Spectacular Sunsets and Sunrises

The sunrises and sunsets in North Park are absolutely GORGEOUS.  Even though they are commonplace, I try to appreciate them each and every single day.



Here's a little blurb I found online about how and why we see different colors when the sun is rising and setting...
The colors of the sky are created because the atmosphere between the sun and the earth consists of many different particles and chemicals. The sky directly surrounding the earth though, mainly consists of nitrogen and oxygen molecules as well as the dust and debris kicked up by humans and animals on the earth's surface. So, when the light hits these particles it is broken up and the different wavelengths are scattered in different directions. This process is called scattering. So with our atmosphere the sky surrounding the earth would be black and only lit up by the white light of the sun. But instead we have an atmosphere that provides us with the colors we can enjoy.

At dusk and dawn the colors of the sky change and the first portion of the visible spectrum is what appears to the viewer. During these times of the day the sun is positioned at a different angle to the earth than during the normal daytime. Because of this angle, the longer wavelengths are the ones that reach the eye. The blue and other shorter wavelengths are scattered millions of times and do not reach the viewer. When the sun does not shine directly on a certain portion of the earth there are more gas molecules between the viewer and the sun. Therefore, the normal blue color of he sky is no longer visible because the short wavelengths of blue and green are scattered millions of times and do not reach the viewer. Therefore the longer wavelengths that couldn't be scattered as many times are able to now hit the viewer in a more direct way.


Miscellany in North Park

 Measuring the density of horizontal cover for snowshoe hares for a Lynx compliance project

 Volunteering in the 5th grade science classroom at the WaldenElementary School


 Aspen changing colors

A fresh elk rub

Creek where I saw a bull moose

Fall Follies

 A bull moose we encountered in the willows on the way to one of our electrofishing sites
 The aspen are spectacular in North Park!
Investigating a dead moose report

2012 Parks Ranger District Seasonal Crew

More fish shocking...

 Fish kiss!

 This guy had swallowed a tiger salamander!
Bucket o' trout

 A beautiful brookie

Oooooh Pretty!

I’m constantly amazed at the painter’s palate of nature in Colorado.  So many beautiful colors to admire…guess that’s why they call it ‘colorful Colorado!’

Devil's Head

Last weekend I hiked to Devil's Head, a high mountain vista in the Pike National Forest that culminates at a vertical stairway to a historical fire tower.  Originally built in 1912, this tower has undergone some renovations over the years, but its role has been steadfast in the detection of forest fires in the forest and surrounding areas.  The hike is only a mile, but it climbs rather steeply.

Part way up the trail
End of the trail, beginning of the monster stairs!
The fire tower
The fire finder: this awesome contraption is outfitted with a map, 2 sights, and a line...if you spot smoke, you line up the plume with the sights and a prominent geological feature, and it will correspond to an approximate location on the map...pretty sweet!
This guy has been a smoke watcher in this tower for 28 years!
 The view from the top

Hokie Pride

I recently received a very pleasant surprise from my alma mater, Virginia Tech.  I was awarded the 'Outstanding Recent Alumna of 2012' from the College of Natural Resources.  It is a great honor and I am so proud to represent VT and the CNR in my ambitions.  Check out the little blurb they wrote about me in the alumni newsletter: Erica Santana: Oustanding CNR Alumna of 2012

Fish Frenzy

Electrofishing anyone??? 

One of my more fun days in the field recently was doing fish surveys...tromping around in Goose Creek armed with a backpack shocker, net, and bucket.  As part of a management indicator species monitoring program, we were tasked with capturing and identifiying the fish present in a creek on our forest.  Managers want to know what kind and how many fish there are, specifically how many are native and how many are exotic.  This can help them determine the health of native fish populations and help indicate environmental conditions.

 Two 'shockers' are outfitted with backpack shocking units while everyone else is strategically placed in the creek, ready to pounce on the the fish.  An electric 'wand', of sorts, probes the water, sending out an electric current that temporarily stuns fish and makes them float to the surface. Fish are netted and put into live wells until they are ready to be processed.

Once the stream has been sufficiently shocked, the fish are worked over, and we collect important biological information such as species, size, weight, age, etc.  The entire process is a slime fest, but great fun, and very informative.  After data collection, fish are released back into the creek to finish out their happy little fish lives.

Rip Roarin' Rodeo

My time in Colorado has afforded me several wonderful opportunities to attend some heart-pumpin', hair-rasin' rodeos.  Among them, the 'Daddy of em All', the Challenge Rodeo in Cheyenne Wyoming, which I attended during Cheyenne Frontier days, a spectacular celebration western frontier culture and the pioneer spirit.  It was incredible to see the talent and skill displayed by all the cowboys and cowgirls, and of course, all the beautiful horses!

Buckin' broncos

Barrel Racing

Steer ropin'

Garrulous Goshawks

A large part of my job working on the Routt National Forest is working on the goshawk monitoring program.  Goshawks are a forest accipiter; they are imporant predators and play a key role in forest food-web dynamics.  Goshawks are sensitive to environmental change, and as such, are used as biological indicators for resource management.  Part of my job is to monitor known goshawk nests and discover new ones.  Here are some photos from my goshawk adventures...

Colorful Colorado

The summer of 2012 finds me in the quaint little town of Walden, Colorado (population: 600).  I will spend the mild mountain summer working for the US Forest Service doing wildlife surveying and monitoring in relation to forest projects.  Colorado is absolutely beautiful and I am happy to be experiencing nature in a different part of the country!

Hill creek- near where we found a goshawk nest with 2 downy nestlings :)

 Indian paintbrush

Top of a ridge on one of our study sites...what a view!

Northern leopard frog

 Columbine, Colorado's state flower

 Red squirrel

 Broad-tailed hummingbird

Me at an abandoned Ranger cabin

 House wren

My favorite picture so far :)


 A radiant blue damselfly

Baby red-tailed hawks