01-28-14 Field Note

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01-28-14 Field Note

January 28, 2014

Jeff Clarke's Field Note describes erosion from rain falling on frozen ground, and thousands of ducks who flock to the corn fields.

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Field Note January 23rd, 2014

On January 11th, more than 1/3” of rain fell in less than an hour. The ranch soils were frozen and did not absorb any of the water. As a result, extreme over land flows cascaded down the mountain side. Any lower-lying land funneled water to roads and draws.

This “flash flood” like event left most ranch roads in shambles. The surging water carved six inch deep, vein-like patterns half way up the mountain.

The water spread out across the agricultural fields. Due to the lack of vegetation on most of these areas, additional top soil was dispersed.

Our draws were the main arteries that carried rain water to the bottom. The water volume and velocity was so extreme, nothing could stop it. The surge barreled over water bars, took out exlosures, chiseled three foot deep head cuts and displaced a lot of sediment!

An estimated 5,000 ducks visit the corn field daily. They arrive in the evenings and disperse at dawn; this has been their pattern for a month.

We placed metal flashing on top of the ½ mile long rodent exclosure that protects several studies. From now on, rodents shouldn’t be able to go in our out.

The logging project continues on top of the mountain. Some of the logs have been placed along the river bluffs in an effort to expand the marmot colony. We hope the piles encourage other critters to stick around too.

This 40 foot ponderosa pine succumbed to the Bitterroot’s wandering ways. A tree like this can provide shade and habitat for the animals that use the river. The spring pulse will likely give it a new resting place.

The red stems of willows cover the rock bars. In a few more years they will become beaver food.

river water

We continue to find mangled exclosures all over. We try to pick them up as fast as we can. Downed exclosures damage trees.

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1-10-14 Field Note