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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Errand Day

Chilly in the mountain's shadow
We only saw one woman mountain biker during our slightly-abbreviated hike this morning.  Then we ran into Jimmy at the end of our trek.  I would have liked to have chatted with him longer, but I had a few errands to run before going grocery shopping at Target and Albertsons.  Last week I was pleased to discover that Target had gotten all new shopping carts, and I was happy to drive one again this morning.  It was like a Cadillac compared to the junkers they had before--ones with crooked wheels that drove like flat tires and made embarrassing screeching noises.
Heading for the sunlight

The tongue tells the tale

Another surprising find:  more blossoming Soaptree Yuccas

I guess it feels like spring to these Yuccas

Old flower stalks and new

Scott's Oriole singing its pretty song to another one nearby

Monday, September 29, 2014

Hare-y Encounter

Down from the mountain and into the lower desert
We're supposed to get the rain that hammered Phoenix a few days ago, but for this morning the weather was perfect.  Becca and I did a long hike west of Tortugas Mountain.  Coming back onto the mountain we had a close encounter of the 3rd kind with a Black-tailed Jackrabbit who seemed as interested in us as we were in him.  After we'd stared at each other for a while, though, he decided to move on, stopping to look back at us once before making tracks into the desert.
A road heading west toward Las Cruces

Looking back at the Tortoise

Still a lot of Chinchweed flowers about

Tortugas and the Organ Mountains beyond

Striking back toward the mountain

Hard to believe how yellow it still is

Across a lush Chihuahuan Desert to Tortugas's western flank

A very happy hiker

Black-tailed Jackrabbit (a true hare)

Time to move on

Stopping a short distance away to check us out again

Why they're called "Black-tailed" Jackrabbits

Surprising to find a Soaptree Yucca blooming now

The flower stalk

Succulent Yucca flowers were a delicacy to the Apache tribe

They are slightly sweet and excellent in salads

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Sunny Sunday

Getting a really early start out of Monte Vista
Dr. K, Becca and I got a very early start on a long hike around Tortugas Mountain.  Right off the bat we saw another hiker ahead of us, and a mountain biker (Jorge) who we've known for years.  The hiker ahead took a different trail than the one we were trekking on, and we didn't see anybody else until we were nearly finished with our morning outing (two mountain bikers).  It was an extremely pleasant morning--a little chilly at times because of the wind, but eventually sunny.  By the time we returned to the car after several hours of exercise we were all (except Becca) pretty tired.
Before the sun has fully risen above the Organs

The Organ Mountains in cloud shadow

The trail that wraps around Tortugas

On the south side of the mountain now

The way we just came

The way we're going (heading west)

Further away from the Organ Mountains

From here the road curves around to the west side (left)

Even further away from the Organs

On the outer loop raod

A snake slept here

Turning back

Saturday, September 27, 2014

57 Degrees with a Breeze

Joggers with dogs on Geothermal Drive
When the Chihuahuan Desert sun has made your blood run thin all summer it comes as something of a shock when the weather turns cool.  This morning we were under 60 F when Becca and I started out, and there was a stiff breeze to make the temperature feel really chilly.  Additionally, we walked for the first mile in the shadow of Tortugas so I was almost cold.  Becca wasn't.  Lots of people on and about the mountain this morning, including a large group of ten-to-twelve-year-old kids accompanied by three or four adults.
Single-track along the foothills

Heading away from Tortugas

The mountain they call the "Tortoise"

Heading back up the mountain

Friday, September 26, 2014

The Hunt

Greater Roadrunner
I should have known when the Roadrunner let Becca get within fifteen feet of him that something stronger than an urge to flee was motivating the bird.   When he ran ahead and stopped slightly off trail I was curious about his behavior.  And when he crouched low to the ground I figured he was trying to conceal himself.  A second later, though, he launched himself into a short flight and pounced down on a small critter, which let out a squeal.  The Roadrunner then shook its prey vigorously, later pounding it on the ground.  I wasn't sure what he had killed until I got home and looked at the photo I snapped using the 10X function on my camera; it was a small bird.  Although I have seen Roadrunners streaking across the desert with lizards and small snakes in their beaks, I had never witnessed one during an actual hunt.

Many people don't know how strong and clever these large cuckoos really are.  Sometimes they'll hunt a rattlesnake in tandem, one bird jumping up and down and spreading its wings to distract the snake while the other pins the snake's neck before pounding its head on the ground.  The bird's lifespan can be as long as seven years.
Doing what a Roadrunner is born to do

Stopping off trail to keep an eye on us


Eating its prey:  a small bird

White-winged Dove in a Yucca crown

Sulphur-colored rock

Torrey Yucca

Enjoying an early-morning hike

The Chihuahuan Desert west of Tortugas Mountain

Saturday's Slog

This & next 6:  Ladder-backed Woodpecker on mesquite Felt pretty awful out there this morning:  hotter than the past few mornings and mo...