New Mexico - Spring 2010
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11 May 2010
One can measure the distance from the Oklahoma plains west into the mountains of New Mexico by the rivers crossed.  First come the Cimarron and the South Canadian: muddy, slow-moving prairie streams, a hundred yards wide and an inch deep.  Then the Washita; the North Fork of the Red; the Pecos.  Eventually, in a wide valley that it carved out, you cross the Rio Grande.  At last comes the Rio Brazos, a rollicking little mountain stream, cold and clear, that flows out of the San Juan Mountains of northern New Mexico.
     The hills above the Brazos are covered in white fir, aspen, and ponderosa pine.  Charlotte and I bought two acres here in 2001.
Highway 512 & Brazos Cliffs

In 2009 we built a vacation log cabin on our land.  To be more precise, we designed it all.  Then we watched and wrote checks as men with the necessary skills laid the foundation, raised the beams, stained and painted, installed appliances.
   We also worried.  We laid awake at night; took aspirin and Tums.  Did we do the right thing?  Was it worth it?  We still do not know the answer.  Time will tell. 
   Our
cabin is 100 miles north of Santa Fe.  The road takes us through Georgia O'Keeffe country - stark, colorful red and ochre cliffs that are the essence of New Mexico.  Then come high mountains.  Just south of Chama village we turn east on Highway 512 toward the Brazos Cliffs.  The road passes through open country:  the domain of prairie dogs, Black-billed Magpies, and the occasional Lewis’ Woodpecker.  Then the forest closes in.  Ponderosa pines replace the sagebrush and juniper Mule deer graze quietly by the roadside.  Our cabin sits along a dirt road amid tall trees.  From the back deck one can look through the pines to a distant slope covered with aspen and conifers
 

Male Broad-tailed Hummingbird

15 May 2010
In the gray light of dawn I awaken  to the calls of ravens and Steller's Jays.  My first task, even before starting a pot of coffee, is to put out the hummingbird feeder.
    I mounted the feeder on the day I arrived. None had ever been put up before.  The nearest cabins are almost a quarter of a mile away through the forest.
   But within an hour came the first male Broad-tailed Hummingbird, soon followed by la hembra.  These are hardy little birds.  On my first night here, the temperature dropped to 25°F.  It has been down to freezing every night since.  But Broad-tails persevere.  They have little choice if they are to breed at  8000 ft in the Rocky Mountains.

 

 

18 May 2010
As the day warms, I sit on the shaded back deck and photograph to my heart's content.  The Steller's Jays, the Pygmy and White-breasted Nuthatches, the Dark-eyed ('gray-headed') Juncos, just about all birds, nonchalantly feed some twenty or thirty feet away. Another summer resident who appeared today, Western Tanager, is rather more shy.  Two males and females regularly drink from the water that I put out.  Unfortunately they are intimidated by all other birds and even the little Colorado Chipmunks. 

 

19 May 2010
It is a fact that one cannot always dictate who is allowed to visit their bird feeder or not.  I was reminded of this two days ago.  As I talked to Charlotte back in Oklahoma by phone, I watched a decidedly large black bear amble up the road and into our driveway, quite at home, it seemed. 
   Ole Cinnamon, as I have named him, went around back to the bird feeder, but fled when I yelled at him.  Today he returned with more of an appetite for bird seed.  When I tried to scare him away, he moved off about fifty feet, looked back, and made a huffing sound that I did not care for at all. 
    But I had designed my feeder with ursines like him in mind.  The post can be easily pulled over, and the feeder itself removed by bears without wrecking it.  All went according to plan.  In the end, he pulled down the feeder, ate all the seed, but did no permanent damage.
    My photos of Ole Cinnamon were taken through the glass patio door.  There is a rule among photographers that you never photograph through window glass.  However, there is another rule that when your subject weighs two hundred pounds and has long sharp claws, you exercise caution when taking his photo.  The latter rule took precedence in this case.

20 May 2010
Just because it is late May does not mean it cannot snow here in the high Rockies.  We only had flurries for an hour, but it has been cold and windy.  The new stars at the bird feeder are Black-headed Grosbeaks, some 6-8 males and females.  Their song, such as it is, is heard throughout the day.

24 May 2010
Ole Cinnamon came up onto the back deck several nights ago just at twilight's last gleaming.  It was a bit unnerving seeing an animal that big, that close.  He kept going, however, and picked up the pace when I opened the patio door and banged on a pot with a metal spoon.
   The same tactic worked when his mate (?) and her cub showed up the next day.  Since then I've seen no bears. 
   But I've stopped putting out the seed feeder.  On a cool blustery day, several grosbeaks flew into the patio window.  One had a fatal collision.  So now I only put a little feed on the ground.  The jays, grosbeaks, and chickadees have abandoned me, as I hope they would.  Most seed is eaten by Colorado Chipmunks.  Young chipmunks must have emerged from their burrows, because now up to ten swarm around like ants.  What they do not eat is taken by red squirrels, rock squirrels, or Abert's squirrels.  Three different species that compete with the birds for seed!

26 May 2010
Charlotte and younger daughter Mary came out for a few days.  We've enjoyed the cool dry air as we barbeque chicken and dine alfresco, watching the squirrel and chipmunk circus beyond our deck.  When I return in June, I'll put up netting to prevent birds from hitting our windows.  Then, bears allowing, it will be back to feeding my mountain birds. 

 

Black-headed Grosbeak