Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Prehistoric Rock Art of Baca County

One of the aspects of Baca County that drew me in were the mentions I read of Rock Art to be found on the sandstone of the canyon walls in the area. Those who know me would confirm that of my more refined interests - history flows into travel, photography flows into wildlife, and geology and 4wheeling have a practical link as well. In short I am curious about how people do, and have, carved out a life for themselves in the environment they call home.

My first experience with pre-historic rock art was as a young Boy Scout on a canoe trip in the Boundary Waters of northern Minnesota. One of the leaders 'encouraged' jaded young teens to paddle extra miles to see art. Well, when I contemplated something that had endured on a rock face above the water for untold years I was hooked. Since then I have been amazed at the sights I have seen at Bandelier National Monument, Mesa Verde and absolutely blown away by the Chaco Canyon World Heritage Site.

The images I found in the Comanche were not those. Don't get me wrong, for me at least they still had the same link...not necessarily spiritual - but infused with such base humanity. The canyon that was home to life giving springs out on the otherwise unbroken plains had to be significant for those who visited and relied on their waters. Images placed on rock, and the pink baked stone of an overhang where countless fires had burned. Those are the testaments of people who must have returned to this place with joy in season.

Birders may relate to my frustration with rock images though. I have bought books and searched online, and still I feel that there should be more information on the themes and recurring images. Mostly, I fail to find anything that satisfies me or relates to my own impressions. That's okay though, a large part is the thrill of realizing that a stone surface I had been looking past for minutes has just revealed a hidden secret. See the one below?

Then there are others that make me wonder in a more cynical way. This last image was found in the canyon below the empty Two-Buttes Reservoir. It was much larger than those I had located at Carrizo Canyon, more reminiscent of those farther southwest. It was also in the midst of some sadly modern tags. So I was once again left to wonder - were the ancients leaving their own message to their world - or were some kids of the seventies and eighties telling future generations of the wonders of Pac-Man?

Most of the fun is in the wondering, so hopefully these will keep readers' eyes on the rocks as well as the skies.

Corner of Colorado

My trip to Baca County in Colorado over a week ago was a great chance to go exploring and, see what I could see. As the following post will show - it wasn't all about the birds. Frankly, having camped in a canyon trailhead I missed much of the good early morning light for photos. As I explored the back roads of Comanche National Grassland I did get to watch this perched Loggerhead Shrike from a distance. I also added one lifer for the trip - the Chihuahuan Raven. I didn't get a great shot of the white feathers on its neck - or even close enough for a nasal bristle comparison, but their voices were very distinctive as they flew about.

The Ravens were paired up for the most part - and I rarely had to wait long for a twosome to come overhead. I also saw good numbers of Ferruginous Hawks. This one allowed me a passable shot - but broken clouds, constantly changing light and wind - not to mention lack of practice kept any shots from being spectacular.

After hitting many of the Canyons along the Colorado Oklahoma border I decided to do some adventuring and check out a corner of Colorado - that is only accessible from other states. I dropped into Oklahoma, and quickly found that the maps I had loaded on my iPad didn't differentiate between the private and public roads. So after many failed attempts I decided to drop back out to the highway, and attempt my invasion of extreme SE Colorado from Kansas. That did work, and I am able to confirm for you readers that the couple of roads in that corner of the state do not get anywhere close to the Cimarron River (which is what cuts off this chunk of the state from the roads in the rest of Colorado). I can, however, say I have been to a place that most others will not visit.

The area was short on birds, people, and any indication of when a road stopped being a road. But for all that it was beautiful in a desolate solitude kind of way.

Rolled hay and some of the power lines were the few indications that this area had changed since the dust bowl. That, in a way, is just what drives me to get to new places. I have a connection to a place that few, other than those who live there, get to make. I can't say when I will make it back - but feel blessed to have so many unique opportunities to explore different worlds, all in my backyard!

I watched the Sun drop below the horizon in that tiny forgotten corner of Colorado, it had been a full day - and I opted for a drive to Lamar - and a hotel, for my second night before some more birding and a drive back home on Sunday.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Back from it!

Anyone else have fun this weekend? I did! Checking out a part of Colorado that I had not previously visited was just the thing to get me firing on all cylinders and infect me with full blown spring fever. Happy Presidents' Day to all, and for those not at work enjoy. I'll have more on the trip shortly.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Back at it!

Well, here we go again. After being immobile or otherwise distracted for far to long I am headed back out for some quality time with the wilderness this weekend. I am headed South East, and look forward to doing a bit of birding in the Oklahoma panhandle and the corner of Colorado.

I've had the itch for a few weeks now, but weather, my recovering toe and an unexpectedly exciting Colorado Basketball season have kept me pinned down. Seeing an open weekend was too much - so I am off for adventure.

There are still a couple of England posts in the works, but otherwise any readers checking in haven't missed much. I haven't filed a single Ebird report, and the camera has been idle since December 30th.

Wherever this weekend finds you I hope it is safe and filled with the wonders of wildlife.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

SOPA/PIPA and update

Hi there!

Daveabirding here to get a personal message up about myself and this whole SOPA/PIPA whirlwind that is going around.

Update on Daveabirding:
After a long silence, aside from the one UK trip update last weekend, I owe anyone who has dropped by an explanation. No, Daveabirding did not swear off technology and go to live in a hut somewhere to contemplate the phases of Jupiter on plant growth. No, I didn't decide to rebrand as Daveacastling, although after the next few UK recaps to be posted you may think so. I also didn't have technical issues, and there was no intentional abandonment of blogging.

Instead Daveabirding has gone bionic! That's right, they rebuilt me - better than I was before. While I can't jump notably higher that before, and I can't lift staggering weights - I do have a shiny new screw in my toe! The down and dirty is that after years of dealing with a bad toenail I went into have them do the thing where they make the ingrown part stop growing. While I was there I mentioned that periodically I was getting a very brief, intense pain in the joint of my big toe. It was happening more and more often, and had become a nuisance when hiking or running, and I wondered if the nail was an issue for that. Was it.....of course not. I had the proud diagnosis of Hallux Limitus a toe joint issue that has one joint out of place, causing the next one down the line to degrade over time. The fix was surgery - which I underwent on the 22nd December. That meant that a Christmas visit to Minnesota got moved up a week - preventing me from participating in the Boulder Christmas Bird Count, or any others for that matter. It also meant that December was a whirlwind of all the pre-holiday craziness, with a week less time to get it all done. Christmas was a blur of pain medication and icing, followed by decreasing pain and bowl games through the new year. I'm now a few weeks back into regular work days in the office, and getting around decently, however I am stuck in an open, Velcro, surgical shoe that forces me to heel walk. So, for at least the next week I am still effectively hobbled. While I did take a cleansing break from most things bird, I have been keeping my eyes open, occasionally seeing the Snow Geese return to the local field, and spotting one potential Ferruginous Hawk on an evening drive home from work.
Unfortunately, when I returned to my email I found 800 messages, describing all the CBCs, great local rarities that had come and gone, and the largest irruption of Snowy Owls in 40-50 years. What a bummer. Oh well, hiking, photography and longer days will all be back soon enough, and in the meantime I do hope to get a few more UK recaps up.

Now the SOPA/PIPA take, from me a random blogger;

Odds are, if you've found your way to this site you have already seen much larger, more prominent sites that are/were on shutdown on 1/18 - protesting the devastating impact that SOPA/PIPA could have on their ability to offer the services they have provided to this point. Well, since I have no ability to shut down, and am frankly surprised that Google has it operating today. I would like to share what I perceive to be the impact of these bills on my simple, not for profit (much less income), birding site.

For starters, it would be very unlikely that, a free blogging offering driven by Google would be available moving forward. Unless they could ensure that all content posted by all users was original and unique, they, in addition to the users could be held liable for facilitating that content. This has already been widely publicized in the media when describing photo hosting and sharing sites. So to keep daveabirding alive I would have to start by hosting and serving my content myself, at the cost of a server, domain registration, and uptime, etc.

Now that wouldn't be all bad, but it is not the entire picture either. If I took over hosting of daveabirding I would take over the civil and criminal liability for all content, and all linked to content on my site. Again, that shouldn't be a problem for a blogger that only posts his own images and short recaps of hikes etc, right? Unfortunately, no.

First off, all links to any other sites would have to go, why.....because I can't afford to be responsible for the originality of their content.

Next, reduced look and feel. Locally hosted sites are generally more simple, because building, testing and maintaining features take time. Not to mention that freeware html templates would likely become a thing of the past. So things like comments and keywords would be lost.

Content. While I would be able to, and in some way would continue to post my own content - many of the tools that I use would be gone. Google searching images is a fast and easy way to cross check my identifications - unless they were able to confirm the authenticity of all, Google Image search is gone. Listserves such as CObirds would have to look at what they allow posters to contribute. As above, linkbacks to photos, site maps, and other resources could not be included. I would imagine Birds of North America would continue unchanged, but I am unsure how Ebird would fare under SOPA. Blog list and ranking sites would be history, places like Nature Blog Network and Fatbirder would be in jeopardy, and forum sites like and would lose much of their ability to promote the sharing of interest in and knowledge of birds and nature. Other sites that seem to be at risk are, a database of recorded bird sounds from around the world and, a forum for critique of some outstanding images.

Sadly, on a personal side I think I would have never developed my interest in birds or photography had it not been for the interconnected network of bloggers, experts, photographers and enthusiasts who share their work freely for the enjoyment of others. I, like many others, strongly support the ability of artists to protect their work by copyright from infringement or piracy. Even as I take thousands of sub-par shots I hope that someday I could have enough good ones to think that someone may want to licence an image for exclusive use.

I am not going to rant on first amendment rights, big bad government, or larger issues that these bills bring to light. They are important, and they should be discussed, but this isn't the place. If you read this hopefully the implications for a one-man, little to no consequence blog are enough to make you wonder what the larger implications may be. If it does, go check out one of the big boys like Google or Wikipedia and learn more. Consider asking your Senator or Representative to do the same.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Adventures in the United Kingdom - the Recap Part 6 - Wildlife along the Thames in Windsor, October 14th

October 14th, I had a morning in Windsor to spend before meeting with my parents to begin the family portion of my trip. I wandered down to the river, and crossed over to walk around Eton College. The river was great that morning. Sun was breaking through the clouds, and a diving Great Crested Grebe was surfacing between dives.

I headed off to wander through the historic college, before returning to the river banks. My lucky timing continued, I arrived at the pier just in time to hop on a scenic river cruise. Boats make great mobile blinds, and I had a great view of a Gray Heron on the bank.

The Gray Heron is similar to our Great Blue Herons in size and overall coloring, but the lack of rust color and spotting are a few key differences.

On the return I got one perched shot of a Great Cormorant. Cormorants through and through, they act very similar to our Double-crested Cormorants, often perching and stretching their wings for long periods of time.

My cruise complete, I heade back to the hotel, met my folks a bit later and headed north to stay the night in Rugby. Yes, the home of the game of the same name. While wandering in the town before dinner we even visited the field with a small sign indicating that it was here where William Webb Ellis "first picked up the ball and ran with it". He became the father of Rugby, which in turn likely had a strong influence on American Football. Pretty cool place to visit, which was followed-up by a great dinner of mutton, and wrapped up the day nicely with a good pint or two.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Snow Geese

This morning I was running early on my way to work. Mainly because there was no frost on my windows. Then, in an incredible struck of luck, I spotted two immature Snow Geese in the field outside my neighborhood. This field has a near constant flock of Canada Geese in the fall, winter and spring, and despite my constant scanning - they always remain Canada Geese - unless of course there are a smattering of Rock Pigeons thrown in for good measure or spite.

Not today though - real, live, Snow Geese! Two of them! Why did the Snow Geese pick this morning to appear? Because this morning, @#$%, I had left my camera bag at home!
"Don't leave Geese!" I thought to myself as I made the split decision to correct that oversight.
I find it amazing that anxiety can reach such levels in moments it took me to turn back into my neighborhood, navigate safely to my house, retrieve my gear, drive back to the edge of the neighborhood, park, cross the divided two lane street on foot, and then, (having confirmed the birds had not been chased off by a happily walked dog), walk along the field to a position where I was not shooting into the sun.

Needless to say, I was happy they hadn't picked those few minutes to leave! Both birds, the second is visible in the top picture - facing away and feeding (AKA the moon shot) - are first year birds, and are trading out their dark plumage for the snowy white feathers they will show for the rest of their lives.

In addition to switching to their 'snow' white plumage, the birds' bare parts, (bills and feet), will turn mostly pink, except for the grin patch on the bill which will remain dark. Check my previous Snow Geese posts for adults in traditional and 'Blue' phases. This bird was nice enough to stretch, showing off the dark primary feathers on its wing, which will remain dark, but are generally hidden when it is standing or swimming and the wing is folded. These were my first juvenile Snow Geese, first of the year Snow Geese, and the first time I had seen more than one at a time in my home county. Not a bad way to spend a few extra minutes before work.

On the topic of good sightings, John Vanderpoel, a Colorado birder, is really tearing it up on his Big Year bid, if you haven't seen his blog yet be sure to check it out in the next six weeks. I have a feeling it is going to be a wild ride down to the end of 2011!