Sunday, August 28, 2016

Pop Goes the Weasel

We have seen a couple members of the weasel family here at Leadville National Fish Hatchery. American Martens (aka Pine Martens) live in the forest here, and we've been fortunate enough to see them a couple of times. But not fortunate enough to get a picture!!

Closer to our RV, we spotted a Long-tailed Weasel a week or so ago, but failed to get a picture. But as luck would have it I looked out this morning to see one perched on a boulder about 30' from our front door. GET THE CAMERA!!!

Long-tailed Weasel
These little guys are about 12" long and weigh around a half-pound. In winter they turn pure white, but keep the little black tip on their tail.

There is lush grass surrounding the base of this boulder, and the weasel was clearly hunting.  This area is filled with mice, chipmunks, and ground squirrels, so these guys probably eat pretty well.
Where'd it Go??
The weasel took a sudden turn to its right and then jumped into the grass, but whatever it was hunting escaped (this time).

We'll keep our eyes peeled for a return appearance from this one!!


Thursday, August 25, 2016

Short Summer!!

Leadville, Colorado averages 26 frost-free days each year, and those have come and gone.  Mornings have been in the low 30's the past several days, and last night we saw a heavy accumulation of new snow up on the mountains.
Mosquito Range - New Snow
A closer look:

We don't know if this batch will stick or not, but we do know that more snow is certain to fall in the coming weeks. The local's aren't too thrilled to see their short summer coming to an end, but we love to see the snow on the mountains!


Monday, August 22, 2016

Boom Days

It seems like every Colorado tourist town has a summer festival, and Leadville is no exception. Boom Days celebrates Leadville's mining history with a street fair, parade, burro races, and contests of mining skill.

After a flyover by a plane from the Leadville airport, the parade started with a color guard and then plenty of bands, exhibits and a couple of floats.
There were all sorts of different folks in the parade. This lady had a bicycle she has owned since 1955.
Original Owner
Ed, the hatchery manager is quite a craftsmen and has been building floats to compete in Boom Days Parade for several years. This year's theme was the Carlton Tunnel which is one of the many tunnels in the area. Ed started with a black plastic 55 gallon drum and created an amazing looking locomotive pulling an aquarium car out of the tunnel.
Friends of the Leadville Fish Hatchery
Friends of the Leadville Fish Hatchery led our float through the parade. They were wearing trout hats and handing out fish-shaped candy. Free candy was the big draw for the kids.
Leadville Fish Hatchery Float
Children of two of the refuge personnel rode in the float and had a great time. There were only a couple of other floats in the parade, and it was no contest as far as awarding "Best Float". Ed's locomotive won easily. 

One thing that you won't see in most small town parades is a marijuana van! With recreational usage being legal there are marijuana businesses all over Colorado, marked by a green cross. Several folks called out for free samples, but they weren't providing any!!
"Natures Medicine"
The most entertaining group was marching with a local cookie company. These teenagers were running around in dinosaur costumes and keeping the kids entertained. I don't know how they could see where they were going.
Watch Out for the Dinosaurs!
An entertaining duo was this pair of ladies representing a local saloon. They were really hamming it up and seemed to be enjoying themselves. 
Saloon Gals
When was the last time you saw someone riding a unicycle?? There was a group of several kids riding in the parade, and this young man wins the prize for the tallest!
One Tall Unicycle
It was a fun little festival, and we were glad to see the hatchery float take home the big prize!

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Spawning Cutthroat Trout

One of the ongoing activities from June through mid-July was the spawning of the Cutthroat Trout here at the hatchery. Spawning took place on a weekly basis, since not all of the fish were "ripe" at the same time. We assisted with spawning six different times, but didn't get a lot of pictures as we were busy!!

In simple terms, the ripe females have their eggs squeezed out of them by a biologist, and then the eggs are fertilized by milt that is squeezed from a male or males.
Squeezing Eggs from Female
The biologists separate the males from the females prior to spawning. The females are softer in the belly, and the males are a bit more colorful. But there is overlap, with some "females" turning out to be males, and vice versa.
Adding Milt from Male
There are a surprising number of things going on during spawning. Each of the Cutthroat Trout have a PIT (Passive Integrated Transponder) tag embedded in them that is read with a special device. This tag identifies each individual fish and records are kept of which fish are bred. Occasionally the PIT tag is expressed with the eggs, so one biologist stands by to reinsert the tag if necessary. 

As the fish are selected and PIT tags read, that data has to be recorded. Teri was the data recorder on the crew. Most days she recorded the information on a laptop, but on the final spawning day no laptop was available so she went old-school.
Data Recording
This turned out to be a tricky job as different people were yelling out 5-digit numbers at the same time, along with "male" or "female", and "that one wasn't ripe" or "we lost the PIT tag" or "did we give you that number yet", etc. Apparently Teri was a superstar compared to previous data recorders and never missed a beat.

I ended up being the team gopher, doing anything from netting fish to running eggs to the incubator to testing the pH of different solutions. 
Netting Fish
Once the eggs were fertilized, they were placed into pails of gently flowing water to "water harden". Within about thirty minutes of being fertilized the eggs would absorb water and become very firm. Once they had achieved this firmness they could be transported without fear of damage.
Eggs Water Hardening
Finally, the eggs were placed into an incubator. Some eggs are incubated here at the Leadville Hatchery, while others were transferred to a state hatchery in Salida where the water is warmer and hatching takes place more quickly.
The fish that hatch from these eggs will be held for at least two years prior to being released. Many will be held at the hatchery for three or more years and spawned to continue to process.


Monday, August 1, 2016

A Little Maintenance Project

The manager has come up with a list of projects that need to be completed here at Leadville National Fish Hatchery. They range from small items like changing light bulbs up to major repair projects in the water treatment plant. While the list is intended primarily for staff, we have chosen a few items to work on ourselves.

Our first project was to repair and refinish a large sign describing the Evergreen Lakes Hotel that occupied the site in the 1880's.
We disassembled the sign so that we could bring most of it back to the shop. The display box below the sign  holds a number of artifacts that were found on site. This box needed some repairs.
We sanded down the main supports and re-stained them in place. Everything else got taken back to the wood shop.
The sign has several Plexiglas panels, but we were able to break it down into separate components so we didn't have to deal with getting stain where we didn't want it.
The bottom of the display box had artifacts glued to it. Staining this piece was a little more tedious, but Teri handled it with no problem. We also had to re-attach a few items that had come loose over time. 
We were able to finish and replace the main sign at the end of the first day. The display box needed to sit overnight.
The next morning we reset the display box, and checked this project off the list as "FINISHED". 
There are dozens of small wooden signs that need to be refinished, but this was the largest by far. It feels good to finish a project like this.