Monthly Archives: September 2014

The Dark Side of the wilderness…..and Petroglyphs

The Dark Side. It’s fantastic to see 40 thousand snow geese and 10 thousand sandhill cranes all taking off or landing at the same time or flying around the Bosque del Apache Refuge. Thousands of people come from around the world to see this phenomenon. There are, however, a few problems with this gorgeous natural event. The packing of so many birds into small spaces is very stressful to birds and particularly (for unknown reasons) to snow geese. The close proximity of so many human beings to these birds also stresses them. For reasons not fully understood, snow geese and other birds in this stressful environment often contract bird cholera. Perhaps their immune systems are getting hit too hard. Many birds die as a result. As volunteers, we need to be on the lookout for snow geese acting strangely. Symptoms, for example, include sluggishness, flying upside down, trying to land a foot higher than the water, etc. Fish and Wildlife personnel scour the refuge to collect sick and dead birds when they can be found. While a very few of the birds may undergo necropsy, all the rest are carried to a large burner near the railroad and burned. The aroma of roast goose wafting over the Refuge is pleasant but it’s not something the public really wants to knDSC_0121 white-faced ibis in formation-blogow about. We’ll just tell them the volunteers are having a BBQ.

Another wilderness problem is tularemia, typically found in rabbits (or ticks). This bacterial disease can be contracted by humans who come in contact with diseased rabbits, rodents or other animals. One of the staff here at Bosque contracted tularemia a few months ago and it took a few weeks to diagnose the problem. He was hospitalized for almost a month and has just started working again. All of us are going to attend a Monday meeting about this disease and how to avoid it. Tularemia can be fatal to humans.

I’m not going to discuss Lyme disease, rocky mountain spotted fever, southern tick-associated rash illness, and ehrlichiosis, a collection of other diseases that can also be found around here.

DSC_0055 American avocets in flight-blogA Sunday Trip.   We recently attempted to visit four different local places one incredible early fall day – 1. Sevietta National Wildlife Refuge (50 miles north of us),

  1. San Lorenzo Canyon,
  2. a small unnamed wetland site in Belen and
  3. Petroglyph National Monument in Albuquerque.

Sevietta didn’t have much to see this time of year but we saw a C-130 fly over us while refueling a helicopter. It probably was based at nearby Kirtland AFB. A cool sight. We signed up for a small Sevietta tour later this month. This tour takes visitors to parts of the Refuge where the public can’t go on their own. I had a very nice conversation with two volunteers at the Sevietta visitor center, one of whom had been at JFK day on White Sands Missile Range in 1963. I was also at WSMR way back then and we talked about that special day. He was an airman from Fort Bliss at the time and I was working the sergeant missile launch that day. Amazing.

DSC_0010 refueling over NM DSC_0017 triceratops skeletonWe did see a dinosaur skeleton on the Sevietta trail.  That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

We were disappointed that San Lorenzo Canyon didn’t work out for us. All the road signs advise 4-wheel drive vehicles. We hope to work something out before we leave New Mexico. It’s a beautiful place.

The little wetland in Belen (Spanish for Bethlehem) is hardly noticeable behind a Taco Bell but has a very nice variety of birds. We also spotted a nearby colony (?) of prairie dogs. We had never seen these clever little creatures before. Ranchers don’t like them or the holes they live in.

DSC_0069 bolt hole Petroglyph National Monument.   The best part of the day was our visit to this National Monument. The petroglyphs are distributed on a 17-mile long volcanic escarpment in Albuquerque. Ancient people found they could chip away the black rocks to create images that were important to them. We walked a few miles to see many of the petroglyphs. Some images were made by Spanish explorers much later than those created by early pueblo people. I couldn’t help applying my own interpretation of what we saw. I respect the value of these images to Native American culture but see what you think of my version of the meanings.

Also, as often happens here in the desert, we encountered a snake along the petroglyph trail. It wasn’t a rattlesnake but a harmless bull snake. Unfortunately for the snake as it turned out, there was a sharp-shinned hawk sitting on a nearby fence, watching the snake intently. I took pictures and videos of the bird and snake and noticed the reptile appeared to be injured. It stayed out in the open and was moving around like it was delirious, even turning upside-down. I got really close and saw injuries on the snake’s head. I think the hawk had already attacked it at least once and was waiting for us to leave.

P1020139 very drunk man at summer solstice party-blog P1020087 petroglyph national monument hiking trail-blog P1020091 I asked for a portrait and this is what I got-blog P1020133 starship Enterprise making the jump to light speed-blog P1020135 chief with early KitchenAid beater through his nose-blogP1020083 early record of a circus complete with clowns-blog P1020099 man who ate three huge potted plants-blogP1020158 man killing antelope or beating horse or riding horse or fighting off juvenile stegasaurus-blog RV Life. We still love living in our little RV. Sometimes I can’t imagine living in a big house again. I guess I could if I had to. I’ve made cookies and more bread here this week. I’m not ready to make doughnuts again, not yet. Finally, my brother Rich and I are in preliminary discussions about a joint effort to publish my blog in a different manner. We’ll see what happens.

Thanks for following us,

Bob and Arlyne Draper

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Posted by on September 20, 2014 in Bird Lover


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Wild Things in the Bosque…….and a Trip to Santa Fe

We’ve completed our first month at Bosque del Apache NWR. It’s getting cooler and this helps suppress the mosquitos. More birds are arriving, either passing through or planning to spend the winter. Last month we saw 4 or 5 white-faced ibis…..two days ago, we saw dozens. And Arlyne got a good photo as the ibis were settling in for the night at the boardwalk pond. Birds are starting to congregate in larger flocks, including American avocets, white pelicans, various sandpipers and yellow-headed blackbirds. We have to wait until October for snow geese, Ross’s geese and the jewel of the Bosque, sandhill cranes. Recently we picked up a life bird on the refuge – Baird’s sandpiper.

There is, of cCAMERA OUT THE WINDOWourse, other wildlife here. Check out these other guys.DSC_0015 racoon looking for crawdads DSC_0019 big ears

We met a man on the boardwalk and were talking birdlife when Arlyne spotted the raccoon. The guy owns a restaurant in Socorro. As we promised, we went to his restaurant a few days later and chatted with him. He has great food and gave us a 25% discount.

A Close Call. Just a few days ago, we finished our day at the visitor’s center and were walking back to the motorhome. We cross a hundred yards of open, gravel-lined space. We were half-way across when I heard a bird “chittering”. I thought “what bird is that?” A beat goes by and Arlyne says “Oh my God!” Walking to Arlyne’s right, I had stepped within a foot of a western diamond-back rattlesnake that had blended in with the gravel (I wasn’t watching). The snake was coiled but at least he warned me. It was a good thing I kept walking instead of stopping to look for the “bird”. The snake started slithering across the lot again and…….I shot a video of “my” snake. (I’m not going to show it here in deference to a dear friend that can’t do snakes)

A Trip to Santa Fe. We drove to Santa Fe to see our friends Karol and Jerry and attend the famous Indian Market. This was the 93rd running of an international Native American event that draws thousands of visitors from around the world. The entire downtown area of Santa Fe is blocked off, with hundreds of small booths for Native Americans displaying and selling their creations. I remember representatives from Chippewa, Apache, Hopi, Navajo, Comanche, and Zuni tribes but there were over 1000 tribes there from the US and Canada. The artist in the Comanche booth was named Quanah Parker Burgess. Not all of you will know the name Quanah Parker. He is the most famous Comanche in history. He was a ferocious fighter who fought the U.S. Army in the 1800’s for years. Quanah Parker’s mother was Cynthia Ann Parker, a girl who was kidnapped in 1836 at age 9 and assimilated into the Comanche tribe. It appears that Quanah’s name is still used and revered today. Much of his life is detailed in the book Empire oP1010921 dancers-blogf the Summer Moon by S.C. Gwynne, a book I highP1010924 baskets-blogly recommend.




We walked all over Santa Fe peacock silver piece-blogand were overwhelmed by the art we saw. Silver, turquoise, pottery, stone, feathers, and wool. We talked to a Navajo lady from Arizona who made the “best of show” rug. It was on sale for $110,000. It was beautiful piece of work. Thanks so much to Karol and Jerry Ryan for hosting us at their beautiful Santa Fe home. Nice meals in Santa Fe and at Karol and Jerry’s house.P1010945 Santa Fe Indian Market-blog

Working on the Refuge. Since Arlyne and I passed the Defensive Driving Course, I now take a Government vehicle every day to get the mail in the little town north of the refuge. Last week I started taking a Fish and Wildlife truck (and some tools) out on the refuge to trim vegetation from the viewing decks and walkways in preparation for the Crane Festival. With the daytime heat, I can only do this for about 3 hours or so. As visitors begin to arrive over the next month, I’ll be a “rover” and drive around the refuge to help the public to find and identify wildlife and follow the rules, of course. Arlyne will do some of this as well.

Canyon Hike. I hiked the Canyon Trail with another volunteer who is an expert botanist and a very good birder. This was the first Saturday hike he plans to do for the next few months and I was his only guest. This hike goes up a gentle slope into a beautiful canyon where we saw the birds and the bees, literally. We spotted a peregrine falcon flowing through the canyon and later a barn owl that flew just over our heads. It was amazing to see a number of bee hives built in crevices right in the canyon walls. The rain we’ve had in August has caused a burst of wildflowers throughout the Refuge and all along the trails. P1020063 Bob lost in the canyon DSC_0013 canyon beehive-blog P1020059 Bosque Canyon Trail-blog

Ibis stages DSC_0025 blog









Thanks again for following us around,

The Drapers

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Posted by on September 7, 2014 in Bird Lover