Natural Happenings, Summer 2018, #2

“Beauty Happens”. That is a line from a great book on sexual selection, entitled “The Evolution Of Beauty”, by Richard O. Prum, Professor of Ornithology at Yale University. If you love studying Evolution, you’ll love this book.


The rufous side of the male Rufous hummingbird


Also rufous, it’s the New Mexico State Insect – the Tarantula Hawk


Great blue heron, Rio Grande del Norte National Monument


Lesser goldfinch. I’d love it for someone to tell me why it’s called the “Lesser”


The Evening Grosbeaks have returned. Already thinking about going south?

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Natural Happenings, Summer 2018

It’s been a hot summer, so far, in the upper Rio Grande Valley. The monsoon arrived on time – at the end of the first week of July, – but is now disappointing us with fewer thunder storms than we had hoped for. The Rufous and Calliope hummingbirds arrived with the monsoon – also on time – and, otherwise, we’ve been seeing baby birds of many species. I’ll start with the male Calliope hummingbird:


The male Rufous hummingbird:RufousDSCN2797RufousDSCN2845RufousDSCN2856The summer-long resident hummingbird is the Black-chinned:



Black-chinned female and male



Here is a just-fledged baby, probably a Black-chinned:Baby&FemaleBlack-chinnedDSCN2742BabyDSCN2755


Ash-throated flycatcher


Female Bullock’s oriole


Black-capped chickadee


Lesser goldfinch


Immature White-breasted nuthatch


Immature scrub jay


Sunset from our side door


Rio Grande reflections,  at Millers’ Landing

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We? Who The Hell Are We?

              “We? Who The Hell Are We?”

Looked at in the fullness of time

we humans are a problem only for ourselves

evolution will replenish the planet

once we are removed


We will be removed

and, of course, it has already begun

We have packed the planet

while ruining the earth, the air and the water


We humans are rendering

our habitat uninhabitable

and it’s seems unlikely that we will stop

before it is too late


But while we can still talk to each other

it might be amusing to assign blame

Who is to blame for this mess we find ourselves in?

Is it the most avaricious and power mad amongst us

who are responsible?

That is most certainly the case …

and it would be great if we could rein them in

but that too seems unlikely

We missed the boat on that one

when we invented civilization

and moved to the city


Humans are what they are

both pro- and antisocial

and there is no changing that


There is little hope for us nice people

now that the nastiest of people

have taken charge

But … if it is any consolation at all

we will surely go down together

H. sapiens, it will be said, was a poorly-designed species

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Steve Miller Publishes “Four Cornered – The Rivers”

Steve Miller publishes “Four Cornered – The Rivers”.

Announcing the publication of: “Four Cornered, The Rivers”. This is the second book in the Four Cornered series. The first book is: “Four Cornered, The Land”. Together, these books present unparalleled photographic coverage of the American Southwest, with photographs that will both inform and delight, along with explanatory text, videos and maps. The series is the culmination of 50 years of adventure photography, and includes pioneering rock climbs (beginning in 1964), canyoneering, rafting (16 raft trips through the Grand Canyon), kayaking, Indian ruins, petroglyphs, pictographs and more. These books were made to be viewed on Mac devices, and are ridiculously cheap – $4.99 and $5.99.
Here are the links:

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The River Has No Right to Water

The river has no right to water. I’m talking about the Rio Grande. It rises in Colorado and flows through the heavily-irrigated San Luis Valley, before turning south into New Mexico. The Rio Grande Gorge begins a short distance upstream of the Colorado/New Mexico state line. From the state line south, the Rio Grande Gorge is the centerpiece of the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument.

The Rio Grande Compact governs the distribution of its waters between the two above-named states, and Texas and Mexico. That agreement gives the lion’s share of water to the farmers of the San Luis Valley. Deliveries of water are accounted for by the year – how much you get and/or must pass downstream in a calendar year. Since the irrigators have no need of water during the winter, they let the river flow un-diverted through the Valley in the winter months. And what water passes downstream during the pre-irrigation months of the year is credited as a delivery to the downstream entities for that calendar year. With this credit in their back pocket, the irrigators can then divert to their heart’s content come summer.

What happens at the end of the irrigation season? The snowmelt is long past, and the river is low as it enters the San Luis Valley. And lower yet when it exits the Valley. Diversions at that time of year may leave precious little water in the river downstream of the diversion points. Here is the river in early September of 2011, at the Manassa Bridge, upstream of the Rio Grande Gorge, in Colorado.


Upstream view


Downstream view

What you are seeing here is a tepid little creek, not the “Rio Grande” – although it is the Rio Grande. The flow is somewhere around 25 cubic feet/second (cfs). We waded across and it never got more than knee deep. Leaving so little water in the river at that time of year is standard operating procedure, since required deliveries for the year were made during the preceding winter months of the new year. And, BTW, this is what the river probably looks like right now, at the beginning of July.

So … what about this year, with its probable record low runoff? According to the Denver Post of June 25:  “The main stem of the Rio Grande probably won’t make it out of Colorado to New Mexico this summer, state water authorities calculate, let alone Texas and Mexico.”  They are telling us, in other words, that they are going to let the river dry up where it exits the Valley. Will they, at the same time, be diverting upstream in the Valley? Most certainly. They will be diverting all that remains of the river, every last drop of it. And, they are entitled to do so. They have met their Compact obligations with the deliveries made earlier in the calendar year.

I’m not mad at the farmers up in Colorado. They’re just trying to make a living. What I am mad about is the fact that the river has no right to water. Nowhere in the Rio Grande Compact is it stated that the river will not be allowed to dry up. There is no guarantee of a minimum flow to sustain the fishes, frogs, turtles, herons and riparian ecosystem. To repeat, the river has no right to water.

Fortunately for northern New Mexico, springs in the Rio Grande Gorge will, to some degree or other, replenish the river. Or, at least until they run dry. But that will not help those farther downstream. Not for the first time, the river has run dry in the vicinity of Socorro, upstream of Elephant Butte Reservoir. We are now in uncharted territory, and we’ll all probably be a lot sadder and wiser by the time this summer is over.




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Natural Happenings

The catalpa blooms are now withered, but what a show that tree provided, just days ago. It’s like lots of little orchids.






Our “home water”, looking upstream to the pool below the island. Yesterday evening I stepped into the river, took this photo and then waded upstream to the island.


One of two fat rainbows caught in the island pool. I can’t tell whether this is a “wild” rainbow, or a hold-over stocker. It could be the latter, as the Bosque stretch doesn’t get a lot of fishing pressure.

The cholla cactus is now blooming.


Cholla cactus, in the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument




Rio reflection


Taos Junction Bridge is seen upstream

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Anting the Hatch, 6-5-18

I did not invent this phrase. One minute on Google sufficed to identify the author as Ken Miyata, who wrote an article thus titled in Fly Fisherman Magazine, Volume 13, No. 6, in 1982.

When I returned from the river yesterday evening, and asked my wife Kathy whether we had used this technique before, she said we had, on the Green River below Flaming Gorge Dam. I couldn’t remember, but the reason for the conversation was that I had, that evening, successfully “anted the hatch”.

Here’s how it happened. Two evenings ago I had arrived at a particular pool, to observe fish rising vigorously. It’s been mostly about caddis lately, but I could not interest any rising fish, there or elsewhere, with either a caddis pattern or a yellow drake that’s been around some evenings. I went fishless.


Yesterday evening I returned to that same pool, and fish were again rising. I got a hefty triploid (stocker) rainbow on a good sized EH caddis, to start. And then nothing. I left the pool, and when I returned, fish were rising in the tail-out and I positioned myself so as to be able to cast straight upstream. Then I took out my midge box to look for inspiration. And … in the box were some small ants I hadn’t remembered putting there. I selected a parachute ant, size 20, put it on a 6X tippet, and BINGO! In the photo, you can see the white post of the fly in the net, above the fish’s eye. It’s a long-jawed male of about 15″. I caught nothing further, but this fish pleased me so much that I left with a BIG smile on my face. Rio Grande, near Taos, NM.

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