Showing posts with label wildlife. Show all posts
Showing posts with label wildlife. Show all posts

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Alamosa National Wildlife Refuge Review

Wetlands at Alamosa National Wildlife Refuge
Just recently, I have come to experience the Alamosa National Wildlife Refuge in an entirely new way.  Instead of sampling the sanctuary like a temporary visitor, I have found my own rhythm of belonging.  In becoming a part of this vital place, I have been able to take in a much deeper level of sustenance.  Perhaps this is the real beauty of refuges.  More than just protecting and conserving natural resources for the benefit of wildlife, they can greatly nourish anyone who truly enters into them.  This is not so much a review of a tourist attraction, or place, as it is a review of learning how to let a place enter into you in a way that feeds your spirit.

As I turn off of busy Highway 160 in South Central Colorado this morning, I slow my vehicle's speed way down.  The two-mile approach to Alamosa NWR's Visitor Center is where I begin to align my pace with that of the natural world.  Opening all of my windows, I breathe deeply and feel the gentle breeze and soft rays of the early morning sunlight on my face.  Reaching into my camera backpack, a palpable sense of anticipation rises up to meet me.

I start counting telephone poles.  There he is, as always, on pole number seven.  My greeter.  Here's where I admit that I don't know what kind of hawk he is.  At some point, I will pull out a book and ID him, but I'm not obsessed with that right now—which is unusual for me.  In the past, I would have immediately wanted to know his name.  The new me has a different agenda for coming to know him.

Sign Marking Entrance to the Alamosa National Wildlife Refuge
Off to my left, I pass ANWR's entrance sign.  My morning's soundtrack changes dramatically.  Gravel pops and pings as it ricochets off the bottom of my red Sport Trac.  In my left ear, a meadowlark's lilting aria floats in thin air.  Simultaneously, my right ear picks up the raucous rap of a Marsh wren.  Ahh... the concert has begun, and like a children's preschool program, the singers won't necessarily be bringing their voices in on time or in perfect harmony.  These voices, like their creatures, will do their own thing, and it will be chaotic at times, but gloriously so.

Star Actress in Today's Theater Production of "Fake Broken Wing" - Mama Killdear
Slowly, slowly I creep along the entrance road hoping for an iconic doing-the-splits photo of one of those boisterous wrens.  Suddenly, without warning, a theater production of Fake Broken Wing opens up in front of my vehicle.  The chorus erupts into: kill dear, kill dear, kill dear.  Whoa!

Good thing I am driving about half a mile an hour (my typical wildlife-photographer-on-the-hunt speed).  A pair of killdear parents have young chicks attempting to cross the road without first looking both ways.  I've never seen baby killdears until this very moment and they are perfect in every way.  Oh, the wonder!

Baby Killdear - Cuteness Overload
The teacher in me wants to play crossing guard and get those precious babies across the road.  Children... it's not safe.  Hurry!  My heart pounds when I think of how easily these young ones could be run over by a car.  Relief floods me when I silently count the chicks now on the opposite shoulder of the road.  Five.  Phew!  They all made it.

Now, as I'm attempting to photograph the family from my vehicle, they launch themselves, in true killdear form, into what the former athlete in me recognizes as Fartlek (I do not make this stuff up) training.  Imagine seven photographic subjects, all going in different directions, speed walking for several steps, and then briefly pausing before sprinting away in the opposite direction.  I try to anticipate when and where those slower intervals will take place and press the shutter button in an act of faith.  This is living in the moment.  Talk about exhilaration!

It's time to roll on down the road.  I never want to stress the wildlife by overstaying my welcome.  You learn to take the gift they give you, and with good grace, give them the breathing room they need.  If I drove out of the refuge right now, my day would be complete.

Young Mule Deer Buck With Antlers in the Velvet
What I am learning about this refuge is that there are layers you must peel back to get at the true essence.  You can't be in a hurry, and to get the most out of a sanctuary experience, you want to use all of your senses.  Long before you see something spectacular, you are most likely going to hear it, or feel its presence—that is, if you nurture your inherent sense of awe and wonder.  Anticipation and stillness.  That is the intersection where the marvelous can, and will, happen in this place.

The other thing is this: Don't just look for the big magnificence.  Often, the most delightful splendor comes in the tiniest of packages.  While there will be crowds at area refuges during the seasonal Sandhill crane migrations, or when elk herds are moving through, it is in the smaller, and yet equally mesmerizing annual voyages of say, butterflies, that one may become immersed in transcendent moments.

Walking is the More Intimate Way to Experience the Refuge
Right now, with the wildflowers in full bloom, so much teeming life is taking place in the ditches and meadows of the sanctuary.  This is the time to walk the two-mile nature trail (although I found it temporarily closed today due to the Rio Grande's flooding and the presence of the endangered Willow flycatcher).  There is so much beauty right underfoot.

Yellow-Headed Blackbird
Any time I enter the Alamosa National Wildlife Refuge, I know that an initial assessment of what's going on will vastly underestimate the real activity that is taking place.  I watch first-time visitors quickly drive the three-mile auto tour loop and leave.  I imagine them saying, "Nothing but blackbirds."  Sadly, they have missed out on everything.  I was once that visitor.

In my ongoing evolution from refuge visitor to a sort of artist-in-residence, I can easily spend all day immersed in nature's artistry.  There is an art to being both a witness to, and a player among, the many moving parts of a wildlife refuge.  I believe the natural world reveals most of its brilliance to those who honor the gift-giver.  And I think the honor is in how we pause and pay deep attention, with reverent awe, and a true sense of gratitude.  There is honor in not taking for granted any creature, no matter if there are thousands of them, and no matter if they are present year-round.

A Glow-in-the-Dark Male Yellow Warbler With a Mouth Full of Insects
Dr. Seuss Chicks - American Coot Babies - Wow, Just Wow!
Today, some of the generous gift-givers have been, in addition to the wondrous greeters I have already mentioned, the lovely Yellow-headed blackbird, the brightest colored warbler I have ever seen, three curious Mule deer, various larks, an amazing porcupine, the Dr. Seuss chicks of an American Coot, a sweet-voiced flycatcher, two American bitterns (listed as uncommon for the refuge), a garter snake (true confession: earlier in my life I would not have put snakes on the gift list), teal ducks, Mallard ducks, a Pied-billed grebe, numerous swallows, and way too many others to note in this limited space.  They know who they are and they know that I revel in their presence.

To miss a day at the refuge, is to miss out on the unfolding of thousands of tiny miracles.  I've found there is no slow season when it comes to the miracle of life.  Any time I find myself drinking in sustenance at the oasis we call the Alamosa National Wildlife Refuge, is the time of my life.

Water is the Lifeblood of the San Luis Valley's National Wildlife Refuges
I encourage you to find your own little oasis where you can soak up the refreshment to be found in spaces that rehydrate the spirit and soul.  Where we find our sustenance, we find everything we need to thrive and grow into the fullness of our own being.  When that happens, we become the refuge that attracts others into our nourishing space.  Being the place, or space, others want to inhabit—isn't that the high calling?







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Friday, January 26, 2018

Reviewing What We Know About the Red Panda

Reviewing the Red Panda - Endangered Species
Photo © Cynthia Sylvestermouse

One Pretty Baby


I really do love all of the animals at the zoo, but there is just something so sweet about the Red Panda

For one thing, almost any time I see one at the zoo, it is alone.  His solitary existence just seems to tug at my heart.  He is so adorable that I always want to just reach in and grab that little cutie and give it a hug. 

It breaks my heart to know that the Red Panda is endangered.


Red Pandas


Reviewing What We Know About the Red Panda
Photo © Cynthia Sylvestermouse
The beautiful Red Panda lives, eats and sleeps up in a tree. When it is cold, it will wrap itself with its gorgeous furry, ringed tail to keep warm. The Red Panda sleeps mostly during the day and forages for food at night. They eat fruit, berries, acorns, eggs. mushrooms and bamboo.

Because of his lovely red hair, he has also been named a Firefox and because he resembles a domestic cat, he has been called a Bear Cat and even Red Cat. Ironically, the Red Panda is not a bear, it is not a cat and it is not a fox. It is in fact in a family of its own. It is a Ailuride, part of the Musteloidea superfamily which includes the skunk, weasel and raccoon.

This endangered animal is still illegally hunted for his fur and even for his tail, which is considered a good luck charm.


A Few Facts About the Red Panda

  • Weight: 12 - 20 lbs
  • Length: 20 - 26 in.
  • Tail Length: 12 - 20 inches
  • Average Lifespan: 8 years
  • Lives in China, India, Myanmar & Nepal
 

ENDANGERED

This is an especially adorable video of two Red Pandas playing in the snow. You will be able to see for yourself their tremendous ability to climb and hang in a tree and I know you will enjoy watching their antics in the snow as much as I do. 


Where You Can See a Red Panda


Because Red Pandas are endangered, plus they are awesome at camouflaging themselves within tree branches and leaves, it is rare to see one in the wild. However, many zoos care for Red Pandas.  I highly recommend visiting a zoo sometime soon to see a Red Panda in person. I know you will simply fall in love with them!

Be sure to take your camera too!  Once you spot a Red Panda, you will want to memorialize the moment with a snapshot, or perhaps a dozen or more. I always find it difficult to step away from these little sweeties. If he is sleeping, I always want to hang around until he wakes up. If he happens to be awake and moving around, I am simply mesmerized by his ability to slowly climb head first down a tree trunk. Makes me wish I had retractable claws!

Red Panda's on Binders, Mugs & More


I love photographing beautiful animals. Sometimes I offer those photos for sale on Zazzle products. The image of the Red Panda below is offered on several different products, including ornaments, mugs, posters and the featured binder.

 

Zoos That I Know Care for Red Pandas


How about you.  Do you know a zoo that cares for Red Pandas.  If so, please leave the name of the zoo in the guestbook below and I will add it to the list above.  Everyone prefers a zoo near them.  Plus, it is really cool to discover who helps these gorgeous creatures.

Visit AmazingWildAnimals.com 
to Read about More Beautiful and Endangered Animals!


Check Out More Animal Reviews
Here on Review This!



Reviewing What We Know About the Red Panda Written by:
House of Sylvestermouse

           This article was originally published by me in 2009 on a site that is no longer in existence.  




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Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Adopting An Elephant

Giving A Unique Gift This Year

elephant
Elephant Image from Pixabay.com
In my last post I spoke of my granddaughter and her passion to save the elephants. Besides the gift of the stuffed elephant that I plan to give her, I came up with another gift idea. I have adopted an elephant in her name. 

How does one adopt an elephant you may be thinking. It is actually very easy to do. Obviously, one doesn't actually take on an elephant to raise. The adoption is really a creative use of words for a donation to help in the conservation and protection of elephants in Africa and Asia. I chose to donate the money to the World Wildlife Fund as a gift to my precious little 5 year old granddaughter as one of her Christmas gifts. 

This may seem like an unusual gift for a child but she isn't a typical 5 year old. After having visited Disney World this last spring the one thing she came home with was the desire to save the slaughter of elephants for their tusks. It has occurred to me that not only is this the perfect gift for her this year but one that I can continue to give each year. It is a gift that can be given to someone who feels passionately about saving the endangered species of wildlife across the globe. You can choose from several types of animals, not just the elephant through The World Wildlife Fund which has helped protect wildlife for over 50 years. 

Another option for helping elephants is the International Elephant Foundation. Donations to this organization also help to protect the elephants. The IEF operates conservation and education programs in the wild and facilities to protect, manage and perform scientific research. The foundation was formed in 1998 in Fort Worth, Texas when there was a lack of reputable organizations for this very purpose.

We so often think of giving our children and grandchildren toys, books and clothing as a gift. There is nothing wrong with that at all. I just wanted to do something different this year and making a donation for the elephants will really mean something to my sweet little granddaughter. I think it will be a gift that she will remember for many years. 

I also want to clarify that the links that I have provided in this post are not affiliate links which means that there is no monetary gain for me when you visit the sites. If you choose to donate to either of them, all of the donation goes to the organization. This post is just a way to make a suggestion for a unique and different gift that you can give to someone special in your life who is passionate about saving our wildlife whether it is an elephant, rhinoceros, orangutan or any other endangered species.  




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