Out of touch!!!

Wednesday, February 19th:  Bill worked most of the day until he was ready to send off what he’d done.  We drove to the store to find a sign which said “NO WIFI”!!!  We were shocked!  When we asked at the store, the man said someone had downloaded something inappropriate and they were being sued because of it, and the WiFi would turned off indefinitely!!  There is no cell phone coverage in this area, although some are able to find a hot spot about 5 miles up the road (not us) otherwise it’s about an hour and a half away!  This makes communication through WiFi nearly an essential.  So we planned to go into town in the morning to send off his work.  In the morning we stopped at the store first and saw the signs were gone – and sure enough WiFi was back!  Whew! So we took a little drive to the main junction to see if we would have cell phone service – NO, so it will be nearly a 4-hr round trip to place or receive phone calls!  We are however, pretty glad to have our WiFi back. Friday we set out for the SW part of the park to see Santa Elena canyon.  We noticed how many wildflowers are in bloom.  None of the prickly pear cacti yet, but there are lots of yuccas blooming, which must promise excellent nutrients for birds and insects.  Also along the side of the road are lupins, in bunches, starting and stopping, everywhere we drive. flower2-0368 bloom 2-0392 flowers-0384 The Ocotill0 are coming into bloom and we know it heralds the arrival of hummingbirds (and butterflies), which thrive on its nectar.  For most of the year they look like gray sticks stuck into the ground (very prickly also), but come spring they bloom with reddish flowers, which turn yellow as they age.  Sometimes, if conditions are right, all the stems are covered in little green leaves from top to bottom – haven’t seen any of those this year. for lois-3795 bloom p-0398 We also saw a small family of javelinas (also called collared peccaries), assumedly mom, pop and kid.  Too fast for a photo.  Found a Great Horned Owl in a tree in one of the campgrounds, but didn’t want to disturb it for a photo.. Our most exciting bird of the day was a covey of about 20 Scaled Quail.  We photographed them 2 yrs ago in TX, but nice to see them again (too fast for a photo this year).  For anyone who hasn’t seen one, here’s a photo taken off the web: Scaled_Quail The scenery is beautiful in the Chisos Mtns, and I especially liked the mule’s ears formation. mule ears-0364 Here are the mountains, then Santa Elena Canyon.  Apparently when they first discovered the canyon it in the early 1900’s, rangers sent an unmanned boat down the river to see how it would come out – all there was left were splinters at the end.  They did eventually travel down on rafts several years later, but had to do a portage at a rock slide.  shadow-0326 canyon-0418 Saturday we went into town to get groceries – a 2 hour drive.  I was able to phone Mom, which made me pretty happy.  I feel sort of cut off from civilization what with no phone coverage – and limited WiFi.  We saw a couple more groups of javelina’s (first 8 then 2) along the road today. Sunday we joined the organized birding walk a few hundred yards down the road from our campground.  We didn’t stay with them as it was for beginning birders.   Bill finally got a shot of the Blue-gray Gnatcatcher and I had to add this Pyrrhuloxia because it was such a great “action” shot. gnat-3598 I fly-3610 We also got a chance to photograph a Rock Wren – it blends so well into its environment – in both rocks and grassland. rock-3618 We did, however, ask the ranger “Cookie” a couple of questions and told her about the Gray Catbird we saw in the bushes – as well as the Black-throated Gray Warbler.  As we were leaving she came hurrying over to tell us she had just heard the Gray Hawk!  We re-parked, got out and heard it also!  We will come back down and I’m sure find it before we leave.  One of her participants had also found a Verdin Nest.  We’ve never seen one before.  It’s an egg-shaped object about 5″ long, with a hole in one end and a little overhang over the hole.  If you stick your finger in the hole, there’s a little lip before the softly-lined interior can be felt.  Ingenious! Here’s the Black-throated Gray Warbler – just a record shot (showing his throat). black warb-3776 Last bird of the day was an Inca Dove, which was roosting in a tree.  Can’t resist these pretties! inca-3718 A full day outing Monday to travel the east river road.  Stopped first at the hot springs to see what birds would be around.  Lots of Rock Wrens singing – must be several pairs in the area.  Found some lovely lily-like flowers with many stamens – couldn’t find out what they were on google (not knowledgeable enough I guess). flowers2-3820 Found a Black Phoebe which had adopted a ruined Cliff Swallow nest near the river. black again2-3832 black again-3836 Well, we won’t do that trip again – what a road!  It’s only 1-lane (if you can call it a lane), rough gravel with washes every mile or so.  Took all Bill’s patience to drive that road all day!  It was however, wonderful to see the desert in bloom like this.  Carpeted in flowers – short cream ones, taller white ones (that start out pinky-mauve and smell slightly like wolf willow, sweet and spicy), small and large yellow composites (daisy-like flowers), blue lupins, small purple and bright pink flowers.  Although it’s called the “river road” it only touches the river in a couple of places. The only new birds for the area were a Phainopepla, which we hadn’t seen for quite awhile (we love ’em) and a Western Bluebird.  Here are a few shots along the way. scene-3875 rocks1-3978 bloom-3933 rocks2-3970 flower1-3952 Tuesday was a work day for Bill – plus laundry for me.  The weather is changing from always being in the high 20’s to low 30’s to about 16C for a high and scattered showers.  Not only that, it rained overnight and the wind howled!  When we went in to send Bill’s work, the WiFi was down again.  Being so isolated isn’t fun and we’re feeling withdrawal symptoms.  We plan to leave tomorrow for Alpine (for a couple of days), then on to Carlsbad. Later in the day it warmed up, the clouds broke apart and the wind died down.  We went for a last little walk where the cottonwoods meet the river and the desert.  We saw an unusual menage a trios:  Turkey Vulture with 2 Chihuahuan Ravens! (Couldn’t get all 3 at once in the photo, so 2 separate).   All the birds are enjoying the break in the weather for a last ditch search for food before roosting for the night.  Here also is a line of White-winged Doves roosting. vulture-3992 ravens-3997 doves-4015 Since Bill went to the trouble of compiling a list for the park, here it is (only birders will want to look!): 1. Pied-billedGreme 2. Great  blue Heron 3. Mallard 4. American Kestrel 5. Northern Harrier 6. Greater Roadrunner 7. Mourning Dove 8. White-winged Dove 9. Eurasian Collared Dove 10. AmericanCoot 11. Green Kingfisher 12. Golden-fronted Woodpecker 13. Ladder-backed Woodpecker 14. Northern Flicker 15. Western Wood Pewee 16. Says Phoebe 17. Eastern Phoebe 18. Vermillion Flycatcher 19. Ash-throated Flycatcher 20. Loggerhead Shrike 21. Common Raven 22. Chihuahuan Raven 23. Northern Rough-winged Swallow 24. Bushtit 25. Verden 26. Curve-billedThrasher 27. Black-throated Sparrow 28. Brewer’s Sparrow 29. Baird’s Sparrow 30. White-crowned Sparrow (of course) 31. Lincoln Sparrow 32. Song Sparrow 33. Scaled Quail 34. Golden Eagle 35. Great-horned Owl 36. Phainopepla 37. Dark-eyed Junco 38. House Sparrow 39. Western Meaddowlark 40. Red-winged Blackbird 41. Common Grackle 42. Great-tailed Grackle 43. House Finch 44. Lesser Goldfinch 45. CommonYellowthroat 45. Marsh Wren 46. Cactus Wren 47. Rock Wren 48. Canyon Wren 49. Ruby-crowned Kinglet 50. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 51. Western Bluebird 51. American Robin 52. American Pipit 53. Yellow-Rumped Warbler 54. Orange-crowned Warbler 55. Black-throated Gray Warbler 56. Northern Cardinal 57. Pyrrhuloxia 58. Painted Bunting (female only) 59. Canyon Towhee 60. Inca Dove 61. Gray Hawk 62. Gray Catbirrd 63. Turkey Vulture 64. Red-tailed Hawk 65. Black Phoebe Tomorrow on to the Davis Mountains to look, once again, for a Montezuma Quail!  Cross fingers!

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