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Archive for the ‘Birds’ Category

“I chose the road less traveled. And now I’m lost.” — Darynda Jones

Living Desert Zoo and Gardens, Carlsbad, New Mexico

Road Trip June 21 — July 6, 2002

If you’re in Carlsbad, New Mexico, the No. 1 place to visit is Carlsbad Caverns National Park. But since I had already done this, I decided to forgo the cave tour and instead visit the city’s Living Desert Zoo and Gardens. It was a good choice as I added three new bird species to my life list — and got an educational experience about the landscape, plants, and animals of the Chihuahuan Desert.

Barn owl. — Wikimedia photo

It was late afternoon when I arrived, giving me only a couple of hours to walk the 1.3 loop trail around the park’s variety of desert habitats that included sandhills, marsh areas and arroyos. But it was a good time to see daytime birds getting ready to nest for the night, or nighttime birds coming awake for their night of activity.

The first stop was an aviary near the visitor center that featured native birds of prey including golden and bald eagles. While these were fun to see, it was the birds that flew free around the avian-friendly park that interested me more. One of these, a barn owl flew right in front of me as I rounded a curve in the trail, which I seemed to have all to myself. A little farther on, a couple of scaled quail scurried off when they saw me coming, but not before I had a satisfying look at them.

Because back then I was still new to birding, both of these species were lifers for my growing bird list. So were the common nighthawks skimming the water at Waterfowl Pond near the prairie dog homes. I easily identified the nighthawks, well after a quick look at my bird field guide, by the broad white stripes visible near their wing tips as they flew.

Bank swallow

Also circling around the ponds were quite a few cliff and bank swallows. I had seen quite a few of these birds during trips to Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge in Northern Utah. On one outing there had been a huge flock of five species of swallows circling around and under a small bridge. I had spent hours learning how to tell them apart. The bank and swift swallows, I had decided were the easiest to identify.

The bank swallow has a gray, necklace-like stripe on its white breast, which I came to think of as a banker’s bow tie. The mature cliff swallow, meanwhile, has a prominent white spot on its bluish-black head that flashes when its flying toward you. 

Other birds I saw as I followed the winding trail through the desert landscape included a Harris hawk, burrowing owls, black-chinned hummingbirds and an Eastern kingbird. It was a delightful late afternoon that ended far too quickly.

According to my journal notes, I paid a $4 entrance fee to be admitted to the park. I certainly got my money’s worth, and I noted that the admission fee today is only $1 more. A bargain I would say.

Available on Amazon

Bean Pat: Seaman https://sarah-angleton.com/2019/04/11/a-classy-post-about-a-loyal-dog-with-an-unfortunate-name. A dog story and a travel story in one, and it made me smile.

Pat Bean is a retired journalist who lives in Tucson. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon, enthusiastic birder and is always searching for life’s silver lining. She is also currently looking for a new canine companion. She can be reached at patbean@msn.com

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I got a good belly laugh when I saw a sign for eye exams on a Wal-Mart front in Roswell, New Mexico — and right above it a space. — Photo by Pat Bean

“When you’re traveling, you are what you are right there and then. People don’t have your past to hold against you. No yesterdays on the road.” – William Least Heat Moon

Road Trip: June 21 – July 6, 2002

From Santa Fe, I took Interstate 25 south to Carlsbad, New Mexico, which took me through the strange city of Roswell. Home to about 50,000 residents, Roswell sits on the southern edge of the Rocky Mountains.

Mexican free-tailed bats exiting Carlsbad Caverns at sunset. — Wikimedia photo

The city’s weirdness factor, meanwhile, is based on a reported UFO crash near the city in 1947.  The alternative story is that it was actually a weather balloon that crashed and not an alien ship. The taller tale, expanded by UFO fans, claims that aliens were recovered from the crash and that the incident became a military cover up, a story that spawned the television series “Roswell” and been exploited by movies, such as “Independence Day.”

Roswell entrepreneurs have also exploited the UFO story to attract tourists.  Alien-themed businesses and museums abound, even Wal-Mart got into the act, as you can see from the above photo. I couldn’t help but have a good belly laugh when I saw a sign advertising an eye exam with a spaceship painted on the wall above it.

But since I’m not really into the UFO conspiracy, after a stop to refuel and have lunch, I drove on to Carlsbad, my stopping place for the night.

Scissor-tailed flycatcher, an awesome bird that’s common in Texas but can’t be found in Utah. — Wikimedia photo

While I wasn’t taking the time to visit Carlsbad Caverns, for which the city is famous, I did want to get into to town in time to watch the Mexican free-tailed bats emerge from the cave at dusk. Some believe millions of these bats once inhabited the cave, but the latest rough count of these flying mammals was slightly less than 800,000, which is still enough to make for a spectacular show.

The day’s drive also increased my birding life list. Added to the list were scissor-tailed flycatcher, Couch’s kingbird, red-shoulder hawk and common and great-tailed grackles. All these birds were not normally seen in Utah, where most of my birding had been done since I had started seeing and listing birds.

Other birds seen on this day’s journey included house sparrow, rock pigeon, raven, red-winged blackbird, western meadowlark, turkey vulture, Lewis woodpecker, Swainson’s hawk, crow, mourning dove, northern mockingbird and cliff swallow.

Bean Pat: Oregon’s Painted Hills https://roadsbeltravelled.com/2018/09/08/born-to-wander-these-painted-hills/ I, too, traveled this road alone – as an old broad during my RV-ing days. Good times.

Available on Amazon

Pat Bean is a retired journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion Pepper. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon, enthusiastic birder and is always searching for life’s silver lining. She can be reached at patbean@msn.com

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“I see my path but don’t know where it leads. Not knowing where I’m going is what inspires me to travel it.” — Rosalia de Castro

A view of Wolf Creek Pass from Highway 160 — Wikimedia photo

Road Trip: June 21 – July 6, 2002

The drive on Highway 160 between Cortez and Pagosa Springs, Colorado, is one of my favorites. The most scenic section is Wolf Creek Pass, a high mountain drive that takes travelers across the Continental Divide through the San Juan Mountains. I first drove this route in the 1970s when it was a simple two-lane highway, which, of course, it no longer is.

Wolf Creek Pass tunnel that was completed in 2006.

Thankfully, I never had to drive it in the winter, a trip that  C.W. McCall sings about in his song “Wolf Creek Pass.” He calls the drive “37 miles of hell.” I call it a road trip not to be missed.

Near Pagosa Springs, I took a four-mile detour off Highway 160 to visit Echo Canyon Lake State Wildlife Area. The small, but about 50-foot deep reservoir that sits above 7,000 feet in elevation, is surrounded by scenic mountains,, It is mostly used by fishermen, but is also listed as a “hot birding spot” and is one of the sites on Colorado’s birding trail maps. The latter is what brought it to my attention.

Coots at Echo Canyon Lake. — photo by Pat Bean

While I didn’t have long to explore the area, I felt well-rewarded for taking the time to visit. There was not another soul around. I had the place to myself and could drink in its peaceful scenery, and the birds, in wonderful solitude. That doesn’t happen too often these days.

Birds at the reservoir included coots with babies, yellow-headed blackbird, red-winged blackbird, redhead duck, cinnamon teal and brown-headed cowbird.

On the way back to the highway, I spotted a Lewis woodpecker, a Brewer’s blackbird and a rough-winged swallow all on the same power pole. I thought that was kind of neat. In addition to these, the other birds seen this day included house sparrow, turkey vulture, western wood peewee (my lifer at Mesa Verde), a wild turkey with two chicks, Clark’s nutcracker, kestrel, violet-green swallow, raven and magpie.  … to be continued.

Now available on Amazon

Bean Pat: A simple way to travel https://simpletravelourway.woodpress.com/2019/03/13/car-camping-our-way/   This was my way of traveling for many years.

Pat Bean is a retired journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion Pepper. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon, enthusiastic birder and is always searching for life’s silver lining. She can be reached at patbean@msn.com

*You can listen to McCall sing “Wolf Creek Pass “on YouTube 

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National parks are the best idea we ever had. Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best rather than our worst.” — Wallace Stegner. 

Cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde National Park. — Photo by Pat Bean

Road Trip: June 21 – July 6, 2002

            Today would be the fourth time I visited Mesa Verde National Park, a place that because of its beauty and its history would never bore me. But today would be the first time I had visited this park since I had become addicted to bird watching.

A page from my journal.

So along with looking at the high mesa scenery and cliff dwellings, I was always on the lookout for birds. Of the 1,000 or so bird species found in North American, about 200 of them have been sighted in the park. I didn’t see too many of them, but it was still fun looking.

I enjoyed the 45-minute drive up to the top of the 8,600-foot mesa because of the scenic views as much as I enjoyed stopping at overviews of the cliff dwellings and the hike down to one of them, the Spruce Tree House. The cliff dwellings were used by those often called the Anasazi sometime after 650 and through the end of the 12th century. The occupants used a combination of hunting, gathering, and subsistence farming of crops such as corn, beans and squash to survive.

Before hiking down to the ancient dwellings, I spent 50 cents to purchase a guide to the site, which also identified the plants along the trail. While I enjoy the historical aspects of the places I visit, the truth is I enjoy the handiwork of nature even more.

And the highlight of this morning of sightseeing on the high mesa (perhaps because this wasn’t my first sight

Western wood peewee 

of the cliff dwellings) was seeing a western wood peewee for the first time. It was my second lifer for the trip. This peewee is a rather plain grayish-brownish bird five to six inches in size. Its most distinguishing feature is a peaked crown that gives a triangular shape to the bird’s head. The peewees belong to the flycatcher family, and like them can be seen sitting up tall and then flying out to catch a spotted insect, then flying back to the same perch.

It was this action that gave me a clue to the bird’s identification, followed by a close look at my bird field guide…. To be continued.

Bean Pat: Mesa Verde  https://www.nps.gov/meve/index.htm   Check out the video about the park. 

Pat Bean is a retired journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion Pepper. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon, enthusiastic birder and is always searching for life’s silver lining. She can be reached at patbean@msn.com

 

 

 

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Road Trip: June 21 – July 6, 2002

“The real voyage of discovery consists in not seeing new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” – Marcel Proust

A page from my Journal.

After spending way too much time driving to the end of the road in Canyonlands National Park, I knew most of the rest of the day’s explorations would have to come through the windshield of my vehicle. That was OK because I was traveling through familiar territory that I had been through many times.

My Journal

While I often tried to drive new roads and see new sights on my trips to Texas to visit family once or twice a year, the one I was traveling this time was the shortest and the most used. Shortly after leaving Canyonlands, I stopped in Moab, one of my favorite towns, to gas up and get snacks for the road. Cheetos and a Coke, I suspect, as this is my usual travel fare.

But even in my hurry to get down the road, I did stop for about 10 minutes at Wilson Arch to take a few pictures.  Wilson Arch is about 25 miles south of Moab and quite visible from the road (Highway 191). There is also a half-mile trail leading up to and around it.

The first time I spotted the 46-foot-high by 91-foot-wide arch,, I had been amazed. It simply stood there without fanfare.

Today there are turnouts and interpretive signs noting that Wilson Arch was named after Joe Wilson, a local pioneer who had a cabin nearby. Additionally, the signs say the rock formation is entrada sandstone and that the arch was formed when ice-filled cracks formed and caused parts of the rock to break off. At least that’s my interpretation of the more scientific data.

Whale Rock in Canyonlands National Park. — Photo by Pat Bean

On the same page of my journal that I noted my stop at Wilson Arch this day, I also listed the birds I saw, a habit I followed each day of my journey and one I continued in my book, Travels with Maggie about my later RV-ing years. And yes, the same Maggie who made this trip with me is the same one in the book.

The birds this day included American robin, European starling, California gull, magpie, raven, violet-green swallow, Say’s phoebe and pinyon jay, the latter being a species I saw for the first time and which I added to my then-growing life list.

Bean Pat: All about the Everglades https://earthstonestation.com/2019/03/06/two-people-that-saved-the-everglades-earnest-coe-marjory-stoneman-douglas/  Great blog for nature lovers like me.

Now available on Amazon

Pat Bean is a retired journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion Pepper. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon, enthusiastic birder and is always searching for life’s silver lining. She can be reached at patbean@msn.com

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Pothole Trail: A page from my journal

            I did not wish to take a cabin passage, but rather to go before the mast and on the deck of the world, for there I could best see the moonlight amid the mountains. — Henry David Thoreau       

Road Trip: June 21 – July 6, 2002

I was recently looking through my bins of journals hoping to find some specific details. I knew was in one of them. I didn’t find it, but I did come across a journal I kept during a 16-day trip from Ogden, Utah, to Texas back in 2002.

Saw my first pinyon jay at a rest area up Spanish Fork Canyon, then another one in Canyonlands National Park.

This was the first time I had looked at this particular journal since completing it nearly 19 years ago.  Perusing it brought back many good memories, including those of my former canine companion Maggie* who later traveled with me in my RV for eight years.

Anyway, I thought it might be fun to retake the journey on my blog.

The journal contains more photos and brochures of places I visited than words, but with them to guide me, I think I can fill in the blanks. The one thing I did note carefully were the birds I saw each day, since I had only recently taken up bird watching.

I drove from Ogden, Utah, to Cortez, Colorado, the first day, just slightly less than 400 miles. I started before dawn to get past Salt Lake City and Provo before traffic, looking forward to my turnoff from heavily-trafficked Interstate 10 to Highway 6 that would take me through Spanish Fork Canyon. My first stop of the day was at the Spanish Fork rest area where Maggie and I took a short walk around the area, and where I saw a pinyon jay, a new bird for my life list.

Pothole Trail landscape. — Photo by Pat Bean

Then it was up and over Soldier Summit, almost always a scenic drive – unless it’s during a winter storm – like the one I once drove through to get to Price for a newspaper story. It also wouldn’t be a good drive through the canyon this week as snows are predicted. But that June day in 2002, as I recall, was sunny, with a wildflower-filled meadow near the 7,477-foot summit.

After Price, the highway followed the Book Cliffs, a line of desert mountains east of Highway 6, to Green River, where after a jog on Interstate 79, it joined Highway 191. Just before Moab, I took a detour to the Islands in the Sky section of Canyonlands National Park, where I hiked the half-mile Pothole Trail before continuing on my journey.

I had hiked, and enjoyed, this short trail before, and knew it would be a great way to break up the long drive and enjoy a bit of spectacular scenery as well. I wasn’t disappointed. – To be continued….

Bean Pat: Texas Tweeties https://bobzeller.wordpress.com/2019/03/03/post-number-1000-yee-haw/?wref=pil 1,000th post.

Pat Bean is a retired journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion Pepper. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, Lonely Planet community pathfinder, enthusiastic birder and is always searching for life’s silver lining. She can be reached at patbean@msn.com

*Maggie, is the same canine companion featured in Bean’s book Travels with Maggie, available on Amazon. 

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What We See

Besides always looking — and seeing — birds, they have become my favorite subject to paint. — Great horned in a tree by Pat Bean

“You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.” — Mark Twain

And What We Don’t

I was out driving around Tucson the other day with my friend Jean when she spotted a garage-sale sign.  She usually sees three or four every time we go out together while I see zero. Perhaps it has to do with the fact that she likes garage sales and I don’t.

Also my favorite subject to photograph. — Great Blue Heron at Brazos Bend State Park in Texas photo by Pat Bean

My thoughts about this oddity touched my memory of a day back before I became an addicted bird watcher. I was riding in a van with seven members of HawkWatch, an organization whose goal is to protect raptors. They were going to check on hawks flying over the Goshute Mountains, and I was tagging along as a reporter doing a story on HawkWatch.

We were driving on Interstate 80 through the Bountiful Salt Flats between Salt Lake City and the Nevada border, and every few minutes one of my fellow passengers called out sighting of a bird, most often a red-tailed hawk or a turkey vulture.

This seemed strange, as I had driven this same, desolate route many times and had never spotted a bird. It then got stranger. After we left the highway for an unpaved backroad, one of the guys in the van yelled: “Stop! There’s an owl in that cottonwood tree.”

The driver stopped, and all of the guys oohed over the owl, which they had quickly identified as a great-horned. Even after one of the men pointed out to me where the bird was sitting, it took me a couple of minutes to actually see it. But when I did, its giant yellow eyes popped open and it stared straight at me. “Wow” was all I could think as we piled back in the van. I was changed forever. After that, I started seeing birds everywhere. Now I can’t not see them.

Thinking about this, as Jean suggested we might want to check out the garage sale, I realized how blind we can be to the world around us, simply because we’re not interested.

Perhaps, along with walking in another person’s shoes once in a while, we should also try looking at the world through another person’s eyes. There is no telling what we will see.

Bean Pat: Winter visitors https://cindyknoke.com/2018/12/04/the-canadians-are-coming/ From Canada.

Pat Bean is a retired journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion Pepper. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, enthusiastic birder and is always searching for life’s silver lining. Check out her book Travels with Maggie, available on Amazon, to learn more.

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