Fall Along the Rio Grande – Bighorns, Beavers, Brown Trout, Birds and Beautiful Days

Fall Along the Rio Grande (2017) – Bighorns, Beavers, Brown Trout, Birds and Beautiful Days

Bighorn sheep

The Bighorn sheep herd that spent considerable time in the Orilla Verde (OV) section of the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument was the most notable local nature event of this fall. They came to graze the tasty roadside grass that had grown up following the monsoon rains, and their presence along the road was also connected to (or just coincided with) their annual rut.

Bighorn grazes the roadside grass. Yum!

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Ewes and young

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Opposite Petaca Campground (CG)

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Two rams in the Petaca CG

The Bighorns were not in the least bothered by the proximity of cars and people, just as their cousins in the Taos Box section of the Rio Grande Gorge are not bothered by the proximity of rafts and people.

Bighorn ram

We were also able to watch the rams head-butting and mounting ewes.

Bighorn ram guards ovulating ewe from other ram (with more rams close by)

The following clip shows a ram coming down from above for the purpose of inspecting a ewe. The inspection is to determine the ovulatory status of a ewe. As he approaches, he adopts the characteristic head down/nose up posture. This posture is seen again in the photo that follows.

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In this clip, the ewe urinates in response to the male’s inspection.

The above clip shows more of the male inspecting behavior.

What a good-looking guy!

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I took the above three photos on November 16, as a small group of bighorns strolled along the river side of the road.

Beavers

Beavers are not normally nocturnal animals, but become so when they are around people. This means that when I fish into the evening I’m likely to see them appear, and sometimes they get quite close. In the above clip, another beaver had preceded the one seen here onto the shore, and was munching on the bark of a willow cutting, which can be heard in the first few seconds of the clip. The second beaver (seen here) hesitated for a few seconds, and then headed upstream to another pull-out.

New beaver den being excavated, OV

Brown trout

Speaking of fishing, the water clarity and lower water levels of the fall season usually make for good fishing. Brown trout are my preferred quarry, and they are fall spawners. This makes the males more colorful than usual, and more aggressive on the bite.

Brown trout, OV

Brown trout caught on a very crazy grasshopper imitation, OV

Todd Emerson, OV

The fall fishing season lasted until November 17, when the water level suddenly jumped up from 425 to 625 cfs., an increase of approximately 50%. This was the result, I was told, of the seasonal end of irrigation diversions in the upstream San Luis Valley. This event definitely put the fish “off the bite”, which was confirmed by myself and Todd Emerson, when we floated the OV section on 11-20 … and both of us got skunked.

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Todd fishes a side channel

Beautiful Days

Except for an 11-day bird watching trip to Ecuador, which we took in Sept./Oct. (see prior posts), Kathy and I stuck around throughout the fall. Besides allowing me to go fishing as often as I wished (which accounted for practically every afternoon), it also allowed us to behold the full progression of the fall colors. As they say, trout live in beautiful places.

Bighorn sheep graze under a cottonwood, at Lone Juniper CG, OV

Cottonwood, Lone Juniper CG, OV

Cottonwoods, Rio Bravo CG, OV

Cottonwoods along the Bosque stretch, near our place in Embudo

same as above

Cottonwood branch, Bosque stretch at “Millers’ Landing”

Trevor’s Wave, Bosque section

Orilla Verde

Orilla Verde

Sun dog, OV

Sun dog, OV

Rio Bravo CG, OV, downstream view

Rio Bravo CG, OV, upstream view

Rio Bravo CG, OV, downstream view towards the Picuris Mountains

Cottonwood and moon, Rio Bravo CG, OV

OV evening

Riverside grass, OV

Russian olive, OV

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Poison ivy berries, OV

Upstream view in side channel, view towards Taos Junction CG, OV

Side channel, with willows and cattails, OV

Sculpted basalt boulder, Racecourse section

Birds

Canada geese, OV

Canada goose, cackling

Townsend’s Solitaire, OV

Mallards, OV

Canyon wren, OV

Downy woodpecker, Embudo

Mountain chickadee, Embudo

A pair of magpies at work on an animal carcass – maybe a Bighorn lamb, OV

The final act of fall comes with the appearance of the birds that winter on the Rio Grande. This bald eagle was photographed in a favorite perch along the Racecourse section, across the river from the well-traveled Hwy. 68, on Nov. 27.

Bald eagle, Racecourse section

Diving and other ducks also show up, which (along with fish) constitute prey for the eagles. The most common diving duck is the goldeneye, which I photographed on Nov. 28.

Goldeneyes

It’s still early, and I expect to see the arrival of a number more bald eagles, and lots more ducks – buffleheads, gadwalls, ring-necked and mergansers. Here, below, is a medley of waterfowl from last winter, so stay tuned!

Top to bottom: mallards, canada goose, goldeneyes and gadwall

 

 

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The Donald vs. Kim Jung-un. You Can’t Make This Stuff Up!

The Donald vs. Kim Jung-un. Stop and consider that for a moment! The world’s most powerful country vs. the world’s only nuclear-armed pariah state. The greatest megalomaniac in the recent history of the American Presidency vs. the world’s longest-standing totalitarian regime. You can’t make this stuff up (well .. maybe Saturday Night Live could). Can it get any more absurd … or dangerous?

We know, of course, that DT tweets the most alarming stuff, and then takes it back. Most recently, he trusts Putin’s word over that of our own intelligence services… and then he doesn’t. But, concerning North Korea, he seems set on the idea that he can force Kim Jung-un to dismantle his nuclear weapons program. He threatens North Korea with “fire and fury like the world has never seen”.

Does he really suppose that his threats will lead to that end? They, of course, will not. The Donald and his Generals will not unleash a pre-emptive strike against North Korea. Since no such strike could guarantee the complete obliteration of North Korea’s capacity to respond, it would, if attempted, guarantee the destruction of Seoul, at the very least. The time is long past that a pre-emptive strike against North Korea could have been achieved without catastrophic losses. North Korea is now impregnable. North Korea has a deterrent. Yet DT delights in insulting his adversary. Are these histrionics just for show?

Nor, of course, will North Korea make an unprovoked attack against us or South Korea. Why would they? I’ve heard reference made to the use of “nuclear blackmail” by North Korea, but don’t find this at all credible. So it looks like we are stalemated, which is fine with me. I’m not losing sleep over the nuclear “threat” of North Korea, since I don’t see their nuclear capabilities (now or when they obtain an ICBM) as constituting a threat to the United States.

What does cause me concern is that, megalomaniac that he is, DT will do something stupid … something very stupid.

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Assault Rifles

Some men fall in love with assault rifles, and dream of using them for their intended purpose. And some men fulfill that dream, using their assault rifles to mow down their fellow human beings. Who does this? It is men that feel powerless, cheated, persecuted, misunderstood etc. etc. It is men who are very mad at the world. With an assault rifle in your hand, however, you become a different person. You have now become menacingly powerful. You can now seek revenge, and right the wrongs. Now you’ll show them. They’ll be sorry. Now, finally, they will see what you are made of.

The potency of the assault rifle makes it irresistible. Sure, a would-be mass killer could still do a lot of damage with a couple of pistols. But it’s the assault rifle (and, in the most recent instance, the tactical gear) that does the trick, that seduces the would-be killer into becoming a real, honest-to-goodness mass killer.

So, assault rifles must (again) be banned. There is no denying the fact that the body count will drop, when assault rifles are removed from American society. People will still kill with guns, but the number of those Americans killed by guns will drop dramatically.

Now, about those men. Is it not evident that American society is starting to come apart at the seams? These killings are an early warning sign that our society is in trouble. Why is this? Well … does our society nurture? Do our citizens really get the opportunity to engage in “the pursuit of happiness”? Is it not, rather, the case that this most recent iteration of American capitalism exploits and alienates the great majority of our citizens?

I speak as a Democratic Socialist – one who believes in the obligation of each citizen to help create and further an egalitarian, just and caring society. Capitalism does not do that. It is a system based on the soulless pursuit of money, which, as we’ve been told, does not buy happiness. It is a system founded on self-interest. It is a system that sees no merit in cooperating for the common good. It is a system that put Donald Trump in the White House.

Until such time as we reform American society, we can only expect that increasing numbers of desperate men will turn on their fellows, as their only way to express their loneliness, alienation and outrage, and to even the score.

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The “Threat” from North Korea

Do you feel threatened by North Korea’s possible acquisition of an ICBM nuclear capability? I don’t. Maybe I’m stupid, or something. And what’s with this “non-proliferation” thing?

Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about “the nuclear club”:

“There are eight sovereign states that have successfully detonated nuclear weapons. Five are considered to be “nuclear-weapon states” (NWS) under the terms of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). In order of acquisition of nuclear weapons these are: the United States, the Russian Federation (the successor state to the Soviet Union), the United Kingdom, France, and China. Since the NPT entered into force in 1970, three states that were not parties to the Treaty have conducted nuclear tests, namely India, Pakistan, and North Korea. North Korea had been a party to the NPT but withdrew in 2003. Israel is also widely known to have nuclear weapons, though it maintains a policy of deliberate ambiguity regarding this (has not acknowledged it), and is not known definitively to have conducted a nuclear test. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute‘s SIPRI Yearbook of 2014, Israel has approximately 80 nuclear warheads. According to Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists Nuclear Notebook, the total number of nuclear weapons worldwide is estimated at 9,920 in 2017. Nations that are known or thought to have nuclear weapons are sometimes referred to informally as the nuclear club.”

Considering the above number of states that have nuclear weapons, and the number of such weapons, why are we now getting our panties in a twist over the fact that North Korea may soon have the capability of reaching the continental US with a nuclear weapon? Does no one worry about the other members of the club? Nutty as the North Korean regime may be, do we really suppose that, once it has that capability, it will use it? I don’t suppose that, nor do I suppose that the North Korean regime is nutty, no matter how funny-looking we find Kim Jung-un. I suppose that, instead, North Korea wants a deterrent. Why? The world considers North Korea a pariah nation. What is that and what does that imply? Again from Wikipedia: “A pariah state (also called an international pariah or a global pariah) is a nation considered to be an outcast in the international community. A pariah state may face international isolation, sanctions or even an invasion by nations who find its policies, actions, or its very existence unacceptable.” North Korea does not doubt that much of the world finds ” … its very existence unacceptable.” Therefore, its very best guarantee that it will not be subject to invasion is its nuclear deterrent.

So, since I’m not worried about North Korea, what is it I worry about? I’m worried about all the recent saber-rattling coming from our government. I don’t trust our government. I’m suspicious about the motives behind our government’s new more-bellicose stance towards North Korea. It is us that have been starting wars lately, and it may be that our government wants to start yet another – with North Korea. It’s certain that North Korea will not start a war with us. They have their deterrent (or so they hope). If a war starts, it will be us that starts it, although we may (and probably would) try to disguise it with a false flag operation. And, if we start a war, how do we guarantee that it will not entail the exchange of nuclear weapons? It’s nuttiness on our part to threaten North Korea. Let’s just let them be, and they will be happy to stay within their borders and conduct their domestic totalitarian business. And their domestic totalitarian business is not our business.

I think it’s time to tell our Congresspeople that we don’t want to go to war with North Korea.

 

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Birding in the Ecuadorian Andes, 9-26 to 10-6, 2017 – #10

Day #10 (Sat. Oct. 7)

The Rincon de Puembo – what a luxurious hotel! Our room was at the far end of the atrium seen here.

Rincon de Puembo, second floor of atrium

Rincon de Puembo pool

Rincon de Puembo

We caught a cab around noon for the short drive to the Puembo Birding Garden, where we had lunch, and enjoyed a last opportunity to see both new birds, and some old favorites.

Blue-grey Tanager

Blue and Yellow Tanager

Eared Dove

Rufous-tailed Hummingbird

Saffron Finches

Saffron Finch

Scrub Tanager

Shiny Cowbird

Sparkling Violetear

Sparkling Violetear

If I had to choose a favorite hummingbird, of those many we had seen, it would be the Sparkling Violetear.

Lee and Mike had yet to leave, and Kathy, myself and Jim met up with them for dinner at the hotel. As always, the food was very good. And, thanks Jim for picking up the tab! Then we hung out until it was time to leave for the airport, which transportation was provided by the hotel.

The flight home might have been unendurable, with my original seat forcing my knees into the seat ahead. Then Kathy spotted two empty exit seats, which seats provide more legroom. Thank God for that! Which airline was it? It was American Airlines, so be warned!

How do Kathy and I grade our trip? We give it an A+, in every respect. What stands out? First and foremost, Edwin stands out. What a guide, what a guy! Next, as far as I can tell, the itinerary took us to the best birding spots and best scenery in that part of Ecuador. The lodging and food could not be beat. The bus we traveled in was very comfortable. Our contacts with Ecuadorians were always amiable. And our fellow birders were a pleasure to be with (thank you all!). If Road Scholar offers a birding trip to southern Ecuador, as Edwin mentioned was possible (and Edwin is the guide), sign us up.

 

 

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Birding in the Ecuadorian Andes, 9-26 to 10-6, 2017 – #9

Day #9

We packed up and began our return to the Quito area, with a stop at Guango Lodge on the way. In dense cloud forest, at an elevation of around 10,500′, this lodge sits right next to the highway and astride an oil pipeline right of way. While the former is noisy, the latter provides a broad and grassy swath to follow. And, there were plenty of hummers at the feeders, including the Collared Inca, which we had not yet seen.

Collared Inca

Collared Inca

Collared Inca

Buff-tailed Coronet

Sword-billed Hummingbird

White-bellied Woodstar

White-bellied Woodstar

White-rumped Hawk

Spectacled Redstart

Papallacta River

Tributary

House across the river

Bird watching from the oil pipeline right of way

 

We ate a delicious lunch there, which included this dessert:

While on my own for a few minutes, I got to spend a little time with this fabulous bird – the Strong-billed Woodcreeper.

Strong-billed Woodcreeper

Strong-billed Woodcreeper

We then resumed our drive uphill to Papallacta Pass …

Shrine, Papallacta Pass

… and, over on the other side, made one more birding stop, in search of a cotinga – but to no avail.

Sacha Rose

And then it was on to the Rincon de Puembo, our last night’s lodging, and the official end of the trip. Our count of new species was 275. But, for Kathy, myself and Jim, the birding trip was not quite over. Our flights did not leave until close to midnight the next night, giving us one more opportunity to bird. And, I had, beforehand, searched online and discovered the Puembo Birding Garden.

Saffron Finch, Puembo Birding Garden

Cabañas San Isidro to Guango Lodge to Rincon de Puembo

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Birding in the Ecuadorian Andes, 9-26 to 10-6, 2017 – #8

Day #8

K. 24, view to the west

We left before light, crossing over the Rio Cosanga and driving uphill to a pass, where we hoped to see a particular nighthawk. But no luck. We then continued a good ways downhill  (south) to a small village at the junction with the “Loreto Road”, known as “K.24” (Kilometer 24). As we turned onto that road, Edwin drew our attention to a statue of an Umbrellabird that stood at the junction (see photo). Also, he had predicted that we might see Magpie Tanagers in this village, and, sure enough, there they were.

Magpie Tanager

We drove east on the Loreto Road as far as the small establishment of Cabaña Cascada Hollin. It was raining when we arrived, so we birded for a while from the bus (!) and then transferred outside.

Map of route to Cascada Hollin

Begonias, outside of the restaurant

Kathy, at Cascada Hollin

Black-throated Mango

Golden-tailed Sapphire

White-tailed Hillstar?

Heliconia

We started back, stopping here and there along the way.

Lush cloud forest

Plant or fungi?

Washstand at a roadside restaurant, with a ginger plant behind, the toilets beyond ….

… and this waterfall across the road

How about another photo of the Green Jay at San Isidro?

Green Jay

Today was our last (!) full day of this extraordinary birding trip. Tomorrow, we would head back to the Quito area, but not without first stopping at Guango Lodge.

Collared Inca, Guango Lodge

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