Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Photogenic Birds

An early start on the mountain's west side
Becca and I got an early start on this windy, cold morning in the Chihuahuan Desert.  Even after sunshine struck the desert floor the temperature remained quite chilly.  We're only headed for a high of 51F today.  I was surprised to find some hearty birds out and about today, and I got a few good shots of a Loggerhead Shrike and a Cactus Wren.  When we were nearly back at our car we ran into JC and Olivia, but we stood talking for only a minute.  It was too cold to have a longer chat.
The sun just climbing above the clouds

On the Crosscut Trail

Just about as far out from Tortugas as we got this morning

Entering a sandy section of the desert

Loggerhead Shrike

These five images are of the same Cactus Wren

He looks ticked off at me for snapping his pic

Nicely camouflaged

Beautiful back markings

And an off-white breast

Trying to capture the rolling nature of the desert here

Deep, sandy dropoff

Getting close to the trailhead

Gee--I wonder which college basketball team JC and Olivia root for

Monday, January 23, 2017

Police Presence on the Mountain

Torrey Yuccas on Tortugas Mountain's north side
As we approached the Sunset Area this morning I could see red lights strobing on several different law-enforcement vehicles.  As we got nearer I saw quite a few cars stopped halfway up to the parking lot.  A police SUV blocked the entrance, and when I stopped to ask the officer standing outside of it what had happened all he would say was, "No entering at this time, sir."  So Becca and I did an extra-long hike on the south and east sides of Tortugas Mountain.  Just as we were about to drive off after our trek our buddy Jimmy pulled in to ask why we were hiking on the Monte Vista side of the mountain.  While we were talking several different "west side hikers" stopped to ask us if we knew what was happening at the Sunset Area.  A short while later JC and Olivia pulled in to talk.  They had done a hike along the north side of the mountain because the west side was still closed.  In fact, when Becca and I drove by it again on our way home it was still closed.  There was quite a large law-enforcement contingent there as well as a fire truck up in the parking area.  As of now (3 p.m.) I still don't know what happened over there.
Face (left) in a large boulder

Horse Nettle fruit

Why, hello!

Lesser Goldfinch

One in hand is worth . . .

Awfully white breast for a Goldfinch

A White-crowned Sparrow, perhaps

Hey, that's some good flying!

Lesser Goldfinches

Whew--that's a long way down

Hand/bush

Trio of Goldfinches

Birds love to perch in these yuccas

Despite rusty color at cap I'm still guessing White-crowned Sparrow

Round house ruins (and Becca)

Wonder Dog of the Desert

You coming?

One view of the trail around Tortugas Mountain

Mounds of Hedgehog Cactus on the mountain

These are Strawberry Hedgehog Cacti

Up we go

Another episode of Wonder Dog of the Desert

South of Tortugas Mountain

Trail heading east toward the Organ Mountains

Another view of the trail around Tortugas Mountain

Rolling desert tableland

Lots of desert between us and the car

Organ Mountains

Why they call it Tortugas "turtle" Mountain

Yo--where'd the snow go?

Had to stop on the way home to photograph the supermodel of clouds

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Ugly Storm Creates Beauty

Getting started on the Sierra Vista Norte Trail
Because Dr. K is still in D.C.-- where she participated in the Woman's March yesterday with her two sisters--Becca and I did a Sunday hike on the Sierra Vista Norte Trail.  After yesterday's brutal storm, which gave us a little rain, a bit of snow and a whole lot of wind (gale force with gusts to 70 mph), we were pleased to discover calmer conditions in the high desert this morning.  One result of the ugly storm was the pretty snow cover on the Organ Mountains.  After a long trek the Beckster and I even drove out to Dripping Springs Natural Area to get a closer view of the mountains.
Becca spots something already

Barrel Cacti

Sunlight starting to caress the frosty Organ Mountains

This is what Becca alerted on

Mule Deer

Mule Deer on the move

Stopping to have one last look back

Becca staring in the direction the deer disappeared

How low did the snow go?

Small patch of ice on the trail

Not antlers

One Barrel or . . .

. . .  two?

Deep high-country gully

The stuff brooms are made of

Bear cub gazing at the sky?

I'm not positive, but I believe this is a Canyon Towhee

Canyon Towhee

Same Canyon Towhee

High desert east of the Organs

Cattle drive

Frosty, rugged peaks

The flora grows on the banks of an arroyo that runs out of the mountains

La Cueva Rocks and the Organ Mountains at Dripping Springs

View from the entrance fee pay station

Rugged country in The Land of Enchantment