Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Wrapping Up Sevilleta NWR

Wow!  Four months flew by and we are departing from here in fifteen hours or there about.  So, to avoid time completely getting away from us we will wrap up our volunteer experience at Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge with a select few of our remaining photos.

On Alex’s last day visiting we decided to walk the Mesa Loop Trail.  Isn’t it awesome that Alex walks (sits) trails like us?  Alright, so we sat on every bench, we also did the whole 3.8 miles and we’re pretty sure we all went to bed around 8 p.m. that night, too!  Sheesh, what were we thinking after a week of touring around.

Needless to say it was a beautiful day on a beautiful trail.  Still a little snow in the shadows.

We realized after Alex left that we didn’t really take any photos together.  Well, Alex and Nicole took one selfie where (as Alex puts it) Nicole looks totally “cray cray”.  So, in the interest of sparing you that experience, Nicole stitched together two separate photos to make this one.

                           Nothing was stitched in this photo.  It is what it is.

                              One of our favorite formations on the trail.

                    This is not just a photo of the sky.  Do you see anything else?

How about now?  See that dark spot in the upper right corner?  Follow it at a bit of a diagonal toward the middle of the photo.  So, we were umm... sitting on a bench (we already told you we sat on all of them!) when we looked all the way across the refuge toward the Pinos and saw what looked like a black tornado.  It would form and fall to the ground and then sweep upward all at once.  It was crazy to watch.  We were super far away with no real zoom so we did the best we could.

What it wound up being was thousands or tens of thousands of Red Winged Blackbirds and / or Starlings.  Apparently this display is a winter phenomenon that happens with Grackles and other similar birds, as well.  We’d never seen anything like it.  Super cool to watch.

We also saw this rainbow colored cloud.  This happens when there are especially tiny ice crystals or water droplets in the air.  It is called Cloud Iridescence or Irisation.

After Alex left for home we returned to our regularly scheduled program of three days on and four days off.  As we were out and about there seemed to be more birds around.

                                              House Finch

                                         European Starling

                       A very far away Ladderback Woodpecker.

                                Northern Red-Shafted Flicker

                               The birds of prey were out in force

      and were keeping a close eye on our goings on.

We’d see the same ones quite often as we made trips out to the Wetlands Area to finish up the fence by putting reflective tape on it and to attempt to repair the Langemann Gate (we did not get to finish this project before we left).

One of our last projects was to head out to the East Side to take apart some windmills and haul the parts to the metal recycling bin.

All of the drinkers used to be fed via windmill driven pumps.

     The refuge has since converted them to solar powered pump systems.

While cruising the east side on one of those windmill days we happened to catch

                                         our resident Uni-Oryx.

       It appears that it lost its second horn in a mountain lion attack.

On one of the days we went out to take apart windmills the weather wasn’t cooperating.

      As you can see by these half and half photos it really just couldn’t make up its mind.

We, on the other hand, had no trouble making up our minds that the winds, bitter cold and threatening rain were not conducive to windmill deconstruction.  So, instead we headed out for new parts of the refuge to turn on three of the wells that had been off for the winter.

We had a personalized escort / road grader for the trip.  Rich led the way and made sure that the road we were taking (which hadn’t been used in a while) was passable.

Too bad we didn’t get a shot of how he got up there!  Some people wouldn’t even want to drive it in a truck and he did it in a grader.  The man has got some heavy equipment talent!

Here’s a few more shots from parts of the refuge we hadn’t been to before.





                          Isn’t this the neatest shaped mountain?

About a week before we left our resident backyard Greater Roadrunner thought we needed to see what all of the fuss was about with regard to how they soak in the sun.

We’d heard about how they fluff out all of their feathers so that their black skin underneath can take in the heat but we hadn’t seen it.  Until this day.  So cool, all fluffed up.

                                 And then back to normal and ready to run.

Something made quite a meal out of this Prickly Pear.  You just
gotta wonder how they chow down like that with all of those needles.

One thing we don’t wonder about however is whether we had a great time volunteering here at Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge.  We most certainly did!  It is time though to move on down the road to new locations and new experiences.  So, we’ll wrap this up and get to packing the van and preparing for our departure tomorrow.

Hasta Luego!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

A Ghostly Trip Behind Ladron Peak

Alex was interested in seeing a ghost town, so he and Nicole took off in search of the town of Riley.  For a complete tour, they opted to do a fairly (depending on road conditions) pleasant 100 mile loop drive. 

                                        Looking ahead toward Ladron Peak.

                              Looking back toward the Magdalena Mountains.

                             And then there are the side views.  Looking right.


                                                 And, to the right again.

                                               Look, ahead!  It’s Riley!

Riley was originally named Santa Rita and was a small agricultural village.  In the late 1880’s mining came to the area and in 1890 it was granted a post office under the name of Riley.  At one point the population was up to about 150 but when the mines gave out and drought made farming difficult Riley was left abandoned.

This is the old schoolhouse.  There are really only two recognizable buildings in Riley.  This one and the church which has been preserved for the annual Santa Rita days festivities.

               The rest of the ‘town’ is pretty much a pile of ruins.

                                          What is left is spread out a bit.

Still there’s enough here to leave you wondering about those who used to call this home.





       At some point someone tried to restore several of the buildings.

         It is evident in the presence of chicken wire.

Or so we thought.  As it turns out, chicken wire was invented in
1844.  So, is it possible that it is the original covering?


The closest we got to seeing a ghost in this town.  Do you see
the face on this seed pod?

As we were leaving Riley, Alex was sort of quiet.  Eventually, he piped up and said, “So, that was a ghost town.”  Nicole replied, “Yup.  Pretty typical.”  “It’s not how I pictured it,” he says.  “What did you think it would be like then?” asked Nicole.  “Like in the Brady Bunch” says Alex!

Ghost Town
                                  Um... maybe in Hollywood.

       Glad our ghost town visit turned out a bit better than the Brady’s.