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My time with the bat

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My time with the bat

My time with the bat

The day in late July would bring us more extreme heat, surrounded by an extra layer of thick, heavy humidity.  Another day in the Monsoon season, amid the dramatic landscape that is the desert southwest.

The storms were likely crashing the scenery to our southeast, leaving Tucson, with just plain, wicked heat.

Family had just arrived in town and they met me at the bridge at Campbell and River Road.  Not the usual family vacation destination.

Bat looking toward the bat flight and a beautiful sunset

We would be joined by my wildlife biologist friend, Eric Peffer.  

Underneath the bridge, a crowd was gathering, as Eric began an excellent introduction to one of the cities bat hangouts.  An estimated 10,000 Mexican Free Tailed bats reside at this location.   

The bat colony would send out a few scouts to determine the direction of the wind.  Much easier to soar into the wind than with the breeze.  

This is the time of the year that the newborn are taking their first flight.  This flight is a challenge as the little ones have to drop from the thin opening that is between the cement beams that they call home.  They have about 20 feet to learn to fly or they become part of the food chain.  Unless of course, we step in.

Sunset from under the bridge

The runt of a family did not make his/her first flight and ended up on the ground below.  We watched the little guy drag himself along the ground, knowing that he would not be able to gain flight and that he would likely not survive the night.  

I was surprised when Eric picked the bat up.  He would explain that the bat was not old enough to bite (the rabies issue).  Being nature minded and leaning toward adventurous, I would also hold the bat.

Eric would deliver the bat to a friend who transported him to a wildlife refuge.  The last we heard he is one of 3 or 4 bats that have been dropped off recently.

Bats in the bridge, before flight

Short section of the bat flight

Bat Flight at the Campbell/River Bridge

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A Wild(life) Year in Photography!

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A Wild(life) Year in Photography!

A Wild(life) Year in Photography!

Me and the Roaming Bison in Colorado.  

Photo by Eric Peffer.

It has been been a wild year for me, in many aspects.  One of those areas that continues to make my head swirl, is the amazing desert I live in and the wildlife I have had the opportunity to spend some quality time with.  

Most of the photos are from my home base in Catalina, Arizona, although photo adventures to Colorado and New Mexico have added some new animals and geography to my photo line up.

Part of the large herd of elk in Colorado (approximately 150)

I have a number of things in my favor:

1.  An eye for things that are 'wild'

2.  a 70-300 lens

3.  Many of my photo adventures are with a wildlife biologist.

4.  I run in an a desert area where I see maybe 1 person a month.  More of a true desert setting. 

5.  Just plain luck

Family of 4 Bobcats in the neighborhood

Many of my photos are taken during my daily runs through the desert.  I typically run near sunset, which I feel is a better time to see animals plus it puts me on the highest road in our area to capture stunning sunsets.  The runs limit my camera options but I have had good success with a decent point and shoot camera (Samsung WB350F).  The Samsung is sporting a 42x zoom.  Oh yeah!

One of the four bobcats (family) in the neighborhood

My goal, when possible, is to take film along with photos.  I may put together a film blog for this year.  

I think back to last year and I did not get much in the way of wildlife photos while this year has been phenomenal.  Looking toward 2016. 

Wild horses near Fort Garland, CO

Enjoy the photos! 

When I grab my camera, I aim to get photos and video.  Check out the videos on my latest blog:  

A Wild(life) Year in Video!

Wild horse near Fort Garland, CO

Bighorn Sheep - Taos, NM

Redtail Hawk - Klondyke, AZ

Not totally 'wild' but a wild setting - near La Veta, Colorado

Rattlesnake on one of my runs - Catalina, AZ

Roadrunner near the house - Catalina, AZ

At the house

A Javelina visit during a run - Catalina, AZ

Horned Lizard during a run - Catalina, AZ

Young Desert Tortoise - Catalina, AZ

Walking Stick, almost stepped on and bypassed - Catalina, AZ

Tarantula visit on a run - Catalina, AZ

Tarantula on one of my runs

Gila Monster at the house - Catalina, AZ

Family of 4 Bobcats in the neighborhood - Catalina, AZ

Bobcat photo published in a local paper

Young Desert Tortoise on a desert run - Catalina, AZ

A brief stop during the Race Across America as wild horses cross the road in Utah

During the Race Across America - Pagosa Springs, CO

Praying Mantis, Lori & Eric in Klondyke, AZ

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The Klondyke Cold Rush

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The Klondyke Cold Rush

Off the heavily traveled Interstate 10, Klondyke Road weaves through gently rolling prairie, skirting the towering Mount Graham, at 10,720 feet, the tallest peak in the Pinaleno Mountains and the majestic Santa Teresa Mountains.

It was a lengthy four-hour drive to reach the little hamlet of Klondyke, where the aged sign boasts a population of five.  About 35 miles were dirt, although road conditions were much better than anticipated.  The road ends at the eastern entry of spectacular Aravaipa Canyon, within the supremely rugged Galiuro Mountains, a rough and remote place that was the home of Arizona's last wild wolves before the reintroduction program of the late 1990's. 

Our goal was for Eric, Lori and I to pitch tents at the start of the trek and spend the next two days exploring the spectacular setting that Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness offers.  Little does one realize the crazy circumstances that are involved in this ten mile hike (mainly in the creek).  While the west entrance is only 50 miles from my home, the east entrance is 200 mile drive.  These miles and the 4 hour drive will become more significant, later in the story.

Video of the last section of road to Aravaipa Canyon East.  

Road to Aravaipa Canyon East (last section)

Entertaining a visitor at the old Klondyke School
 

The sun had slid behind the towering cliffs of the dramatic canyon. We exited from the Peffer family taxi (Eric's folks), grabbed the seriously overweight backpacks (did someone throw rocks in my pack?), clamped on our headlights and began our search for a campsite. None being found, with looming darkness and threatening skies, we strolled back to the parking lot.  Flat, close to a toilet and no time for a crisis, parking lot camping was perfect, for the moment.  

The rain began to fall and buckets of the liquid sunshine were pounding us as we scurried to set up shelter.  I had 'planned' to practice setting up a tent that I had not used in many years. This did not happen. Those years had destroyed the elasticity of the bungee cords in my tent poles.  Lovely.  Any idea how dismal it is putting up a tent in a driving rain, in the dark, with largely worthless poles?  

The tent would eventually, somehow, find shape, as the skies continued to unleash their madness.

The weather forecast, being a serious matter when spending most of your hiking hours within the creek, in a very distant location, and carting a lot of expensive camera gear, was for about .07 inches of rain.

Those .07 inches of rain fell in about the first 12 minutes of bombardment, and would continue through the night with an occasional boom of thunder thrown in for grand measure.  

Santa Teresa Mountains
 

The morning saw the three adventurers tired, needing coffee and questioning the wisdom of entering the rising creek.  

A single truck would splash its way past our parking lot accommodations.  Odd, to have traffic roll past us, since this was basically the end of the general road system.

An old windmill structure and wind sock behind the Klondyke School. The school now serves as a search and rescue location and helicopter pad.
 

The truck would ramble back through our disaster zone and Lori, in a heads up move, would emerge from the tent and flag down the vehicle.  It was a rancher checking on a horse on her property.  The news on creek conditions was not stellar.    "Can we get a ride back to Klondyke"?

Redtail Hawk
 

We scooped up our wet belongings and joined 2 drenched dogs, in a crowded truck, for the journey back to Klondyke.  It would have been a long slog, on foot, back along the road that Billy the Kid had once traveled.  Our home for the day would be the old Klondyke School.  It is now being used as a search and rescue base, for community meetings and a helicopter base.  

Klondyke Road and the Pelocillo Mountains
 

The call was made and it would be another eight hour drive for our gracious and now overworked drivers to pick us up.  

Adorning the now sparse, marginally used school, were posters advertising the film 'Powers War' and an old poster on a historic gun fight in the Galiuro Mountains called 'Shootout at Dawn'.  I read Shootout maybe 15 years ago and was intrigued by the story and history of Klondyke, the Galiuro's and the Power family.  The story chronicles the Power family and a conflict and eventual gun fight over draft dodging during WWI.  There are a number of books on the subject, with some siding with the Power family and others which back law enforcement.  The actual facts elude those seeking the full story, so the details and guilt will never be fully known.  Four men would die in the most deadly gunfight in Arizona.  The world premiere of the film was shown in Klondyke.

The film is an excellent documentary:

The Power's War film

With a lengthy wait, I explored our surroundings, equipped with a camera and thoughts of a future Aravaipa trek.

We were quite the sight, with wet gear spread out over a lengthy section of stone fence in front of the school.  Checking on the status of the new members of Klondyke community was 'the Grader Man'.  He had grown up in the region and his role was to keep the roads in working order during adverse conditions.  I missed his visit but heard of some of his exploits and of his nearly famous dog, a Rhodesian Ridgeback, who travels on the roof of the truck and of his courting the females of the isolated area, with special escape visits to a girlfriend eight miles from his home.  

Storm clouds over Willcox, AZ
 

Plans for another Aravaipa journey are in the works.  The area is too amazing to not come back. The wet gear and clothes should be dry by then.  

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The Monster

The Monster

It was a rather unusual week at the casa in Catalina, Arizona.  The week started grindingly slow and as we headed into the weedend it was verging on dawdle time. Yes,  there was March Madness time and the tv was airing the pregame hype of the Arizona vs Wisconsin game.  March Madness didn't do much for my search for stories and/or photos, but 8 words would change the story line.  "There is a bobcat in the back yard" gushed my father.   


Wildlife has given us lots of love at the Nevins casa, with sojourns from bobcats, coyote, hawk, deer, javelina (that visit is worth it's own story!), gambel quail (with a troop of little paws).   
A guest had asked my mother why she had not taken down all of the halloween decorations.  That 'decoration' happened to be a roaming tarantula.


With those 8 words, I sprang for my Canon.  John, our company, sprang for his camera and we met on the back deck, eyeing the small palm tree, where the feline had last been seen.  The bobcat leaped onto the back wall and bounded into the neighbors yard. 
My camera, clenched in my hand, the same number of photos available as when I had grabbed camera, a few minutes ago.
I had missed the opportunity.
 
The Gila Monster Video #1

I knew the 'usual' route of the bobcat and I gave marching orders to John to follow me and we should be able to catch the 'visitor' near the wash.  I zipped down the right side of the house, feet moving quickly from flagstone to flagstone until I veered left, toward the street.  It is always exciting when you are running hard with an expensive camera in hand.  I looked back to see if John was nearby, and saw nothing.   



This animal distraction was perfect timing.  The Arizona Wildcats were getting pasted and I had been avoiding the tv.  Where was John?  I was in position for an award winning photograph(?).  The bobcat came right toward me, just as I expected.  He or she did make a slight change in the usual stroll through the wash and over to the golf course.  I fired off 2 or 3 shots and the fur ball was gone.  John?

Bobcat


Back at the house I heard another 8 words (or something like that).  'There is a Gila Monster in the back yard'.  Ok, 9 words. 

The Gila Monster is one of only a handful of venomous lizards in the world.    They may spend more than 95% of the lives in underground burrows, emerging only to feed and occasionally to bask in the desert sun.  Another reference had indicated up to 98%. 
They are considered a threatened species and are rarely seen above ground.  

A component of Gila monster venom called exendin-4 was recently investigated for treating type-2 diabetes.  This peptide stimulates the secretion of insulin in the presence of elevated blood glucose levels.  It also has the effect of slowing gastric emptying.  Phase 1 clinical studies have recently begun with this exciting experimental drug.

The Gila Monster Video #2

The story unfolded............John did follow me, sort of.  He first used his brain and headed toward the left side of animal house.  Shorter route then going right.  Sounds good on paper but there is no real passage on this side of the house.  The 5 million watt AC sits square in the way of about anything except maybe a Gila Monster, or other small critter.  He crossed paths with the monster and that got his attention.  Forget the bobcat.  I would never have come across the Gila Monster, even if he/she had been on that side of the house for the next 10 years.  The odds?

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Photo of the Week - March 9-15, 2015


This week's photo is from a journey on the nearby Willow Springs / Freeman Road loop near Oracle Junction, Arizona.  Eric Peffer and I captured many photos during the day but it was at night that photography became much more interesting. 

The scene was typical for an evening in the saguaro-studded landscape, along a remote dirt road, in the evening.  Quiet, no traffic and the sky lit in a beautiful glow of stars, full moon and faint city lights.

It was a beautiful background that included 3 stately saguaro cactus, the glow of the very distant lights of Phoenix, stars and a passing plane, on it's track to Tucson International Airport.

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Photo of the Week and the Story behind the Shot


Photo of the Week
And the Story behind the Shot


From the back yard - Catalina, Arizona

Ok, so I didn't have to work very hard for this shot, but yes, there was a bit of history tied in with this photo.  Since I seem to take a very healthy amount of  photos each week (instead of sleepwalking, I think I actually sleepphoto) and the fact that I need to become much more consistent with blog posts, I decided to share a photo a week and the background behind the photo.  If the photo tales are on the boring end then maybe I can develop better fiction writing.  :)

For the shot above I was totally in the wrong place at the wrong time.  My daily run usually puts me on a road that rises above the stunning area that I live in Catalina, Arizona.  Breathtaking views and incredible sunsets.  Absolutely, amazing colors splashed across the sky.  I stack the odds in my favor and try and run near sunset time and do the loop with feet plodding toward the setting orb.  

I decided to break my usual route and run the loop in the opposite direction.  Mistake #1.  I had also meandered out of the casa later than normal.  Mistake #2.  I had done some 180's on the run and noticed a reasonable sunset developing behind me, but it did not appear that it was going to be worth pulling out a camera.  Unfortunately (or fortunately), my trusty monster Canon SLR does not accompany me on runs so I am winging 'photography on the run' with a point and shoot, a crappy cell phone cam or if the heavens line up, a GoPro.  

My loop spills me onto a rarely used dirt road/trail for the last half of the run.  As I took the final turn home, the sky quickly darkening, I now headed toward the fading sunset.  Still weak, as sunsets go.

Heading down the home stretch and Mistake #1 and #2 began to scream my name.  The colors before me, were now unbelievable, although I did not have a clear view of the southern sky.  I was now kicking up dust as fast as I could.  I made it home, just in time, to fire off a few shots with the Canon and darkness swept over the desert.

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