only a few miles from the Canadian border, which you can see in this picture – there’s a line cut through the trees to mark the interface of our countries. How’d you like that job, trekking through some of the most rugged land in our continent to cut down and maintain a tree-free line?

The Canadian border from the headwaters of the Wigwam Basin.

The following day I was able to spend a couple of hours driving around the south end of Glacier National Park. I found Lake McDonald and the views of the mountains particularly stunning, but the drive through the forest was interesting too.

Lake McDonald, with several peaks in the background (from left to right, Mt. Vaught, Mt. Cannon, Mt. Brown, Little Matterhorn, and Edwards Mountain).

Large portions of the forest had burned in wildfires which made the trees look like skeletal toothpicks – you might think this would be not so picturesque, but you could see the topography of the landscape really well instead of just driving down a thickly wooded corridor. Additionally, seeing the forest regenerating with new growth and baby trees was a reminder that forest fires are a natural part of ecosystem processes, and that they benefit the native species that have evolved to survive with fire as a part of their environment.

One of the burn areas. Note the burned, branchless trees in the background; the vibrant green groundcover is nearly a monoculture of lodgepole pine treelings that are about 2-3 feet high.

Anyway, the water there was incredible – aqua blue from the glacial till – and we took advantage of a shady spot next to the Flathead River to enjoy lunch (I accidentally left my prescription glasses there and had to return for them after realizing they were missing a half hour down the road…oops!). I’m glad I got to see the area, and now I understand why bull trout like to live there!

McDonald Creek – note the beaver lodge on the right that has been there for decades! I’d like to live there too if I were a beaver…

Playing Catch-Up

Yikes! Time has slipped away from me folks, and I realized that with all the stuff going on right now I forgot to actually write about my spring break trip that I took with Chris. I posted a slide show of all the pictures on this blog a while back (you can see the pictures here), but I totally forgot to give you the inside scoop! So here goes…even if it is old news by now.

Sunday, March 28:

We started our road trip by stopping by the Hip Chicks Do Wine tasting room in Newberg where we sampled several yummy wines. However, we wanted to check out a few other places that were going to close at 5 pm so we kept moving down the road to our bed and breakfast, the amazing Abbey Road Farm B&B. The guest rooms are in converted grain silos and the grounds are amazing! Definitely check out the pictures. After checking in (we were the only people there during our stay), we went to downtown Carlton and stopped in at the Barking (a.k.a. Barfing) Frog (we weren’t impressed), and the Tyrus Evan tasting rooms. Then a nice dinner at Cielo Blue – terrific bruschetta and it was free, since the waitress spilled my water in my pasta and comped us the appetizer.

Monday, March 29:

While I’m not normally a breakfast person, I was looking forward to a farm-fresh meal. John and Judi (the owners of the B&B, not my parents) cooked us up a fancy meal of grapefruit (topped with toasted coconut, maple syrup and a raspberry) and crepes (with whipped cream, strawberries and kiwi). John went through an exhaustive list of the tasting rooms and wineries we should visit, and talked about all the people running the wine scene in the Willamette Valley. He knew A LOT about wine and we felt a bit overwhelmed and baffled after all his recommendations. So instead of heading out for wine at 10 am, we decided to tour the grounds, which consisted of us harassing the chickens (ok, so we mainly fed them cinnamon raisin bread), making friends with the goats (we’ll see you tomorrow morning, ladies!), and having John show us around the Agrivino Event Center he built. After, we headed out to The Carlton Winemaker’s Studio where JP gave us a nice intro to the local Pinots (we liked Lazy River and Britton’s Basalt Block) – they have several wineries featured at that tasting room, so it was a nice tour. We then went just up the road to Cana’s Feast to sample their wines…and by the end of that visit we had blown our wine budget (but we have lots of really good wine to enjoy at home!). We drove through Dundee and stopped at the Dundee Bistro for dinner, then went back to the Abbey Road Farm for our second night.

Tuesday, March 30:

We managed to get ourselves up nice and early to meet Ricardo, the goat tender, for some good old-fashioned goat milking fun. At 7 am it didn’t feel like so much of a vacation, but hey, we did want our farm-lite experience. Sunflower the goat was very patient with Chris and my unexperienced hands, but we got the hang of it eventually. After all four goats were milked, we took our pail of milk down to the kitchen to Judi who set it up to pasteurize. We had a delicious breakfast of granola with yogurt and berries, VERY fresh eggs, chicken-apple sausage, potatoes, and zucchini bread with lemon-zest goat cheese.

After that it was time for us to head on down the road. Down that road we made a stop at the Brigittine Monastary (their website has an E-zine…an E-zine!!!) where we were greeted by a very friendly cat who led us to the chocolate truffle sales room. It was tended by a monk who had apparently not quite taken a vow of silence, but who made some sort of promise to use as few words as possible during the day. So we bought a couple boxes of truffles, nodded to the monk, and said goodbye to the cat.

We ate lunch at The Beanery in Corvallis, then visited my good friends Jeremy, Dana, and Autumn Monroe for a couple of hours. It was sooooo nice to see some old friends, whom I’m sure will be in my life for a very long time. They all looked well and I was happy to see that Autumn already has quite the biological vocabulary at such a young age! After that, we kept driving south and stayed the night at the Eugene Hilton. Nothing of note there, really, other than the fact that Sarah Palin would speak at that very same Hilton a month or so later. Boooo!!!

Wednesday, March 31:

We were kind of done with wine tasting (by that point our palettes were very confused) so we decided to head to the coast and stay in Newport for the next couple of days. After leaving Eugene we stopped to see a dreary road-side glassblower in Mapleton, activated my new (i.e., Chris’ old) iPhone in Florence (yay!!!), then drove North and checked in at Green Gables B&B in Newport (we’ve stayed there before and liked it so much we decided to stay again). My friend Julie (from grad school at CSU) lives in Newport so I gave her a call and we met her and her boyfriend Perry at Quimby’s for dinner and drinks – I hadn’t seen her since 2002! She hasn’t changed a bit and it was awesome catching up with her. After, Chris and I checked out a whale skeleton sculpture at a beach park, watched Stardust in our room, then…well, maybe I should just stop there.

Thursday, April 1:

Oh, Thursday. Spring break was going by too fast! We finished watching Stardust (which is a very good movie, by the way), and enjoyed a delicious breakfast in the Italian Cafe (part of the B&B) with food made by sisters Rhonda and Yolanda (or Rho and Yo, depending on how bold you are). We had fresh-baked orange-cranberry scones and sweet rolls, and a cranberry sausage quiche which was amazing…

Later, we went down to Newport’s waterfront which is apparently undergoing a major facelift judging by all the construction. We stocked up on our decade’s supply of salt-water taffy (2 lbs, a variety of flavors), checked out the sea lions on the pier, and window shopped. We had dinner at the Italian cafe – manicotti, chicken parmesean, and orange-chocolate cheesecake – YUM!!! We enjoyed a second night at Green Gables, and had a storm roll in which was reminiscent of the storm we experienced during our first stay. Very romantic!

Friday, April 2:

Breakfast was soooo good the day before that we had the very same breakfast on Friday. It was sad that our vacation was almost over, but as you can see, we took some good pictures and will remember it for a long time. Plus, on our drive home we had Combos! Pizzeria and pretzel flavor – yippee!!!

So long, dear pup!

This past Saturday we had to say goodbye to Teddy Bear, my pup who almost made it to age 17. Wow – can you believe he lived that long? He’d been having health problems for a while, but in the end I think it was the arthritis in his back and hind legs that got him – he apparently slipped and injured his legs and yelped every time he tried to sit down. I feel confident that it was the right time for him, and I’m so grateful that my mom, Nik, and Uncle Danny were there with him to the end. I’m sad that I could not be there. So, just for the Tedster, here’s a little poem to send him on his way:

Ode to Teddy Bear

O’ Teddy Bear, my geriatric pup
When we first met you were quite a hiccup
For my life was simple with two easy cats
Then you came along with your high maintenance combats
You whined and you followed and begged and were rude
All in the hopes of a morsel of my own human food.
But I realized soon that you just needed care,
So I walked you, fed you, and groomed your shaggy hair.
It was not long before you were my dog
Or I was your person (who remembers in this fog?)
You were ten years old when I brought you along
With me to SoCal – I didn’t think you were so strong
That you would survive all these several last years
But you did it, you lived through the blood, sweat and tears.
Sometimes I resented having you but now I’m glad
That I gave you more than you would’ve otherwise had.
I wish I could’ve given you a fuller life
Because you deserved better than days of dull strife.
My saddest moment came when I left you with Mom
But it was also the best because she helped you along
And she gave you attention, walks and love
And treated you with the softest kid gloves.
I hope you enjoyed your last several months
In doggy retirement, on all relative fronts.
I hope that your final journey was peaceful in pass –
And that your soul is sunny, playing in grass.
I’m sorry I couldn’t be there for you in the end
But you’re in my heart, my short, furry, doe-eyed, devoted dear friend.

Swift Watch at Chapman School

All during the month of September the Vaux’s swifts roost in the chimney at Chapman School, which is just a few blocks from my apartment. Mid-month I walked over to watch the flock aggregate and enter the chimney for the night and I can tell you it was pretty freakin’ amazing. This is the largest flock of Vaux’s swifts in the world, and they’ve been roosting in the chimney every year since the late 1980’s – in peak years, the flock was up to about 35,000 birds! Typically it’s around 15,000 – I’m not sure how many there were this year, but it seemed like a lot.

The swifts start circling the chimney about an hour before sunset and the flock grows bigger and bigger as individual birds join in. Just after sunset, all of a sudden, the birds start diving into the chimney all together – it takes a while for them to all get in there, and it is a prime opportunity for hawks to come swooping in for a meal. Apparently, the hawks will not only dive through the flock (which then scatters – it reminded me of the way a pool ripples when a stone is tossed into still water), but they’ll also sit on the edge of the chimney and even enter the chimney to grab birds. Interesting thing about the swifts too – they don’t perch – they cling to the inside of the chimney like a bat would. Anyway, here are some photos and a video for you to see what I’m talking about (the Portland Audubon Society also has some great information about the swifts here).

Chapman School and the chimney.
Up to 1000 people will gather on the lawn each night in September to watch the swifts!
Finally, the swifts start going into the chimney for the night.

They Finally Let Me Outside for Good Behavior (or Something…)

In the past two weeks, I’ve actually gotten to go outside three times for work. Wow! Imagine that – a biologist actually being allowed to go outside…since I have no window in my office, I’d practically forgotten what sunlight is like. Which may explain the pale, pasty complexion and vitamin D efficiency that I’ve fallen prey to lately…

Anyway, I spent two days looking at project sites on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, which is my new turf. On the first day I got to see my first endangered arroyo toad, along with some of the beautiful beaches and heavy amphibious vehicles the Marines use in their water-to-land assault operations (guess which I was more excited about).

On the second day, I assisted one of our office ornithologists in his weekly endangered least Bell’s vireo nest surveys. Which was really cool – we found several nests with eggs and chicks, and lots of other cool critters as well. I’ll put a link to some of the more interesting photos to the right so you can view them all!

The following week I participated in searching for endangered light-footed clapper rail nest surveys at the Tijuana Estuary just south of San Diego. It was a lot of fun, but a lot of work! We were walking around in boot-hungry mud and cord grass trying to find nests with eggs, but not step on them. We only found three nests with eggs, and they all appeared to be viable (I checked the fetal heartbeat with the Egg Buddy) so we didn’t collect any of them for contaminants analysis. We did take one egg back to the refuge to be incubated, as it appeared to have been abandoned by the parents. We saw several clapper rails, but they’re very speedy so I didn’t get any pictures of them. But I did get lots of other photos, so take a look at the slide show link to the right. I was completely filthy and muddy and sweaty and sore, but I also had a really great time – I think I might have even got a little sun on my neck. But just a little…I was wearing a big hat and plenty of sunscreen. I’m still working on keeping up that pale complexion and vitamin D deficiency…

Hope you’re all doing well and enjoying the spring!

Can You Believe Teddy Will Be 16 Tomorrow?

Who would have thought – sixteen years old! When I took this dog in, I thought he’d maybe have a couple of years left in him, but he keeps on ticking. He’s doing pretty well – still whiny, loves to eat. I put him on a diet and he lost about five pounds, which I estimate will add at least another year to his life. On second thought, maybe I’d better fatten him back up…oh, I’m sorry, was that mean? Teddy knows I love him, even though sometimes he’s a pain in the ass. Such a geriatric pup…but cute (this picture was taken last year, but it’s the most recent I have, and he looks pretty much the same, except for the full-body mohawk I’ve given him).

Also, a couple weekends ago, Mom, Nik and I went to the Escondido Renaissance Faire. Nik and I dressed up – go ahead and take a look at the pictures (there’s a slide show link at right). Yes, I know I’m a dork.

Nope, Nothing New Here…

Just wanted to write a quick post to let you know I’m alive. Bored, but alive. You see, nothing of interest has happened over the past month, so I haven’t wanted to subject you to any tedious details (of which there are none). It is raining now – it seems like rain has been frequent during the past few weekends – which I like.

Zoe is not doing well. I think we’re nearing the end of the line for her – a few more weeks maybe. Surprisingly, it is not her cancer that is the problem, but our inability to regulate her diabetes. She has lost so much weight, but for now, still seems happy. I’m trying to be aware of the day when she gives me that look…and will try not to ignore it out of my own sadness and need to keep her around longer. My poor kitty.

Teddy continues to be a pain in the ass. We had been doing really well with not peeing in the house, but starting on Friday, he has gotten it in his head that it is ok to both pee and shit inside. At least a couple of times each day. I’m thinking his days are numbered too…but for different reasons…and he *is* almost 16.

Jesse, of course, is fat and happy. Oblivious, aloof. Ah, the typical cat.

I hope you are all well, staying warm in February, whever you are. I’m enjoying today’s holiday, staying in bed and catching up on my blogging. I just wish I had more interesting things to share…oh, and if you haven’t joined facebook yet, maybe you should. I’m a bit more active there than here lately!