Friday, November 28, 2014

This, That and Other Stuff at Sevilleta NWR

Since we are still playing catch up in the news and photo categories we’ll just get right to it and share a bunch of randomness.

See this big guy and the little guys practicing their mid-air refueling all the time.

This really cool spider was found in the visitor center.  Nicole caught it and released
it out back.  Later in the day, around front, she saw an ant carrying a spider that
looked just like this one.  Was it this one?  It was plenty alive when she put it out.

         Catching up on the latest bulletin board info.

Quite often, when people come into the visitor center they only have one question:  Where are the birds?  Well...

That’s when we have to remember the true translation of their question:  Where can I see birds without putting in too much effort?  And the more specific translation (given the season):  Where can I see Sandhill Cranes and Snow Geese?

Our answer:  One exit north of our refuge at Bernardo Waterfowl Management Area.

                                     It is a pretty place with an auto tour loop,

                                       really nice bird blinds,

                                                          scenic views

                                                           and birds...

                                                          lots of them,

                                                  especially Sandhill Cranes.

      We took these photos about a month ago just as they were just beginning to arrive.

                 We’ll leave you with a couple photos of the Broom Dalea flower.

            Sure though we had missed the opportunity to see this purple beauty.

         But a plant just outside the visitors center produced a couple of late blooms.

                                            Until we meet again...

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

A Fascination With The Loggerhead Shrike

We are skipping ahead in time for a moment here because this is just too cool to hold off on any longer. 

Disclaimer:  Before we get to the details of this post we want to be clear that in this post you will see what some consider to be gross, disgusting, gruesome and down right nasty photos of dead things.  We are NOT joking.  If you do not wish to see these things that are a part of the nature of this area then please do not continue reading this post.  Please do however return for our next one at which point we will resume exploring flowers and pretty scenery.

Now, on to it!

The Loggerhead Shrike:  We first met this bird in Montana at the Big Horn Canyon National Recreation area.  There it was just sitting on a wire.

At that point, although we investigated the name of this pretty little songbird we learned no more.  Little did we know that at Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge we would not only be reintroduced to this sweet little peeper but also learn first hand why its nickname is not so sweet.  The Loggerhead Shrike is also known as the “Butcher Bird”!

And this is how it happened...

We had been out for the day with a longtime volunteer who was touring us around parts of the refuge (you’ll see those photos another time).  For the most part we were done with the tour and cruising along the barbed wire fence that lines the refuge property on the way to the gate we would exit.  That’s when someone in the vehicle exclaimed, “Hey!  There’s something hanging on the fence!”

As it turns out...

this sweet little face is that of a bird of prey which eats similar foods to a hawk or falcon. This is quite impressive considering its diminutive size.  How does it compensate?

Since it cannot kill prey with talons it manipulates its very sharp and hooked bill to stun or even paralyze its prey and then impales somewhere.

Yes.  You read right.  It impales it.  Barbed wire fencing makes a great place to impale something now doesn’t it?!


We’ll start you out with this photo and distract you with the fact that you are looking at the Great Crested Grasshopper.  A super cool find even if it wasn’t given much of a choice in the matter.

Next we saw...

                                    a very unfortunate lizard.

And then there was this... (remember: we did warn you)


Yes, believe it or not, the Loggerhead Shrike catches prey as
big as itself and transports it by carrying it in its feet as
other birds of prey do.

This was the extent of our reintroduction to the Loggerhead Shrike at Sevilleta NWR on this day.  Needless to say, it left Nicole with quite a bit of intrigue.

In reading more she learned that the Shrike likes to use thorns and cactus spines too.  We’ve seen a lot of those on our desert walks over the last three years but never have we seen anything impaled on them. 

Were we just not looking close enough?

We thought we were pretty observant of the smallest of details.  So, Nicole set out on a quest.  Three weeks went by and nothing.  She had all but given up and was simply walking in the wash one day talking with Darlene when...

                                                 the proverbial ‘Haystack’

                                  finally revealed its ‘Needle’!

                          There was something poetic about it.

There is also something quite ingenious.  When it comes to certain grasshoppers, monarch butterflies, toads and other noxious or not so tasty specimens, the Shrike hangs them out to dry like this for several days until the toxicity is reduced.  The Shrike is also the only bird we’ve found that impales its prey in this manner.

After achieving success with her search in the wild, Nicole was anxious to get back to the fence line and explore the ‘variety’.  Here’s is what we found.



                            beetles (of the mostly darkling variety)


                                                robber flies



            and what is left of a kangaroo rat (or perhaps a field mouse)


So, that is our afternoon study of the Loggerhead Shrike at Sevilleta NWR.  Although it could be considered a gruesome day out on the refuge, it is nature doing what nature does.  It is a wee little vicious predator compensating for its diminutive size and strength with intelligence.  And that... is just plain fascinating.

     For those of you who stayed with us through the whole post, we’ll leave you with a scene
        of pretty mountains, fields and Sandhill Cranes.  More stuff like this coming soon.

                        “If I had to choose, I would rather have birds than airplanes.” 
                                                    - Charles Lindbergh

Sunday, November 23, 2014

4 Wheelin’ in San Lorenzo Canyon!

San Lorenzo Canyon is 1/2 Sevilleta NWR and 1/2 Bureau of Land Management.

As volunteers we have access to explore the Sevilleta (off limits to the public) portions.  However, when interacting with the public in our visitor center, we are often asked to provide information of neat (public permitted) places to hike and explore.  Once we’ve informed them of the three trails on our refuge we then point them toward San Lorenzo.

So, on this day we decided to utilize one of the refuge’s four wheel drive vehicles
to explore the area we so often send visitors to see.

          Not far into our wash drive and we spot the ‘Sliced Bread Loaf’.

An example of the Rio Grande rift called an angular unconformity and a tell tale
sign that we are headed in the right direction.  The tilted layers are about 7 to 10
million years old, by the way.

   Stopping to admire the bread loaf the flower spotting began immediately.
             This is the Cevallia Sinuata Lagasca or Stinging Serpent.

        It is hard not to admire such beautiful detail.

                   It is in the detail where the stinging hairs are found.

              After the flowers come these mop-like seeding features.

                        The Apache Plume plant has started showing its feathers.

     A four wheel drive is not necessary to explore San Lorenzo Canyon.  We would however
      recommend using good judgment on how far you are willing to drive your own vehicle.

    Much of the sand does get fairly soft in places so if you aren’t sure just park and hike it.

We spent time exploring and here’s a bit of what we saw.

                                         Canyon Happy Faces

                               Serious Faces

                                              A touch of fall.


                                          Views that command your attention.

     Loads of super cool looking Tiger Moth Caterpillars

          that had super long hairs and really cool neon blue color accents.

                     Then there was this viscous looking apparatus!

                                           Pretty White Flowers
                                   (Pepperweed family perhaps?)

                                           Busy Grasshoppers

                                          Beautiful Butterflies

                                                     Towering Sandstone

                                        Twice-Stabbed Lady Beetle

                            A different kind of desert mushroom.

  Melampodium Leucanthum - Blackfoot Daisy - we think?

                                      In the Four O’Clock  family?

                                  Slot Canyons

                  And an overall great day exploring!