Birding in the Boot Heel

I'm not a birder, but it is an extremely popular activity in the basin and range province of southern New Mexico and southern Arizona.  I have written about the tradition of birding in the area but I must admit, being out in the valley and focusing on landscape restoration leaves little time for birding.  But as the landscape slowly improves the avian fauna are some of the first returning animals I see.  The number and diversity of avian species has slowly increased over time, so perhaps some dedicated study on local avian species is warranted to better understand how the improvements to the land affect which species utilize the available resources.  Since the beginning the most common bird species seen on the estate was the Eurasian collared dove.  The number of doves though resulted in the appearance of raptors such as owls, hawks, and kestrels which have been seen on the estate and I find bits and pieces of doves on occasion indicating a successful hunt.  Since collard doves are an introduced species, I do appreciate the assistance of these raptors in controlling their numbers.  Most recently, a northern harrier has been hanging out and can be frequently seen hunting in the grasslands towards the riverbed.

Below is a another new comer I saw for the first time on the estate, a female Ladder-back woodpecker, Picoides scalaris. Checking online birding sightings, this should be common species around here though the closest sightings are reported from Highway 80 about 1.5 - 2 miles further west.

Female Ladder-Back woodpecker at the Painted Pony Resort.


Right Place and the Right Time, but Unprepared

Being prepared is always a good thing, but sometimes you find yourself presented with a situation and all you can do is hope you can pull something off.  It was one of those mornings, I opened the door and started to step out when some motion caught my eye, and to my surprise a Bobcat was slowly wandering up the runway but I had no camera in hand.  I slowly stepped back inside to grab the camera but the door made a noise as it closed (and I had just lubricated the hinges).  Getting the camera I slowly reopened the door and stood in shadow, the Bobcat was staring right at me so holding the door with one hand and the camera with the other I started shooting with the hope that something would work.  Well, it kinda worked.  The cameras auto focus captured the mesquite well but the Bobcat was slightly out of focus.  As it continued to meander northward I held the door open with my foot and tried again.  Using both hands I was able to capture some in focus images but by this time the Bobcat was moving into the tall grass, so instead of a full view of the animal I was only able to capture the top of its' back and hind quarters. I estimate that it was a good 2 foot tall at the shoulder, a big animal.  This sighting is especially encouraging since it suggests that the restoration work is having an effect.  This being my first sighting of a Bobcat on the estate I was a thrilled and the presence of an apex predator suggests there is enough game about to make hunting on the estate a worthwhile endeavor for the Bobcat.  While others who live close to the base of the Peloncillos have reported Bobcats the estate is across the San Simon riverbed and 3.5 - 4 miles from the base of the Peloncillo mountains so the presence of a large healthy Bobcat is even more encouraging.

Fuzzy Bobcat on the runway.

Fuzzy Bobcat sauntering along.

In focus Bobcat in the grass.

In focus Bobcat obscured by the grass.


Another Exercise in "How People See"

A question I have been asking for several years and have written about before is "how do people see"?  Not the physiology of vision but what one sees when looking at an image.  Specifically what makes an image appealing.  Below is another exercise in that vein, a sunrise image over the Peloncillo mountains presented right side up and upside down.  While the first image is pleasing with wispy clouds and right angled streamers the flipped image is more visually interesting, at least to me.  The clouds themselves become the center of attention and more depth is created.  While the slight downward angles created by the inverted mountains seem to focus my attention onto the clouds where I perceive the increased depth.  These images were shown in the photography group, Cochise County and its Wonders and received some support, but only 16% found the inverted image interesting, as evidenced by a like.  My only conclusion is that I'm the outlier in the distribution of "seeing" since I find the inverted image more visually pleasing and interesting.

A Peloncillo Mountains sunrise

The same sunrise but inverted


The Long Light of Winter

Winter in the San Simon Valley is generally characterized by warm sunny days and chilly nights.  Temperatures drop to freezing but rapidly rise back into the 60's once the sun rises and crests the mountains to the east.  The sun rises and sets fairly far south and the mountains views in the afternoons are frequently bathed in a warm yellow light.  Below are 2 images taken on 2 consecutive days with the warm late afternoon sun illuminating the Peloncillo Mountains of southern New Mexico as viewed from the Painted Pony Resort outside Rodeo New Mexico.  The rich yellows and reds with the long shadows created by the sun's path across the southern sky creates an almost 3D effect in the photographs.  It really is hard to take a bad photograph down here.

The Rustic Cabin and the long light of a winters afternoon.

A view further south the next afternoon.


Looking East

I posted a video compilation of the views to the west showing the Chiricahua Mountains taken over time and now the reciprocal video, the views east over the Peloncillo Mountains.  Taken from the narrowest part of the San Simon Valley, about 9-10 miles wide and from the Painted Pony Resort, this video shows how the landscape and mountains of southern New Mexico are always in motion, always changing, always presenting something new to see with each glance.  The idea of landscapes in motion is not new.  Time lapse photography allows the compression of hours into minutes and the time scale can easily vary.  This compilation of images spans about 5 years and is by no means complete, but is representative of some of the scenes collected over time. Many are sunrise views taken throughout the year but some sunset and day time scenes are also included (especially if the clouds were interesting).  Another observation of how the landscape is always in flux for those willing to pay attention to their surroundings.

The Internet of Things Continues to Grow

First it was the new washer and dryer that were part of the "internet of things", but now the thermostats are included.  The touch screen thermostats at the Painted Pony Resort were a source of frustration at times for guests.  The screens on 2 units were the recipients of that frustration and were no longer working consistently.  I would periodically have to remove and reset the units after guests left to reset them and keep them functioning.  So the owner decided on a thermostat that was easier to understand and manipulate but with an added twist, an internet connection.  These new Honeywell thermostats have access to the router and modem and communicate with with Honeywell allowing remote (internet) control of the thermostats allowing the owner to monitor temperatures on the estate from his office back east.  The nicest aspect to these thermostats is the ability to set minimum and maximum temps that may be used.  This prevents very low or very high temps being set and left on by accident.


Photo Compilation - The Many Faces of the Chiricahua Mountains

Over the past 8 years during my tenure in the San Simon Valley, first with the Sky Gypsies then as estate manager for the Painted Pony Resort, I have been taking pictures.  The incredible landscape here is inspiring and just begs to be photographed.  I'm not alone in this view as evidenced by the Facebook photography group Cochise County and its Wonders which showcases imagery from southeastern Arizona. One of my projects has been to collect photographs of the Portal Peak and the Chiricahua Mountains from the same vantage point over time.  The eastern flank of the Chiricahua Mountains predominates the view from everywhere in the valley so I began collecting images of this familiar view, mostly from the same location out in the valley looking west toward the mountains.  So every morning starts with the camera in hand and a sunrise check of the Chiricahua Mountains and the day ends with another check of the sunset.  I quickly noticed that every time I looked at the view there was something new to see, a new rock formation or shadow I had never seen quite that way.  I have also noticed the scene changes by the hour, the day, and the season.  With the colors changing at sunrise and sunset, light and shadow patterns constantly in flux through out the day, and with storms that come during the winter rains and summer monsoons I find something new each time I look.  I have put these together into a video format as a way of showing casing the same scene that residents and visitors alike see on a daily basis.  Created for the Friends of Cave Creek Canyon the video may also be found on their Facebook page.

Addendum:  Here is another image of the same scene I made after finishing the video, I just can't help myself with the views and a camera.

A partially desaturated view of the Chiricahua Mountains taken with a tablet camera.


A Christmas Present (to myself)

Well, I broke down and finally invested in a tablet for Christmas.  I've been looking at them since last year when my notebook and desktop computers died.  I rebuilt the desktop computer but the notebook computer was a total loss.  A small tablet computer is useful for showing guests images, maps, and websites they might find useful on their visit to the area and without a small portable computer this was no longer possible.  So with a drop in prices just before Christmas I ordered a Surface 3.  It arrived and after getting software updates and my favorite programs downloaded it time to try out the camera.  While not a dedicated camera the built in Surface 3 camera in the 16:9 format does do a good job at capturing big images I would usually build out of multiple images taken with the canon point and shoot I usually use for photographs.  Below are 2 examples of single images I took using the tablet.  These are single snapshots that were then processed in the provided software.  The first is a Christmas Eve image of Portal Peak and the eastern flank of the Chiricahua mountains presented in Black and White (desaturated) with some tilt shift and vignetting added to draw the viewers attention to the mountains.  While the second image is of the Gray Mountain in the Peloncillos to the east, taken the day after Christmas after about an inch of snow fell in the valley.  This image was processed the same way as the first image.

While the colors produced by the tablet camera are good, I prefer the desaturated images of the landscape and have yet to print any of the images, but on the computer screen I'm pleased with the results.  Of course trying to shoot with a tablet can be bulky but the large viewing screen certainly helps with composition except in strong light.  I also noticed that lens flaring can be a problem in strong light but for a non-dedicated camera that is built in Microsoft did a good job.

It will be nice to have a device which I can use to quickly show guests information about the area and hopefully make their visit more enjoyable.

An image of the Chiricahua Mountains taken with a Surface 3 tablet camera.
Gray Mountain in the Peloncillo Mountains of southwestern New Mexico. Image taken with a Surface 3 tablet camera.  


Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays

The Painted Pony Resort and I wish everyone a very merry Christmas and here is hoping that this season finds everyone happy and healthy.

A Christmas in Rodeo NM (click on image to view larger)
Christmas metates in red and green, only in Rodeo.
Santa's moon, a Chirstmas eve full moon over the Peloncillo Mountains.


Life in the Bubble and Living on Rodeo Time

I have written about a hypothesis that the Portal Rodeo area exists in a bubble moving at close to the speed of light and as a result time has slowed, see here and here for some background.  And I'm not the only one who has noticed this strange phenomena of slow time in the area, see the comments to this post.  Originally devised as a way to explain why it takes so long to get anything done down here, I continually look for evidence of a time differential that support the notion of the bubble.  Photographic evidence of the bubble has taken the form of steam trains traversing the area and duplicate images spaced 70 years apart showing little change in the landscape.  But a recent event provides another piece of evidence for the existence of the bubble.  A World Was II convoy recently made an appearance in Rodeo NM.  Described in article written by a local photographer in the December issue of Desert Exposure (page 42), the event caused quite a stir locally.  The convoy stopped in Rodeo along Highway 80 (an original east/west transcontinental driving route) for lunch at the Rodeo Tavern and was greeted by local residents decked out in period attire (or it could be just normal work attire and another indication of the bubble).  In either case, from my perspective, it is just one more piece of evidence that time has slowed in this little corner of the bootheel of New Mexico and things do happen down here, eventually.