Sunday, May 28, 2023

Bird Crazy


May means it's spring migration time so we are seeing bonus birds! Here's a Snowy Egret flying over a ranch pond. With the longer days, I'm not getting as much sleep, as I want to see birds, and the best times to photograph them are early morning and evening. It's worth it, though, because each time I see a pretty bird or listen to a beautiful bird song, my heart does a little pitter patter. 

Today I went out on the Osceola Ditch Trail in Great Basin National Park to do some birding. I only see about 20% of the birds that I hear, which means I have to learn their bird songs well. One bird that has a distinctive high-pitched song is the Ruby-Crowned Kinglet. I actually saw it today, including the ruby crown!

Birding is something I continue to learn. I saw this little flycatcher, but am not entirely sure which one it is. It was singing "Sweet-pea." My best guess is a Hammond's Flycatcher. (If you know, please comment!)

This Western Tanager sat still long enough for me to snap a photo.

Closer to home, the owlets have left the nest, but are still in the neighborhood. They're so fluffy!

I do take photos of more than birds! Here are some deer that like the easy life, hanging out in the alfalfa fields.

Here's a fun bird, the Long-billed Curlew. I thought it was extra fun to get it with the bill open.

I found a Burrowing Owl in the same location as last summer. 

The sleepy owlet look.

Here's another migratory bird, an Osprey, in our backyard. That makes Backyard Bird #42 for the year for us.

It's not easy to get a Northern Rough-Winged Swallow sitting still! They are usually up in the air, flying acrobatically.

At a nearby reservoir, I enjoyed watching how the adult Canada Geese kept their necks low to reduce their profile as they shepherded their goslings across the water. They popped them up to take a look around, and I pressed the shutter.

At my niece's house I marveled at three types of grosbeaks. Here's an Evening Grosbeak.

A female Black-Headed Grosbeak.

And the biggest surprise, a Rose-Breasted Grosbeak. Her feeder is a big attractant!

This Red-Tailed Hawk looks beautiful and ferocious at the same time.

Another surprise bird that's been hanging around for a couple weeks is this Great-Tailed Grackle. It's kind of noisy. 

The melodious Bewick's Wren paused long enough for me to get a photo.

I didn't even identify this White-Throated Sparrow until I got a closer look with a cropped photo.

And to close, back to the Great Horned Owlets, definitely a high point of the spring birding season!

What birds have you been enjoying?

Saturday, May 6, 2023

The Wet Look for Lehman Caves


With the big snowpack this year, we knew it was going to get wet in Lehman Caves. Extra wet. Wet enough to make strange things happen. Like water spouting out of formations and the ceiling (above), and bubbles at the end of soda straws (below).

The Lodge Room is the main place these phenomena occur in the cave. We think the bubbles might be the way that turnip stalactites formed. There are well over 1,000 of them in the cave, and two were dated to particularly wet periods above ground.

The spouters always make me laugh. That's not a technical term, but it sure describes them well.

The pools in the Lodge Room filled. This is an area that past Lint Camps have focused on for restoration, finding the natural cave floor under debris that was brought in to make it a dancing floor in the early 1900s through Prohibition. You could still dance in there today, but you can also see the beautiful pools--when there is enough water.

The Queen's Bathtub also filled up. This is an ephemeral pool, only wet for the spring and summer seasons.

Nearby, the King's Bathtub also filled. In fact, it got so high that water was on the trail for a couple weeks, and maintenance even pumped some out so that people wouldn't have to walk through a bunch of 50 degree water.

Back to bubbles. I started a project quantifying the drip rates of the bubbles. It was more interesting than I expected, with rates varying from day to day. I even found some bubbles that disappeared and then reappeared.

In the Lodge Room I found 15 bubbles.

They are fascinating to watch.

Even the Panama Canal flooded! 

A couple weeks after the Lodge Room was getting wet, the Cypress Swamp started getting wet. It was actually looking swampy!

The water rose to the point where the rimstone pools were overtopping.

The Cypress Swamp is so pretty with all the reflections! For a few days, it felt like it was raining in this room.

But the Lake Room, just around the corner, stayed stubbornly dry. What was going on?

Finally the Lake Room flooded, weeks after the Cypress Swamp was wet.

Another spot that was fun to watch was the Wishing Well in the Grand Palace. It started out with a paltry pool.

But not to fear, it started getting wetter.

And even wetter!

Back to bubbles, I'm transfixed by them.

And a video, to see how mesmerizing they are as they drip.

The cave is drying up in some parts, as the snow above ground is completely melted. A lot of it will stay wet for weeks and months. I think some of the formations we see in the cave, like turnip stalactites and cave shields likely formed when it was a much wetter climate above ground. We might not get to enjoy baby turnips and shields, but at least we do get to appreciate the results of past climates. This extra moisture this year has us thinking about all the changes the cave has experienced over millions of years. Wow!

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