Sunday, May 31, 2009

It's Illegal to destroy bird nests!

Whew! The weekend is over before we even really knew it began! Jennifer is working on preparing program outlines that are due this week so we did not do much other than a quick venture to the coffee shop, lots of home chores and a couple of walks to go see the cliff swallows Jennifer wrote about here.

Once in sight of the swallows on our first walk we realized they were not alone and were in fact under assault by 3-4 children. The parent swallows were swooping around all upset because the human children were throwing large rocks at the nests. :(

We appealed to the kid's sense of wonder first to perhaps stir an awakening that these living creatures are mighty cool. We walked on a bit and then came back to find them on the other side of the bridge doing the same thing. We told them what they were doing was wrong and they had until we got home to get out of there because we were calling a conservation officer. Finding no conservation officer to call, we called the non-emergency police line and reported their behavior. We know an officer was dispatched, but don't know whether the kids were still there once the police arrived.

We took a walk back to the swallows today to find about 8-10 nests destroyed on one side with nesting material and eggs on the ground. The other side obviously had some destroyed too, but we did not get close enough to count.

SO - the point of this post is not to depress, but to inform. We confirmed with a friend who is a former U.S Fish & Wildlife employee that it is ILLEGAL TO DESTROY BIRD NESTS (or feathers, eggs, birds, or pieces & parts thereof) of any species other than house sparrows, pigeons & starlings. Eurasian collared doves are being considered for the latter grouping as well. All this is outlined in the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918.

So - word to the wise. Let's help protect our avian friends!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Caving Picture!

Here's a nice picture one of our co-workers captured in Hall of the White Giant - a crawling caving adventure in Carlsbad Caverns National Park. Pictured are the 2009 Summer/Summer-Fall Seasonals (which includes Jennifer), Steve (Biological Science Technician) and one of our tour leaders - a permanent Interpretive Park Guide.

The black area in the back of the photo is the location of the White Giant cave formation. You can see the formation and folks getting up to the formation here. It's even more beautiful in person!

We explored our second belly crawling cave this week and hope to get our hands on those photos soon.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Expect the Unexpected

A while ago I noticed some chomping action on our horseradish plant and upon investigation found a cabbage white caterpillar feeding on the leaves. I transferred the little dude to some other mustards (same family of plants so the caterpillar can still eat) growing on the property and thought that was that.

This past weekend Steve noticed a female cabbage white hanging round the horseradish for long periods of time so I went to investigate. She flitted around quite a bit so I had a hard time capturing her in a photo, but here's a distance shot. (Natural history factoid: Female cabbage whites have two black spots on the upper wing, while males have one.)

Upon close inspection of the horseradish leaves I found probably a hundred of these:

Do you see what I am talking about? Those little white protrusions are butterfly eggs! Looks like we will have a nice healthy population of cabbage white caterpillars. :)

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Ain't No Substitute For Rain

Recent unexpected rains have shown us that there is no substitution for natural precipitation. Our vegetables had been languishing a bit - even with daily watering. With a full day of overcast skies and slow steady drizzle all the veggies and herbs seemed to double in size.

Here's a few photos of our happy plants:

Lettuce (mostly in the shade so still ok - not bitter)...

Black-eyed Peas...

Roma tomatoes...

Green Chile plants grown from seed...

Hopi Black Dye Sunflowers...

Our zucchini plant looking a little sad; some watering after the photo helped perk her right back up...

Close up of the zucchini flowers forming...

BASIL - lots of growing happening...

A Gray Hairstreak butterfly resting on our roma tomato plant...

Jennifer instructing someone or something....

Monday, May 25, 2009

One Recipe Leads to Another

And motivation is contagious. This morning Jennifer made bread:

Then Steve made scones:

Then we collaborated on mac and cheese as well as...

...scalloped potatoes:

A bounty it became and now we've got food for the week!:

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Slaughter Canyon

Beautiful Slaughter Canyon was shrouded in clouds, fog and mist the other day as the area saw uncharacteristic amounts of precipitation. We encountered this welcome moisture on an adventure to Slaughter Canyon Cave a couple of days ago.

The trail up to the cave entrance skirts the south side of Slaughter Canyon. It's steep, all up, and beautiful.

Into the clouds:

We are certain that this little moss was happy about the moisture:

As was this millipede:

Did this little bird live? We like to think so:

Oak leaves contributing to a bit of soil amongst the rocky cliffs:

Much life clings to the steep mountainsides:

We reach the cave entrance:

Soon, we are in another world:

A sampling of cave formations:

Happy hikers on the way out:

We anticipated sun when we emerged but it was even wetter - the rain was heavier and it was quite an adventure hiking back to our car on the steep and slippery trail. We could feel the collective gratefulness for moisture all around and are now very excited for the soon-to-be wildflower blooms!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Friday, May 22, 2009

Bounder Has a Tag-A-Long Friend

Ever since we've been back in an apartment, Bobcat (tortie) has become a tag-a-long friend to Bounder (tabby). Like in the picture below where Bounder is eating and Bobcat is quite fascinated by it. Bounder is highly annoyed by the attention for the most part but will occasionally chase Bobcat up her scratching post for a bit of validation. Oh, what would we do without our little kittens!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Our Folks Taught Us Well

I come from one of those midwestern families where we all do deep justice to our solid upbringing (via giving more than we receive, on balance) but we never tell each other about it. Case in point - my brother Tim recently helped out on a Habitat For Humanity house and the only reason I found out about it was because of Facebook. Thank goodness for the world wide web! Here's a couple pics:

Here he is transforming 2x4's into a wall:

Here he (and the large crew) is putting the wall in place:

Inspiration is all around!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Humbled Yet Again

Well it sure doesn't take much to be grateful and humbled if you just take a look around a bit.

Today I was noticing license plates on cars from all over the country and N. America for that matter and I thought, "wow, I'm actually working here at Carlsbad Caverns National Park!". Then I remembered that the place is also a World Heritage Site - which is a big deal. Then I checked on that and found out that...

...there are only 20 World Heritage sites in the United States, 3 of them are here in The Land of Enchantment and 1 of them is where we both work! Or should I say, "where we both are privileged to work."

The other 2 that are in New Mexico are:

Chaco Culture National Historic Park and

Pueblo de Taos

It's interesting to note that only 2 other states (California and Alaska) have more than one World Heritage Sites and that no other state has as many as 3. Not that anybody is counting ;)

Of course we think that every square inch of this Earth is incredible. If you want to visit some exceptional examples check the list to find the closest World Heritage Site. You might be surprised. Then go visit one. We live on an incredible planet!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Back to the working world...

Wednesday Jennifer starts work at Carlsbad Caverns too. Yay! Below is a glimpse at some of the books I've been reading in preparation.

Things are going to get a mighty bit busier on this end so there may be less posting, especially as we adjust, but we will still post so check on us every so often.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Ocotillo Nature Trail - Good for a slow weekend

This past weekend we enjoyed some relaxation time. It always seems to take awhile to settle into a new place after moving and as our friend Adrianne says, "we're still arriving." Our energy levels this weekend, Jennifer's healing foot from stepping on glass (& having it removed & given a tetanus shot) and Steve's need to study for his pesticide applicator's test today mandated some down time so we visited our new favorite coffee shop, did a little antiquing and took a short walk on the Ocotillo Nature Trail. The trail is located on the University of NM campus here in Carlsbad and is 0.9 miles up a hill that overlooks the Pecos River valley.

The native vegetation is quite intact along this trail and interesting to observe. The following photo shows a yucca in bloom. Many bees and other insects were flying about - probably trying for the nectar. I believe most yuccas are pollinated by the yucca moth though. Yuccas are very useful for people as well - you can learn more here.

The white-thorned acacias are in bloom and the fragrance is absolutely intoxicating. Wonderful!

We also watched many Western Kingbirds foraging for insects from prominent perches on the desert flora and two falcons soaring and diving for prey. We did not have our binoculars so I am not sure on the exact ID, but the behavior was unmistakeable. We did not see any capture of animals, but did see an oblivious bird get quite a startle in flight when the falcon swooped down in pursuit.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Sourdough Bread: Take 1

About a week ago I made my first sourdough starter and I've since used it and made bread. Here's a look at the tasty loaves:

The recipe I used describes the sourdough flavor as "amiable and not too sour" so I am not ready to say yet whether the starter worked well. I could taste a bit of sourness in the bread, but Steve could not. That does not necessarily mean anything as I pay much closer attention, but it does call for another try with a recipe that describes the loaf as having "arresting sourness." Here is the recipe for the bread pictured above. It really is quite good. If you cannot read it and want the recipe - let me know, I will scan it in and email it to you. (The second page of the recipe is a bit blurry - sorry about that.)

I made a tasty veggie spread the other day from Betty Crocker's Easy Everyday Vegetarian and slathered it quite happily on our homemade bread. The spread is so super good! The recipe follows if you are interested.