Dune Patrol

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Monument Valley is a big place. It stretches across two states and given the type of terrain encompassed within its borders it requires a huge amount of upkeep. It also gets an enormous number of visitors every day who traipse across its surface, leaving footprints, disturbing the details that make up the various dunes located throughout the park, and generally causing the park to get a slightly tired look by the end of the day.

The Navajo people own Monument valley and do their very best to keep the park pristine. You won’t find any litter along the roadways, or plastic bags stuck in the sagebrush here. But as we mentioned before Monument valley is a big place and there aren’t enough Navajo to get out everyday and tidy up all the aspects of the park that need looking after. That’s where the volunteers come in.

Each morning before the park opens residents and docents of the valley get out at the first sign of dawn long before the park opens for business, and check their areas. Perhaps a wind came through and erased some of the picturesque furrows that give the red sand dunes their distinctive look. Or a passing night hunter came along and left their tracks behind.

That’s what occurred last night when  a coyote spent some time on this dune waiting for something unwary to make itself known. Fortunately for them nothing did and the coyote moved on to better hunting grounds leaving just a few of its tracks in the sandy surface. Jack Rabbit, the overseer of this particular dune, is out inspecting the damage. Fortunately this disruption can be repaired by Jack himself with just a few tamping’s of his big flat feet and a quick roll over on the effected area and the dune will look pristine again.

This little repair was easy, but occasionally one of the large herd of sheep and goats that roam through the park will pass directly over the dune Jack is responsible for. That’s when catastrophe strikes. Dozens upon dozens of hooves tramp across the dune breaking down the edges, leaving deep footprints in the soft surface of the dune, even tearing out the occasional foliage, creating damage that is much too much for Jack to take on himself. That’s when he calls out the big guns. The park’s maintenance team.

The maintenance team is a large group of paid workers made up of Jackrabbits, voles, a large hawk too old to hunt any more who uses his strong wings to brush the surface of the sand dune smooth again and in return is allowed to occasionally borrow one of the mice or voles for dinner, are just a few of the members that make up the maintenance team. This crack team of highly trained professionals rush to damaged areas within the park and perform the triage needed to get the park back up and running in no time at all. They are the unsung heroes of the park, along with Jack and the many other volunteers who spend their time making sure the park is in perfect condition each day when it opens.

They are all part of the Dune Patrol, those tireless workers who keep Monument valley ready for us to view its wonders everyday of the year. Thanks guys, keep up the good work.

When I Was A Young Bird

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When I was a young bird I did many reckless things

I left the nest too early to see where the songbirds sing

I was not used to freedom or my untested wings

I thought that I was ready for whatever life would bring

I made it through the winter and many following springs

I learned to hunt and fight and love and survive most every thing

I found the winds of chance blew cold and bitter cold did sting

Yet through it all I stayed the same unable to change a thing

Older now and more unwise I look back and I reflect

And wonder why as a young bird I did so many reckless things

 

Focus

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This is what the business end of a hawk coming at you at close to a hundred miles an hour looks like. Since hawks this size can often attain dive speeds of 120+ miles per hour the speed estimate for this guy is based on the ‘Holy Crap” method where you suddenly realize he’s diving at you and your first thought is “Holy Crap I bet he’s doing a hundred miles an hour”.

There are things to pay attention to when you’re being photo bombed by a hawk and I’ll present them in order.

  • Put camera up to face
  • Stick eye to viewfinder
  • Remove lens cap due to no image appearing
  • Put finger on shutter
  • Ask camera politely to FOCUS
  • Do everything possible to keep hawk in viewfinder
  • Press shutter – a lot
  • Duck

This strafing of innocent civilians is unusual as much of the population around here is armed and touchy about stuff like this. The only reason this hawk behaved like this that I can imagine, is that they are predators and usually hungry and I’ve been told by normally reliable sources that my moustache looks like a mouse rather casually draped across the lower half of my face. Even so, hawks have been around long enough to know that mice draped across a humans face is out-of-bounds. That’s what evolution is for, to keep stuff like face bombing hawks from happening, regardless of whether it is mouse adorned or not. So the only other conclusion one can draw is that it is simply nuts.

Some of you are bound to ask “Well What kind of hawk was it?” and the only thing I’m sure of is that it is a member of the Hawkii hostilicus branch of weird-ass, people hating, I could put your eye out you know, hawks. I’m not certain if this is an off-shoot of our regular grumpy hawks, or a whole new species. I think I’m going with the new species thing just because that would be cooler than our regular hawks just going around the bend.

So the next time you’re going to the store for pizza and some Honeycrisp apples and you see a hawk looking at you funny, just stay in the car. If you have to get out and take a picture of it then please follow my list of things to pay attention to above. Either that or quickly shave your moustache off. Remember, Stay Safe out there.

I may Be A Pig But I Love You

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“I may be a pig, but I love you”. That’s what we heard, that and other porcine endearments that were floating in the air at Bosque del Apache wildlife refuge as these two Javelina displayed their affection for each other in open courtship. It was a surprise to find them at the refuge as Bosque del Apache is primarily known for birds. Snow geese, Ross’ goose, Sandhill cranes and the occasional Tundra swan, not to mention every variety of Hawk and eagle, egret and duck, owls, pigeons, goatsuckers and songbird you can imagine.

But not Javelinas. Especially not Javelinas in love. It was unmistakable, they were unabashedly involved with each other, rubbing their flat little pink snouts together, snuffling, standing side by side and stroking each others back with their necks, giggling and muttering little piggy names to each other as they made plans for Javelina trysts.

As we watched they continued as if we were not there, oblivious to everything but each other. When their passion reached a fever pitch they would discretely move off into the brush to be alone then come back out trying to act as if nothing had happened. Yeah, right, we knew. They couldn’t hide it. Like we couldn’t tell that they were Javelinas in love. Occasionally they would stop and watch us for a moment or two, pose for pictures, then become enraptured with each other again and head for the brush. Finally it just became embarrassing and we left.

Spring is slowly coming and with it signs of love are everywhere. If you go south from Colorado in a straight line you will eventually encounter Spring. It will be a solid line that stretches roughly east to west. On one side of it, usually the south side, you will see flowers, and bees messing around, and song birds making suggestive sounds to each other, and lots of love, and on the other side, normally the north side, you will find snow and cold and brown grass, grumpy people and very little love. Right now that line is about twenty miles north of the Mexican border, however each and every day it moves north a little bit. But soon, uh huh, soon it will make its way north toward us and maybe you even, and it will be bringing you-know-what with it. That’s right, Pigs in Love.

Now before you get the wrong idea, it’s not just pigs that get in love, it ‘s everything. Name a creature and when spring hits it, it’s in love. You have to be careful your very own self when you go outside in spring because it doesn’t play favorites, if you’re in the way it’s going to hit you, and before you know it, Whammo Sammo you’re in love and probably out in the bushes somewhere. You’ve been warned, if it can get pigs it can get you. So watch out.