Tuesday, August 14, 2007

New Mexico - Days 8 and 9

Days 8 and 9 were the last days of the first work week. More sites, and more scenery. I realize know that I did not take many pictures of the plants that we most commonly saw. Often my picture taking was limited to the hike to or from the site, and even then I did not take many pictures. At the beginning of the day, I did not want to hold up the work. At the end of the day, I was often too tired to care. In fact, I need to get a copy of the species list we created so I don't forget what I learned over the summer.

I did see a new Helianthus species - Helianthus ciliaris, common name Blueweed. I am always excited to see new Helianthus. Though I should have gotten a picture

Most of the pictures I did take seem to be either of scenery, or special events.

Cool Rocks up close

Clouds building up behind the mountains

One of our research sites

A special event - On Thursday, after picnicking under the shade of a huge cottonwood tree, we decided to take a brief nap (about 15 minutes). While I was laying down, I hear rustling in some rocks about 20 meters away. And it was this little lizard eating some food. With my zoom, and by laying really still, I was able to snap this shot (the picture has also been cropped and enlarged).

More scenery - mesquite bushes.

Another one of our sites. Many of our sites were like this - a few shrubs on cobble/gravel bars. The gray-foliaged shrubs are rabbit brush - Ericameria nauseosa, though I am not sure what is nauseous about this species. I thought it actually smelled quite nice.

Special Event - Friday was special because of the wildlife we saw - namely rattlesnakes (which was later ID'd as a Black Tailed Rattlesnake). Below is the first one I saw. I had put my backpack down in the shade near a downed cottonwood log. After doing this, I noticed the snake. Though it was not rattling, I still jumped back about a foot. Luckily, my camera was with me and not in my backpack, so I was able to snap this picture (I have a great optical zoom on my camera, so I was not really all that close). We then got a big stick to retrieve the backpack. Though the snake was calm (not even rattling), I did not want to test its patience with me. It was nice to know where the snake was, and I would check on him/her from time to time to make sure he/she had not moved.

We did see two other rattlesnakes that day, in a different plot. One rattled at me as I was placing a flag on a tree branch. It was not all that close, but I had jostled a stick that was near it. This snake was also hanging out in the cool shade of a downed cottonwood. Later in that same plot, as I was writing notes in the shade, I heard rustling from a nearby log. When I looked up, I saw a rattlesnake coming out from the log, straight at me. So I asked him/her to please stay where he/she was as we would be leaving soon, and we did not mean to bother him/her. Once the snake realized I was there, it curled back up and went to sleep. Several people, particularly people I know who are not biologists, have asked me if carried a gun so I could shot these snakes. And my answer is no. Even if I had a gun, I would not shot the rattlesnakes. They are not aggressive, and really just want to be left alone. The rattles is a warning to let you know they are there. It is only if you don't respect them and continue to bother them that they will bite you. I really enjoyed seeing these snakes, and in fact would have been disappointed if I had not seen any on this trip.

Cool Cloud

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