Rio Grande Wildlife, December 5, 2016

Come winter, I make it a habit to drive slowly up and down the 6-mile length of the Orilla Verde section of the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument. I do this primarily to spot and (attempt to) photograph the wintering bald eagles that arrive in December, but one never knows what other creatures one may encounter along the river.

This eagle occupies a favorite perch, on a hillside across the river from the Rio Bravo campground, in the Orilla Verde section of the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument

This eagle (the first that I have observed so far this winter) occupies a favorite perch, on a hillside across the river from the Rio Bravo campground, in the Orilla Verde section of the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument

Also now arriving are large groups of wintering ducks: lots of goldeneyes, buffleheads, ring-necked, mergansers (both common and hooded), gadwalls and others. I’ve photographed these ducks in past winters and expect to do so again this winter. Stay tuned!

A good number of Canada geese seem to be year-long residents.

Canada geese, in the Orilla Verde section of the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument

Canada geese, in the Orilla Verde section of the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument

This is the first Sharp-shinned hawk that I have ever seen and been able to identify – and photograph. This bird flew to and perched in a roadside cottonwood opposite the Pilar campground.

Sharp-shinned hawk

Sharp-shinned hawk

Sharp-shinned hawk

Sharp-shinned hawk

Re-introduced a few years ago, otters are now well-established, but you never know when and where you might run across them. They can be cautious, but are also curious about human observers. I got a photo of this otter through a screen of willows. When I took a step into the open to get a shot of a group of four, they panicked and dove, stirring up a big cloud of mud. Otters are masters of moving through the water and are forever playing. They “animate” the river like no other creature.

Otter, in the Orilla Verde section of the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument

Otter, in the Orilla Verde section of the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument

Bighorn sheep, also re-introduced to the Rio Grande Gorge, can be encountered along the river, seen on the rocky slopes of the gorge or grazing in the sagebrush on the rim. I’ve seen them a few times on the road that ascends from Taos Junction Bridge to the rim. Here’s a link to a blog post of a group observed on Dec. 5:

Bighorn Sheep Put On a Show, Rio Grande Gorge, NM

These photos and movie were taken over the space of two days, with my newly-acquired P900 Nikon Coolpix Superzoom (83X) camera.

Posted in 2016, Birding, Environment, Nature, Photography | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Bighorn Sheep Put On a Show, Rio Grande Gorge, NM

It was a number of years ago that Bighorn sheep were returned to the Rio Grande Gorge. They have since established themselves, and are now not at all afraid of humans. We pass them grazing the riverside grass on every Taos Box river trip that we operate (New Wave Rafting Co), and elsewhere. One location they frequent is the dirt road seen in the video included in this post, no doubt for the convenience it provides them in moving around in the gorge.

Two Bighorn rams. Both have tips of their horns broken off, while the horns of the ram on the left shows marks from head-butting. Head-butting occurs in the fall mating season, as males compete to see who will get to breed, and who will not.

Two Bighorn rams. Both have tips of their horns broken off, while the horns of the ram on the left shows marks from head-butting. Head-butting occurs in the fall mating season, as males fight to see who will get to breed, and who will not.

The conspicuous white rumps of Bighorn sheep

The conspicuous white rumps of Bighorn sheep

Bighorn ram

Bighorn ram, with the ends of his horns splintered

Young ram side-lit in the evening sun

Side-lit in the evening sun

A group of sheep are side-lit by the evening sun

A group of sheep are side-lit by the evening sun

My Youtube video follows:

Posted in 2016, Environment, Nature, Photography | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Bay Area Shore Birds, 11-16

While Kathy and I were in the Bay Area, visiting our families over the Thanksgiving holiday, my son Ethan and wife Flo presented me with an early X-mas present: a Nikon Coolpix P900 Superzoom camera!

Up till now, I have been using the predecessor of the P900 – the P600, which comes with a 60X optical zoom.  This is a very handy camera, which I have used to great advantage photographing birds. The P900, however, comes with a 83X optical zoom, and other improvements. It’s an outstanding upgrade, and I couldn’t wait to get out and take some photos with it.

The Berkeley Marina is always a good place to spot water birds, and, on this occasion, I saw a green heron and numerous black-crowned night herons, amongst others.

Green heron

Green heron

Green heron

Green heron

Black-crowned night heron

Black-crowned night heron

Black-crowned night heron female

Black-crowned night heron female

Directly to the west of the Marina is the Golden gate Bridge

Directly west of the Marina, and across San Francisco Bay, is the Golden Gate Bridge

A sailboat maneuvers in the Marina, with the UC-Berkeley campus and the Campanile seen in the distance.

A sailboat maneuvers in the Marina, with the UC-Berkeley campus, including the Campanile, seen in the distance.

Another favorite spot is the Alameda shoreline.

Snowy egret

Snowy egret

Snowy egret

Snowy egret

Avocet

Avocet

I am very pleased with my new camera! What do you think?

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Lahontan cutthroat trout, Pyramid Lake, NV – Nov. 19 to 21, 2016

Click on the link if you are not seeing the full post.

Ethan and I got in a long weekend at Pyramid Lake, prior to the Thanksgiving holiday. We again stayed at Crosby’s, in Sutcliffe, which is about as convenient as it gets, the lodge being located only a few minutes away from the South Nets beach!

Crosby's

Crosby’s

We could not resist starting the day at South Nets, where, on our prior trip, I caught my biggest fish yet – about 10 lbs.

The first morning. Suiting up at South Nets

Our rented AWD Subaru Forester. You can get in trouble with a two-wheel drive vehicle on the sandy beaches of the lake. If you do get stuck, call the number shown below.

If you get stuck while on the "rez" (the lake is on the Pyramid Lake Paiute reservation), call Rez-cue.

If you get stuck on the “rez” (the lake is on the Pyramid Lake Paiute reservation), call Rez-cue.

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Ethan is stoked!

Here's my two-handed 9 wt. rod, which I found on sale at Cabela's in Reno, a few years before. Ethan is using a 7-piece Orvis 9 wt.

My two-handed 9 wt. rod, which I just happened to find on sale at Cabela’s in Reno, a few years ago. Ethan is using a 7-piece Orvis 9 wt. The “pyramid”, for which the lake is named, is seen across the lake.

Beach and lake at South Nets

Beach and lake at South Nets. The pyramid is seen straight across the lake.

Ethan, at South Nets

Ethan, at South Nets, with a regular-size (yes, that’s correct!) cutthroat

A typical Pyramid lake cutthroat

Another regular-size Pyramid Lake cutthroat. The thing seen in the water behind me is a temporarily vacated step-ladder. Many Pyramid Lake aficionados use such ladders or portable platforms equipped with seats.

I caught all my fish on either “woolies”, or foam beetles trailed behind the woolie. A woolie is a Wooly Worm, tied very bushy. The classic pattern is black, with a short red tail, tied on a 3x streamer hook, in sizes around 6 to 8. I leave the fly unweighted, since I use an Orvis Depth Charge line to get it down. Wooly Buggers, weighted or unweighted, also work well. I use a stripping basket, but most other fishermen don’t.

Ethan's wife, Flo, bought him this thjermos for the trip. Ethan added the Irish Cream

Ethan’s wife, Flo, bought him this extra-large thermos for the trip. Ethan added the Irish Cream.

Later in the morning we switched to another favorite spot - Monument

Later in the morning we switched to another favorite spot, located close to the north end of the lake – Monument Beach. A cluster of tufa pinnacles is seen at the head of the lake. Tufa is a calcium carbonate rock precipitated from the lake water. See below for a video of Monument Beach.

Coffee and danish!

Coffee break at Monument – coffee with Irish Cream and danish!

A windstorm blew up in the afternoon

A windstorm blew up in the afternoon. The greenish water shows that the drop-off is close by.

Telephoto shot of a tufa pinnacle, with the background obscured by blowing dust

Telephoto shot of a tufa pinnacle, with the background obscured by blowing dust

The wind drove us off the lake in mid-afternoon. Back to Crosby’s.

The two-sided bar

The two-sided bar

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View to the lake

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Big fish (and big boobs)

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Unit #1

Bed-spread

Bed-spread

Is there such a thing as too much Irish Cream?

Is there such a thing as too much Irish Cream (or Jameson’s Irish Whiskey)?

We returned to Monument the following day. It was colder than the day before.

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Brrrr!

Ethan, with another typically-sized cutthroat

Ethan, with another typical cutthroat. Note the fresh snow in the mountains beyond.

Ethan's two rods

Ethan’s two rods. The rod on the right, a TFO Mangrove series 6 wt, is rigged with a strike indicator. A  woolie or leech, trailed by a foam beetle or nymph, is suspended at an appropriate depth below the indicator. The bobbing of the indicator animates the flies. Ethan had luck with a black Maholo nymph. The Maholo, in a variety of colors, is a local favorite that looks pretty much like a Pheasant Tail, but uses holographic tinsel for the abdomen.

The wind came up again in the afternoon, and we went in search of more-protected shorelines. We went first to Warrior Point, which was calm for awhile, and caught one fish there. Then we continued south to the appropriately named Windless Bay, and caught another fish there.

Windless Bay

Windless Bay

Then the sun set, and it was back to Crosby’s. It being Saturday night, Crosby’s served a very nice Tri-tip dinner, followed by a DJ playing country tunes. As we left, the crowd of locals were having a good ole time line dancing. Folks were dressed up western-style, of course, and it was quite a scene – and of the sort I rarely get that close to. But, being sufficiently liquored-up (see below photo), I enjoyed it a whole lot.

Saturday night dinner, in the company of other fishermen.

Saturday night dinner, in the company of other fishermen.

Pyramid Lake saved the best for last. We returned to South Nets for our final half-day of fishing. The weather was still unsettled, making for nice atmospherics.

Looking across the lake

Looking across the lake

Ethan and God beams

Ethan and God beams

God beams, closer view

God beams, closer view

And then it happened! I got a hard pull and immediately felt the weight and power of the fish as he started to empty the spool. But I was using 16 lb fluorocarbon tippet, and could put sufficient pressure on the fish to turn him back. He took a black woolie that I had tied for this trip.

The big one!

The big one!

The big one!

The big one!

The big one!

The big one!

Wanting to return this magnificent creature to the water sooner rather than later, I decided to forgo the rigamarole of trying to weigh and measure the fish, and, after taking these photos, was gratified to see him swim away. So how big was he? I’ll never know for sure, and your guess is as good as mine. Somewhere between 15 – 20 lbs, I’d guess.

It goes without saying that the chance to connect with a wild trout of this size is what keeps fishermen coming back to Pyramid Lake. Beyond that is the sheer beauty of this natural lake and the hospitality of the Paiute Tribe and the local merchants. Though we were obliged to drive through a snowstorm on Donner summit, Ethan and I  were back in Berkeley in 3 hrs and 45 minutes.

Finally, all but 2 of the photos seen here were taken by Ethan, with his new double-lens iPhone.

Here are links to my prior posts on fishing at Pyramid Lake.

Pyramid Lake, Dec 2015

Pyramid Lake, NV. Apr. 17-19, 2015

Pyramid Lake, Nevada – Dec. 20 – 22, 2014

Road Trip, Part 8 – The East Walker River and Pyramid Lake, NV, Sept. 30-Oct. 5/14

 

Posted in 2016, Fishing, Nature, Personal history, Photography | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Southwest Airlines Flight, Oakland to Albuquerque, 11-30-16

The following photos were taken with a brand-new Nikon Coolpix P900 Superzoom (83X) camera, that my son Ethan gave me as an early Christmas present. If you are not seeing the full post, click on the link. 

Shortly after take-off, the plane banks to the east, over Oakland

Shortly after take-off, the plane banks to the east, over Oakland

19 minutes later, we are over Yosemite National Park, and looking down at Cloud Rest Pk., which sits at the upper end of Yosemite Valley.

19 minutes later we are over Yosemite National Park, and looking southwest at the very broad face of Clouds Rest Pk., which sits at the upper end of Yosemite Valley.

Here we're looking south at the Dana Meadows area and Tioga Pass.

Here we’re looking south at the Dana Meadows area and Tioga Pass.

This is the same photo as prior, with place names added

This is the same photo as above, with place names added

A longer telephoto view to the south, of much of the the Sierras, with Mammoth Mountain ski area seen at bottom right.

A longer telephoto view to the south, of much of the the Sierras, with Mammoth Mountain ski area seen at bottom right.

Looking south over Mono Lake

Looking south over Mono Lake, the east slope of the Sierras and Owens Valley

Looking south and a little east, over the White Mountains, with Death Valley in the distance

3 minutes later, looking south and a little east, over the White Mountains, with Death Valley in the distance

A few minutes later we pass over the Crescent Dunes Soiar generating plant, in Nevada

7 minutes later we pass over the Crescent Dunes solar generating plant, in Nevada

32 minutes later we are over Utah, looking down at a double hogback to the west of Lake Powell

32 minutes later we are over Utah, looking down at a double hogback located to the west of Lake Powell

3 minutes later, I spot the smokestacks of the Navajo Generating plant, and Lake Powell

3 minutes later, I spot the smokestacks of the Navajo generating plant, near Page, AZ, and Lake Powell

We pass over Lake Powell at Mile 30, at the entrance to West Canyon

We pass over Lake Powell at Mile 30, at the entrance to West Canyon (top)

And 2 minutes later we pass over Navajo Mountain, on the Navajo Reservation just west of Lake Powell

And 2 minutes later we pass over Navajo Mountain, on the Navajo Reservation just east of Lake Powell

It was cloudy the rest of the way.

Posted in 2016, Photography, SWA Flights-photography, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks

Kathy and I visited Sequoia National Park in 2007. We visited again this Fall (9-16), and added a visit to the adjacent Kings Canyon National Park.

We first drove the long, narrow and windy road to Mineral King, which neither of us had visited before.

The river below the bridge

The river and gorge below the bridge, early in the drive

Our campsite in Mineral King

Camping in Mineral King

We hiked about a mile up the valley from road’s end.

I believe this to be a ridge of Empire Mountain

I believe this to be a ridge of Empire Mountain, above the valley to the east

Red fir

Red fir

Sierra Juniper

Sierra juniper

Unknown tree

Since it's very difficult to show the size of a sequoia in a photo, I've included the here the van, to provide scale

Since it’s very difficult to convey the size of a sequoia in a photo, I’ve included the van, to provide scale

We returned to the paved road (The Generals Highway) and then drove uphill towards the main portion of Sequoia. The photo below is a 60X zoom, shot from a point on the road 3.5 air miles away from the subject, Castle Rock Spire.

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Castle Rock Spire

Fabulous granite, and then sequoias – what a place! The following five photos are from 2007.

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General Sherman Tree

General Sherman Tree

General Sherman Tree, 2007

General Sherman Tree

Sequoia, 2007

The following photos are from Sept. 2016.

Dogwood

Dogwood, in a shaded forest floor

Dogwood

Dogwood detail

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A mature sequoia and a young sequoia

Young sequoia grows beside a mature sequoia

Twin-trunked sequoia

Twin-trunked sequoia

Sequoia

General Grant Tree

Cabin

Cabin

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Row of sequoias at the margin of the parking lot

Next, we drove north into the adjoining Kings Canyon National Park.

Elderberries

Elderberries

Descending to the South Fork of the Kings River

Descending to the South Fork of the Kings River, and Spanish Mountain

Gorge on the South Fork

Gorge on the South Fork

Rock face in the gorge

Rock face in the gorge

Along the way into Kings Canyon, a granite peak

Granite peak

The South Fork of the Kings River, on the way into the canyon

The South Fork of the Kings River

We camped amongst large incense cedars, and then took a hike upstream on the South Fork of the Kings River.

South Fork, at the bridge

South Fork, at the bridge where Bubbs Creek enters

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At the bridge, looking downstream

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Reflections on a stream-side boulder

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Willows line the banks of the South Fork

Tree trunk and cliffs

Tree trunk and cliffs

Sugar pine

Sugar pine

Granite peak

Granite peak, on the south side of the valley

Glacial polish on a granite wall

Glacial polish on a granite wall, north side of the valley

Kathy loves the big trees of the Sierras. This is probably a ponderosa pine.

Kathy loves the big trees of the Sierras. This is a ponderosa pine, which doesn’t grow near this big in the Rockies.

We drove back uphill to the General’s Highway and then descended towards Fresno. We were now on our way east – to Arizona and our 9-17-16 launch on the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. Here’s the link to the first (of three) posts on that trip:

The Colorado River in the Grand Canyon, Fall 2016 – #1

p.s. My earliest visits to these National Parks took place in the 60s, on skis. Here is the link to those outings:

Sierra Ski Tours – mid 60s

Posted in 2000s, 2016, Hut skiing, Nature, Personal history, Photography, Rock climbing, Ski touring | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

On the Beach – Carpinteria State Beach, CA, 9-16

Other than small surf and a gently-sloping bottom, making the beach especially nice for families with small kids, the most interesting  feature of the State Beach is the tar pits (actually seeps).

“The Carpinteria Tar Pits are located in the southeastern extremity of Santa Barbara County … in the town of Carpinteria. The area is a designated park, the Tar Pits Park, and lies within the Carpinteria State Beach … Most of the tar pits are located along a short stretch directly on the beach and generate from the underlying Carpinteria Offshore Oil Field … It is unknown when the Carpinteria Tar Pits were discovered, they have been known for a long time by the local Native American Chumash people who mined the asphalt and used it as a sealant for waterproofing their tomols (plank-built boats) and other utilities … The area was named “La carpinteria” (carpentry) on August 17, 1769, by a Spanish expedition under explorer Gaspar de Portolà. Starting around 1915 the tar pits were mined and the asphalt was used for building the coastal highway.” (Wikipedia)

The one rocky section of the beach

The one rocky section of the beach, next to the tar pits

The one rocky section of the beach

The one rocky section of the beach, next to the tar pits

Oozing tar. This and following 6 photos

Oozing tar. This and following 5 photos

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A variety of water birds.

Immature California gull

Immature California gull

Marbled godwit

Marbled godwit

Royal tern

Royal tern

Whimbrel

Whimbrel

Willet

Willet

The abundant kelp helps keep the surf down. The kelp is not a plant but a member of the “Protista”, and doesn’t root to the bottom. Rather, it creates “holdfasts”,  attaching most often to rocks.

Kelp

Kelp and its holdfast

Holdfast. Photo taken in 2013

Holdfast. Photo taken in 2013

 

Posted in 2016, Birding, Environment, Nature, Photography | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment