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.