Saturday, May 20, 2017

Video of Utah trip

First week back, unexpected birders

 This was the first week of our season, with only 40 guests, but about half of them were birders. Unexpected birders. Fortunately, and possibly also unexpected, the bird population was soaring. Our eager eyes sought out the friendly feathered phyla. I went out on two bird-themed walks, one on a forest road at El Capitan Cove, and another in Windham Bay. Both were seeking the land-based flutter-ers, and we found quiet spots to sit quietly, listening to the songbirds of the forest, but seeing more seabirds in the end.
Many of the sea birds from this week are migratory, and I found myself pleased to point out Parasitic Jaegers and Long Tailed ducks as we cruised around the passageways. They both have long tails and are only found here in the early springtime. We passed by a Common Loon and I got a close-up snapshot as well.
On the first day of the trip a few guests approached me and asked for Arctic Terns, and on the last day of the trip, at Dawes Glacier, they appeared out of the sky for our viewing pleasure. As a bonus, we got to see some Black Oystercatchers as well. The trip closed as an unbelievable success for birds, albeit unexpected.  

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

End of the Road

 I'm back in Bellingham, and putting away Lord Nelson (the Dodge Dakota) for the summer.  It was a great road trip and I'm very happy with the truck, as well as pleased with the high desert of Utah.  But I didn't just stay in Utah!  I also went to Chaco Canyon, in New Mexico.  Here are some photos from the ruins of Chaco Canyon.  I was expecting more of an Adobe style structure and that it would be attached to a cliff, but the ruins were freestanding, with many stories (up to 6, I believe) and low doorways.  The floors were made from logs from the previous forests of pine that were around during the time the people lived here.  I read in Jared Diamond's "Collapse" that the people here cut down the trees to build these big temple structures, which caused more soil erosion, which cut deep Arroyos into the valley (and I did get to see that there was a 20 ft deep arroyo in the middle of the valley where the river used to flow) and that lowered the water table, which prevented the trees from re-growing.  The climate was also drying out at the same time, apparently, and that didn't help.
In driving past Salt Lake City, I noticed that the hills around there have some steps in them, evidence of former higher water levels, and the Wikipedia page talks about how it was much much bigger long ago.  So the area around there is drying out, and has been for a while.

The doorways are really short, about 4 ft tall in most places, and it baffled me because they used these buildings for ceremonial reasons mostly (according to the signs) and I would figure you would want to have high doorways for a church.  Also, the way they built, with the wooden beams for archways, is easier if you have less sitting on the wood, so higher doorways would be better.  The rooms are standing height.  
 In the middle of the pueblo there are lots of these round rooms, which used to have roofs over them and a little ladder in the middle to get down.  They look like they should store grain or water or something, but the signs all mentioned that they were for ceremonies.
 A view from above gives a perspective on the whole complex.  The people had a lot of appreciation for astronomy and so the whole pueblo is oriented to the sun and I think that might also be a reason for round rooms.  I'm a fan of the sun and moon as well.
 On my way back to Utah, I stumbled upon Goosenecks State Park, on the San Juan River.  There was a picture on the wall of a gas station and the attendant told me that it was very close, so I had to go look.  I didn't overlook looking over from the overlook.
 I found myself back in Goblin Valley again, and here is a picture of the sunset on the sand cliffs.
 And I went up some of the slot canyons nearby, one of which has some ropes placed in some spots in order to help you get up.
 Here is a 8 inch arch in the side of the slot canyon.  I like this because it looks just like the full size arches.  It is hard to tell the scale from the stone.
 And a view in the slot again for comparison of the stone size.
 It was full of water in some places and I had to bridge across the sides to get past without wet feet.
 Then I saw my first Bighorn Sheep!  This was a pregnant female and she was just content to be in the road eating shoots and didn't want to leap away.  I had great luck with the animals not wanting to run away.  I think Lord Nelson is a soothing color.
 I went back out to Grandview Point on the end of Island in the Sky for sunset.
 And got this picture looking up the Green River valley to the north...
 As the rainstorms came walking their way across the plains.
 I then went into Arches.  I'd been waiting for this, not wanting to go during the spring break rush and looking for week day.  It was still very crowded, but I saw some wild turkeys!
 Of course Delicate Arch was still standing proud.  If you look, you can see lots of folks enjoying it.  I remembered the last time here with Danny and hardly anybody else.  But that was in November.
 I also went to this tiny thin arch at the north end of the park.  It is about 300 feet across and seems to be ready to fall at any moment!
 And found a few new arches to myself.  This one has a big room in it that you could hang out from the weather, it had good wind and rain protection.
 And an arch in the making.  This is a shot looking up at it.
 Then I went to a new area of slot canyons, and found my favorite one of all.  It starts out green...
 and then becomes a hip scraping slither through the dark, with a little bit of light guiding you.  Really really narrow.
 But the sandstone was sculpted most beautifully.
 On my way back I stopped again at Antelope Island and saw a Coyote.
 And a Chukar!
 And the Avocets were looking their best.
It was a great trip and I start at work tomorrow, so I'll try to work on the video that I took at some point, but don't expect it too soon.