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Archive for the ‘Nature’ Category

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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“Trust in what you love, continue to do it and it will take you where you need to go.”  – Natalie Goldberg

Sometimes it’s the holes, or flaws, in our lives that are the most interesting. View of the Ajo Mountains in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument near Tucson. — Photo by Pat Bean.

I’ve taken up a challenge to write every day, even if it is only one sentence. I’m refining the challenge, issued by Jo Hawk at https://www.facebook.com/ to mean that I write every day on a work-in-progress, as I already write almost every day in my journals.

A second resolution is to make good use of time, because as an old broad who will turn 80 in April, I realize just how precious my remaining days on earth are.

A third, and final resolution, is to be kind because my heart tells me that kindness is the one thing the world could use more of these days.

So, what are your resolutions for the New Year?

Bean Pat: Ring out Wild Bells https://middlemaybooks.com/2018/12/31/ring-out-wild-bells-by-alfred-tennyson/?wref=pil An oldie but still a great poem for a new year.

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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Deer Creek Falls

“Who I am, what I am, is the culmination of a lifetime of reading, a lifetime of stories. And there are still so many more books to read. I’m a work in progress.” — Sarah Addison Allen

John McPhee’s Encounters  

I’m reading A Colorado River Reader, an anthology of essays that range from the exploration days of John Wesley Powell to modern-day river runners. The stories have both enlightened and educated me, and brought to the forefront my own experiences of time spent on the river.

Granite Rapid: I was tossed out of the boat at the top of this rapid, and wasn’t pulled back in until the raft got to the end. What an adventure.

In 1991, and again in 1999 as a gift to myself on my 60th birthday, I escaped from the world for 16 days and rafted 225 miles down the Colorado as it flows through the Grand Canyon. On the first trip, I spent most of my time in a six-person paddle raft, communing with the river when it was gentle, screaming with glee at it when it was wild, and straining with the five others in the boat to power our way safely down the river and through the rapids.

By the time of the 1999 trip, I was content to ride in a larger oar boat and let a boatman, or boatwoman, do all the work, leaving me just to hang on for the ride. The two trips were different in experiences, but every second of both were 100 percent joyous and worth remembering, which is why I so relished the memories of those trips that were refreshed and brought to the forefront of my brain when I read John McPhee’s piece in the anthology.

Tunnel, far right, dug to access rock structure for proposed Marble Canyon Dam.

The essay, “Encounters with an Archdruid,” was about a trip down the river with David Brower, a prominent environmentalist who opposed dam building (and whom I had met and wrote about as a journalist) and Floyd Dominy of the Bureau of Reclamation, who built dams. He got the Glen Canyon Dam built, but failed to get the one he wanted to be built in Grand Canyon’s Marble Canyon, although he got as far as getting a tunnel dug in the side of a cliff at the proposed dam site to access the rock structure.

I got to walk into this tunnel during my second trip down the Colorado River.

McPhee’s essay took me along on this now legendary white-water float through the Grand Canyon, dousing my memories with the cold-water waves of Deubendorff Rapid and sprinkling them with the rainbow-lit drops of mist coming off Deer Creek Falls, an awesome side canyon waterfall whose music filled my ears as I sat by it and ate lunch one day.

As I read, my mind wandered off to give thanks to the person who taught me to read. I can’t remember who it was, just that I truly can’t remember a time in my life that I couldn’t read. Reading has enlarged and brightened my world for as long as I can remember. And I’m thankful for this great gift.

I believe Ray Bradbury said it best when he wrote that not reading books was worse than burning them.

Bean Pat: Don’t call me sweet  https://awindowintothewoods.com/2018/12/18/dont-call-me-sweet/  Take a break from the holiday chaos.

Now available on Amazon

Pat Bean is a Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder. Her book, Travels with Maggie, is now up on Amazon. It would make a great Christmas gift for all those who wander but are not lost.

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In a region of Texas some call the last great habitat, thorn forest intermingles with freshwater wetlands, coastal prairies, mudflats and beaches. Dense patches of thorny brush rise among unique wind-blown clay dunes called lomas.”  — US Fish and Wildlife Service

Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge — US Fish and Wildlife photo

Birds Galore

            It was a warm November day in 2005 when I visited South Texas’ Laguna Atascosta National Wildlife Refuge, whose name loosely translates to boggy lake. My own description of the refuge, recorded in my journal, coincides somewhat with the official version. I wrote: “Laguna Atascosta is one big briar patch – a haven of thorns. It seemed as if every plant was armed.  Scattered purple and orange wildflowers sat among sage, yucca, and palm trees with shaggy trunks.”

A pair of aplomado falcons. — US Fish and Wildlife photo

Along with my descriptions of the landscape was a list of the birds I was seeing: osprey, white-fronted goose, great egret, great blue heron, white-tailed kite, long-billed curlew, loggerhead shrike, kestrel, sandhill crane, white-tailed hawk, Cooper’s hawk, white pelican, Harris hawk, red-shouldered hawk – just to name a few. Half of the birds found in North America rest, feed, migrate through or nest on this landscape, the leader of our small birding group told us as we watched lesser and greater yellowlegs feeding in some shallow water.

It was easy to tell which was which of the two, not an easy task when looking at only one of the species, I thought, as I added dunlin, marbled godwit, black-bellied plover, northern harrier, gull-billed tern, black-necked stilt and willet to my bird list, which kept getting longer – and kept looking for the No. 1 bird on my priority list.

But as the day wore on, I became more and more doubtful I would see an aplomado falcon, a globally abundant species but rare in North America. Once widespread throughout the American Southwest, only two remaining pairs of aplomado falcons were known to exist in the states in the 1940s and ‘50s, most likely because of over harvesting of eggs, according to US Fish and Wildlife.

Aplomado falcon. — Wikimedia photo

Today, the aplomado falcon has made a comeback in South Texas due to an aggressive recovery program involving captive breeding and re-introduction efforts. As of 2004, more than 900 falcons had been released in the Rio Grande Valley, with 25 nesting pairs documented in 2006.

Finally, thankfully, I got to see one of those pairs. Our group finally identified one sitting regally on a yucca. The aplomado falcon was a good distance away, but my long-lens telescope brought it up close for a detailed view. As I watched the falcon, which was a new life bird for me, I noted a second one sitting a bit lower on the plant. What a delightful day for us birders.

But it wasn’t over. Before we headed back to our Harlingen Hotel, which was the base for those attending the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival, I added lesser scaup, crested caracara, belted kingfisher and a dozen or so more birds to my day’s list.

Laguna Atascosa may mostly be a briar patch, but I feel like Br’er Rabbit, who despite his words, would have been quite happy to be tossed back into that thorny thicket.

Bean Pat: Bay of Fundy https://portraitsofwildflowers.wordpress.com/2018/07/02/the-bay-of-fundy/#like-38633 One of my favorite blogs because I usually learn something new, especially how to identify wildflowers.

Pat Bean is a Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder. Her book, Travels with Maggie, is now up on Amazon at http://tinyurl.com/y8z7553y  Currently, she is writing a book, tentatively titled Bird Droppings, which is about her late-bloomer birding adventures. You can contact her patbean@msn.com

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It is not so much for its beauty that the forest makes a claim upon men’s hearts, as for that subtle something, that quality of air that emanation from old trees, that so wonderfully changes and renews a weary spirit.” — Robert Louis Stevenson

An old bristlecone pine at Great Basin National Park, where stars light up the sky at night. — National Forest Service Photo

A Walk Among the Trees

I was sitting on my third-floor balcony drinking my cream-laced coffee this morning, with my binoculars aimed at our resident great horned owl. We have a pair here, and since this was the largest of the two I assumed it was the female.

All that’s left of what was once the world’s oldest living tree. — Wikimedia photo

The owl was restless and flew off after a couple of minutes, but I continued to stare, this time at the magnificent Ponderosa pine in which the owl perched, and which graces my balcony view. I saw the tree as a living thing, and knowing that it is a tiny cog in the ecosystem that is necessary to my daily breath, I was awed and thankful,

And that thought took me back to the trip I made to Great Basin National Park, where I stood near the summit of 13,063-foot Wheeler Peak, and learned of the murder of what was thought to be the world’s oldest living tree.

I was with a small group of hikers led by a ranger at this time, and one of the men in the group asked: “Did they kill the murderer.”  The ranger responded: “They should have.”

Stella Lake at Great Basin National Park. — Wikimedia photo

But the truth is that the murderer was given a permit to cut the bristlecone pine tree down for research purposes. It was found to be 5,200 years old, and the oldest known living tree.

The silver lining from this tragedy – and the Pollyanna side of me always looks for this ray of sunshine – is that the hue and cry from this 1964 murder eventually led to the creation of Great Basin National Park.

“If anything good can come from the cutting of the world’s oldest tree, then it was that,” the ranger said, as we walked among other bristlecones, some of which were thought to be as old as 3,000 years.

That recorded memory, recalled from my journals and a newspaper story I wrote when the park was celebrating its 10th birthday, dates back to 1996. I made the trip to the Nevada park after then Rep. Jim Hansen, protesting the creation of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, which, I note, has recently been reduced in size, suggested that parks like the Great Basin didn’t deserve national protection.

I disagree one thousand percent.

Bean Pat: Old Plaid Camper https://oldplaidcamper.com/2018/06/22/hazy-lazy-low-tide-mornings/#like-10237  Life’s a marathon not a sprint.

Pat Bean is a Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder. Her book, Travels with Maggie, is now up on Amazon at http://tinyurl.com/y8z7553y  Currently, she is writing a book, tentatively titled Bird Droppings, which is about her late-bloomer birding adventures. You can contact her patbean@msn.com

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Birds: Ibises

“The soul becomes dyed with the color of its thoughts.” – Marcus Aurelius

One is not like the other. Among this flock of white ibis at Brazos Bend State Park in Texas, is a lone snowy egret. — Photo by Pat Bean


One is Not Like the Other

I lived in Northern Utah – where you might see 463 different bird species – when I first started birding in 1999. The

Scarlet Ibis at zoo in Dallas, Texas. — Photo by Pat Bean

white-faced ibis was one of the first ones to make my Life List. Like so many other strange things I was learning about birds, I couldn’t understand why this ibis one was so named. The amount of white on this long-legged, curved-bill bird was so tiny that I usually couldn’t see it with the naked eye, and not always with binoculars.

But this maroonish-brown shore bird, with flashes of green in its feathers, is fun to watch. I often saw flocks around the shallow waters of Great Salt Lake. Its distinctive profile, and the fact that it looks like a flying stick when in the air, makes it an easy bird to identify.

I saw my first white ibis, even easier to identify, and the second of

White-faced ibis ner the shoreline of Great Salt Lake.

America’s four species of ibis to make my list, in 2001, and my third, a glossy ibis, in 2005, both on Texas’ Gulf Coast. I have only seen the fourth, the scarlet ibis, in zoos and aviaries. This brilliant colored ibis only rarely visits North America from its habitats in the Caribbean and South America.

Two other ibises are also on my life list: the hadada and the sacred. The hadada ibis was the first bird I saw after landing in the middle of the night in Nairobi, Kenya. It was up a tree in the courtyard of the Norfolk Hotel. A few days later, I saw the sacred ibis in the Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania.

Of the now estimated 10,000 birds in the world, 28 of these are ibises. Sadly, including the five ibis, (the scarlet ibis doesn’t count because I haven’t yet seen a wild one), I only have 710 birds on my Life List.  I guess this old broad still has a lot of birding to do.

Bean Pat: Gulls of the World http://www.10000birds.com/gulls-of-the-world-a-photographic-guide-a-gull-book-review.htm?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+10000Birds+%2810%2C000+Birds%29  Just in case you’ve ever wondered what gull you are looking at.

Pat Bean is a Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder. Her book, Travels with Maggie, is now up on Amazon at http://tinyurl.com/y8z7553y  Currently, she is writing a book, tentatively titled Bird Droppings, which is about her late-bloomer birding adventures. You can contact her at patbean@msn.com

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View looking down Conejos Canyon. — Photo by Pat Bean

“The more I draw and write, the more I realize that accidents are a necessary part of any creative act, much more so than logic or wisdom. Sometimes a mistake is the only way of arriving at an original concept, and the history of successful inventions is full of mishaps, serendipity and unintended results.” — Shaun Tan

Following the Road 

Hmmm. I think I took a wrong turn a couple of dozen miles back. — Photo by Pat Bean

One lovely fall day a few years back, I took a wrong turn in Chama, New Mexico, a quaint village with a population of not much more than a thousand residents. After a bit of exploring the town’s charm by dawn’s light, I set off again toward my Texas destination.

My lack of directional sense, however, sent me driving in the opposite direction.

It was an awesome drive, and my fascination with the scenery distracted me so much that it wasn’t until I was near the top of Cumbres Pass, high in the San Juan Mountains, that I realized my mistake.

Instead of backtracking, I decided to simply continue on and discover what else the road had in store for me this day. While I usually carefully charted my daily routes during this  wandering without deadlines period in my life, I occasionally let the road decide my path.

However, with scenery like this, I think I’ll just keep going. — Photo by Pat Bean

This day was one of those, and I soon found myself in Conejos Canyon, one of the wildest places in the United States, and where grizzly bears once roamed.  I have seen a gazillion stunning landscapes in my travels across North America, but this day’s drive might have topped them all with its kaleidoscope of color and surprises.

I learned early on not to bemoan my flawed sense of direction, but to enjoy the unexpected wonders it brought. This day made me especially thankful for the lacking gene – and also for my willingness to simply go with the flow.

Bean Pat: Paperback Reader https://dereid99.wordpress.com/2018/05/24/paperback-reader/  Usually it’s just the opposite, so this tickled my funny bone.

Pat Bean is a Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder. Her book, Travels with Maggie, is now up on Amazon at http://tinyurl.com/y8z7553y  Currently, she is writing a book, tentatively titled Bird Droppings, which is about her late-bloomer birding adventures. You can contact her at patbean@msn.com

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