Wednesday, April 22, 2015

St. Louis Art Museum

George Caleb Bingham Exhibit. Including his sketches of the many
figures he used in his River paintings, early-mid 19th century.
Len, Jay, Carol, Ruby.
Ruby, Carol, Mae, Len.

Friday, April 17, 2015


Hooded skunk, Patagonia, Arizona.
We took a walk near our B&B in Patagonia this morning, and saw this skunk, which I believe is a hooded skunk. Fortunately he seemed unaware of our presence, and we enjoyed watching him dig several holes in the ground before disappearing into the shrubbery at the side of his clearing.

After our walk, we drove to Madera Canyon, for our final days in Arizona. We are staying at the famous Santa Rita Lodge -- which is at least famous among birdwatcher folk. There are lots of birds and birdwatchers in the area.

Just at dark, an elf owl flew out of its hole in an old telephone pole while a large group with varying equipment were waiting eagerly, some flashing with large fresnel-lens-amplified camera lights, others just talking about how they were counting one more life bird. My photos were all solid black because it was almost dark by the time he decided to come out and forage for moths.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Swallows on a Wall

Swallows on the wall of the historic San Pedro House near Sierra Vista, Arizona
This morning we took a walk starting at the San Pedro House in the Riparian National Conservation Area near the San Pedro River. The gardens near the house were full of birds, especially doves, finches, and other small birds coming to several bird feeders. As we walked we saw vermillion flycatchers swooping between trees, we saw towhees and other little birds near the water, and we enjoyed the beautiful cottonwoods and other trees growing along the river banks.

The San Pedro River is small but beautiful -- especially beautiful because the surrounding land is so dry.
Pond near the Santa Cruz River.

Animal tracks near the river.
We are now in Patagonia, Arizona, at a very pleasant Bed & Breakfast, and have explored a bit of the bird life near here, including another famous hummingbird feeding station.

An Owl in a Tree

This is a whiskered screech owl which we saw this afternoon at the Nature Conservancy's Ramsey Canyon Preserve near Sierra Vista, Arizona. We walked up a beautiful trail along a rushing stream to find the owl, which other birdwatchers had told us about.

Here's a write-up about the owl:
"The Whiskered Screech Owl is the most mysterious of the three Screech Owl species. Found mostly south of the U.S. border, the Whiskered Screech Owl remains elusive.  
"Very few nests of this species have ever been found. These owls tend to live at high elevations (usually around 5,000 feet) and nest high up in trees. In fact, they spend much of their time hidden in the tree tops, roosting in dense foliage and feeding on flying insects. Their nocturnal hunting habits and high elevation home make them difficult for humans to locate, but just like the other species of Screech Owls, this owl can be identified by its unique voice." -- from Owl Research Institute.
Earlier this afternoon, we spent a long time at a nearby canyon, Miller Canyon, watching hummingbirds at the many feeders at the Beatty Ranch.

Hummingbird at Beatty Ranch.
For more about our afternoon looking at the canyons of the Sierra Vista area, see this post on my food blog.

Monday, April 13, 2015

The Desert Museum, Tucson

Sleeping coati
From my food blog, for completeness:

The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, which we saw yesterday, is a combined natural history museum and zoo, entirely devoted to local species of birds, animals, reptiles, plants, and whatever else there is. We saw, among others: a coati, wild pigs called javelinas, a tortoise (depicted above), and a collection of local hummingbirds in a hummingbird house. The museum has recreated small outdoor areas representing the ecosystems of the desert, mountains, stream beds, and so on. The large outdoor museum/zoo attracts many wild visitors, as well as the captives.

The most exciting wild bird I saw today was this roadrunner...

The roadrunner was desperately trying to get INTO the cage where a captive female lived. He kept calling to her -- "meep meep!" and going right up to the glass wall that kept them apart. Tragic love!

We have also seen a couple of coyotes -- one was crossing the road as we drove away from the museum. Neither the real coyote nor the real roadrunner look all that much like their cartoon selves. We also saw a bunny (not Bugs).

To get back to the topic of food: here's a Gila Woodpecker sipping nectar from an agave blossom.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Tucson: Sabino Canyon and Mount Lemmon

From a family visit in my distant past, I remembered Sabino Canyon as a restful place completely in contrast to
the extremely arid Tucson desert. Yesterday as we hiked and searched for birds there and at Mt. Lemmon,
I found that my memories were quite accurate and in some ways surprisingly detailed. 
A dessert bunny was on the path just after we started our walk.
Our guide, Laurens, knew all about not only birds but also lizards, mammals,
butterflies, and cactus. He was a fabulous bird finder!
His website is here.
Up on Mt. Lemmon, at a site known to our guide, we spent at least an hour looking for this red-faced warbler, which Len finally managed to photograph. These warblers had just arrived in the area one or two days ago. They were singing their territories and preparing to nest -- we heard them a lot more than we saw them.
A black-chinned hummingbird on her nest.
Nearby we talked to a group of people who
are banding the hummingbirds to trace their migration routes. 
Pyrrhuloxia, a beautiful bird we saw near the stream at Sabino Canyon.
For lots more bird photos that he took yesterday, see Len's Flickr set.

Friday, April 10, 2015

In the Desert

We saw two Gila Woodpeckers near our motel in Tucson.
Desert flowers on the same walk.

Mountains along Route 10 between Hatch and the NM-AZ border

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Santa Fe: Museum of Indian Arts and Culture

In Santa Fe this afternoon we saw a fantastic exhibit of work by artist David Bradley at the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture. As the poster above suggests, Bradley's work is both playful and very serious. He concentrates on the experience of American Indians, culturally and in many other ways. 

Bradley's paintings in the exhibit constantly refer to the work of earlier artists -- as above, Mona Lisa appears in many of his paintings, including in one instance framed on a wall behind a portrait of his wife. In the exhibit were also works creatively appropriating or parodying specific paintings by Botero, Magritte, Rousseau, and others. He also depicts corporate logos such as the McDonald's arches or the Walmart sign.

Bradley amusingly places recognizable little portraits within larger paintings. For example, in a work depicting the Indian Market in Santa Fe you can find Mona Lisa eating a cookie as well as Picasso, Elvis, John Wayne, Georgia O'Keeffe, a Civil War general, and many more that I can't remember. Bill and Hillary Clinton were eating at a diner in one painting. Tonto and the Lone Ranger are frequently present, adding whimsy to quite serious works about America and its culture. The famous figures from American Gothic were present from time to time. The curator of the exhibition we were attending and the current head of the museum made an appearance at an Indian feast.

To quote the museum write up, which deals only with the artist's serious side:
"David Bradley (b. 1954), Minnesota Chippewa, creates narrative artworks which tell stories and histories not often heard by non-Native people nor understood from a Native American perspective. Saturated with a powerful Native voice and evocative visual descriptions of Indian experience, Bradley’s artworks depict historical, social, and political truths, personal narrative, and cultural critique. In Bradley’s narratives of Indian Country, Native people take center stage in world art and history. Through his artwork he challenges stereotypes about Native American people, places, and events we think we understand, revealing the indigenous experiences at the core of what it means to be American. As Bradley has said, 'I try to use my art to spotlight the Indian worldview and sociopolitical realities. To expose social injustice is to begin to overcome it.'
I'll be returning to Bradley's work in the future, when I have time to learn more about him. Meanwhile, I can't say too strongly how much I admire his choices of subject matter. The Santa Fe museum is one of my favorite places to learn about American Indian art.

This morning, before we went to the museum, we had a beautiful bird walk at the Randall Davey Audubon Center and Sanctuary in Santa Fe. I'll be writing about our outdoor adventures as we continue to search for new and interesting birds.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Around Albuquerque

Birding this morning near the Rio Grande River, we saw this Great Horned Owl sitting on her nest. Photo is from Len's Flickr set. We spent the day at several birdwatching sites. Unfortunately a very high wind was disturbing the birds and making birdwatching difficult.

Morning at the Rio Grande nature center.
This is one of the ponds maintained for waterfowl.
Turtles on the pond.
At Valle de Oro Wildlife Preserve.
View from Sandia Mountains. We drove up this afternoon. On the peak, the wind was really brutal.

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

"America the Beautiful"

Ray Charles was singing "America the Beautiful" as we drove across Oklahoma with its spacious skies this morning. Fields near the road were just beginning to show light green -- they'll be amber later. In the afternoon when we got to New Mexico, we saw distant mesas and small mountains in a purple light. A perfect song for traveling!

Purple mountains near our motel in Albuquerque. I didn't take any photos of the scenery as we drove and listened.
Old Route 66 was pretty much in the same place as our road, Interstate 44, and we observed a few of the tourist attractions that commemorate the route now. I'll be writing about that later.

Our afternoon music was a series of pieces by Bach, including concertos, the Goldberg Variations, and the French Suites. More perfect music as the scenery changed from very dull Texas panhandle dryness to the much more beautiful mountains as you come down into Albuquerque. The constant variation of the scenery is amazing.

Monday, April 06, 2015

West of the Mississippi

Today we drove from Indiana to Tulsa. Here's the St.Louis arch as we crossed the Mississippi River.

The State Line, just before we were really West of the Mississippi.
We've never driven through St.Louis without stopping before today. We hope to stop on the way back.

Saturday, April 04, 2015


Shop window, downtown Lafayette.

"cRRossings" by Scott Frankenberger, 2009. At the site of the old downtown RR crossing.

Celery Bog, West Lafayette, IN.

Celery Bog: actually it's not a bog, it's a marsh.