Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Love Is In the Air

These two Gambel's quail were caught meeting secretly at the Desert Botanical Garden. The fact that one is a male and the other a female leads me to the conclusion that they might be trying to have a first date away from the throngs of quail that can be found in abundance at the garden.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Who is that hiding in the tree?

Look closely in the trees, day or night. If you see a dark spot, check it out.

If it looks something like a cat stuck up in tree. Look even closer.

It is probably an owl. In this case a Great Horned Owl.

Yesterday, I saw him looking at the tourists of the Desert Botanical Garden. He looked with his right eye.

He looked with his left eye.

He gave all of us THE EYE.

So I left.

I heard he left soon after.

Monday, September 5, 2011

A River Runs Around It

Do you ever have those days when everything seems to be flowing smoothly but then at the end of the day you realize you are right back where you started from?

Here it is illustrated, Horseshoe Bend, a huge meander in the Colorado River.

For 27 years I have driven past this beautiful landmark, not knowing that it was there just waiting to be discovered just over the crest of a sandy hill.

Seriously only a few miles south of Page, Arizona is the trail head for the short 1.5 hike (round-trip) to the viewing spot of this famous loop in the river.

Of course the hike is mostly through sand, and once you get there, there are no railings to protect you from the 1000 feet drop to the river.

To get this picture, I laid down on my stomach and held the camera as near to the edge as I dared. Of course it was worth it.

A bit of trivia: So if Colorado means red in Spanish, why is it blue? Answer: It used to be red before the Glen Canyon Dam was built which regulated flooding and nearly stopped minerals and sediment flowing in the river which had caused the muddy reddish color.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

New Art Discoveries

My grandchildren have been visiting me this week. As a result of this, I have been introduced to a couple new art forms this week.
First up is this wonderful piece done using only a green folder and a paper shredder.

So many possiblities.

Next, I discovered how fascinating it is to design your own mini Lego figure.

While the boys created medieval thieves in handcuffs, I spent hours (ok minutes) looking for just the right hair and accessories to make a female doctor birdwatcher.

Now putting them both together and I have sent my creation on an expedition in a paper jungle.

Who knows what discoveries she will make!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


In the last year, I have been to the Southeast Atlantic coast, the Southwest Pacific coast, and the Northwest Pacific Coast. This weekend I went to the Gulf Coast, as in the coast of Texas along the Gulf of Mexico.

I found this ocean very different from the Pacific or Atlantic. I have been to the Gulf before in the western Caribbean where the water is clear and warm, but I thought since it was in the United States it must be murky and cold as has been my experience with both the Pacific and Atlantic in this country. It was murky, but it was warm and the sand was soft.

Because I was with my grandchildren, I had the chance to see it all through a child's eyes.

Their wonder at each new shell they found, or each sparkly rock on shore, the birds, the soft sand, and the live snail that was found, made the experience fresh and new.

Most of all was the utter joy they expressed as they jumped and dived in the waves. I sat on shore watching beneath my shade and sunscreen, afraid to even get out in the sun and water. Suddenly I couldn't stand it any longer and I ripped off my protective clothes to reveal the swimsuit I had hidden underneath. I jumped in the water with the kids and found myself rolling in the sand and trying to float on top of the waves.

Later that night, as I changed out of my wet suit, one lone shell and piles of sand spilled on the bathroom floor. What a great day, I thought! I hope I have more days like this where I become such a part of the sea and beach that I take home piles of sand and shells as reminders of where I have been.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

To Hell and Back

I have been to Hell and back and it was one terrifying ride. I have looked down into the jaws of death, was given access to hidden canyons and upper forests, and I made it home in one piece.

Ok, I just went to southeastern Utah which is a magical land of slot canyons, mysterious hoodoos, and paved roads with names like the Hog's Back.

Bryce Canyon is a tame place full of bright colors and interesting rock formations. It was a great way to warm up for what was ahead.

We headed on up Highway 12, and stopped at a slot canyon with a small stream flowing through it

After that we drove over a road called The Hog’s Back which has deep drop-offs on both sides in one place and no railings.

That wasn’t enough excitement for one day, so we took a dirt road into a forest with the name of Box-Death Hollow.

Once we came to Hell’s Backbone and drove over the one-lane bridge that connects the deep gulf between two mountains, I saw this sign.

We didn’t go that way, of course, and cheated death that day.

Oh, and one more thing. In the midst of all this is a Five-Star Restaurant, called (of course) The Hell’s Backbone Grill.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Brown-headed Cowbird

This nest was found built between the chairs of the pavilion in the wildflower garden of the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix. I don't know how long the chairs were there, perhaps a couple weeks or a month. They were set up for parties and special meetings.

A bird decided it would be a good place to raise her young. There was probably a lot food around from all those parties. The expert birders at the garden decided it was probably a Northern Mockingbird who built the nest. Mockingbirds are loud, chatty birds who imitate the sounds of other birds and sometimes machines, and they aren't afraid of people. Well, that's obvious from the location of the nest.

Anyway there were three broken, but beautiful Mockingbird eggs and one slightly smaller, unbroken mystery egg. Why was it so different, we all asked. Well, after much measuring and looking in books, and having serious scientific discussions, it was decided that the smaller, unbroken, egg was a Brown-headed Cowbird egg.

Now the plot thickens. Cowbirds lay their eggs in other bird's nests and then fly off never to be seen again. Talk about child abandonment. Anyway, most birds don't seem to notice a slightly different looking baby in their nest and happily raise them. Sometimes this is hard to watch when a tiny Black-tailed Gnatcatcher is feeding a baby larger than itself.

The theory is that Cowbirds evolved with the buffalo and followed the herds across the plains. They didn't have time to put down roots, or build nests. So they did the best they could and let other birds raise their young.

A darker part of this theory, is that the Mockingbird eggs may have been purposely broken by the Cowbird. So three fewer Mockingbirds and one more Cowbird. This happens to other native birds, so the Cowbirds may be helping lower the numbers of our native birds.

I find it hard to dislike them. They are beautiful birds that make a very pleasant tinkling sound. I often hear them on my walks. I hear their sweet bell-like sound and look up to see one or two of them, sitting very majestic on top of a tree or power-line. I don't want to think about the fact they they are probably just looking for a good nest to abandon their kids in.