Thursday, May 29, 2008

LIfe in the Desert - The Middle of Nowhere!

Photos by Jenny Lisignoli

The little blip of a human in the top photo is yours truly, taken just yesterday when coworker, Jenny, and I were conducting avian surveys at a geologic site in McKinley County, New Mexico. Immediately adjacent to our worksite, we found an abandoned open pit mine that just begged for a photo using a human to demonstrate scale.

During our surveys, we observed many different species of birds, but the most interesting of all were the Turkey Vultures. We observed a few vultures during the morning soaring overhead, and I began to get curious when they all seemed to disappear into one particular canyon. It was as if we were being teased and tested by the big black birds. On one of the final transects, located in the canyon where the birds had disappeared, at the dead end of box canyon, five vultures simultaneously took flight from a cave high in the cliffs.

Below the entrance, which was coated with whitewash, a lone vulture sat perched on a rock. He/she seemed unconcerned with our presence, for how could we possibly have gotten close enough to threaten her. It was as if she were the watch sentinel, standing guard over precious objects hidden out of view? The bird graciously posed for photos, taken by Jenny with a long zoom, as she preened, then stretched, then preened again. Finally, when it was apparent that she was not interested in leaving her lofty perch, we turned our backs and headed out of the canyon. After about thirty feet, I turned back to see only a rock where the bird had been. If it weren't for the photos, I might have thought it was a mirage.

LIfe in the Desert - Ojito Wilderness Area

Memorial Day 2008 was memorable in many ways, mostly for the good friends that share their world with me, and the wonderful places that we explore. On this day, we investigated Ojito Wilderness Area, northwest of Albuquerque. Here, we found fantastical geologic shapes, dinosaur bones, petrified wood, and great photo opportunities. For more fabulous photos, check out my friend, Steve Elkins', website. Once there, click on Ojito Wilderness Area. It was an incredible day. Many thanks to Jan Cummings, geologist, for arranging and leading this trip to a seldom seen jewel of the southwest.