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Don't Make It A Lost Year, Safari Where You Are: Searching for Pronghorns in New Mexico and Other Adventures


gatoratlarge

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gatoratlarge

Covid-19 has wreaked havoc on our world.  In the US there are a quarter million deaths so far (I have personally known a few that succumbed to the disease) and numbers are spiking again as we head into the winter months.. thousands more are "long haulers" that will deal with the after-effects of covid for years to come.  So I'm in no way minimizing its impact.  I'm very hopeful the vaccine will be available soon and those that love to wander will be back in the saddle to safari in Africa and beyond!

 

Personally it has inconvenienced and upset travel plans to visit Northern Baffin Island in the Canadian Arctic in June, and as I write this short report, I would have been in Tanzania on safari, both trips have been bumped to next year 2021 :( but outdoors and masked up seems to be a safer zone and I've still been able to check off some bucket list "safari" destinations (all within the US)  in these uncertain times of covid so I thought I'd share them with my fellow safari talkers!

 

Most recently I was able to take a short trip to New Mexico and join fellow Safaritalker @Sangeetato explore the beautiful wilderness of NE New Mexico in search of North America's (and I assume the Western Hemisphere's) only antelope, the pronghorn!  Armed with a GPS and otherwise no idea where we were actually going, we set out to find our targeted animal.  Along the way we came across mule deer, wild turkeys and a curious coyote near Los Alamos!

 

My only claim to visiting NM prior had been to put one foot inside the state at the four corners monument where AZ, NM, CO and UT come together.  I can say NM has stunning wilderness and the roads were practically empty.  I know, I'm late to the party.  What took me so long??

 

By the end of our day we had passed through Taos, driving portions of the High Road, a scenic bypass through the Sangre de Cristo Mountains from Santa Fe winding through high desert, mountains, forests, tiny Spanish Land Grant villages and Pueblo Indian villages, snow often blanketing the roadside!  Onward through Cimarron and Maxwell, NM, we searched, one village claimed it was "Where the Rockies Meet the Plains".  That was where we spotted our first lone pronghorn on a small rise along the side of a desolate stretch of road.  About 15 minutes later we spotted an entire herd resting in pasture land but the mere pulling off to the side of the road sent the fastest land mammal in North America running off.  The herd stopped preferring to go under a fence line than hop over it.  

 

From there we encountered several more wary herds.  Inexplicably, the most relaxed group of pronghorns we found on NRA-owned property.  No money exchanged hands but I may be on the NRA email list from now until eternity...:blink:  Some photos of our NM "safari":

 

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offshorebirder

Nice photos  and video @gatoratlarge  I am a big fan of Pronghorn.

 

But Pronghorn are not really antelopes, they are members of Giraffoidea and more closely related to Giraffes and Okapi.

 

 

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Caracal

Fascinating @gatoratlarge- the Pronghorns on those wide sweeping desolate plains and the stunning contrast of that spectacular mountain scenery.

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gatoratlarge
5 hours ago, offshorebirder said:

Nice photos  and video @gatoratlarge  I am a big fan of Pronghorn.

 

But Pronghorn are not really antelopes, they are members of Giraffoidea and more closely related to Giraffes and Okapi.

 

 

Thanks!  Interesting---the San Diego Zoo has a good write up on the pronghorn:

 

https://animals.sandiegozoo.org/animals/pronghorn

 

From the link:

 

One of a kind: The pronghorn is an original Native American. It has no close relative on this or any other continent. This interesting animal goes by many names: pronghorn antelope, prongbuck, and American antelope. The pronghorn is often called an antelope, and it does look like many antelope species. Yet it is different enough to warrant its own taxonomic family, Antilocapridae.

 

There's a lot more info from the link.  Very cool animal...

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Kitsafari

Pretty animals against some stunning backdrop! 

Are you able to access the NRA registered land freely? Could the pronghorns there be part of the breeding farm for hunting in other areas?

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gatoratlarge
6 hours ago, Kitsafari said:

Pretty animals against some stunning backdrop! 

Are you able to access the NRA registered land freely? Could the pronghorns there be part of the breeding farm for hunting in other areas?

It was free to go on their property though you had to give your information and sign an indemnity sheet at the gate since there were shooting ranges onsite.  Pronghorns are pretty prolific though so I don't think they really need to specifically breed them for hunting.  The pronghorn appeared to be free range with no fencing but I'm not sure why they were so relaxed as they do hunt on the property.  Maybe they're smart enough to hang around the areas where it is not permitted?  We read online an article from a wildlife photographer that said the route we took was his favorite areas to take photos of pronghorns and the NRA center where he could get closest...

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gatoratlarge

To continue on with the theme, earlier this summer in August I visited another bucket list destination: Glacier National Park...my niece has worked there during the summer for the last five years and yet I had never had the opportunity to visit.  We quarantined as strictly as we could to make sure we arrived covid free and not infect each other or anyone else.

 

What I discovered was one of the most stunning national parks in America---I know.  Late to the party yet again...we floated the Flathead River, kayaked on Lake McDonald, hiked in the park and drove the "Going to the Sun" Road, one of the most stunning drives I've ever experienced.  Wildlife-wise we saw mule deer, mountain goats, bald and golden eagles, and a bear,  It was brown so it could have been a grizzly but also could have been a black bear, we weren't sure.

 

Glacier is definitely a park to put on your list...it's up there with Yosemite in stunning scenery and wildlife, and should join the pantheon of US National Parks along with Yellowstone, Yosemite and the Grand Canyon.

 

Mask up:

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Agreed!

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Lake McDonald is beautiful and many other glacial lakes in the area:

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Our glimpse of a bear: grizzly or black bear?  Appeared cinnamon in color...

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A bald eagle along the Flathead River:

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and a couple Golden Eagles: apologies for the clarity---cell phone cameras :wacko:

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Mountain goats...

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Kitsafari

Really gorgeous sceneries. And well captured too!

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Great photos @gatoratlarge!  The pronghorn is one of my favorite animals ever since we first saw them in Yellowstone.  Since then we have found them in Nevada, California and they are pretty plentiful here in Arizona too if you know where to look.  I have actually seen them race cars along highways and watching them run is fantastic.

 

Love the Glacier photos too.  You have some stunning scenery shots in there.  We have only been to Glacier when it was smoky so we really couldn't enjoy the scenery much.  But, based on your photos we sure need to go back.  By the way, that looks like a black bear to me.  Cinnamon colored black bears are pretty common.

 

Thanks for sharing your adventures.  

 

Alan

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gatoratlarge

Thanks @Atdahlthey have a very wide range but I had never seen one---they were a big "hole" on my North American wildlife checklist :D it was very cool to see them running in a herd---had the look and feel of Africa which we all miss so much.  :) You live in a beautiful state!

 

Peer Pressure :lol: who knew there were belugas in Montana! :lol::

 

 

 

 

 

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gatoratlarge

And my last post on this year's "home grown" safaris is a camping trip into the Okefenokee Swamp in Southeast Georgia I took in March.  It's "just up the road a piece" as they say in these parts...we kayaked to camping platforms in the heart of the Okefenokee which is the headwaters of the Suwannee River of Stephen Foster fame (Florida's State Song: "Way Down Upon the Swanee River" or Ribber in the original version).  Foster misspells it in his famous song calling it "Swanee" and there's always of course Al Jolson and Judy Garland that sang versions of "Swanee" (How I love you, how I love you, My Dear Old Swanee...) he actually never laid eyes on the river, just liked the way it sounded...but I digress.

 

I had always wanted to camp on these platforms but they get booked well in advance and you probably don't want to camp there in the summer unless you're immune from heat, humidity and bugs!  So when a buddy from Birmingham booked the camp sites, I was definitely "in"!

 

I don't know why but the swamp looked more timeless in black and white so I took a lot of photos like that:

 

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Moonlight in the swamp:84011182_10158632718278488_2401286511199780864_n.jpg.0f194fc74105797037bfa5d9f47c0c9b.jpg89267927_10158632718423488_1522256840585379840_n.jpg.9067b3b602a6632ead5d0e80dba33e6a.jpg

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michael-ibk

You are certainly making the best of a difficult year Joe! Love the Pronghorns, an animal that has always fascinated me. And the Glacier NP vistas are just incredibly, what a beautiful place.

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gatoratlarge

Thanks @michael-ibkI've tried not to rot away at home entirely :o

 

 

Some video of the Okefenokee -- Land of the Trembling Earth...Native Americans gave the swamp the name “Okefenokee” which means “Land of the Trembling Earth”.  The Indians gave the swamp this name because peat deposits, up to 15 feet thick, cover much of the swamp.  These deposits are so unstable in spots that trees and surrounding bushes tremble by walking on the surface of these floating islands.

 

 

 

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Kitsafari

oh boy that snake looks so swollen with some happy big meal!

 

I like the forest in black and white or retro colours - gives it that mysterious, dramatic ancient feel. 

 

that little rocket reminds me of a Star Trek movie - the one where they went back in time to earth to find the person who discovered/invented a manned rocket. can't recall the name of the show. 

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

You've spent your time good @gatoratlarge, exploring the beautiful parks and wildlife of your own country. I think I didn't do enough of that, only one morning I went looking for bellowing deer. 'Luckily' I have some more semi-lockdown time at home. I think I'll follow your example and go search for birds of prey in upcoming weekends. It won't be as wild as your landscapes and wildlife though. Thanks for sharing!

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gatoratlarge
On 12/2/2020 at 10:17 AM, LarsS said:

You've spent your time good @gatoratlarge, exploring the beautiful parks and wildlife of your own country. I think I didn't do enough of that, only one morning I went looking for bellowing deer. 'Luckily' I have some more semi-lockdown time at home. I think I'll follow your example and go search for birds of prey in upcoming weekends. It won't be as wild as your landscapes and wildlife though. Thanks for sharing!

Thanks @LarsSit's quite a balance to try and be safe yourself and for others, and yet as the pandemic stretches into a full year and beyond, total lockdown mode is nearly impossible to uphold.  Luckily I can work from home and  I try to stay up on what we each should do to protect each other and ourselves.  That being said, being outdoors, which we all love is the safest option.  I have another camping trip to Dry Tortugas in January so I still have that to look forward to...hopefully, that will tide me over until I'm able to get vaccinated.  :D

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  • 1 month later...
gatoratlarge

So I've just added Dry Tortugas National Park to my Covid travels.  Acording to Wikipedia:

 

Dry Tortugas National Park is a national park in the United States about 68 miles (109 km) west of Key West in the Gulf of Mexico. The park preserves Fort Jefferson and the seven Dry Tortugas islands, the westernmost and most isolated of the Florida Keys. The archipelago's coral reefs are the least disturbed of the Florida Keys reefs.  The park is noted for abundant sea life, tropical bird breeding grounds, colorful coral reefs, and legends of shipwrecks and sunken treasures. The park's centerpiece is Fort Jefferson, a massive but unfinished coastal fortress. Fort Jefferson is the largest brick masonry structure in the Western Hemisphere, and is composed of more than 16 million bricks. Among United States forts it is exceeded in size only by Fort Monroe, Virginia, and Fort Adams, Rhode Island. Dry Tortugas is unique in its combination of a largely undisturbed tropical ecosystem with significant historic artifacts. The park is accessible only by seaplane or boat and has averaged about 63,000 visitors annually in the period from 2008 to 2017. Activities include snorkeling, picnicking, birdwatching, camping, scuba diving, saltwater fishing and kayaking. Overnight camping is limited to 8 primitive campsites at the Garden Key campground — located just south of Fort Jefferson.  Dry Tortugas National Park is part of the Everglades & Dry Tortugas Biosphere Reserve, established by UNESCO in 1976 under its Man and the Biosphere Programme.

 

Robbie's is a marina in Islamorada where you can feed schools of tarpon from the dock.  The brown pelicans get pretty aggressive plucking your bucket of fish from you on land and sea!  There was even a curious manatee floating about getting in between you and the tarpon...

 

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Bahia Honda is an excellent state park as you near the southern keys...it has a great beach and a piece of the overseas highway and railroad built by Henry Flagler in the early 1900s.

 

Wikipedia:  

Bahia Honda State Park:  Marine life is quite plentiful in the waters surrounding the island. Just off the beach snorkelers can spot many species of small reef fish, as well as rays, barracuda, and even the occasional small nurse shark.  The only known natural colony of the now rare Miami blue butterfly was discovered in the park in 1999. The butterfly had been thought to have become extinct as a result of Hurricane Andrew in 1992.  Several rare plants, including yellow satinwood (Zanthoxylum flavum), Florida silver palm (Coccothrinax argentata), Coconut palm (Cocos nucifera), Key thatch palm (Leucothrinax morrisii), and the endangered small-flowered lily-thorn (Catesbaea parviflora) are found in the park.

 

Henry Flagler's Florida East Coast Railway once ran through the present parkland to Key West. Built between 1905 and 1912, it was destroyed by the severe Labor Day Hurricane of 1935. Later, the railroad bridge foundations were used to build the Overseas Highway, which became U.S. 1. Part of the old Bahia Honda Bridge is accessible from the park, and offers a panoramic view of the islands. In 1908, the Florida East Coast Railway Company built two large two-story dormitories there to house workers building the Bahia Honda Bridge.

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Magnificent Frigate Birds Circled Overhead---this is taken with a cell phone so I apologize it's not too clear.

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A span of the old overseas highway.  Highway on top and rail below:

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The Key deer is an endangered deer that lives only in the Florida Keys. It is a subspecies of the white-tailed deer. It is the smallest North American deer.  They are quite tame and my guess is they are often fed and have lost their fear of humans.  Habitat loss and deaths by cars are their main threats.  We saw these on No Name Key.

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Another grainy pic of a magnificent frigate bird.  The magnificent frigatebird is a large black bird. It is about three feet in length and has a wingspan of over seven feet. The magnificent frigatebird has a long gray bill with a hooked tip. It has a deeply forked, scissor-like tail and sharply pointed wings.

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This was the curious manatee at Robbie's Marina.  We also saw a couple manatees like gray missiles swim past us at Alabama Jack's in Key Largo.  We drove through Crocodile Lake Wildlife Refuge but unfortunately there did not seem to be a proper spot to pull over or a visitor's center.  The American crocodile is native to this area, the only place in the world where alligators and crocodiles can be seen in close proximity.  I've seen both species of crocodilian in the Everglades.

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Usually you have to reserve camp sites eight, ten or twelve months in advance so I was surprised to get two spots at Dry Tortugas National Park.  Kayaking around the fort.IMG_1415.jpg.1fd43adbe6364822a4d1803e14f796cc.jpg

 

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While not exactly exotic roosters and chickens have the run of Key West---don't expect to sleep late!

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No time spent in Key West is complete without a stop to Africa lover Ernest Hemingway's house where descendants of his six toed cats have the run of the place.  This is a former urinal he carried home from Sloppy Joe's after a night of drinking.  His wife made it into a fountain.  :D

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Tarpon in Islamorada

 

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In some ways this is a sad picture.  South Florida and the keys are home to so many exotics released by pet owners.  Like the Burmese pythons in the Everglades that are eating their way through native wildlife.  I was sitting in my car taking a conference call when an African Agama lizard with an orange head eased down the trunk of the tree.  Seconds later a green iguana native of Central America did the same.

 

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