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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

¿Dónde Están Las Palomas?

Research Associate Becca and I were out early this morning on the west side of Tortugas Mountain, taking in the sights as usual. Both she and I felt sorry for this lonely yucca.
This paloma (Spanish for "dove") was enjoying a peaceful moment just after sunrise.
We have seen this metal cross before, but now it is almost overgrown with grass.
Doves were hanging out everywhere, taking a break on the nearly-leafless wands of the ocotillos.
Más palomas.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Morning Hike

Research Associate Becca and I spent about ninety minutes hiking the west side trail around Tortugas Mountain. Here you see a photo of my loyal companion. Even a sun dog has to rest in the shade every once in a while.
The road ahead--or behind, depending on which way you're facing.
A worker who had driven to the top of the mountain locks the gate behind himself on his return.
This was supposed to be a shot of a spider web, but the autofocus on my camera didn't pick up the thin strands.
Again, this was supposed to be an image of the web. I should have used the manual focus, but I was too lazy.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Deer/Snake/Baby Horned Lizard

Not far along the trail behind Tortugas Mountain Dr. K, Research Associate Becca and I kicked up a small herd of deer; we counted five individuals bounding up the rugged mountain. In the distance they stopped to look back at us. See if you can see all five in the lower left quadrant of this photo. Talk about camouflage, eh?
Not long after this brief photo op we came upon a small rattler on the trail; it was about 12" long. As I've said before, baby rattlers are the most dangerous because they don't know how to judiciously dole out their venom.
Here's a closeup of its beautiful kisser.
Here we have another example of camouflage extraordinaire. There's a baby horned lizard in the center of this photo; its head is pointing up.
Here's a closeup where the head is facing to the right.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Obedience School

Becca is one of the most stubborn research associates that I've ever had working under me, so sometimes we have to devote a day--even a weekend day--to learning the basics all over again. Today she kicked up a jackrabbit and rocketed after it, but a stern warning from me brought her back to my side. It's hard to find good research assistants these days. Despite these minor professional setbacks (or "learning plateaus"), we managed to enjoy the sights on this fine desert morning. A grass skirt (left) on a giant yucca hides its cellulite-laden trunk.

A canine Oreck vacuums its way along a narrow desert trail.
A light-colored SUV follows a dirt road through the Chihuahuan Desert.
Britney Spears--in a fetching halter--stands beside a decaying yucca.

A yucca provides a spiky foreground to a spectacular Chihuahuan Desert vista.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Old Curved Bill

Here are a few photos of a Curved-Bill Thrasher that seems to love scouting the territory from the front trellis here at COC, to see, I guess, what it can root around in.
Thrashers use their sharp, curved bill to dig feverishly in the dirt in search of grub--literally and figuratively. They're quite comical in their efforts, leaving fairly large-sized holes behind them.

Robin Hoodess

For some reason I wasn't in the mood to take many pictures this morning, but I did capture this shot of a masked bandit on a desert road.
Clouds were building over Tortugas Mountain, and they provided an interesting backdrop for the old observatory.
These clouds over the mountain look somewhat ominous, but they won't result in any rain today.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

East Side Hike II

Two snakes slept side by side here.
Closeup of the left crop circle shows the inner ridge that defines the outline of the snake's body.
If you're thinking "snake," a peripheral glimpse of this stick might make you jump.
Snake tracks in the sandy bottom soil near a major arroyo.
The arroyo (foreground) and a road leading over a desert hill; Organ Mountains in the background.

East Side Hike

Research Associate Becca and I were out early on the Tortugas Mountain trail, Monte Vista side. These are some of the beautiful sights we saw. This tenacious Prickly Pear Cactus is growing directly out of the top of a craggy boulder.
Suddenly appearing over a rock-strewn ridge, this hawk grabbed our attention.
Even though the tail doesn't show it, this raptor is a Red-Tailed Hawk. It hung in a stiff breeze--like a low-flying kite--hunting for breakfast.
Looking back toward the Organ Mountains, we were rewarded with this vista.
Sturdy cave dog surveys her surroundings.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Artsy Shots

Today I was snapping a few photos here on the grounds of COC just for their artistic effects. Here is a juxtaposition of a Variegated Agave and a Century Plant.
The seemingly spineless pads of the Blind Prickly Pear cactus.
Closeup of the complex structure of a Finger Cholla.
And Brer Rabbit relaxing under a creosote bush.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Fall in the Desert

Today is the first full day of Autumn, and one might legitimately ask whether the desert displays Fall colors. Absolutely. Here's an example.

And another.

Obviously these colors aren't as spectacular as in other places in the country, but if you're in the desert mountains--the "sky islands"--you'll definitely see colors that will rival those of any place on Earth.

Research Associate Becca and I were struck by the round, plate-like appearance of this Prickly Pear pad.

Here's a wide mat of purple flowers, with a yellow flower or two thrown in for good measure.

On the NMSU grounds there is a lineman school, where students learn about telephone pole-ism.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Flowers and Views

Here are a few flowers growing on the grounds at COC. Geraniums in a pot.
Sunflowers growing wild.
A volunteer(?) growing between paving bricks.
Tortugas Mountain in the distance.
Telephoto shot of the "A" on Tortugas Mountain, the old observatory and the shrine (red object).

Sunday, September 21, 2008


We were on the east side of Tortugas Mountain, on the far side of the loop, heading back toward the mountain when Research Associate Becca stumbled upon this baby rattler basking in the sun. She walked right up to it and almost touched her nose to the serpent. I had to pull her back, cautioning her of the danger. But Baby Ratt gave no warning rattle, and she didn't even bother to rattle once while I stood there photographing her. What a model subject! How about the way she blends into the desert floor?

A face only a mother could love.
Can you find the rattle?
We made a detour to get around to the other side of her and took this photo.

She turned her head to say "Adios." Notice the texture of her skin.

A Nice Bushwhack

Mourning Dove on nest in our backyard We didn't plan on it when we set off on our hike this morning, but we did a fairly long bushwhack ...