Tuesday, December 9, 2008

A Living Desert

We spent a very full day exploring the desert. We visited the Lincoln National Forest with its true oasis at Sitting Bull Falls. Drove for miles in the boonies looking for cactus and critters to photograph. I'm working on extensive slide shows on both those topics so admittedly I am holding back some of the best photos. But I'm trying to keep enough of them in use to show the wide variety of experiences we are having along the way. We did visit a nature center called "THE LIVING DESERT" which showed us some of the animals and plants that we should be looking for as we tour. So some of these shots come from there. It is a stroll along a pathway that has recreated the different desert zones that exist out here with different elevations, water content, vegetation, and so on. Some animals that we are most certain not to see (because they have been virtually eliminated in the wild here, like bison and wolves, I have included in this post. But some of the very best shots we did in fact find in the wild. Oddly enough, my favorite shots are of the mule deer. You will see a fence behind him - as though he were in an enclosure. He was most certainly not. Marilyn spotted him outside the Lincoln Forest. There are cattle in the area so the fence keeps the cattle off the road- that's all. The" muley" was between the fence and the road and he ran back and forth, back and forth as though he was torn between running away and having his picture taken. That was lucky. I was a whole lot less luck with the road runners who were always gone by the time I could jump out of the van with the telephoto lens on. But I'm still working on that!

It looks like fun to pet the nice kitty, right? And this cat and this girl had some kind of bonding thing going on. It was very nice to see but a bit scary as well, as one wrong move from that cat, mountain lion actually, could have changed the experience in a big hurry. This is the female cat of the pair. The male was quite vocal that he was not so thrilled about his mate getting a rub down, but he seemed to leave it alone and just watched. It was hard to believe that we could get this close to the cats at all. But you can see for yourself- it wasn't hard at all. I'm thinking it's a horror show waiting to happen. On the other hand, it was a beautiful thing to see.

These wolves are extremely rare and have been virtually eliminated in the states. A few can still be found in Mexico. There is a program to protect and bring them back.

Scorpions anyone?
Peccarys look like pigs. They aren't. They are desert critters and while they can make a go of it as long as they have cactus with high water content to eat, they much prefer places where there is a water hole, a stream, or at least some limited wet land. Like foxes, they have a strong smell and you are likely to smell them, or even hear them grunting contentedly in the thick brush long before you will actually see them. Neat critters.

This is the first picture I've had a chance to take of prairie dogs since I have the new camera with the telephoto lens. Much better!

And here's our "muley."
And one cactus shot for good measure:

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