Ranger Kathryn's Arches

April 29, 2011

Yes, it could!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 8:48 am
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(…Continued from Could it be…?!?)

One soaring eagle began to circle lower and then leveled out for a cliff landing. “She’s going to the nest! She’s headed for the hole! They’ve got a nest! FINALLYYYY!!!!!” Tricia’s binoculars never left their target as her voice got more and more excited. I abandoned my assigned eagle aloft and was desperately searching the wall for which hole she was watching, locating it just in time to see a large dark form standing on the nest edge with two small dark heads poking up. We had thought the heads were ravens, but eaglets are WAY more fun to find.

Eaglet, younger than ours (google image)

High fives were exchanged; our grins gave away the exceptional day in the field. Just an hour earlier I had gotten a “lifer,” seeing a Prairie Falcon for the first time ever. Something had flapped right over our truck; I threw it into park and hopped out with my binocs in time to see a beautiful raptor with whip-like flapping, very elastic and fast, its almost triangular wings propelling it like a bat out of hell. No sooner had we ID’d that than a Northern Harrier popped up out of the grasses, hunting for rodents as it drifted low with its flying V shape and white rump.

Without doubt it helped to have two pairs of eyes there to look for birds; in addition, being in the right place at the right time is crucial. Salt Valley was alive this day, and we were there to participate in the celebration of life. What a rich gift.

April 12, 2011

Owl, Kestrel, Eagle

Desert paintbrush startles the senses when you happen upon it in the backcountry

I looked up just in time to see a large silent mass of feathers lift off toward the alcove, the rocks of which were covered with decades or centuries of whitewash. A small insistent bird was scolding the Great Horned Owl harshly, having blown its cover. Mr Owl took flight and vacated the area to find a gentler location for his sleep. Training my binoculars on a hole in the sandstone nearby, I could make out the shape of the upper half of his mate’s head, immovable and dark, ear tufts rising unmistakably. We are eager to see owlets later this month, and thrilled to find this nest active.

Caves always beckon me to scramble up and explore them. This one had a large mammalian rib bone in the packrat midden.

A small rise on the slickrock beckoned us to set up our spotting scope at a distance. Sitting quiet and motionless, I soon heard a sharp killy killy killy killy killy approaching high and from behind me. As the male American Kestrel vocalized loudly while approaching this large alcove, a female dropped from a crack in the ceiling and the two met on the top branch of a nearby juniper to copulate. After mating for a few seconds, and sitting in the treetop for a few minutes, he went off to hunt; she returned to the alcove crack, and my partner and I scribbled field notes. Nature unfolds for us when we have eyes to see it.

My perfect raptor trifecta was completed when my boss telephoned me on her way home from work saying that she needed my help immediately with an eagle acting strangely. I drove to where she was and an adult Golden Eagle was moving from telephone pole to the main highway passing through Moab to the rock cliff to the highway surface again to the pole… almost getting run over in the process. Eagles don’t normally act that way. Tricia was late getting somewhere so I kept watch over Mr Eagle to try to see what was up. He flew okay, stood okay, but just wasn’t right. I wonder if he was sick, or weak? After 20 minutes or so he disappeared where I couldn’t follow him.

What a day! My housemates admitted to job envy. I ate dinner with a grateful heart.

August 11, 2010

Peekaboo Springs, Needles: packed with surprises

Kathryn and shield pictographs at Peekaboo Springs

Sunflowers gone wild... tens of thousands of them

…or is it LIFE, packed with surprises? Every day is such an adventure. It’s an adventure to wake up and be breathing.

As three of us undertook a ten-mile hike in the gorgeous summer weather, we were not prepared for the audacity of the day’s gifts to us. It’s as if the Giver of all good gifts delighted to open his hand and unleash nonstop beauty and joy, just for us. Endless fields of sunflowers welcomed us to the parkland, an oddity in any other August. A Collared Lizard (my favorite reptile, remember?) startled us at the beginning of the hike, and a Long-Nosed Leopard Lizard (second fave) at the end. Cumulus clouds shadowed us, keeping the heat down and providing much-needed shade intervals as well as photographic interest. Most of the hike was high on the exposed sandstone benches, giving birds’-eye views of the canyons and washes, with stunning vistas across miles of national parkland. Vast stone walls were pierced by clefts and openings that gave sneak previews into upcoming canyons. A powerful panel of pictographs awaited us at the 5-mile far point, infusing wonder and intrigue as we pondered the inhabitants who painted them 800 and 3000 years ago. As we started back, we stumbled upon an area of ancient granaries, finding seven (7!) structures in one little neighborhood. To top it off, a majestic golden eagle posed for photographs as we drove out of the park. I could hardly take it all in; it is securely in my top five favorite hikes of all time. I must go back, in another season. I may take with me those who have eyes with which to see and savor the beauty; I may journey alone with my grateful heart.

Collared Lizard studying me

My hand... another's hand. Eight centuries apart.

Kathryn & Mariana hike the Needles.

This sentinel stands watch over the pictographs


A granary for crop storage -- sadly, some oaf "helped" rebuild the top

Useful 12-rung ladder, courtesy of NPS

Rocks have such beauty.

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