Thursday, October 21, 2010

About this time every year Sandra makes a pilgrimage to the east coast to visit family and friends. I am left free as a bird and usually bored stiff with nothing to do and 2 weeks to do it. This year I decided to use the time pursuing volunteer work for next summer.
Since we have been together, about 4 years now, we have shared and satisfied our wanderlust volunteering in Alaska, Nebraska, Arizona,Texas, and of course Bosque del Apache here in New Mexico where we met...but that's another story. Anyway, I decided I would use the time for a road trip up to some beautiful places we had not seen yet and mapped out a trip to Utah with stops at Zion, Bryce Canyon Lands and whatever else on the way of interest. My plan was to leave a resume with Volunteer
Coordinators at these spots for work beginning after our winter at Bosque and one month assignment at White Sands.
After delivering Sandra to the airport, I left Albuquerque headed for Grand Canyon on a beautiful sunny morning with a sky full of balloons overhead, to pay homage to what I think is the most beautiful, scenic, quiet spot I have ever been to.
Shoshone Point is an almost secret spot on the south rim. Secret because once you've seen it, you jealously want to guard it from the average tourist. Although open to the public, it probably gets 10-20 visitors a day because you have to (shudder) walk a mile through the woods to get there. But when the trees end you are standing on the edge of the world in complete silence with a thread of the Colorado river visible a mile below and the occasional Condor gliding by on a rising thermal. This is where I hope I am scattered to spend eternity. But not yet! Today I was looking for the solitude found here while still alive and breathing.
To my enormous disappointment, I met a lady on her way out who said, "must be a wedding or something goin' on, there's about 10 cars passed me by heading in". I continued on in anger ready to confront these interlopers to my private corner of the Canyon. Then ahead I saw a small trailer with the words Superstition Search and Rescue on the side. My anger turned to guilt as I figured somebody had fallen over the edge. Also there was that old spark of excitement from my years of work with the Sierra Madre Search and Rescue team back in California long ago.
As I approached the canyon it was obvious from all the ropes and pulley systems and people in harness and hard hats peering into the abyss, that some kind of rescue or recovery was in progress. It was a recovery, but not what I expected. Some bozo, or in this case group of bozos had, with great effort, carried an iron picnic table and benches weighing hundreds of pounds to the edge and pushed it about 300 feet into the canyon where it snagged on a branch. My first evil thought was I hope they didn't let go. What kind of thinking drives so called humans to this kind of act? It's not spur of the moment, they obviously planned to drag it there with no one around and, I guess, get their kicks for about 10 seconds watching it fall, meanwhile destroying the view for all future visitors.
But that's not how it played out. This dedicated group of volunteers, professionals in all aspects of mountaineering from what I could observe, drove up from southern Arizona to spend a weekend figuring how to get it back out. I talked with some of them, men and women ranging in age from 20's through 60's and recalled the pride I felt being part of such a team. Today it was a table rescue, more of a practice run. Next time it might be a child. Check out and support Mountain (and desert!) rescue teams in your area. They do good things.
Oh yeah, the rest of the trip? It started to rain, rained all the way to Bryce Canyon, spent 6 hours in freezing weather in a leaky tent, 6 more in the car trying to sleep, turned to snow, headed back (in rain) through Flagstaff skirting 3 tornadoes, and home to warm, sunny, New Mexico where I'm staying a while.

Friday, September 10, 2010

I was out at the Bosque checking our bee traps for the pollinator study we are working on when about 50 yards away under a cottonwood tree I spied a huge owl looking at me. My car was about a 1/4 mile away, it was hot and the terrain uneven and difficult, but this was a great opportunity to capture a shot of a Great Horned owl, so I slowly backed off without disturbing it and sprinted to my car (1/4 mile) to get my camera with the long lens.Returning stealthily to the scene, I could see it hadn’t moved so I slowly raised my lens and...WARNING-CHANGE BATTERIES flashed at me. Since he hadn’t moved I retraced my steps, (1/4 mile), and grabbed my spare set. Back to the scene (1/4 mile) I started taking photos as I moved ever so slowly closer. The big bird watched, frozen in it’s shady shelter.After about 10 shots without change I had enough and gave him a quiet thank you . Back at the car (1/4 mile) I couldn’t wait to see my images. I blew them up on the camera screen and....see the attached, look closely- I wish I had!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Audubon photos

Sandra and I have entered the Audubon photo contest, prizes are fabulous including a trip to the Galopagos Islands. We're not really planning on winning, but...
Looking at last year's winners was dicouraging. The quality of entries was fantastic. It's inspirational to see them and drives us to try harder. Anyway, here's 6. I won't say whose are whose since in 3 years she has achieved what has taken me around fifty (it's really the equipment!)

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Sorry about the double posting of images, it"s been a long while since we used this! That's our friend Bob picking up "Sand dog" Sandra's find. The other snake is a mean one I came across. The Mtn Lion is one of 3...yes 3 that we were priveledged to see at the Bosque. This is mom. She had 2 cubs, nearly full grown with. I think it's the first time they were confirmed.Last but not least is a Great horned owl we spotted while doing our pollinator count. I am also posting my last column for the local paper on finding a babt bird and what to do then.


It was another nice, cool summer morning. Sandra and I were about a block into our early morning walk up to the Tech campus. As I passed a low hanging branch on a fully leafed-out tree, in the gutter litter I saw a little rustle of movement. Stopping to investigate, to my surprise the rustle turned out to be a bundle of feathers no bigger than a ping pong ball. Almost invisible in the leaf litter and general gutter detritus, under all the downy feathers was a live little bird no more than a few days...hours? old.
Lying beside it was its less fortunate nest mate. Dead, already shriveling in the sun.
Now, our love of birds would not let us walk away from such a situation and we know enough that picking up a baby will not stop a mother from caring for it. That is an old wives tale. But what is the proper thing to do from here? The first and most logical seemed to move it out of the street and the sun. It is true that a mother will try to find the baby and continue to feed it if it has fallen from the nest. It's also true that you should try to find the nest and gently place the baby back if possible. We searched the dense foliage for a nest but were unable to find any. The decision was made to continue the walk and peek in on the way back to see if mom was able to take over. We quietly approached the scene on the way home about 45 minutes later. No change. No mom. Baby was quieter now and probably very dehydrated.
As gently as I could, I picked it up and brought it home with us.Sandra gathered grass along the way and prepared a small box with a lid and placed it inside. I made a quick trip to Walmart and bought an eyedropper (Why didn't we have one here? We do now.) and some gold fish flakes (sounded right at the time) and made an attempt to feed it while Sandra went online to glorious Google that knows the answer to everything. Typing in baby bird rescue brought up about 200,000 hits. Being big fans of Henry Thoreau, we clicked on to "Walden's Puddle Wildlife Rehabilitation Center" having no idea they were on the other side of the country in Tennesee. They had a phone, we called, got a machine, left a message and searched for more information. A short time later the phone rang. It was a nice, concerned lady calling from Tennesee who was surprised to find we were calling from New Mexico. She asked a lot of questions about the bird and the situation of finding it and gave us suggestions on how to proceed. Well, to my dismay, I found out trying to feed such a youngster was wrong and could likely kill it. Most importantly she said to prepare a suitable nest substitute from a berry container stuffed with grass and place it securely back in the tree as near as we could to where we found the bird. A plastic strawberry box from Smith's was perfect. I put the little guy/gal in and, climbing a step ladder, secured it as best I could near the spot.
The odds of all this working were pretty long, but at least if it didn't work, it would be a quiet, comfortable death. Better than a dirty gutter with all the traffic on Bullock.
My confidence was low, so we vowed to not peek and just believe in the best but after 2 weeks or so, I had to know. I climbed the tree and looked into the nest certain I would find a dehydrated little body. Guess what?...The nest was empty! No signs of trouble but a whole lot of bird poop, a good thing. We will never know what really happened, but the odds of it being found, fed and fledging are a lot better and I'm sticking with it!
thanks to Walden's Puddle and the caring person who promptly returned my call, we may likely have added a another voice to nature's chorus.
If you ever run into a similar situation, you can reach them at 615 299 9938 or if you care to make a donation, their address is PO 641, Joelton TN 37080 or just google Walden's Puddle.