Visiting Quarai, Salinas Pueblos/Missions National Monument

New Mexico is such a culturally and historically rich state. Combine this with gorgeous scenery and outrageously blue skies, and you have the perfect ingredients for fun and educational day trips.

We woke to a sunny day and decided to hit the road less travelled. Our destination was only a few hours south of home, following along an old trade route called the Salt Missions Trail. Winding rural roads took us through Spanish settlements and villages of stone and adobe, mostly old and crumbling, as we paralleled the eastern flank of the Manzanita and Manzano Mountains in central NM.

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Great Backyard Bird Count, February 18-21, 2022

A good friend and birding enthusiast turned me on to this event, that’s apparently been going on for the past 24 years. How did I not know about the annual Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) until now! A really fun count, formally tallying all of our winter bird visitors to our back yard in central New Mexico.

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Winter Botany Study, Part 5a: Kentucky Coffeetree

What a wonderful find in Albuquerque! While waiting for Roy to visit his doctor, Luna and I set off on a neighborhood walk within sight of the Balloon Fiesta park. We watched as 6 hot air balloons played in the early morning air currents, which caused me to look up. And there, right next to the sidewalk was a peculiar looking tree loaded with seed pods. I knew immediately the pods belonged to the legume family, but they were bigger than any I’d seen before. Big, big pods, clattering in the morning breeze, and luckily a handful within reach. So curious about this peculiar somewhat stumpy looking tree with grey bark flaking away from the main trunk like fat book pages, I grabbed half a dozen while Luna looked bored. But I was anything but bored. Time to geek out!

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Check out Flambé’s latest post, Misadventures Revisited: Chapter 180701, in Tangled Up ………

It’s a snow day, and Flambé wanted some on-line attention, of course! So she decided to get everyone all caught up on past Misadventures. Her natural curiosity is guaranteed to make you smile. Now that you’re curious,

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Visiting el Malpais National Monument

One of our favorite day trips is to el Malpais National Monument. Winter is the perfect time of year to hike the sandstone bluffs and lava fields without danger of cooking doggie paws (hiking black lava in summer can be deadly). The skies are New Mexico outrageous blue, the views are vast and incredible, and we always have a wildlife encounter or two. One year we enjoyed watching a huge herd of elk crossing the highway, along with a surprise black bear showing at one of the trailheads! Today, February 12, pinyon jays seemed to be our only wildlife discovery. But these noisy and very social birds are always a treat.

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Winter Botany Study, Part 4: Smooth Sumac

Bark, bark, bark, bark. Someone doesn’t wish there to be a sumac thicket inside the Cibola Wilderness boundary adjacent to the Indian School Trails. A few years ago all of the 3”+ diameter trunks were cut down and left on site to decompose. I remembered seeing these cut sumac trunks last year, and a few days ago reinvestigated the site for drawing ideas. I was very interested to see such intricate details in the slabs of barked that had peeled away from the down and dead trunks. (I also noted all of the new shoots that have resprouted from the cut trunks!)

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Eastern Bluebirds, a 6 month journaling project

In 2021, from March to August, a good friend of mine from Wilmington, North Carolina, had a grand time filming a pair of bluebirds and their 4 broods.. She placed a small motion sensitive camera inside the nest box, and recorded hours of the bird’s activity. Not only did she capture video (and still photos) inside and outside of the nest box, she narrated all of the big events such as nest building, egg laying and incubation. And she took video of the newly hatched chicks, feeding time (which was all the time),

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Winter Botany Study, Part 3: Smooth Sumac

Day 56: A leaf study, showcasing two of the 5 compound leaves that have emerged from the fully extended bud scales. The drawing illustrates how much the leaves grow in a relatively short timeframe; in this case, only 19 days.

Smooth sumac leaves, 7.5×8 inches, graphite

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Winter Botany Study, Part 2: Smooth Sumac

Day 1: Smooth sumac stems popped into a jar of tap water. ….. waiting, waiting waiting …….

Day 39: One of the sumac stems (stem #1) is showing life. The terminal bud and first lateral bud appear to be swelling and greening up a bit. Very promising. Unfortunately stem #2 may have fallen victim to rough treatment (or a curious cat?).

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Winter Botany Study, Part 1: Smooth Sumac

I never lack for nature journaling ideas during winter; there’s so much to investigate and discover when walking along trails lined with intricately detailed dried grasses, forbs and dormant shrubs and trees. This botanical study began with outside exploration, and a bit of impatience; impatience for spring and the first blush of green.

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