Wild Weekly Photo Challenge: Hiking / Soul Searching

Soul Searching
Soul Searching, a photo by Fergiemoto on Flickr.  (click on photo to enlarge)

soul searching
continuing the journey
through a daunting world

Five years ago, I took this photo at beautiful Bryce Canyon National Park in southern Utah, USA, along the Queens Garden hiking trail.  I was still able to hike at that time, at least on the less difficult trails.

This is the photo I used in my first posting to introduce this blog.  I created this blog almost two years ago as part of my healing process through many, many health issues, debilitating and including widespread chronic pain.  (I’ve explained some of these in my other health blog.)  It is a much-needed therapeutic way to explore my own creativity, whatever may arise, with a primary goal to help me heal, and a secondary hope to develop and improve artistically.

Last week the number of followers on this blog reached and surpassed 1,000!  I never imagined this would happen when I started blogging, but more importantly, I am encouraged and appreciate that many have found my blog worthy of following, commenting, liking, or even just visiting.  It does help with the healing.  Thank you very much!

I am still on the journey through several health issues, and I don’t know yet what is on the other side.  Perhaps I will be able to hike a trail like the Queens Garden Trail again.  But in the meantime, Soul-Searching is still applicable.

This photo is for the Wild Weekly Photo Challenge where we are encouraged to take you along on a hike.
This is also for the “Tagged” letter challenge (letter “S”) by Frizztext,
(“S” is for Soul Searching.)

Wild Weekly Photo Challenge: Birds / Quest

Majestic Flight
Majestic Flight, a photo by Fergiemoto on Flickr.  (click on photo to enlarge)

a splash of sky
rising out of the water
majestic heron

A Great Blue Heron on a quest for dinner!

This photo was taken just over a week ago at the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge in northern Utah, USA.  The Great Blue Heron is the largest of the herons in North America and is found throughout most of the continent.  They have been described as “graceful flyers with slow, steady, dignified wingbeats.”  They feed primarily on fish, insects, small mammals, reptiles and amphibians, and usually nest in trees or brushes near water’s edge.  They rarely venture away from bodies of water.  In Utah, they are a common breeding resident in the summer and nest in scattered colonies.  A few remain throughout the winter in areas of open water.

Note:  The website for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service states that the Bear River Bird Refuge is an oasis for water birds and “acclaimed as one of the world’s 10 best birding areas.” It provides habitat for more than 200 bird species.  It is definitely one of my favorite places to visit.

This photo is for the Wild Weekly Photo Challenge where we are encouraged to turn
our lens toward some feathery friends.  No one has to twist my arm to do that!
This is also for the “Tagged” letter challenge (letter “Q”) by Frizztext,
(“Q” is for Quest.)

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Culture

Fremont Petroglyphs
Fremont Petroglyphs, a photo by Fergiemoto on Flickr.  (click on photo to enlarge)

For this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge theme, I present images from two Native American cultures in my home state of Utah, USA.

The photo above was taken near Dinosaur National Monument in northeastern Utah.  These are petroglyphs dating from AD 100 to 1200, and were made by people from the Native American Fremont culture.  Some of the figures reach 9 feet tall and are located along a 200-foot high sandstone cliff.  Many rock art sites such as petroglyphs exist across Utah, and as with most rock art, they are a record of the presence of the people who lived there at the time.  (Fremont people were here until about AD 1300.  A suggestion as to why their traditions and culture disappeared here is climate change and worsening farming conditions, which did not allow Fremont people to easily adapt to for sustenance.)

Of interest to most general readers of petroglyphs is “What does it mean?”  Although archaeologists have arrived at certain general interpretations, “interpreting rock art designs is intriguing yet difficult, often impossible.”

How would you interpret these petroglyphs?

Now to the opposite end of the state for the next photo.  Tucked away into a ledge above a dry wash in the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park (southeastern Utah) is a structure from the Native American Pueblo culture.  This structure, located in the left side of the photo, is an Ancestral Puebloan granary (grain storage bin).  Built between AD 1270 and 1295, this type of granary was used to store corn, bean or squash seeds.  There are dozens of similar storage structures in this area, but few dwellings.  According to the park information, this suggests that the early inhabitants of this area farmed intensively but lived there only seasonally.

Puebloan Granary
Puebloan Granary, a photo by Fergiemoto on Flickr.  (click on photo to enlarge)

“For many years, changing weather patterns made growing crops more and more difficult. Around AD 1300, the ancestral Puebloans left the area and migrated south. Their descendants include the people living in modern pueblos in New Mexico and Arizona like Acoma, Zuni, and the Hopi Mesas.”  (Source: National Park Service – Canyonlands)


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Love is in the Air at the Bird Refuge

Grebe Courtship 1
Grebe Courtship 1, a photo by Fergiemoto on Flickr.  (click on photo to enlarge)

dramatic performance

like a choreographed dance
instinctive courtship

In my last posting, I mentioned that we had seen far fewer migratory birds at the local Bear River Bird Refuge than the same time last year.  We went for another visit this past Easter Sunday and I’m happy to report that the birds are gradually arriving, although, still not at the level we saw a year ago on March 24, 2012.  The birds that have arrived since our last visit (at least that we saw) were a few American Pelicans, about 10 to 15 cliff swallows and LOTS of Western Grebes.  The refuge is large, so I’m sure there are many more recent arrivals hiding in the marshes.

The focus of this post is the Western Grebe, which you see in the photos.  They are the largest of the North American grebes and are fish-eating water birds that winter along the west coast of North America and breed on inland lakes during the summer.  The bird is a common breeder in northern Utah, USA, where the refuge is located.  Their preferred habitats are lakes, marshes and coasts.  They are graceful with long flexible necks, and dive into the water, rather than fly away when approached.  They spend most of the time in water.  They are awkward walking on land as their feet are placed far back on the body.

What’s so unusual about the grebes is their courtship display, which is among the most elaborate breeding rituals of North American wildlife.  Their mating display is among the most complicated of all.  A long pair bond is formed and strengthened by elaborate courtship displays including neck-bobbing, flexing their necks backwards toward the water, ritualized preening, head shaking, diving, weed carrying, caressing each other with aquatic vegetation, etc.  The bond is reinforced by a dance, or “rushing” phase.  Each bird glances at one another before exploding into a synchronous sprint, side by side, across the water’s surface, with their bodies completely out of the water, like hydroplaning.  They stand high, their wings held back and their cobra-like head and neck rigid and curved gracefully forward until the race ends with a headfirst dive!!  Wow!  (This dance was the reason for my haiku above.)

If that doesn’t sound cute enough, when the young hatch, the babies ride on the backs of their parents, sometimes as many as four chicks at a time, while the other parent dives for fish and brings food to them.  (Click here to see photos.)

Grebes build floating nests on the water, constructed of reeds, weeds and other floating vegetation.  Both parents take turns sitting on a nest of two to six eggs that hatch in about 23 days.  After the chicks hatch, the nests are deserted and gradually dissolve into the lake.  This is a perfect example of “green” recycling.

Our last visit to the refuge must have been too early for us to see the “dance finale” of this fascinating courtship routine.  There were several pairs, and we only saw the head bobbing and preening, but that’s ok.  It was still fun to see.  Here are a few photos of the beginnings of a courtship:

Grebe Courtship 2
Grebe Courtship 2, a photo by Fergiemoto on Flickr.  (click on photo to enlarge)
Grebe Courtship 3
Grebe Courtship 3, a photo by Fergiemoto on Flickr.  (click on photo to enlarge)
Grebe Courtship 4
Grebe Courtship 4, a photo by Fergiemoto on Flickr.  (click on photo to enlarge)
Grebe Courtship 5
Grebe Courtship 5, a photo by Fergiemoto on Flickr.  (click on photo to enlarge)
Grebe Courtship 6
Grebe Courtship 6, a photo by Fergiemoto on Flickr.  (click on photo to enlarge)
Grebe Courtship 7
Grebe Courtship 7, a photo by Fergiemoto on Flickr.  (click on photo to enlarge)

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Future Tense

Future BR Bird Refuge

heartfelt invitation
excited for your return
spring migration

Doesn’t this body of water look lonely, eagerly awaiting the return of migratory birds to fill it full of life, including the adorable playfulness of a whole new generation of baby birds?

It’s still phoneography month, and this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge encourages taking another photo with our camera phones.  I took this photo with my iPhone almost two weeks ago at the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge in northern Utah, USA.  The water was mostly covered in ice still, and was too early for the migratory birds to make their appearance.  We heard that the migration would occur a little later this year because the ice was taking longer to thaw, but we made the trip anyway hoping to see some year-round birds including bald eagles.

One year ago, this section of water was about like you see it (minus the ice), and full of various birds.  However, having one of the driest seasons on record left this area and other units of the refuge dry or drying up by mid-summer, when we made our previous trip.  It was sad to see this so dry, but the refuge was also keeping and diverting water only in priority nesting areas.  At least we were able to see a higher concentration of birds in the priority areas.

It is refreshing to see this refuge full of water again and I am anxious to return when the migratory birds start arriving.  According to information from the refuge, the birds have survived worst conditions than last year, but lets hope the future is better and brighter for them.

Here is another photo I took last weekend, on our second trip to the refuge this year.  The bird is a Great Blue Heron.  This photo was taken with my Pentax DSLR.

Heron Silhouette
Heron Silhouette, a photo by Fergiemoto on Flickr.  (click on photo to enlarge)

I’ve had several postings in the past related to this refuge.  The refuge is on a delta of the Bear River in the northeast arm of the Great Salt Lake, and is the largest freshwater component of the Great Salt Lake ecosystem.  It “offers some of the most phenomenal water bird watching in the Western United States.”  According to the US Fish & Wildlife Services, the refuge is “acclaimed as one of the world’s 10 best birding areas” and has “long been considered one of the most valuable wetlands in the intermountain west region.”  It is a 74,000 acre National Wildlife Refuge and is host to millions of migratory birds yearly.  Located the edge of two North American migration flyways, the Central and Pacific flyways, it is an important resting, feeding, and nesting area for birds in both flyways and is a habitat for more than 200 bird species.

The mountain range you see in the first photo is the beautiful Wasatch Range, home to many world class ski resorts and a host of other outdoor pursuits.  Further to the right (south) near Salt Lake City, and just into these mountains, is where I live. Continue reading

Weekly Photo Challenge: Lunchtime

Lunch, a photo by Fergiemoto on Flickr.  (click on photo to enlarge)

This is a juvenile male downy woodpecker being fed lunch by its mother.  The juvenile was able to land clumsily on the feeders, but wasn’t able to feed itself yet.  Thank goodness for Mama!  (If you have been following my blog for a while, I’m sure you’re not surprised that I’ve tried to work a nature shot, especially birds, into the photo challenge.)

Since it’s phoneography month, this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge is to take a lunch photo with our cameraphones, that is, if we have a cameraphone.  The photo above was taken with my DSLR camera, but the photos below were taken with my recently acquired iPhone.

One of my favorite things to do is to try different eating establishments with my hubby and mother.  From the fancy to the non-fancy, we’re game to try many different places and cuisines, which we have done more frequently in the last couple of years.

Most recently, a burger, fries, beer and a movie sounded good, so hubby and I tried Brewvies in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA.  It is a cinema pub “featuring first release and independent films shown in a pub and restaurant atmosphere.”  Here, you can order a meal and drinks at the bar, load them up on a tray, take them into the movie theatre with you, and even play some pool or a pinball machine afterwards.  Narrow tables are located in front of each row of theatre seats where you can set your food.  It is an older establishment, so the theatre is not fancy.  We watched Django, which was shown from a movie reel.  It had been a while since I had seen the occasional vertical lines in the picture and heard the movie projector running in the back room.

The drinks: For hubby, a Detour Double India Pale Ale, 9.5% abv. For me, since I’m a lightweight when it comes to alcohol and I prefer still to be standing after a drink, I went for the hard apple cider in a much smaller bottle than the IPA and less alcohol content.

The bartender had a “great suggestion” to combine the cider and Guinness together, and gave me a small amount of Guinness to try it out. I took a small swig of Guinness combined with a small swig of cider and decided that the taste wasn’t my cup of tea. I prefer to enjoy each one independent of the other.

Finally the food! I ordered a wild salmon burger with caramelized onions, chunks of roasted garlic and blue cheese crumbles. What a yummy combination that was! Oh, and it came with home made wedge cut fries.

Overall, it was a nice way to spend the afternoon!

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