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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Road Trip, Day 5 (Pt. 1); Petrified Forest Nat'l Park and More

We woke fairly early on Thurs., May 12 and headed for Petrified Forest Nat'l Park (also home of the Painted Desert.)

Formations of the painted desert.

A polished piece of petrified wood at the Visitor's Center. The Petrified Forest houses some of the most brightly colored fossilized wood in the world.

Some kind of evening primrose. (Thanks again to turtlerangler for the ID!)

Painted desert.

Petrified wood out in the wilderness.

Common side-blotched lizard.

Here's a shot of Charles at a portion of the painted desert for scale. He's that black line to the upper left.

Strawberry hedgehog cactus flower (Charles pointed it out to me.)

Archaeological excavations at the ruins of Puerco Pueblo.

Native American petroglyphs at Newspaper Rock.

The park is very strict about visitors not taking anything away and they'll search your car if they have any doubts. Fortunately my word (which was honest,) was good enough. The gift shop near the entrance was full of wonderful pieces of petrified wood for sale. We indulged in a few, small pieces (both polished and not,) but they also had huge, table-sized slabs and even a large trunk carved into a functional chair. Those pieces ranged into the tens of thousands of dollars, but it's always nice to dream!

Next stop; Meteor Crater.

In recent art news, my Horseshoe Bend photo was "Daily Nature Photo" on The Nature Conservancy's website on Jun. 28th.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Road Trip, Day 4 (Pt. 5); The VLA and More

On May 11th, after our time at Bosque del Apache NWR, our path west took us by the Very Large Array ("VLA" for short.) We also passed the VLA coming back the other way, so I'm including photos from both times here. The ones in which the dishes are slanted were on our way west. The ones pointing straight up were on our way back home.

Being total nerds, this stop was right up our alley.

The VLA is a radio astronomy observatory, allowing for the investigation of various astronomical objects.

The dishes are moved on these tracks from time to time to change their configuration.

Despite popular belief, the VLA is in no way affiliated with SETI.

In 1989 it received radio communications from Voyager 2 as it passed Neptune.

The site has been a setting in many movies, including 2010, Independence Day, Contact, Armageddon and Terminator Salvation (in which it was a Skynet facility.)

Past the VLA we crossed the continental divide. We also saw some wild elk and pronghorns and Charles saw his first tumbleweed.

We had a few slight sprinkles of rain leaving New Mexico (the only rain we saw on our whole trip,) but were treated to a lovely sunset once we crossed into Arizona.

In retrospect, shortly after those sunset photos were taken, we went right through one of the areas currently affected by the Wallow Wildfire, the 2nd worst in Arizona's history. We'd originally planned to get a hotel in Eagar, actually, but continued on to St. Johns, instead (I also saw an owl along that drive.) To reiterate, we were here May 11th. We are not here now and were not here during the fires.

Next stop; Petrified Forest Nat'l Park, also home of the Painted Desert

In recent art news, my Moonrise at White Sands 1 photo (coming in a future post,) was "Daily Nature Photo" on The Nature Conservancy's website. I've also had 3 photos explored on flickr.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Road Trip, Day 4 (Pt. 4); Bosque del Apache NWR

More from Bosque del Apache NWR...

Also frequently seen in Louisiana, a great blue heron.

There were some cool sculptures in the garden by the visitor's center.

Another Louisiana regular, great egrets. My main reason for posting this shot was to show the difference between them and the cattle egret (the smaller bird in the shot.)

Mule deer.

Say's phoebe.

My first sighting of neotropic cormorants.

Twin-spotted spiny lizard.

My first sighting of ruddy ducks.

In more recent, non-trip news, my "Detail from Crowned Crane" photo was recently "Explored" on flickr.

Next stop; the VLA.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Road Trip, Day 4 (Pt. 3); Bosque del Apache NWR

More shots from Bosque del Apache NWR...

Female wild turkeys.

Despite my hopes, we didn't see any mountain lions.

A male, hybrid pheasant of some kind (I forgot what they told me at the visitor's center.) At first I though it was ring-necked (which I used to raise years ago,) but it didn't have the ring and the head was blue instead of green.

Purple prickly pear.

Black-chinned hummingbirds near the visitor's center.

Female black-headed grosbeak.

Red cactus flower. If you can ID the type of cactus, I'd appreciate the input!

Mallards, white-faced ibises and cliff swallows.

Yet more from Bosque del Apache NWR in my next post.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Road Trip, Day 4 (Pt. 2); Bosque del Apache NWR

Quite a few miles past the Valley of Fires lava field (seen in my last post,) we arrived at a birder's paradise and major migration site; Bosque del Apache NWR. Encompassing nearly 60,000 acres along the Rio Grande, the name means "woods of the Apache."

From the Friends of the Bosque website; (In 2008, the refuge)...installed solar powered water heaters in 2 of its residences and at the Volunteer Lounge. In addition, a 6 kilowatt solar system was installed at the Fire Shop and a 12 kilowatt system on the Farm Shop building. The Refuge hopes that with the new solar system in place it will not only save tax payer money in the long run, but further the Refuge's commitment for promoting a "greener" approach to management of its facilities and create a healthier environment for us all.

In 2008, a 10-15 million-year-old oreodont fossil was discovered here. Read more about it.

An American coot (a Winter visitor to Louisiana,) and my first sighting of a Northern shoveler. His mate wasn't far away.

Cactus flowers.

A pair of blue-winged teals (another Winter visitor to Louisiana,) and a cliff swallow.

Female house finch (thanks to Larry for the ID!)

A bull snake, probably about 4' long. His eyes were pretty milky, so he may have been preparing to shed his skin. Bull snakes are among the largest in the U.S., often growing more than 8' in length. I couldn't resist, and pet along the length of this one's tail before he slithered off into the underbrush. "Daily Nature Photo" on The Nature Conservancy's website, Jun. 30, 2011.

My first sighting of a white-winged dove.

These cacti looked like they were being robbed.

My first sighting of a Wilson's warbler. I didn't see the bee in that shot until I downloaded it on returning home.

More from Bosque del Apache NWR in my next post.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Road Trip, Day 4 (Pt. 1); Museum and the Valley of Fires

On Wed., May 11th we left Carlsbad, heading for Arizona. We had a few sights and stops along the way, though. Our first stop was inspired by random perusings on Roadside America. There I found mention of galloping horse statues, which I thought would make a good, quick photo op. The statues were on the property of the Hubbard Museum of the American West, so we decided to spend some quality time inside, as well.

Part of Free Spirits at Noisy Water by Dave McGary, the statues mentioned on Roadside America.

In the lobby, a Remington sculpture.

Besides all of the wagons, carriages, costumes, furniture, saddles, tools and art, there were great displays of various guns.

A gun, holster and knife alleged to have been owned at one point by Billy the Kid.

Outside again, a lucky lizard who lost his tail to save his life.

On our way out of town we passed through Ruidoso, a tourist destination and ski town. Although we didn't have time to stop, it was quite lovely. Coming down out of those mountains, our road cut right through the Valley of Fires (aka Carrizozo Malpais--click link to see satellite images of the area.) An unexpected delight, this enormous lava bed is among the youngest and best preserved in the U.S.

From; ...formed between 1500 and 2000 years ago when Little Black Peak erupted pouring molten lava for 44 miles southwest through the valley. It isn't a volcano per se since the lava flowed via vents, burying almost everything in its path. One hundred sixty-five feet deep at the thickest point, the formation is between 2 and 5 miles wide. From a distance it appears as barren rock but...there are many varieties of flowers, cactus, trees and bushes...The lava is similar to Hawaiian lava, jagged and rippled, and most of the lava field is a wilderness study area...There are bats, roadrunners, quail, cottontails, lizards, great horned owls, burrowing owls, buzzards, hawks, gnat catchers, cactus wrens, sparrows and golden eagles, a virtual birdwatcher's paradise.

Here's a shot with Charles in it for some scale. How did the Carrizozo Malpais form?

We continued heading west to our next destination, one of the best birding sites in the U.S., Bosque del Apache NWR.
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