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Cautionary Tails

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Cautionary Tails

On my evening run through the Arizona desert last night I had a number of wildlife encounters. Expected during the summer season and remarkably common during my runs on my local trail route. I would encounter two Western Diamondback Rattlesnakes this evening which gives me almost as many sightings as all of last year (a record year for me). It is still June with about four months of watching where I step and hearing the occasional rattle, jingling while I sort out how close I am to the snake.

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Of the many assorted and interesting critters I experience while I take in the desert environment, the most often seen, in this order are deer, rabbits and you guessed it, rattlesnakes. Twenty one at last count for the Spring and Early Summer season. Getting rather close to the number that welcomed me on my runs last year.

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I love wildlife encounters and, well, snake encounters are a not quite a love affair but I do take on a trail runner crazy enough to run through the desert in the summer time, will trek through snake territory and will have a few meet and greet sessions with other inhabitants toting a rattle. It is their home and I do respect that simple fact.

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Do rattlesnake's give my heart a jolt? No, but there is a bump in the heart rate when I take a quick dodge to the left or right to avoid a snake.  They can blend in very well to the desert floor but I have had to become great with those scaly senses.

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Very, very thankful that of all the creatures on the planet, the rattlesnake rates high on the list of animals that let you know of its presence. A beautiful fact and one of the reasons I have an admiration for the scaly and sometimes noisy, scary creatures of horror films and jolting newspaper articles. Oh, those stories of people who get bitten after decapitating a rattlesnake are primal fear unleashed. 

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I have adjusted my trail runs, slightly, due to encounters at the start of my trail. There are one of two 'friendly' slithery reptiles along the start of my trail time. Roughly eight or nine meet & greets within the first minute of the trail. I had to wonder about the fact that there was a r snake 20 feet up the trail. The photo below is another run-in that is at the exact start of the trail. Sheeesh! I now walk this lively section.

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Clock is ticking toward my next run. Almost all of the wildlife I see on my runs is during the suppertime excursion. I will have my eyes dialed in for any and all wildlife, capture what I can with my camera and enjoy getting out in nature and continue to improve my health and diabetes care. And watch my step.

If you find yourself trekking through rattlesnake territory, do be ultra careful. I have read about some horrendous encounters with some devastating results after interactions with Mr. Rattlesnake.

 

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Plan to share another angle on my wild wildlife experiences. Could include Gila Monsters, Tarantulas (yes, I pick them up!), Desert Tortoises, Bobcats, Javelina's (no, don't pick those up), Giant Desert Centipedes, and who knows what else might appear in my blog.

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Black Rattlesnake

Black Rattlesnake

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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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'It is Far to EVERYTHING, except Nature

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'It is Far to EVERYTHING, except Nature

'It is Far to EVERYTHING, except Nature'

Maybe 20 minutes ago I read a letter that Gunvor had written to my mother.  It is about the famed cookies that I had brought up to their cabin in Colorado.  She thanked my mother for the highly valued recipe and further on was a line she had shared about the remote location of the cabin.  She shared,  'It is far to EVERYTHING, except Nature'.  Agreed.  

This escape to the rugged majesty that is Southern Colorado was furnished by an invite from Eric (who is training me in photography) and the family cabin, situated high above Fort Garland.  Away from civilization, and close to things that wander the hills.  

The 12 hour drive would take a little bit longer as we stalked the many elusive photo ops along the back roads of Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado.  En route we would take the back roads of New Mexico, with an introduction to Pronghorn Antelope, and into the grandeur of El Malpais National Monument where we would encounter a few roaming elk.  They would continue their roaming ways until they connected with a herd of maybe 50.  Too far for even my 300mm lens, but a good sign for the trip.  

When we first saw the Bison in Colorado it was devouring grass behind a fence.  Only thing was that the fence had major gaps in it.  As he/she began to wander outside of the barbed wire it opened up a unique opportunity to photo and film a bison that was free to roam and spend some time near us. 

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1 of 3 videos I posted on my youtube channel with the Bison.

Having just worked the Race Across America in the Media 1 vehicle I was stoked to come back to what is probably my favorite area of the course.  The stunning section of Hwy 12 between La Vita and Cuchara, CO is hands down, cool and beautiful.  Unfortunately, no wildlife, but always enjoy capturing our colorful, metal rooster.

We were fortunate enough to come across a herd of 150-200 elk.  It took roughly 20 minutes for the herd to cross this area.

I wanted to include some shots of the incredible Great Sand Dunes National Park (near Alamosa, CO).  

The Rio Grande Gorge near Taos provided us with tremendous views and bighorn sheep right next to the bridge.

Shortly after returning, I came across a bobcat family of 4 near my parents house.  This was the straggler of the family, as he ran down the wall to catch up with the rest of the clan.  

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