Friday, December 20, 2013

Snow Geese

Although the main attraction at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife refuge in southern New Mexico is the Sandhill Cranes, the predominant species are the snow geese.  This year, during our annual visit, the count was 40,000+ snow geese and 11,000 cranes.  

At dawn they blastoff, often to incredible sunrises while the cranes wait until the sun actually begins to shine before launching out to their feeding grounds

Sunrise over Bosque del Apache
The geese are quite skittish and seem to take off, circle and land many times in a day, creating incredible opportunities to watch their flight.

Late morning blastoff in one of the pools

Amazing to me is how they avoid crashing into one another as they effortlessly stream into the sky.

Often you see them circling around, ready to land yet taking off again on a moments notice.  This one minute video below will illustrate the incredible dance of these geese.

Occasionally you will see one, or two or three geese heading into land
Two geese ready circling to land

Equally amazing is they don't land on top of one another.  Below is one of the above geese landing amidst its brethren.  How do they do it?

Snow Goose Landing amidst is brethren
They do keep alert to their surroundings as you can see this goose below actually taking a long look at me who was only about 30 feet distant on my belly shooting this photo.

Snow Goose Sentinel

Occasionally one of the geese is not sufficiently alert and local predators score a nice fat lunch

Coyote having goose lunch
All in all it is quite a scene.  I could post many more photos of the geese, but I don't want to bore you.  You get the idea.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Where have we been?

Good question. Last we wrote we were at Bosque del Apache in New Mexico photographing the cranes and geese.

Not a lot of photos in this post. Look at my photo links on right side for a bunch.

We had planned to travel north to Santa Fe however, after looking at the weather and discovering that it was going to be temperatures down the teens at night with 20's in the daytime so...

We decided that's a little bit lower temperatures with which we are comfortable, hence we skedaddle back to Tucson area against a 30+ mile an hour wind. We settled into one of our favorite campgrounds, Gilbert Ray Campground in the Tucson Mountain Park On Westside if Tucson for a week.

We visited "Seven Cups of Tea" shop in Tucson to sip some delightful oriental teas.

Temps were colder than normal, bit we did managed to get in a couple bike rides at hikes which was really wonderful amongst the saguaro cactus.

We had been seeking a longer-term stay at a place that's not a big RV resort and our favorite campgrounds limit stays to no more than a week or two, so we looked around Tucson, and discovered a small quaint little mobile home park which took in rV's on temporary basis. We decided to stay there for a few days as a test so moved into the Fairview Manor mobile home park on the northern of outskirts of Tucson city limits.

Our thinking was that if we found it suitable, quiet, and not messy, we might consider coming back in late January to spend two months while Sraddha returns to Oregon for a visit. And the price was affordable.

We attended Sunday Service last weekend at Ananda Tucson and shared about Ananda Laurelwood.

While there we received rather shocking news that Sraddha's number one niece, Lissel, unexpectedly passed away up in Utah while recovering from surgery. She was only 34 yrs old. Wow!

So now, as I write this or rather dictate this via Siri, we find ourselves northbound on interstate 15 enroute tothe Salt Lake City area for her funeral. We will spend time with Sraddha's sister, her family; l nieces and nephews; great nieces and nephews. Just have a close family time together for a few days.

Needless to say we hadn't planned on going up into the snow country where the high temps are 28° and the lows are in the teens. We thought we had escaped that when we decided not to go to Santa Fe. We have gathered up all of our cold-weather clothes we could find. The key operative term mirror is "layers". heading northbound, wethink will be fine and are really enjoying the snow on the ground along with the dry freeway surface.

This wasn't quite how we planned our Christmas, however it will be a fun ride. Will post more as time permits.
Blessings from the Road

Location:I-15 N,Cedar City,United States

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Snow Geese

We are in New Mexico near Bosque del Apache wildlife refuge.

We are shooting almost non stop and haven't had time to process much but a couple pix on my flickr account. I will have plenty of photos to show you in future posts

Today we just witnessed an amazing phenomenon. We had stopped by one of the pools to photograph some ducks bad ended up witnessing for an hour the flock of 5,000 snow geese landing, taking off, circling. Unlike anything we have ever seen before. I took a lot of pix but also got this video footage on iPhone. It's about a minute long.

Hope you enjoy. I will also post on YouTube.

YouTube Video

- Blessings from the Road

Location:San Antonio Ditch,Socorro,United States

Friday, November 29, 2013

Arizona Sonora Desert Museum

One of our favorite places as you might know is the ASDM or Arizona Sonora Desert Museum.

We had arrived in Tucson, staying for first night in our usual High end RV resort where the laundry room just a few steps away so we could do laundry, clean up, etc then move out to west tucson to be near the museum.  We had an appointment with an RV dealer to get the slide out aligned the next morning so I headed over there in rain whilst Sraddha went out in search of our next campsite.

She returned with good news that we had a wonderful spot at the county campground just south of the museum.  Our favorite site there and one of our all time faves to boot!

The work on the RV took most of day so we went shopping and also hit the local Costco in search of one of our favorite junk food "Costco Crack" we call it which is actually a Chicago mix of kettle corns.  We love to eat this while watching football.  Yes we do have some vices.  Hehe..

It rained much of Saturday and Sunday so we hunkered down then went out to the museum for a while.
Monday cleared off so we began our daily early morning visit to the museum which included the 10 AM Raptor free flight.  I love being there at 0830 when they open because it is really quiet.  The little birds are still viewable and photographable.  Once free flight is over the school buses arrive with little kids and the place gets busy and noisy so we usually depart.

We met this wonderful couple, Loren and Paul who were on vacation and avid wildlife photographers who shot with the small Micro four-thirds cameras.  they were there every morning like us so we got to spend many visits and hope to see them again.  More later on Paul who is a drummer for broadway shows traveling around the nation.  He will be here in Tucson late February with the tour of Wizard of Oz so I hope to attend and also we can do some more photography.

To tantalize you below are a couple pix I shot with the big camera using my 70-200mm lens.  you can see many more of these photos on my personal photo sites.  My flickr site address is here.  Even more shots of ASDM are here on my real photography site.

Harris Hawk.  They fly in families

Prairie Falcon


REd Tailed hawk
We had thanksgiving in our RV and watched football of course.  We are so thankful for this experience and for all of you who read this blog.
Off to New Mexico for annual visit to Bosque Del Apache Wildlife refuge.
PS  the slide out did not get fixed so we have an appointment with yet another dealer when we return.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Las Vegas Nighllife!

Oh Boy.  We needed some service on the Jeep transmission from a Jeep dealer and also some work on RV so decided to head to las Vegas area.  The city itself is just a big small city.  The people were gracious, real and wonderful.  We are not night owls and do not like noise and bright lights.  We like quiet and soft unless it is nature.

We found the jeep dealer and while it was being serviced we test drove the new Jeep Cherokee.  Wow what a nice vehicle.  Memo to Kent:  Keep an eye on this one for future....

Then there is "The Strip".  A friend had recommended we visit the Bellagio so we decided, after fixing the jeep and RV to visit.  We drove down to the strip, found the Bellagio (hard to miss even in LV) and looked for parking.  All around are big parking garages.  OOPS!  Our Rocket Box is 2 inches to high to get clearance. What to do?  we drove down back roads and finally found a shopping mall about 1 mile distant where we could park.  Get out and walk.  Ok.  we like walking.  but on the strip it was different.  I have been to Hong Kong, New York, London etc.  Lad Vegas another world.  Fantasy land.

Chihuly exhibit in Bellagio Lobby
We finally made it to the Bellagio and were amazed.  Walked all around the area gawking at the amazing art and tasteful decor.

Looking straight up
Then we tried to find a place to eat dinner.  Gulp!  Those who know me, know I like my food well prepared and don't mind spending for good food but the prices were ridiculous.  In addition the smoke from the casino bothered me.  So we left.

Outside on the strip we walked along the lake and watched the fountains dance.

Bellagio fountains dancing

We wanted to go to the Apple store to download the latest IOS update for free using high speed wifi.  this was over in Circus Circus shopping mall. Maybe we can find a nice quiet restaurant over there? Big mistake.  We walked and walked and walked some more and finally found the APple store way in the back.  downloaded the updates but the restaurants were...meh!

We finally found our way back to car, both with headaches from the smoke.   We departed, I looked on Yelp and we found a Macaroni Grill late evening about 0930. Whew Food at last.

We had our Vegas fix for this lifetime.  Sure we might go back again sometime for repairs and there is some cool places nearby but I don't think we will go to the strip anytime soon.

Now back to nature and reality.

- Blessings from the Road

Miscellaneous Death Valley

Rummaging around on my iPhone for a few more pix from Death Valley I found these.  Tho DV is in the rear view mirror this year, we have fond memories and may visit again in February with some photo friends.  Will see.  Again these are iphone pix.  not my good ones which can be found over on my flickr account.
Me at Teakettle Junction, my temporary "office"  on cell phone
We visited a ghost town just east of DV.  not much there but this old Caboose was somewhat preserved.  Think the Black and White perspective makes it look more interesting than the color version.

Some desert rats must be nearby in this photo.  Maybe up in those rocks waiting to ambush poor unsuspecting tourists like us.  Better git to gittin'.

Many years about this area was tumultuous under sea then compressed.  Makes for interesting designs in this canyon.

Ah, the Mesquite Dunes.  Too bad people had to walk along them.  I did.  see my tracks?
So varied and interesting the various geologies.

Driving along the valley floor in the RV.
We camped at Stovepipe Wells where we had an expansive view of the valley and a lot of space around us away from people.  Almost secluded.

- Blessings from the Road

Monday, November 25, 2013

Sand dunes in Death Valley

Still catching up on blog posts from Death Valley.  Where are the google balloons for wifi when you need them?  (answer is "in New Zealand, dummy, the USA would never allow them here").

Near Stovepipe Wells campground where we stayed in NW death Valley lay these enormous Mesquite Flat Dunes.  Turns out Death Valley has 5 different kinds of dunes.  Didn't know there were that many and don't know the differences yet but these dunes were really cool.  We could hike about a half mile out to them from the road so on 3 different mornings we got up early before dawn and hiked out to different locations.  I photographed many shots with big camera and took a few with iphone.    here they are.

- Blessings from the Road

Big camera ready to shoot.

Yes that is me hiking along a ridge.  I took the photo at same time.  pretty cool huh?

Don't we cast a long shadow?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Sunset over Racetrack Playa

As we departed the Racetrack we were witness to one of the most amazing sunsets.

Literally 360 degrees in all directions

We stopped the rental jeep and just oggled in awe as this whole scene evolved and evaporated in front of us

We drove home in the dark.  Just amazing
- Blessings from the Road

The Racetrack

Ever since I recently saw a photo of these rocks racing across a mud lake, I wanted to visit this place.  The road is really, really rough and the park ranger advised us not to drive our jeep with whimpy two ply tires.  I doubt he gets a cut but we ended up renting a full size Jeep Rincon with 10 ply tires. One of the most jolting rides I have ever experienced. An expensive day but unique and worth it. Read to the end for the punch line.

Halfway there at Teakettle Junction.
Actually one of few places you had cell service.
That's me talking to a colleague back at Ananda Village

The Racetrack Playa, or The Racetrack, is a a scenic dry lake  with "sailing stones" that inscribe linear "racetrack" imprints. It is located above the northwestern side of Death Valley.  
approaching the playa

The playa is exceptionally flat and level with the northern end being only 1.5 inches higher than the southern. This occurrence is due to major influx of fine-grained sediment that accumulates at the north end during wet season and then the clay mud dries out and cracks into a mosaic pattern,  easy to walk on when dry.
Sailing Stones

These sailing stones are a geological phenomenon found in the Racetrack. Slabs of dolomite and syenite ranging from a few hundred grams to hundreds of kilograms inscribe visible tracks as they slide across the playa surface, without human or animal intervention. The tracks have been observed and studied since the early 1900s, yet no one has seen the stones in motion.

The sailing stones are most likely moved by strong winter winds, in the upwards of 90 mph, once it has rained enough to fill the playa with just enough water to make the clay slippery.

Another alternate hypothesis builds upon the first. As rain water accumulates, strong winds blow thin sheets of water quickly over the relatively flat surface of the playa. Sheets of ice form on the surface as night temperatures fall below freezing. Wind then drives these floating ice floes, their aggregate inertia and large area providing the necessary force required to move both small and large stones.

Regardless of how, it is pretty amazing to see.

Is this? yes it is Oyster shells from an ancient seabed

That's me all right.  Another long shadow!

Photographing the rocks

And here is the photo

Sunset over Racetrack Playa.  
The drive took almost 3 hours in the rental jeep one way.  In hindsight we could have done it in with Mr. Toad in about 4.5 hours and saved a whole bunch of money.
- Blessings from the Road