Saturday, January 30, 2010

Random Signs of Life (and Death) in the Chihuahuan Grass-Shrubland

We live in the northern extent of the Chihuahuan Desert which extends from Mexico into west Texas and southern New Mexico. As anyone who's spent any amount of time paying attention in a desert ecosystem realizes, they are far from desert-ed. Plant and animal life is as rich as in any other ecosystem. Soils and landforms (and the water and nutrients that flow through them) are supremely hospitable to the flora and fauna that has adapted here over the eons. When looked at objectively the "desert" here is really a grass and shrub-land. There are at least 128 species of native grasses living at Carlsbad Caverns National Parks and these - along with native shrubs, forbs, succulents and cacti - form an interlocking mosaic of vegetation that readily blankets the natural landscape.

Traipsing over these lands we've come to love them and have become more attuned to paying attention to the unique expression of plant and animal life, soils, water features, etc.

Last weekend we hiked Yucca Canyon and here are a few of the interesting signs of life (and death) that we were lucky to come across.

The carcass below is a Barbary Sheep that may well have been a meal for a mountain lion (see the scat):

What may seem like an unlikely association of things: trees, shrubs, sedges, cacti, forbs and lichens!:

We have found that being open to experiencing a place on its own terms is a huge short cut to appreciating and understanding that place.

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