Saturday, April 30, 2011

Over the river and through the woods

We took our time getting home this year from our sabbatical from Northwest winters. We stopped by Bret, Laura and Ethan's (more on that in the next post), and visited some spots that were known for great birdwatching. Which means they'd probably be great places for taking pictures of birds. Boy, were they ever!

Antelope Island

These are avocets. We first saw them at Antelope Island. After a while Michael started calling them "avatars." The name stuck and that's how I remember them.

This chukar looked like it was posing for us. We came across it as we were driving to the old ranch that's on Antelope Island.

Bountiful Lake

I call these ducks "Mohawk Dudes" because of their radical hair styles. We also saw our first pelicans at Bountiful Lake.

Bear River Bird Refuge

We hit the mother lode with the Bear River Bird Refuge! It's just about an hour out of Salt Lake City. Our heads were turning (just like the little guy below) trying not to miss anything during our visit there. We ended up doing two 12 mile loops through it one day and briefly stopping by on another!

I've posted some of my personal favorites from Bear River. It was really hard to choose; but here they are:
These male yellow-headed blackbirds picked just the right spot to gather, didn't they? Color coordinated signage and birds. Amazing!

Near the end of our first loop around the refuge we came across these sandhill cranes and witnessed part of their courtship ritual. Wow, talk about being in the right place at the right time!

There were loads of swallows too. This is a close up of nest building using mud.

Now for some "stranger than fiction shots" from the refuge.

We'd see these columns from a distance and were trying to figure out what they were. We'd drive up to them and they'd seem to disappear. It's a matter of perspective as these were insect swarms. Crazy! Thankfully they were non-biting flies or the trip through the refuge would have been really uncomfortable to say the least.

The picture below is the one I rate the most "bizarre." Can you guess what it is?

At first when I saw this I thought it was a snake. Turns out that it's a carp. The carp grow HUGE and when the wetlands start drying out they swim in just inches of water. They were introduced to the area (probably by some well-meaning person) years ago. While they weren't part of the "original" habitat they do serve their purpose. As the water dries they make good fishing for the pelicans and other larger birds.

We looked and found so many beautiful birds and interesting things to see while on our way home. I guess you could say my eyes have been opened. Now, I try to look and really see.

It's a wonderful, diverse world we live in!


Saturday, April 23, 2011

Fort Pearce---Finally

So you've looked at this picture and you're not necessarily impressed and perhaps you're saying, "What's the big deal about Fort Pearce?" Let me tell you. This post could also be called Fourth Time's a Charm. Yes, you're correct. It took us four tries to make it there.

Background in a nutshell. Fort Pearce is about 12 miles from Washington City, Utah. Washington City is just north of St. George. Fort Pearce was an outpost to protect a water source during times of trouble in pioneer times. Water is the most valuable resource in the desert. As Michael and I enjoy historical sites and ruins we determined to go there. Here's our Fort Pearce chronology:

During our first winter (Jan-March 2009) we picked a warm day and drove out there. We ran into mud that was treacherous when we were about halfway there. We turned around and said we'd try another time when everything was dried out.

During our second winter (Jan-April 2010) we didn't go out that way.

Third winter (Jan-April 2011) we waited until February for a dry day to make our second attempt. We ran into this huge sand drift over the road and opted not to try to cross it since we couldn't tell how far or how deep it was. So much for that try.

March 2011 we called the Bureau of Land Management and found out that there was a back way from Hurricane to Fort Pearce. We drove the way we were directed but never found the Fort. We turned back when we came to a fork in the road that the BLM guy didn't mention and we didn't want to get hopelessly lost. The adage "Third Time's a Charm" didn't work this time.

Finally-April 2011 Warm, beautiful day, mud dried up, sand drift passable AND we made it! We nearly had the place to ourselves. While the site may not be overly impressive, it made me think of the men who served there away from their families. We also did some bird watching and I scouted around a found a bullet casing on a ledge below the fort ruins mixed with some rocks and stones . It may not be a real old one, but it was cool to find it.

The desert was starting to bloom. Isn't this a beautiful photo?

So I see this as a lesson in determination. Fourth time's a charm.

We also went out to see the dinosaur tracks which are just a few miles from the ruins of the fort. They were something!

Keep on keeping on whatever you're trying to do. You can do it!


Sunday, April 3, 2011

Zion National Park 2011

We have enjoyed living so close to Zion National Park. It takes us just under an hour to get to it. We usually buy the $25.00 pass that's good for a week and then try to go twice. This year we went on Wednesday, March 23 and Tuesday, March 29.

We had great weather both days. It was cold when we got there on March 23. We decided to do the hike to Angel's Landing. Michael's in better shape than I am so he ended up doing some waiting for me and since he'd stop to take some pictures I'd end up doing some waiting for him so it was all good. The "Walter's Wiggles" switchbacks near the end were crazy! I've never seen anything like them. We stopped our hike before you had to hold on to a chain to finish the last little bit. It was so vertical that we opted to not chance it. The hike back down seemed to take hardly any time at all; probably because it's downhill almost all of the way. Also don't you find that the way back seems shorter since you've already covered that ground and know what's coming? I think so.

After the hike I decided to take a snooze in the back of the car. Michael decided to do some bird watching with the hopes of getting some good photos. He lucked out big time when he got these shots:

This is a blue heron. Michael was happy to get this shot.
After he'd taken it he noticed that their were some ducks in it too.

The heron decided to leave.

The ducks hung around for a while. They're a different breed than we've seen before. They're called "Common Mergansers." Look closely at the duck on the left. That's the female. I wouldn't call her "hair do" common at all!

We left Zion National Park that afternoon and on our way back home we decided to revisit Grafton-a ghost town across the river and a bit of a drive from Rockville. We hadn't been there since 2009. The weather was a whole lot better this visit. The scenery was lovely. Here's a picture of one of the few full-time residents of Grafton:
Can you see him (her) peeking out at you?

On the 29th we decided to stay closer to the river to possibly get some more bird shots. I was on the lookout for birds and didn't notice a rock in the path. As they say, "Have a nice trip. See you next fall!" I did both. Fortunately I still had my gloves on so the only thing injured was my pride. After that I looked at the path AND THEN looked (and listened) for birds.
We also took the river walk as far as we could. The Narrows were closed, but we noticed scores of these cairns made by visitors.

I decided to make one too!

The last trail we went on that day was one we hadn't been on before. It too followed the river. We saw a few birds and Michael took a few pictures too. It's always interesting to see how they turn out. The little bird below is called a Juniper Titmouse.

This new passion of Michael's (bird photography) is contagious! One of the benefits of it is that I'm noticing MORE now. More of the birds and animals around me, more of the beautiful scenery and yes, more of the world. Maybe it's because I've slowed down enough to do so.

Something to think about.