Big Day for Wildlife

Yesterday (2-25-19) was a big day for wildlife viewing in the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument, in northern New Mexico. Shucks, it’s only a National Monument, but has populations of wildlife that rival National Parks. And this is especially so in the winter, when a variety of northern ducks and bald eagles arrive at the generally ice-free waters of the Rio Grande to winter.

In less than an hour’s time, I was able to observe and photograph the creatures that follow. This first movie is of a pair of mallards feeding on midges that have been caught up in foam.

Not over two miles upstream, I spotted a group of bighorn ewes and young, part way up the slope on the far side of the river.

After filming this group of sheep, I looked back down at the river, and saw a long cylindrical shape in the water, which was, of course, an otter. I was seated in my van, using it as a blind, and the otter was about 160′ away (measured with Google Earth), so it was not alarmed. It swam leisurely up and down along the shoreline for a few minutes, before climbing out of the river.

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Otter

A few minutes later, I filmed this group of ducks from an elevated pull-out. All but two of the ducks are goldeneyes. The two ducks closest to shore, with more pointy heads, are ring-necks. And a female mallard passes through the group.

Bald eagle on basalt boulder

Bald eagle

My last sighting was this bald eagle, which circled above me and landed on a basalt boulder. I then returned downstream to a pool where, yesterday, I caught a hefty rainbow trout that was rising to midges. But there were no risers there, and I caught nothing. Did I go home disappointed? Not a chance! Catching something would have been only the sprinkles on the icing on the cake. The Rio Grande had again provided precious moments of being with wildlife.

p.s. while the wintering birds arrive on their own, the bighorns and otters have been returned to the Rio Grande via very successful stocking efforts.

 

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Civics Lesson

You know who I’m talking about, when I say that he is giving us a great lesson in civics. Yes, I’m talking about the President of the United States of America. He heads the Executive Branch. Many Americans may think that that is the only branch that matters. But, for those of us who already took civics in high school – and remember it – we know that there are those two other branches, which are understood to be “co-equal” branches. Co-equal means that they possess power equal to that of the Executive Branch and each other. This is known as the “separation of powers”. It is this separation of powers that provides what is known as “checks and balances”. Those other two branches are Congress and the Judiciary.

Congress is, at the moment, attempting to check the power of the President, by issuing subpoenas to individuals and departments of the Executive Branch. A subpoena is the way in which Congress is empowered to force those that they are investigating to take some action, such as deliver the President’s tax returns, testify before Congress and so on. A committee of Congress has issued subpoenas because they have reason to believe that the President has committed crimes. The “reason to believe” was supplied by the still-incompletely delivered Mueller Report, which provides evidence of obstruction of justice by the President … and perhaps other crimes, up to and including treason. This activity is known as “oversight” – that Congress is charged with looking into the activities of the Executive Branch, to ensure the legality of its actions.

But the President has ordered that no one or department in the Executive Branch may respond to the Congressional subpoenas that have and continue to be issued, including one to his former lawyer who is no longer a government employee (!). This is an action without precedent in our history. Resolution of this stand-off now goes to that third branch of government, the Judiciary (aka the Courts). The matter(s) will be decided by a judge (or judges), who determine what the law requires and who issue a court order (s) to obtain compliance.

Yesterday, a judge found in favor of Congress, and ordered the President’s accounting firm to hand over Trump financial records. Will they do it? What if they don’t? They, the accounting firm, would then be liable to penalties. And the President’s former lawyer, Don McGahn, is also (I’m assuming) liable to penalties, since he was acting as a private citizen when, yesterday, he failed to comply with a subpoena to testify.

Federal court orders are enforced by federal law enforcement personnel i.e federal marshals. But, since such personnel are employees of the Justice Department, which is a part of the Executive Branch, the President could, conceivably, order federal marshals not to comply with orders from the Judiciary to enforce a court order. What then? Will it come to that?

I am not at all sanguine about the willingness of the President to obey court orders, now or later. His other former lawyer, Michael Cohen, ended his testimony before Congress by stating that he believed that the President would not yield office if he lost the 2020 election. I believe that the evidence shows that the President wishes to take full control of the federal government i.e. that he wishes to become a dictator in the manner of Putin or any of the other autocratic leaders he so admires.

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The Donald Chronicles, #49

The Donald Chronicles, #49

The water is deepening around us. “The Donald”, a derisive term coined to poke fun at the ludicrous figure he once was, may no longer best describe him. No one is laughing now, as his intentions become crystal-clear. He intends to assume total control of the federal government. He intends to become a dictator.

He has refused to allow anyone in his administration (or former members of his administration) and his family to respond to subpoenas from Congress. This is a tactic employed to see what he can get away with, how far he can go. If he succeeds in this effort his ascent to total power may be unstoppable.

If and when this comes to pass there will be no revolution. It will be a repeat, or near repeat, of Nazi Germany, with the masses cheering him on. He will distribute brown shirts,  insignias and automatic weapons to his most ardent supporters, who will then spread out across this country in the hunt for dissenters. That would be me.

This is unthinkable, and, at this pass, I can only hope that there are persons in our government and military that are meeting and coming up with plans to prevent Trump from seizing absolute power.

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The Donald Chronicles, #48

I begin again with “The Donald Chronicles”. I wrote 47 posts on the subject of Donald Trump in the period of time that immediately followed his taking office – January 20 to May 7, 2017. Then I ran out of steam on the topic. But now that this Hitler wannabe says he wants six years in office, I’m steamed up enough to re-enter the blogosphere.

This is it. DT has forbidden everyone now or formerly in his administration from testifying before the House Judiciary Committee, and will not let his stooge, Barr, hand over the complete Mueller Report. Push is about to come to shove. The House Committee will recommend charging Barr with contempt of Congress, and the full House will likely go along. What then?

A couple of nights ago, Rachel Maddow assured her listeners that our country has been through this before, with Nixon. Since Nixon lost the Presidency, her assumption is that the same will hold true for Trump. But I’m not re-assured. I don’t recall Nixon having a Republican Party so committed to enabling the President’s criminality, as is the case with Trump.

Why is this? It’s because they are ALL on the take. They ALL have their pockets stuffed with Russian and other shady money. ALL of our Republican legislators are compromised. A very enlightening essay that appeared in the March edition of The Atlantic magazine goes a long ways towards explaining where much of the money in politics comes from. By staff writer Franklin Foer, it is entitled: “How Kleptocracy Came to America”. Here is the link: https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2019/03/how-kleptocracy-came-to-america/580471/

I am not calling wolf when I say that our democracy now hangs in the balance. I cannot abide a Trump dictatorship. Can you? Trump and his toadies must be stopped!

 

 

 

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Visit to Joel Miller and Family, Vermont and Connecticut. April 4 – 17, 2019

I recently visited my brother Joel, who lives in Middlebury, Vermont, along with his son Peter and family (who live in Middlebury, as well) and another of his sons, Matt, and family, who live in Westport, Connecticut. Here are some scenes from that visit.

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Airport on the way, with two men looking at their phones

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Joel, at coffee shop in Middlebury

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Sign at breakfast place

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Bridge over Lake Champlain, from the New York side

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Joel, at Champlain monument, New York side

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Fred, at dinner at Waybury Inn, Middlebury

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Skylight, at Joel’s house

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Strawberries, at Joel’s house

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Joel, at breakfast

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The Middlebury River, Ripton

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The Middlebury River, Ripton

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Dead birch leaves, Ripton

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MIddlebury College Ski Bowl, the day after it closed for the season

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The Long Trail crosses the MIddlebury Gap

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At the Robert Frost picnic area

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At the Robert Frost picnic area, lichen on a tree that is wet on one side

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Ice flow, on the Appalachian Gap

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Mad River Glen Ski Area, Waitsfield, on the other side of the “App Gap”

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Jane and Peter, at Lawson’s Brewery, in Waitsfield

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At the Worthy Burger, in Waitsfield

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Okemo Ski Area and the Black River

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Okemo Ski Area, Ludlow

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Moss on a tree trunk, along the trail to the Falls of Lana, near Lake Dunmore

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Falls of Lana

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Falls of Lana

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Falls of Lana

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Falls of Lana

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Middlebury Falls, very high water

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Middlebury Falls

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Middlebury Falls

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Foam in an eddy below Middlebury Falls

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Middlebury, from the footbridge below Middlebury Falls

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Joel, on the footbridge below Middlebury Falls

The trip to see the Matt Miller family, in Westport, CT.

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Birdseye Diner, Castleton

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Birdseye Diner, Castleton

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Birdseye Diner, Castleton

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Fog on the beach at Westport, CT

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Fog on the beach at Westport, CT

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Alex and Nicholas Miller, after a volleyball game

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Paige and Nicholas(?)

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Penny and Matt

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All of us

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Pepper still life, at the Miller home

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Shoes, at the Miller home

PhiloFarmMe

The author of “www.believesteve.org”, at the Philo Ridge Farm, by Joel Miller

 

 

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Snowy Trees, Apr. 1, 2019

In Embudo, at 6000′ elevation, last night’s snow melted where it fell on the ground, but remained overnight on trees and bushes. This is what it looked like this morning, at around 8 AM. Then, it was gone by mid-morning.

The first photo is of the hill to the north, and across the river from our place in La Bolsa (the bag or pocket, in English). La Bolsa is the name of our particular section of Embudo, which lies to the east of Barranco Blanco, the eroded dirt hill that one passes close to on Hwy 68, near the junction with Hwy 75. The hill seen in this photo is a toreva block, which is a hunk of former gorge rim that has slid down to its present location, and rotated backwards as it slid. The cliff seen at the top of the hill is the former rim. Behind that cliff, on the backside of the hill, is the tilted former mesa top.

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Snow-covered trees contrast with the uncovered ground. Toreva block on the northside of the Rio Grande, in La Bolsa

The second and third photos are of the hill directly across Hwy 68 from our place (to the south). Here the snow-covered trees are strongly side-lit. The first photo is “straight” (not post-processed), whereas the second photo has been processed in Topaz Simplify, a Photoshop plug-in that renders the image as a watercolor painting. I present this version because I think that the straight image is particularly harsh. But, hey, that’s me.

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Snow-covered trees contrast with the uncovered ground. Hill to the south.

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Snow-covered trees contrast with the uncovered ground. Hill to the south.

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Southwest Airlines, Oakland to Albuquerque, 1-31-19

The aerial photos in this collection were taken by Kathy Miller. On this west to east flight, Kathy was seated on the south-facing side of the plane, thus looking out to the south. The initial photo of the series is of Mono Lake and the Sierra Nevada Mountains, California. Kathy found nothing of interest to photograph in Nevada and started again after crossing into Utah. She then photographed some of the best scenery in the southwestern United States, all of which is shown in the included Google Earth map.

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Mono Lake lies to the east of Yosemite National Park, in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California

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This map is oriented with the south at the top of the map, to align with the views seen in the photographs, which were taken looking to the south. The yellow line approximates the flight path, which was over southern Utah, with views to the Utah/Arizona state line and beyond into Arizona.

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A hogback known as the Cockscomb runs north to south and bisects the bottom of the photo. It is cut through by the Paria River just above the center of the photo. The Paria River then flows eastward to form the Paria Canyon, which is seen at the left edge of the photo. The Cockscomb then continues south to Coyote Buttes, which is illuminated by the sun. Coyote Buttes contains the famous rock feature known as The Wave.

Much of what is seen in the above photo was contained in the original Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. I say “original” because the current administration took an axe to Grand Staircase (along with Bears Ears National Monument). The administration, in other words, severely reduced the size of these two National Monuments … but we hope the courts will reverse this action.

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Two minutes flying time to the east reveals Marble Canyon at upper left, and the snow-covered Kaibab Plateau at upper right. Marble Canyon is the initial stretch of the Grand Canyon, and the Kaibab Plateau makes up the elevated north rim of the Grand Canyon. The entire Paria Canyon can be seen, along with more of Grand Staircase.

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One minute later the lower-most portion of Lake Powell comes into view. Paria Canyon is seen where it joins the canyon of the Colorado River, at a point 15 miles downstream from Glen Canyon Dam. The Grand Canyon begins here, at a place known as Lees Ferry.

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Another minute of flight time brings Gooseneck Point into view

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Less than an additional minute of flight time brings us to Dangling Rope Marina

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One more minute up the lake brings twin smoke plumes from the Four Corners Power plant into view. In middle distance is Cathedral Butte, and at the bottom of the photo is snow-covered Bull Ridge, which is the southern extremity of Fiftymile Mountain. This “mountain” is actually the 33-mile long eastern edge of the vast Kaiparowits Plateau, which is bounded on the west by the Cockscomb, and is at the heart of the original Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Fiftymile Mountain is directly uphill of and parallels the Escalante River – the other major part of the National Monument. See bonus feature below.

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Fiftymile Mountain, from the trailhead to Coyote Gulch, a tributary of the Escalante River

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In another minute we are looking down at Navajo Mountain and Rainbow Bridge Canyon, which are located on the eastern side of Lake Powell. At this point, the plane is flying more or less over the confluence of the San Juan River with the Colorado River (although the confluence is underwater).

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Two more minutes brings us into a fairly remote region, with the San Juan River more or less under the plane

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Another minute to the east brings us into the area of Navajo National Monument, known for its cliff dwellings

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And another minute provides a view of Black Mesa and Kayenta. Monument Valley is directly under the plane.

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And five minutes later, this last photo shows Chinle Creek, which flows northward from Canon de Chelley National Monument, and the Peabody Coal Mine atop Black Mesa. This open pit coal mine supplies the Four Corners power plant via a private rail line that figures prominently in Edward Abbey’s immortal book: “The Monkey Wrench Gang”. See bonus feature next.

Monkey Wrench Gang

 

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