Rio Grande Bighorns

In the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument, NM State Rd 567 climbs from Taos Junction Bridge, where it spans the Rio Grande, to the rim of the Rio Grande Gorge. At this time of the year, a bighorn herd is often to be found somewhere along the upper end of that dirt road, and most usually in the vicinity of the hairpin turn that is situated close to the gorge rim (see Google Earth map below). Thus, these bighorns sees lots of cars and people, and are very tolerant of close approach. Why do they choose to hang out here? That’s anyone’s guess.

Google Earth map of Taos Junction Bridge area

Bighorn rams, with the Rio Grande beyond (top center)

Young bighorn ram

Bighorn lamb

The hairpin turn, upstream view looking northeast at the gorge and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains

Downstream view from the hairpin turn, looking southeast. The river is visible to the right of center, with the Picuris Mountains on the horizon.

The Rio Grande Gorge High Bridge, by evening light. View to the northeast.

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The Rio Grande in Rocks

Just downstream of Taos Junction Rapid, on the Rio Grande of northern New Mexico, is a group of basalt rocks that, at high water, are vigorously washed by strong currents. The sediment carried by the high water sculpts and polishes these rocks. To my eye, the sculpting of the rocks model the river’s waves, while the polish on the rocks model the river’s gleam. Rio Grande del Norte National Monument, New Mexico.

 

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On Aging

I will be 78 next month. Although the advance of aging differs considerably from person to person, I now consider myself to be “old”. How does it feel to be old? For me, it’s not at all pleasant. Every day, instead of discovering new abilities and new things in the world, I discover what it is that I am no longer capable of. The world of possibilities shrinks around me.

Is it possible to reconcile oneself to this? Well … it is. But it requires that one identifies completely with the fundamental purpose of life. And what is that fundamental purpose? All living things share one and only one purpose, and that purpose is to prolong one’s life to the point that you have passed your genetic material into offspring. An ancillary purpose that one sees in some organisms (like us) is to provide support to those offspring and, if possible, their offspring. That’s it. The purpose of life is the continuation of itself.  There is no “higher” purpose.

How did this come to be? In an otherwise purposeless universe, a particular organization of matter appeared that was somehow capable of maintaining itself against the forces of disorganization. It persisted. And the subsequent evolution of life is the story of how new forms of persistence (i.e. species) appeared over time, leading right up to this moment. The key innovation of evolution was, of course, reproduction – the placing of your genetic material into new vehicles.

That’s the broad view. Back to the narrow concerns of individuals. We humans, along with all other organisms, are driven to reproduce. We approach sexual maturity and become horny. We fall in love … or just have sex. Whether by choice or not, we have children. Some of us put more, and some less, effort into rearing those children. Some of us even contribute to the support of our childrens’ children. No matter how exactly one pursues the path of reproduction, reproduction remains the sole purpose of life.

I have fathered a child, which child has fathered three children, and those three children have now gained sexual maturity.  I find, therefore, that my job is almost over. My sole remaining duty is to assist my wife in contributing to the well-being of her child and grandchildren, although they are not related to me. Now, supporting my wife’s reproductive success is the greatest service I can provide to her, as she provided to me. My job will truly be done when those children make it safely to sexual maturity (well … there’s just one more thing I will need to do. I will need soon to get out of the way of my descendants, by ending the expenditure of family resources tied up in keeping me alive. I will need to die. And, of course, my dying has begun, as the aging process renders me increasingly more vulnerable to accident and disease. Aging is an invitation to dying.)

Does this way of looking at things then reconcile me to aging and the approach of death? Well … if it doesn’t, nothing else will. No worldly thing can substitute for it. And what of those who have remained childless? They have the opportunity to assist their siblings, with whom they share genes. They can be loving and loved aunts and uncles, and improve the odds in favor of their nieces and nephews. And of those childless individuals who lack relations?  They can, as a friend pointed out, be of service to the family of humanity and our only home, the Earth.

So, am I reconciled? I am reconciled and will complain no more.

 

 

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Southwest Airlines Aerial Views, 12-19-17 and 12-26-17

After visiting the West Coast earlier in the month, Kathy and I returned to the San Francisco Bay Area for the Holidays. The round-trip flights on this occasion provided lots of photographic opportunities. For the the Albuquerque to Oakland flight we took window seats on the side of the plane that would face north, knowing that the plane would pass immediately to the south of the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.

View of Albuquerque from the west

13 volcanic necks just east of Mt. Taylor

The eastern part of the Grand Canyon, with the South Rim visible at bottom

A wider angle view of the same area as above

View further to the west than the above photos

A wider angle view

Clouds and a greater distance from the plane precluded getting photographs of the central portion of the Canyon.

The Whitmore lava flow

A little further to the west from the above photo

Parashant Wash

The Spencer Towers are a major landmark in the lower canyon

Beyond the Grand Canyon, the Cockscomb is a major landmark

The Colorado River enters Lake Mead. The river’s current ceases at the point where the brown water meets the blue water. This landmark has been moving down-lake for quite some time now, as the the surface elevation of Lake Mead continues to drop as a consequence of diminished inflow.

Over the Sierra, with Union Valley Reservoir to the left.

New Melones Reservoir, in the Sierra foothills

Tracy (CA), in the Central Valley. Rts. 580 and 205 converge on upper left.

Altamont wind turbines, and Rt. 580

Livermore

We again occupied window seats on the north-facing side of the plane for the return flight. The route of this flight is to the north of the westbound flight.

These wind turbines are found just to the north of the Sacramento River, in the area of the Sacramento/San Joaquin delta.

Lake Tahoe

Spicer Meadow Reservoir and Bear Valley Resort

Sonora and Stanislaus peaks

Looking straight down at the crest of Leavitt Pk.

On the eastern side of the Sierras – Topaz Lake, on the West Walker River.

Wheeler Mountain is located to the north of Bridgeport, CA

The East Walker River, NV, downstream of Bridgeport Reservoir. Kathy and I have fished this stretch, known as Rosachi Ranch. Our campsite is marked with an “X”.

Walker Lake and Hawthorne, NV

The Toiyabe Range

Clouds then obscured the view for the remainder of the flight.

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Albany, CA, Dec. 2017

Terrace Park

Peralta Street

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Shoreline Birds – Alameda, California, Dec. 2017

This Holiday season, Kathy and I visited our two families that reside in the San Francisco Bay Area. Kathy’s daughter Laina and family live in Alameda, only a few minutes walk from the bay shore. This provides a shoreline birding walk that’s hard to beat, and readers of this blog will have seen many prior posts dedicated to the birds seen on these walks. The birds seen this December were no disappointment. All the photos that follow were taken with my superzoom (83X!) Nikon Coolpix P900.

Avocets

Black Phoebe

Black-necked Stilt

Buffleheads

Coots

Cormorants

Curlews

Greater Yellowlegs

Look at that fabulous plumage on the back of the bird!

Hermit Thrush

Marbled Godwits and others

Pintail Ducks

Seen to the right of the pintails are a shoveler and widgeon, with coots behind.

Ruddy Duck

Female

Rufous-capped Sparrow

Sandpipers

Snowy Egret

Solitary Sandpiper

Western Bluebird

Whimbrel

Widgeons

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Behind the bird is seen San Francisco’s newest, highest, skyscraper – Salesforce Tower, 1,070′ tall

Alameda shoreline

The southeast Alameda shoreline, looking towards San Francisco. Bay Farm Island (left) is located across the channel that leads to San Leandro Bay.

The accompaniment in the following video was provided free of charge by a saxophonist seated a few feet behind me on the bird watching platform.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Southwest Airlines Aerial Views, 12-8-17

On Nov. 30 of this year, Kathy and I flew from Albuquerque, NM to Reno, NV, to attend the America Outdoors Association Marketing and Management Conference, but conditions didn’t permit photography on the way there. We returned to Albuquerque on Dec. 12, being routed first from Reno to Oakland, and were on the south-facing side of the plane for that flight.

1. SpicerMeadowRes.ViewEastDSCN1539

View to the south as we flew westerly over the Sierras. Spicer Meadow Reservoir is just below, and Mono Lake is seen in the distance.

2. MonoLakeViewDSCN1538

Telephoto view to the south and east, with Mono Lake to the left. The mountain to the right may be Mt. Conness. We are passing over the northern part of Yosemite NP.

4. HalfDomeDSCN1543

Telephoto view to the south, showing the formations found at the head of Yosemite Valley

Our return from Oakland first went back over the Sierras, with our seats on the north-facing side of the plane.

4.1 LakeTahoeDSCN1555

View to the north, of Lake Tahoe

Continuing to fly east, we pass over a section of the Pacific Crest trail

To the east of the Sierras, we pass over Wheeler Peak, which is located to the north of Bridgeport, CA

We then began the crossing of Nevada.

Walker Lake, in upper left, the town of Hawthorne and the Hawthorne Army Depot, NV

Long shadows of peaks to the west are cast over the munitions storage facilities of the Hawthorne Army Depot

Solar collector assembly and Luning, NV

Chevron hills east of Luning, NV

Round Mountain open pit gold mine

As we began to pass over Utah, the coming of dark made further photography impossible.

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