Tuesday, May 6, 2008

BIRDS - Monday and Tuesday, May 5 & 6

Wow what a place!! This birding secret I am going to keep! I have never seen so many different kinds of birds in such large numbers. I am not going to name this campground. Two days of birding has added a lot of new birds to my life list including a rare tropical bird that nests in the Mexico and only a very few mountain valleys of southern Arizona. We are nestled in a narrow canyon with a forest “scrub” Oak, Arizona Sycamore, Juniper, and pine. The deep, rocky sided, valley we walked up had HUGE Arizona Cypress which are very rare in the U.S, with a mixed forest that had other tall conifers mixed with the shinning whine trunks of the Sycamores. There was a rocky creek that ran through it sometimes with significant water, sometimes dry. The wall were sheer rock faces that did not let the sun into the floor until about 9:00AM.

Here are Richard and Duncan standing beside a very large Arizona Cypress

Our most exciting discovery in that valley were Elegant Trogons. We saw two males. These are a rare tropical bird that is native to Mexico and only a few canyons in southern Arizona. My picture is very poor at best - he was very hard to see in the shade of the thicket of tree branches. We found him only by his odd call. But we could see that his back was coppery green and we got a glimpse of his bright pink breast.

Everywhere we looked were new birds that are never seen at home. It was really strange to find Chipping Sparrows, a common native of home too, in large flocks. There were no House Sparrows and no Starlings. But some of the birds that were new for me on this trip were not here. The list for this place is long.

The Acorn woodpeckers were fascinating with their clown like coloring of Red, Black, and white and their raucous flocks that tumbled through the woods, like a band of preteen boys.

Another camper had put out orange halves and hummingbird feeders. They attracted Bullocks Orioles and Scott's Orioles which are yellow instead of orange. Broad tail, Black Chin, Blue Throated, and Magnificent Hummingbirds were at the feeder.

I also saw a Green Tailed Towhee, White Winged Doves, Gray-Breasted Jays, Pinion Jays, Steller's Jays. Ravens. Audubon's Warbler which is now lumped with the Yellow Rumped, Townsend's Warbler, Wilson's Warbler, Painted Redstart, Western Tanager, Hepatic Tanager, Black Headed Grosbeaks, flocks of Lark Sparrows, Yellow Eyed Junco,

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Gila Cliff Dwelings: Saturday, May 3

We rose fairly early and I got a real shower this morning because we have and empty gray tank and access to good fresh water.

The road to the Gila Cliff Dwelling National Monument was a very narrow and winding. But the scenery was worth the drive. This time of year the Gila river is fairly small but the river bed is wide and fairly deep. The foot path to the cliff dwelling wound through the narrow valley of the Gila and crossed back and forth. The history of the Ancestral Peobloans is fascinating, way too complicated to discuss here.

There was an interpreter at the top of the trial, at the ruin who was extremely knowledgeable and informative.

She answered a lot of questions we had about the area, and confirmed our guess that some of the rocks we were seeing were indeed volcanic. Millions of years ago this area had been extremely active volcanically. Which deposited a deep layer of sediment which consisted of volcanic ash and cobble from gravel size to small boulders. In some areas there were deep layers of pure volcanic ash. It was in these deep layers of sedimentation that the caves were formed.

The Cliff dwellings were built of slabs of this Gila Conglomerate, the volcanic ash and gravel cemented together by pressure, and mortar made by mixing water or urine with the dust that the volcanic ash part of the Conglomerate broke down into.

My pictures of cliff dwellings and pictographs that were at another site in the Monument are Here.

Duncan had to stay in a little kennel they had at the Cliff Dwelling contact center since dogs were not allowed in the ruins. They were dusty but otherwise “clean” and we used a padlock to lock him in.

On the way back "home" we stopped for homemade ice cream at a little tourist store.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Friday, May 2

I am sitting in the Silver Dog House in the driveway of a tire shop, typing the first half of this entry on the Pink Flamingo. White One the magnificent is disconnected from the trailer and in the bay getting his poor flat tire fixed. Duncan is with me sleeping, oblivious to the problems of travel. This repair should not take too long.

This morning it was COLD again, there was ice on the bottom of Duncan's water bowl and we dressed fast for the drive out of the campground with hopes for no more slow leaks in tires and to meet no one coming into the campground. The thermometer on White One says it is 23* We were not as early as we had hoped – 6:54 AM.

We did meet one vehicle not far from the campground but had no trouble getting around. The biggest problem turned out to be visibility with the sun already over the horizon and directly in our face on the dusty, sap specked, windshield. Washing it did not help much. But we arrived at US 180 with no unpleasant events in about 35 minutes.

We stopped for breakfast at a roadside litter barrel. In Michigan we have roadside tables here there are roadside barrels more often and no tables. How the landscape has changed.

No more Ponderosa Pine. Now, where there are trees, they are the evenly spaced Cedars and Pinion Pines, competing for water. Where it is treeless there are bushes, with small chartreuse leaves beginning to come out and Yucca dotted thickly over the range land. Here the Yucca grows to at least six feet tall and sometimes branches near the top. Old bloom stalks, often several year's accumulation, stick up from the tops. I wonder if they are indicators of overgrazed range much like Hawthorns are indicators of overgrazing at home. The Prickly Pear cactus here have pads as large as a salad or even luncheon plate with thorns that look at least four inches long, unlike our native Prickly Pear at home with pads the size of teacups or smaller.

spring is beginning to show its face in the wildflowers that are blooming along the roadside.

We found this place in Silver City, NM to have the tire fixed. We were able to just pull into their parking lot, unhook the Silver Dog House and pull White One into the bay. And they did not charge us anything to fix the tire.

There was a Super Wal-Mart across the street where we tanked up on pop and chicken for lunch. Then called the local KOA where we dumped our tanks for $10 and they let us tank up on fresh water. They even gave us very good advice on what road to take to the Gila Cliff Dwelling and the campground we were looking for.

We passed a HUGE open pit copper mine. It is at least two miles long and maybe a full mile across. They have been actively mining there since the 1800's

The Campground turned out to be just fine, with clean pit toilets, good water, and nice hosts.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Pueblo Creek, Apache National Forest: Thursday, May 1

The road that we came into the campground on is a gravel two track which crosses Pueblo Creek over the wreckage of a bridge and continues west to Arizona, no town listed on the sign, just Arizona. There bridge washed out at some point fairly recently and has been marginally repaired with gravel pushed over the wreckage. The crossing is marked as closed but we have seen several vehicles cross it and go on west. If we had the time we might have tried it but we need to have the tire fixed before we venture anywhere as we now have no spare.

Today we walked along Pueblo Creek which runs past the campground. The creek bed is wide and paved with huge jumbles of cobbles and boulders. The torrent that washed out the bridge is now mostly invisible. There is a small pool at one end of the base of the bridge and occasionally a small trickle of water showed itself among the cobbles. But for most of the walk the creek bed was dry. Part of the way we walked in the creek bed but later ventured onto a trail that climbed high on the face of the valley wall.

Part way along our walk we met two men with a small group of Pack Goats and a couple of dogs and chatted briefly. It was interesting to learn that Pack Goats are a growing "industry". There are a number of outfitters that use them in the back country. They are strong, and you do not need to carry any food for them. The dogs seemed to be pretty good at keeping the goats. The link above is the one they gave us.