Grand Canyon With A Little Wildlife

The Grand Canyon was as grand as it’s name!  We visited the South Rim, and I felt like I was looking at a living painting from every overlook we ventured. My senses were overwhelmed with the beauty…..

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The Grand Canyon became a National Park in 1919 and has since been given the honor as one of the seven natural wonders of the world.  The Grand Canyon is 277 miles (446 km) long, up to 18 miles (29 km) wide, one mile (1.6 km) deep, and covers 1,900 square miles.

The Grand Canyon includes rock at the bottom that is nearly two billion years old!

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The numerous overlooks offered unparalleled views of grandeur.

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While at the Grand Canyon, we learned authorities were still trying to recover one person who had fallen weeks prior, and another person fell to their death on a day inbetween the two days we visited.

We were seriously flabbergasted at seeing so many people taking chances each day we were there, passing over/under/aside the fencing.  Parents taking children with them to do selfies!  A bit crazy to say the least, as this teenager was in the next photo.

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(People, please be safe and don’t take chances!)

 

Below the South Rim, the Colorado River flows at an average speed of four miles per hour.  Averaging 300 feet wide and 100 feet deep, the river flows west through the Grand Canyon.

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Colorado River off in the distance, winding through the Grand Canyon at sunset

 

The temperatures were in the low to mid 80’s while we were there, but at the canyon’s floor, it soared to over 100 degrees each day.  With a required permit, hikers still took to the trailheads and were required to spend the evening in the canyon if hiking to the bottom.

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Bright Angel Trailhead – over 18 miles round trip

 

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A horseback trail way down below….

 

The Grand Canyon is also home to 70 species of mammals, 250 species of birds, 25 species of reptiles, and five species of amphibians.

Only a few came out of hiding for me…..

I had shared a few posts back of Rock Squirrels spotted at the Grand Canyon, here’s a repeat of those cuties.

The “beggar” getting caught in the act!

 

Common Ravens were in abundance, searching parking lots for food.  This one, however, was busily working on collecting nesting materials.

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Common Raven

 

The Roadrunner is clearly named appropriately.  He was so fast, this was the only focused photo I got.  With an awful background in a parking lot to boot. 😦

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Roadrunner (a new lifer!)

 

At one instance while standing back and just absorbing it all, I heard/felt (not sure which!) a buzz go by me and turned to see this next Rufous Hummingbird in the brush.

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Saw a few bunnies, always adorable of course….

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And a mule deer, grazing….

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We even got lucky in seeing an Elk, who was too busy eating and wouldn’t look up for a face capture.  Great rack though!

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One of the two days we stayed until sunset.  It’s was surreal…..

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I could easily spend a couple weeks venturing throughout the entire park, there is so much more to see and do.  Our two days there were exhausting but well-worth the visit!

We Got Our Kicks On (Historical) Route 66

Hello Everyone!  So sorry for the long absence, our RV adventure has been thrilling, awesome, inspiring, and fun, with meeting new friends and seeing our beautiful country.  So much so, it’s been hard to find time to edit and post, if I can give an excuse!  Our trip to date, departing from the East Coast, has been almost 4,000 miles:

2016 RV Trip Map 1-2

 

Towards the beginning of our trip while passing through Oklahoma City on I-40W and up until we arrived to our first big destination in Williams, Arizona, we rode about 900 miles where our GPS showed icons for numerous roadside attractions, noting they were part of the historical “Route 66” highway.

Back in the day, maybe some of you remember experiencing the original US Route 66 on a business or family roadtrip.

The GPS icons and history kept us entertained as I tried to snap photos of some of the roadside “attractions” while cruising past them along the I-40 corridor that overrode or road alongside the original Route 66 for the most part.  A few of my photos are actually in focus enough, and I thought I’d share them with this interesting history (sorry it’s so long!).

Being one of the most famous roads in America, a paved US Route 66 was completed on November 11, 1926, running from Chicago, Illinois, through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona before ending at Santa Monica, California, for a total of 2,448 miles (3,940 km).

 Over its 60 years of existence, US Route 66 received many nicknames:
“The Mother Road”
“The Great Diagonal Way”
“The Main Street of America”
“The Will Rogers Highway”

US Route 66 was an important highway for many reasons.  During the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, it served as a major paved path for those who migrated west.

By the 1950s, US Route 66 had become a major highway for vacationers, with the road passing many nearby national parks/monuments, recreational areas, and tourist attractions.  Passing through numerous small towns, US Route 66 also created the rise of mom & pop businesses, including gas stations, restaurants, souvenir shops, motor courts, all readily accessible to passing tourists.  This sharp increase in tourism then gave rise to hundreds of roadside attractions, including teepees, “local” tours, ice cream stands, Indian trading posts, anything to grab your attention to get you to stop.  Super-tacky and eclectic was the norm.  Some are still standing today that were “icon’d” on our GPS.  Many of these are now defunct, little ghost town shops.  Others are still alive and attract!

 

DSC_7717-1 6816The Big Texan in Amarillo opened in 1965 and advertised a free 72 ounce steak dinner to anyone who could eat the entire meal in one hour.  They still do today!  Try you luck and join the almost 3,000 people to date who have defeated the challenge.  (Poor stomachs!)

 

_DSC0099-1 6816Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo, Texas – 10 Cadillacs from 1949 to 1963 buried nose down.

Not to be outdone…..

_DSC0078-1 6816Bug Ranch, Conway, Texas – Five VW Bugs buried nose down

 

Forgot to note what location these were at but definitely attention-getters.

 

_DSC0066-1 6816Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Groom Texas – 190’ tall & can be seen for 20 miles (breath-taking)

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A defunct Britten truck stop had installed a “Pisa-style” water tower in Groom, Texas, to get motorists to stop

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The beginning of the decline of US Route 66 came in 1956 when President Eisenhower signed the Interstate Highway Act.  As new bypasses were built, more and more towns were passed by, leaving many of the mom-and-pop businesses and area attractions unable to survive the lost revenue.

In 1984, Williams, Arizona was the last town/state to see its final stretch of the US Route 66 highway decommissioned with the completion of their I-40 bypass.  The following year, US Route 66 officially ceased to exist and was removed from the US Highway System.

When the highway was decommissioned, sections of the road were disposed of in various ways.  Some sections became state roads, local roads, private drives, or were abandoned completely and left to the elements.

Many preservation groups tried to save and even landmark the old motels and neon signs along the road in different states by creating Route 66 associations; the first was founded in Arizona in 1987, followed by the other US Route 66 states.

DSC_7742-1 6816To celebrate Route 66’s history, this monument was erected in Tucumcari, New Mexico, in 1997.  Tucumcari was bypassed by I-40 and has mostly fallen to despair with many abandoned motor courts still standing, awaiting preservation.

In 1999, President Clinton signed a National Route 66 Preservation Bill which provided for $10 million in matching fund grants for preserving and restoring the historic features along the route.

Since then, the National Park Service developed a Route 66 Discover Our Shared Heritage Travel Itinerary describing over one hundred individual historic sites to visit.

Over the years, the US Route 66 experience was also publicized by pop-culture artists through song, books, and television that you may recognize, including:

— The Song, “Get Your Kicks on Route 66”, written by Bobby Troup and first recorded by Nat King Cole in 1946, and later by many other singers.

— A TV series in the 1960s called “Route 66”.

— The book and film, “The Grapes of Wrath”, in which the Joad family is evicted from their small farm in Oklahoma and travel to California on US Route 66.

— “Cars”, the Disney Pixar film, is set in “Radiator Springs”, a composite of multiple real towns located on US Route 66.  Part of the film’s storyline revolves around how the once vibrant town that fell into decline after it was bypassed when Route 66 was superseded by the new Interstate.

Looking for and trying to photograph the attractions was a lot of fun.  We did take a break and stopped in Flagstaff, Arizona, that was also by-passed by I-40 to have lunch at the Galaxy Diner.

DSC_8501-1 62116Pretty cool retro decor, great food, and reasonable!

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What fun it was to follow the history for something to do as we cruised across the country.  When we arrived to our destination in Williams, Arizona, this charming mountainside town continues to this day to ‘live’ in the 1950-1960’s with the nostalgia and history of Route 66.  It added a lot of fun to our visiting this area.

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The town of Williams was determined to not let US Route 66 die.  Many buildings and businesses survived the I-40 bypass, including several motor courts and eateries.

 

There are murals throughout the town.

More nostalgia….

Some of the town greeters…

You can even ride a zipline at 30 mph to the tune of “Get Your Kicks on Route 66”!

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Every day this next sign is placed somewhere on the Rt 66 loop for location of the evening’s street gunfight.  (One every night throughout the summer.)

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And when the sun goes down, all the neon lighting is aglow, just as it was along US Route 66 back in the 1950’s.

There is so much more Route 66 nostalgia in Williams that I didn’t photograph, along with a ‘western town’ eatery set-up that was pretty neat.

The Grand Canyon Railway is stationed on the Route 66 loop in Williams and also housed a hotel and our campground.  The railway has been running tourists back and forth daily to the Grand Canyon since 1901.  For train buffs, there were many photo ops of the station and different rail cars to capture.

 

And we were also lucky to see one of two Williams’ rodeos that occurred while here.

Even the kids were involved….

Yes, Williams is a touristy town; but it was a lot of fun to walk, bike, people-watch….and get really caught up in the Route 66 vibe!  Williams was also a great pivot point for us to visit the Grand Canyon (56 miles away) twice as well as visit the Sedona area and cruise a few scenic byways (Hwy 89A from Prescott to Sedona was awesome!), mountains, a ski resort, and the local lakes.

Did you ever Get Your Kicks on a Route 66 roadtrip, past or present? 🙂

“Steller” Birding Days Plus at Kaibab Lake

Excuse my absence, we took to the road after my last post and it has been sporadic internet coverage since.  It’s been almost impossible to post and read blogs; I had to give up, hoping our next destination’s coverage would be better.  It’s not and feels like landline.  Argh!  That hourglass!!  I’ll try to catch up on your blogs but excuse me if I’m not able to comment much.

So yes, we’ve relocated twice since my last post.  We left Williams, Arizona, for Lake Powell in Page, Arizona, and then moved on a week later to here in Bryce Canyon.  I’ll be ‘hoodoo’ sight-seeing these next few days!

Now a little catch-up back-tracking, back to Kaibab Lake just outside Williams where I enjoyed a some great birding and wildlife a few hours over several days.

It was always a pleasure to check up on the Osprey family.

 

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Momma Osprey coming in for a landing

 

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Momma Osprey and one of her chicks (I saw two total)

Hearing the telltale sound of tree drilling, I was always looking for Woodpeckers.  I finally sighted this Hairy Woodpecker.  He refused to come out of the shade.

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Hairy Woodpecker

 

When I saw this second woodpecker, it appeared to be a Flicker, but the red markings were different than the Northern Flicker.  I was excited to discover later that it was a Gilded Flicker, a new “lifer” for me.

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Gilded Flicker

 

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Gilded Flicker

Another “lifer” for me is this Canyon Wren.  He flew from rock to rock, singing his little heart out.

 

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Canyon Wren

 

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Canyon Wren

I’ve captured Eastern Bluebirds back home on the East Coast, and I was hoping to add the Western Bluebird to my “lifer” list.  I did!

 

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Western Bluebird

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Western Bluebird

In abundance was a loud bird making it easy to find and follow, and I worked on photographing them each time I visited.   It was the Steller’s Jay (Rocky Mountain variety) and another “lifer” for me.

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Steller’s Jay (Rocky Mountain variety)

There is also a Steller’s Jay (Pacific variety), the difference being the Rocky Mountain variety has the white ‘eyebrow’ where the Pacific variety does not.

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Steller’s Jay (Rocky Mountain variety)

I just love this next capture.  The wind was blowing, flaring the Steller’s Jay crown as he turned towards me.

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Steller’s Jay (Rocky Mountain variety)

There was plenty of wildlife that meandered around during daylight.  The Rock Squirrels could keep you busy all day with their photogenic cuteness.

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Rock Squirrel

There were also Prairie Dogs, Jack Rabbits, Mule Deer, and lizards who saw me before I saw them.

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Jack Rabbit

 

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Jack Rabbit

 

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Lizard

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Mule Deer with a mouthful

 

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Prairie Dog

 

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Prairie Dog

 

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Prairie Dog

 

It was a lot of fun birding and wildlife watching at Kaibab Lake.  And if you enjoy dry-camping in our National forests, the large paved campground sites there are awesome.  The wildlife increases dramatically at dusk I was told by some of the campers.

Thank you for stopping by, I appreciate your visit and hope to catch up with your posts real soon!

(I’m a little apprehensive on whether this post gets “published” with the slow connection.  Fingers crossed!)

 

Shorebirds At Kaibab Lake

I’ve enjoyed Kaibab Lake, outside Williams, Arizona, for several visits now.  It quickly became my go-to for little birding excursions.  In addition to the Osprey, I found the lake also offers wonderful summer shorebirds to watch and photograph.

I almost didn’t catch the flight of this Great Blue Heron as he soared high over my shoulder and down to the shoreline.

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Great Blue Heron in flight

He is a regular, but prefers the far side of the lake.  Far enough away to make it hard in getting any sharp detail due to heavy cropping.  But he is still a beauty and nice to see here at the lake.

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Great Blue Heron, Kaibab Lake

 A Cormorant is also a regular and keeps his distance from everyone as well.  He was along the shoreline I was walking and was quick to take flight to the other side to join the Great Blue Heron.

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Cormorant, Kaibab Lake

It was on another visit that I got closer to that driftwood above.  I really liked it and thought how neat it would look in a garden or on a porch.  I took several photos at different angles and caught the sight of a heart in the center.  Cool!  (Hey BeckyP, I found a heart!)

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There are two sets of Momma ducks with her ducklings.  I did not capture a good enough photo to post of the Momma with five ducklings, but here’s the other Momma with her three.  They also stay on the far side of the lake.

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Maybe a Mallard Duck and her three ducklings, too hard for me to ID

Not necessarily a shorebird, but soaring all over the lake and around me were swallows.  They are a fun challenge to try and catch in flight, and I trashed a ton of photos just to get these two decent ones.  The coloring had me thinking it was a new “lifer” for me so I spent a good 15-20 minutes working on them. 🙂

And it is a new “lifer” for me!  A Violet-green Swallow found only in the American West.

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Female Violet-green Swallow

I think they had just as much fun as I as they did their aerial acrobats catching insects and smiling at me as they went by!

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Female Violet-green Swallow

 

This next fella was super-fun to watch and such a trooper to allow me the challenge of getting some nice shots.  It was a Spotted Sandpiper, and he was on my side of the lake.  It was exciting that he allowed me to get somewhat close enough to plop my fanny on a rock and just fire away as he fooled around and posed several places along that little stretch of shoreline.

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Male Spotted Sandpiper

 

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He did get nervous once and took flight further down the shoreline.  But before I got up to continue my walk, he came back.  And so another photo-session continued.  I couldn’t have been happier at that moment!

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Male Spotted Sandpiper

 

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“Howdee there!”

I was super-thankful with these captures and so many more, as I only seen him at one visit…..and these are the best photos I’ve gotten of this bird!

As many of you know, I am a big fan of the shoreline birds around the Chesapeake Bay.  So it’s been another cool surprise for me to get my ‘shoreline bird’ fix right here in the Southwest so close to the desert. 🙂

 

 

 

Rock Squirrels and A Least Chipmunk

If you’re like me, you can’t help but take a photo now and then of squirrels, they are cute and will freeze in poses, hoping to blend in and you not see them.  Or maybe they are wondering and sniffing to see if you have something to eat.  They make for great wildlife photography practice with the abundance of several species throughout the United States.

The squirrels that are part of the Kaibab National Forest in Arizona are primarily Rock Squirrels.  They camouflage pretty well with the area’s red rock.  If I hadn’t seen him run to the rock, I might not have seen this next one off in the distance.

_DSC0489-1 62916.jpgRock Squirrel, Kaibab Lake

I met up with another Rock Squirrel while at the Grand Canyon where signs were posted throughout to please not feed the squirrels.

It was while I was standing back and away from the crowd, there was a startling rustle in the tree next to me.  We made eye contact.

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He continued to move around the tree, munching here and there, but always checking on my location.

_DSC0024-1 62016“You still there?”

 _DSC0029-1 62016“Hey, you got anything good to eat?”

I walked away when he started to become more interested in me, I figured he was wondering if I had any food.  Nope.  Nada.  Not for you.

This next fella proved some tourists don’t follow the rules.  He jumped out from the railing and ran up to a lady, and stood on his hind legs.  She was so tickled and bent over to take his photo with her cell phone.

He then reached up to try and take it!

_DSC0039-1 62016Begging Rock Squirrel, “I’ll take that!”

We all started to laugh while the lady snatched up her phone.  I then got this next shot.

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The lady wasn’t about to give him her cell phone.  The Rock Squirrel quickly gave up and ran back behind the railing to the rocks.  It was obvious he was a pro, probably doing this many times a day.

Chipmunks are also a member of the squirrel family.  They are smaller and tend to not be a nuisance to society as the larger squirrels we all know so well.

Heading out of the Kaibab Lake recreational area, something caught my eye.  Backlit from the late afternoon sun, a tiny Least Chipmunk was busy nibbling on a pine needle.  I shot my photos out of the window of our running truck.

_DSC0072-1 63016Least Chipmunk, Lake Kaibab

The smallest of all chipmunks at 4-7 inches long and only weighing 1-2 ounces, the Least Chipmunk is widely distributed throughout the United States.

Seeing our truck backing up, this little fella dropped to the ground and continued to nibble.

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I was tickled with this photo op, and we started to roll on when he jumped back on top of the rock.

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We stopped again and I took a couple more photos.  He was now getting wary of us.

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I snapped above, and we rolled on.  Bet he went back to eating!

I felt lucky to have spotted that tiny chipmunk.

So I say, how can anyone deny the cuteness of squirrels and chipmunks?!!

 

Breaking Bird News….At Least to Me!

A couple weeks ago, we left Gallup, New Mexico, and arrived to our present destination in Williams, Arizona, a charming mountainside ‘western’ town designated as the “Gateway to the Grand Canyon” and nestled in Kaibab Forest, one of the largest Ponderosa Pine Forests in the world.  We’ve been to the Grand Canyon and Sedona & it’s surrounding areas where I’ve gone crazy with photography; I have so many to go through and attempt to condense down to just a few of each to share with you.

But first, I really REALLY needed to share this post. This is excitingly special to me! 🙂

There are four lakes around Williams, which is at an elevation of 6800 ft.  I’m indeed loving the surrounding landscape but wanted…..no, needed to photograph some birds, so I visited 45-acre Kaibab Lake, just a couple miles north of our campground.

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Walking along the lake, taking photos, I heard a distinct series of high-pitched calls, followed by a succession of chirps, then the high-pitched squeals again.

What?  No way!  An Osprey?  One of my loves of the Chesapeake Bay, here in Arizona??

I started scanning the skies and look who passed on by me….

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I quickly moved around, scanning through the treetops where the male Osprey was headed and “bingo!” spotted the nest on a tall dead tree surrounded by live pines a couple hundred feet in to the forest where the “Mrs” was impatiently waiting and calling.

I was so excited and couldn’t believe my eyes.  What a special treat!!

And what an impressive nest!

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Can you also see a chick looking up at Dad as he’s coming in for the landing?

The pair of Osprey have two chicks.  Here’s my best family portrait so far, one chick is on each side of Momma in the nest, while Dad is on his perch.

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See the two chicks?

The chicks are young.  On occasion, I could see a wing stretch out and over the nest but no flapping as yet.

A few more photos, angling around the live pines surrounding the nest.

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On my second visit, an even more special find!  I arrived to a loud ruckus overhead.  There were four Osprey in the sky, circling, while the Osprey pair were on their nest, squealing their distaste for the intruders.  Dad first took to the sky to chase, and then Mom.  The chicks stayed down low inside the nest.

With all the trees, I couldn’t get any really good shots, but did get these of the female returning back to her babies while her partner continued to push the other four Osprey further from the area.

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That was a total of six adult Osprey!  How cool is that?!!  I was in awe and shock.

Two of the Osprey flew across the lake and over the pines.  When I left and drove around to that side of the lake that borders near Rt. 64, I located a second nest right on Rt. 64.  It was empty, making me wonder if the two Osprey I had seen fly this direction occupied it but were still out and about.  It’s a solid nest that appears to be season fresh, but lacks a brood it seems.

My third visit, I chatted with a local who came over to ask me what I was photographing (a Great Blue Heron at the time).  He fished Kaibab Lake & had come to see the water level, which I could tell seemed quite low.  Even as low as it looks, he told me the lake was still a good 15-20 feet deep with an abundance of fish including rainbow trout, largemouth bass, sunfish, carp, and channel catfish.  Per Wikipedia, the average depth of the Kaibab Lake is 37 feet.  With the summer’s average temps in the 80’s F, along with an excellent food supply, Kaibab Lake does make for a good home for the Osprey.

Who knew I’d see Osprey in the Southwest?!  I certainly did not expect it!!

Have a Happy 4th weekend, be safe and enjoy!

 

Canyon de Chelly National Monument

Our last excursion before departing New Mexico was to Canyon de Chelly National Monument in Chinle, Arizona.  It was just under 100 miles north of our campground.

From the ruins, artifacts, and images, it has been proven that people lived in these canyons for nearly 5,000 years, longer than anyone has lived uninterruptedly elsewhere on the Colorado Plateau.

Today, Canyon de Chelly (pronounced “da Shay”) is comprised entirely of Navajo Tribal Trust Land.  In 1931, the U.S. National Park Service established it as a National Monument, and they continue to this day to work in partnership with the Navajo Nation to manage park resources and sustain this living Navajo community.

Canyon de Chelly has two paved rim drives with overlooks and many hiking trails that lead down into the canyon.  We arrived early afternoon and drove the two rims, stopping at all the overlooks.

The North Rim Drive is 18 miles long one way with 3 overlooks and best photographed in the morning, whereas the South Rim is best in the afternoon.  I did struggle with my exposures and the intense early afternoon bright sun on the North Rim Drive.

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As you took in the views at the overlooks, if you looked hard enough, you could spot numerous cliff and cave dwelling ruins.

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DSC_7930-1 61216 Mummy Cave

DSC_7931-1 61216 Mummy Cave

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The South Rim Drive is 16 miles long one way with seven overlooks.  As the afternoon got later, I was more successful with my exposure and lighting settings. 🙂

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The largest ruins we spotted on the South Rim was called the White House.  It was occupied by the Puebloans about 1,000 years ago.  You can take a 2.5 mile round trip hiking trail to this ruin if you desire.

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The most famous overlook on the South Rim is Spider Rock Overlook.  Spider Rock is an 800 foot sandstone spire that rises from the canyon floor.  The overlook’s rim walkway provided so many ways to photograph Spider Rock, and I got a little carried away.  Here’s just a few…..

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Although there were about 10-12 people at Spider Rock Overlook, there were other Overlooks where we were the only two.  That was pretty awesome!

The flowers and critters seen that day at Canyon de Chelly…..

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The horses were owned by the Navajo and wandered across the roads freely.

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Rock Squirrel

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Finally, this next little bird flew right in front of me and into a tree early in the afternoon.  I have not been able to identify this one.  Anyone?

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For sure, the afternoon at Canyon de Chelly was exhilarating with lots of ooohs and aaahs!  And the solitude with nature?  Amazing!!

 

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