Author Archives: coxdavid55

Reporting on Vigo & Ourense, Spain, Sept 26, 2023

From Santiago I traveled the short distance south to Vigo, a large fishing and cruise ship town on the Atlantic coast.  Beautiful panoramic views were available to those who climbed the steep hill crowned by the Castro Fort. My apartment was on the pedestrian street Rua Principe, the main elite shopping district, directly across from the Marco Museum (Museum of Contemporary Art). I could tell the time all night by checking the clock tower just outside my window.  Though I admit to not having much appreciation for contemporary art, the free entrance to the museum, 20 steps from my door, pretty much guaranteed my visit.  ‘Somewhat interesting’ will remain my critique.

Vigo is well known for its splendid variety of fresh seafood. I ate late dinners (around 9pm) most nights at one of the many seafood restaurants lining the old market at La Piedra. Lots of clams, scallops, mussels, giant shrimp, octopus and squid, along with many species of unknown fish, all bony – most rather pricey. Scallops (Zamburiñas in Gallego), seared in the half-shell (the shell is Santiago’s emblem) with a tangy butter-olive oil drizzle, are to die for – 2 Euros a pop.  I ordered a half dozen of these every place that had them.

It rained on and off most days, but was great sitting out under umbrellas at the maritime port, drinking cappuccinos and eating chocolate napolitanas, watching the cruise ships refilling with passengers back from day sight-seeing trips.

I traveled inland from Vigo to the hilly city of Ourense with its old walled section on the south side of the Rio Minho. The original roman bridge over the river carries inlaid bronze shells, marking this as the route of the Camino de Santiago. The old bridge is unusual with its high pointed arches, and provides a great view west to the novel modernistic design of the Millenium Bridge.

My apartment overlooked the small Praza do Ferro, just a block from the Romanesque Cathedral, which original 12th century Portals of Paradise form a fantastic detailed colorful entrance (paint added 18th century). The narrow passages threading from my plaza to and around the cathedral to the Praza Maior (the names here are Galician, one of the official languages of Spain, more closely related to Portuguese), simply are filled back-to-back with tapas bars.  A few blocks of climbing from my apartment gets to the Romanesque-Gothic transition San Francisco Church Cloister, a stunningly beautiful double columnated square. It also contains a one room Museum of Archaeology of Ourense, and out on the hillside the large ancient cemetery of Ourense. Just below the Cloister is the Mirador (lookout) over old Ourense with the cathedral backed by distant green hills – this my favorite spot for cappuccinos in Ourense.

Travel Report from Madrid & Santiago de Compostela, Spain, Sept 15, 2023

My Spain trip started poorly, as have my last 3 international flights, with an early am notice that my AA flight Tucson to Dallas was delayed, putting at risk my international connection.  I rushed to the airport and managed to get the last seat on an earlier flight, necessitating exchanging a first-class ticket for a center seat at the back of the plane. This successfully got me to Dallas in plenty of time, permitting me to “enjoy” the Flagship Lounge for over 7 hours.  The flight to Madrid was pleasantly boring and I got some sleep.  Amazingly, I got a notice several days later that AA had processed a partial refund to my account.

Madrid, as usual, was great.  I stayed in a small efficiency apartment less than ½ block from Santa Ana Plaza, my favorite haunt in the Letras Barrio (named the “Letters” as this was the historic district for many famous writers, from the great Cervantes, early 1600s, to Ernest Hemingway, early 1900s). The number of tapas bars is beyond count.  I visited for the third time the Archeological Museum with its wonderful pre-Roman funerary exhibits.

I took the new high-speed rail from Chamartin station to Santiago, a trip that used to take over 6 hours now barely taking 3.  I had a small room in the Pension O Codice, with 3 balconies overlooking the famous Rua do Franco, above a couple of tapas bars, and with a view of the cathedral just 200 yards up the street.  The Catedral of Santiago has been famous for over 1100 years as the burial site of Saint James, the Disciple of Jesus. Amazingly, his lost burial suddenly was “discovered” in Santiago de Compostela, 900 years after and 2,500 miles distant from his death in Jerusalem.  For over 1100 years pilgrims have been journeying hundreds of miles by foot, from France and Spain, as a pilgrimage to this Cathedral.  Whatever your beliefs, it is moving.  My first day I followed an old man, his wife 15 feet behind, both carrying packs with the inevitable white shell attached, walking the last 200 meters to the great square on the west side of the cathedral. Dropping their packs to the ground they stood in the middle of hundreds of other pilgrims, faces lifted to the great cathedral.  I watched the old man, eyes closed, mouthing silent prayers, and tears were streaming down his face. Then a group of maybe 40 young people entered the square with rousing songs as they danced and leapt in great circles, dropping their packs in piles.  It sounds trite, but the Camino clearly is a monumental religious experience for those who undertake the multi-weeks pilgrimage.  In order to earn one of the official certificates from the Cathedral honoring completion of the Camino, one must certify the walk was undertaken for religious reasons, and must obtain stamped attestations from pass points at least twice daily which establish a minimum of 100 miles covered.

I now have moved on to the fishing city of Vigo, just north of the Portuguese border. Later. Dave


San Miguel de Allende, Mex., for Music Festival, Aug 1-20, 2023

After 2 years of Covid cancellations, and missing the 2022 season due to my retinal detachment emergency, I have made it to San Miguel this August for the annual Festival of Arts, with many classical chamber music concerts.  I spent the first night of the trip stranded in Phoenix, courtesy of American Airlines, which somehow managed to not have a pilot for my short flight from Tucson to Phoenix, thus causing a number of us from Tucson to miss the daily flight from Phoenix to Mexico City. It really is a little beyond belief how poorly the airlines seem to be performing these last couple of years.

I spent a few days in Mexico City, staying again at the Hotel Catedral with its great restaurant and roof terrace views over the historic district. The ETN deluxe bus from Mexico City to San Miguel de Allende was comfortable with just 3 seats across a double decker, most seats on the upper deck, the seats almost fully reclining.  Though leaving on time, it did manage to run an hour behind schedule.

San Miguel has changed little in the last 20 years; when I first visited almost 50 years ago it was a considerably smaller town, but the historic center remains almost untouched (it is a protected World Heritage Site).  Weekend traffic and crowds, though, have increased greatly, and the town is best during the week. Still, it presents a number of favorite restaurants and bars, and the main reason (or excuse) for coming in August is the annual music festival.  I attended my 10th concert yesterday; concerts at 4 different venues have included the famous string quintet by Schubert, great violin sonatas including Bach’s Chaconne from the 2nd Partida, a number of great operatic arias and a chorus and organ in the Capilla de Tercer Orden (chapel) performing Renaissance and Baroque classical polyphonic music.  One group played baroque violin sonatas – unfortunately the violinist, playing a period instrument, massacred Vivaldi’s La Folia.

Hank’s New Orleans café still has the best 2-4-1 drink deals every happy hour, plus great food.  Tio Lucas still serves good steaks, and Hecho en Mexico is the all-around best restaurant in town for my tastes and wallet.  I get breakfast included every morning on the rooftop terrace of my little boutique hotel, and most days climb the roughly thirty stories of steep steps and road from the Parque Juarez up to the Mirador (view point over the town).  Hiking up and down the cobblestone streets keeps me in shape.  For a time I considered buying a home here, but the weekend crowds and traffic allow me to be satisfied with my 3 to 4 week visits.

I return to Tucson next week, and the following week am off to Spain for 3 months.  Later Dave

230606 From Dubois, Buffalo & Rock Springs, Wy.

I last wrote from West Yellowstone.  From there I moved on to Dubois, Wy and then to Buffalo. I had poor luck in and around Yellowstone with wolves, only seeing them my first couple of days in Lamar Valley.  Black bears also were rarely seen, unlike prior years. It is possible it had something to do with the heavy haze in the valleys from the Canadian wildfires.

Grizzlies, however, seemed to pop up everywhere, and I had some exceptional luck both in Hayden Valley in Yellowstone, and near the Togwotee Pass between Dubois and the Grand Tetons.  In the Hayden Valley I was able to watch the bear known simply as #864 with her year-old cubs for several hours over 2 days.  The cubs were constantly wrestling each other.    On Hwy 26 West of Dubois the two young grizzlies I photographed on opposite sides of the continental divide may have been the offspring of the bear known as Felicia which I photographed with cubs a few years ago.

From Buffalo I spent hours in the high Bighorn Mountains finding moose and mule deer, both in the process of losing their winter coats, in the long valleys with willow covered creeks.  Finally, common birds can make wonderful pictures when in great settings.

Anyway, the photos below are mostly Grizzlies.  Enjoy.  Dave

Dave From Yellowstone NP, May 26, 2023

I spent 2 days in Cody, then started my daily trips into Yellowstone mostly to photograph wildlife where-ever encountered. Driving through the East entrance, over the Sylvan Pass well before dawn, I first encountered a young grizzly on the highway through a very narrow canyon.  The grizzly ran down the road in front of me and would not or could not veer to either side.  After it tired I managed to pass giving as much room as possible, and last saw him in my rear-view mirror hoofing it back the way we came.  A few minutes later at the crack of dawn, I encountered a small herd of bighorn sheep rams filling the middle of the highway, practicing their head crashing battles.  All good omens for Yellowstone.

I stayed 6 days in Gardiner, the original entrance to Yellowstone 120 years ago.  This is the town which almost was wiped out 2 years ago with the massive flooding.  The government has built a new entrance road way above the Yellowstone River; it is one of the most tortuous winding 10% grade roads I have been on.

My first days were spent arriving daily at the Lamar River Valley at sunrise – the valley this time of Spring is filled with several thousand Bison spread over the 20-mile length. It also is home to two packs of wolves, pronghorn, mule deer, elk, moose, black bear, numerous grizzlies, coyotes, red foxes and many water birds. I saw many more grizzlies than in the past, but had fewer wolf sightings. The first day 4 wolves visited a day-old elk carcass; one, with a radio collar, sat on the opposite bank of the Lamar River and looked exactly like my childhood German shepherd, Roxy. A coyote also tried the left-over kill, then sauntered within feet past two massive seated Bison bulls.  I think they did not notice it because normally they will drive off any canid.

Three days ago I moved to West Yellowstone, from where I have been driving through Hayden Valley.  In the Valley and once on the road near Gibbon Falls I have been lucky to see sow grizzlies with cubs.  These sightings guarantee cuteness and draw huge crowds when close to a public road, as these were.

The photos below are almost all wildlife pics. Later. Dave


Canyon of the Ancients, Canyonlands, Arches and Dinosaur Parks, on route to Yellowstone, May 15, 2023

I last wrote from Chinle on the Navajo Reservation – from there I have traveled and hiked (short hip-strengthening hikes) through Canyon of the Ancients, Canyonlands, Arches and Dinosaur Parks in Utah.  All contain some of the most scenic colored sandstone cliffs and formations in the world. In Arches I never had visited the Landscape Arch, longest in the Americas with over 300 feet of opening, nor seen some of the lesser arches at sunrise. I have included a few photos below to give a sense of how awesome some of these formations can be.

Several arches have fallen in the last 70 years, and a portion of the Landscape Arch fell some 30 years ago.  My high-resolution photos of the Landscape show a number of fractures at the thinnest parts of the arch. Arches are created from weathering over millennia, and eventually succumb due to the same weathering.  It is hard for me to believe the Landscape will last another couple of decades.

I had a very strange experience with a planned 2 night-stay in Green River, Utah.  Some years ago I had stayed at the family operated Robber’s Roost Motel; due to many Utah motels being booked on weekends, I made advance reservations online at the motel’s website.  I promptly received email confirmation of my reservation, and a welcoming email with the details.  Upon arrival, I found the property run down with a real estate firm’s signage plastered on walls and windows, and vehicles being repaired on the lot.  Everything was padlocked.  I called the phone number on my confirmation and got the message it was not in service.  Upon inquiry at the nearby restaurant and other businesses I found the motel had been closed for over a year. I was in almost disbelief that the automated reservation system (undoubtedly a third-party site) still functioned and sent out confirming emails.  I had to find another motel for the night, and was told that such reservation systems exist for many small hotels, where they may keep operating long after the business closes.  I have double checked my credit card to make sure no charges appear.

I currently am in Cody, Wyoming, ready to start 15 days in and around Yellowstone. Later. Dave




Dave Cox in 4 Corners area on May 4, 2023, on way to Yellowstone

Hello.  With the Covid threat marginalized, and being mostly recovered from retinal detachment surgery and hip replacement surgery within the last year, I am doubling down on traveling the road again.  Currently roaming in the 4 corners area, I gradually am headed by car to Yellowstone, where I have reserved at least 17 days of lodging on all sides of the Park.  I expect to be traveling for about 2 months in the northwest photographing birds and, hopefully, wolves and big bears through June, but am flexible.  On return I expect to then spend the month of August in San Miguel de Allende in Mexico for the Covid interrupted Chamber Music Festival.  Immediately on return from Mexico I have acquired round trip flights to Spain to roam around for 3 months – returning end of November. So – pretty much again on the road for next 7 months.

This trip I have spent time in Prescott photographing birds in the Watson Woods and Lake area, then on to Chinle and the Canyon de Chelly Nat. Monument on the Navajo Reservation.  I had hoped to hire a guide to travel to the end of Canyon del Muerto to photograph Anasazi cliff ruins from below -unfortunately 30-year record snow recently fell in the Chuska Mountains on the northern border of Arizona and New Mexico, followed by a warm spell, resulting in the normally tiny Chinle Wash turning into a raging river down through the canyons. Chinle homes along the wash were destroyed and both canyons were shut to all entry for the last 9 days. My photos of the canyons all are from overlooks.

I have included a few photos which may be viewed as a slide show, including my first sightings of the gorgeous Wood Duck, and a Summer Tanager, Spotted Towhee, Woodhall’s Scrub Jay with a lizard (worked hard to dispatch the lizard) and a colorful Western Bluebird and Spotted Towhee.  Also overview shots of the canyons and Anasazi cliff dwellings in the Monument.

Later, Dave


Drive around Utah, Wyoming & South Dakota, Oct 12, 2022

Following the 3 months during which I could not travel after retinal detachment surgery, I have spent a number of weeks driving north, just planning destinations day by day.  Most of my stops are places visited previously, but deserving of multiple visits. I have taken new photos of a number of out-of-the-way rock art sites, all of Fremont origin, in Utah. Of particular interest were the little-known Shay Canyon petroglyphs (near the southern border of Canyonlands National Park), which follow along a high cliff face and seem to connect multiple galleries with long incised horizontal lines.  While hiking there I lost my new eye glasses, but had already discovered they seemed of little assistance, and am doing just fine with a cheap pair of reading glasses for camera settings.  I did backtrack the entire hike looking for the glasses, without success, and finally decided I must have dropped them out of my pocket while passing through dense streamside brush while crossing the little flooded Indian Creek.

I also revisited the Dry Fork area north of Vernal, with the semi-famous McConkie Ranch petroglyphs.  With my new camera gear (700mm effective lens and high 40 mega-pixel body), I was able finally to get a large high-resolution image of the “Three Kings” panel (it actually has 7 figures – it is anyone’s guess which 3 might be supposed kings) Though the figures are life-size, they cover a panel very high up on a rock pinnacle and only can be viewed in entirety from a great distance.  Although Freemont petroglyphs, the panel includes figures with painted highlights, and is therefore extremely unusual.

I spent days looking for grizzlies around Grand Teton National Park, but came up empty handed. I did successfully find moose in the willow creek beds high up in the Bighorn Mountains. Both locations presented Aspens in fall colors.  The Black Hills of South Dakota, as usual, provided a lot of wildlife viewing right from the warm interior of my car (as often is the case, the area around Custer can be brutally cold even when the weather is nice a few miles in all directions).  I also got a decent view of Mt Rushmore from over a mile away, permitting a perspective that does not look up the nostrils of the presidents, a view otherwise only available through the windows of a tour helicopter.

I am ending my trip with a side drive to Kansas City to visit my brother and sister, and then will return to Tucson for my next eye appointment, and to investigate the need for a hip replacement.  Hopefully this coming Spring will see me back in Spain.  Dave




Report from Monteverde Cloud Forests, Costa Rica & Emergency Return to US May 21 2022

I last reported from Palo Verde National Park, and moved from the lowland dry tropical forest to the high cloud forests of Monteverde.  I visited the Santa Elena Bosque Nuboso, the CuriCancha Reserve adjoining MonteVerde, and the Finco Ecologico San Luis over a 6 day period with guide Adrian.  At the entrance to the cloud forest Santa Elena I was shown one of the more unusual creatures I have ever encountered.  On a mossy orchid plant on the side of a tree was a irregular looking moss covered and mossy shaped twig which turned out to be a moss stick insect.  Very rare to see, it had been observed by one of the rangers since birth and had lived in the same spot for 8 months as it fed on the orchid plant.  See if you can spot all six legs in the photo below – from the tip of the back legs to the end of the front legs it is about 5 inches long.  I also was fortunate to hear multiple times, and spot (at a distance) the Three-wattled Bellbird, an exotic which all birders look for.  A number of other bird sightings led to some decent photos. I also got some great shots of a Side-striped Palm Pit Viper deep in the rain forest – the snake is deadly venomous, but very beautiful.

It rained every day at various times and was often foggy, and so the area lived up to the name cloud forest.  Whether walking the roads or trails, nothing is level – all is either steeply up or down. I had a lovely polished wooden cabin with private veranda overlooking a small forest ravine with huge trees, where I enjoyed wine each afternoon.

On Saturday afternoon, May 8, after photographing birds in Curicancha all morning, I was working on photos on my computer when I kept being bothered by a greying of my vision from the left eye in toward my nose.  After an hour, and closing each eye and checking my peripheral vision, I soon realized I had the start of a major retinal detachment in the left eye.  Leaving such unchecked for even a few days can result in total blindness.  After a hellish 6 hours extending well into Saturday night, and with some major help and luck, I was able to arrange a return flight for the next day back to the US and an early Sunday morning taxi to take me from the cloud forests down to the international airport.  I was able to get the required negative covid antigen test and boarded the United flight to return me to Tucson via Houston, arriving Sunday night.  First thing Monday morning, after a slew of telephone calls (finding my retinal specialist had moved to the Nebraska Medical School to teach), I was able to get an emergency visit with a top rated retinal specialist.  After 5 hours in the Drs. office, with a number of laser procedures to protect my right eye from a similar fate, I was scheduled for major eye surgery on the left eye the next morning, May 12, less than 70 hours after I discovered the detachment.

After surgery I have spent almost 10 days with a required “face-down” position, including during sleep. A large bubble of gas was injected into the left eye after the reattachment, which in the face down position rises to press against the retina at the back of the eye to hold and help keep the retinal reattachment In place. Except for one taxi ride to the Drs., I did not leave my house for 10 days and remained face down at all times. As of today, 10 days later, I finally can look up and ahead again and start walking and driving carefully.  However, my left eye will essentially be blind for up to 9 weeks as the gas bubble slowly is absorbed.  The official report as of yesterday is that the surgery seems to have gone well, and I have a 90% chance of recovering most of my vision in the left eye.  I cannot fly or change elevation for the next 2 months, and probably will be unable to travel for up to 6 months.  I may take a year to fully learn how much vision is restored.

So, unfortunately, my Costa Rica trip was cut short by 7 weeks, but chances are good that my rapid return to the US will have saved my eyesight.  Later Dave

Nuevo Arenal & Palo Verde NP, May 2, 2022

From La Fortuna I traveled to the northern shores of Lake Arenal, the largest lake in Costa Rica, dammed about 45 years ago for hydroelectric power.  Now banks of wind generators also cover the northern hills. The gardens at my B&B and the lake shore provided a few new bird pics.  It rained every day as the seasons change for the eastern half of the country about a month before the western half.  From Arenal I traveled deep into the dry forests on the north of the Nicoya Peninsula, into the heart of the Palo Verde National Park which western boundary lies on the banks of the Tempesqui River.

The only place one can stay inside the park is the Organization for Tropical Studies Research Station – the accommodations are spartan, dorm rooms with fan and cold showers, and an abundance of insects finding their way inside – the last night produced a large red-black scorpion in the bathroom (I am glad I always use a red flashlight at night to walk around inside). I am too late for the early dry season when the lowlands are flooded and hold a large variety of migratory waterfowl, but a month too early for the rainy season when things green up, but the roads become almost impassable.  Although the mosquitos are not the most repellent-resistant I have encountered, they certainly form among the densest clouds unless one stands only in the tropical sun clearings.  The food is consistent, huge piles of boiled vegetables, beans, rice, plantains, etc.  It certainly passes through the alimentary canal in a hurry. Other than a couple for two nights, I am the only person staying at the station for these 5 days, other than a young guide, cook, maintenance man and housekeeper – it would be very lonely but for the monkeys.

I arranged for a private boat on the river for two of the days, where the resident wildlife is plentiful. The huge Bare-throated Tiger-Herons are very common here, and two started building a nest high over my dorm room. The Mantled Howler monkeys have been in residence overhead also for the last two days, the old male constantly roaring, and the Capuchins came through twice. The area is filled with dozens of Spiny-tailed Iguanas, huge and menacing-looking, but always running before getting stepped on. I am pleased with good photos of the various herons, the Black-headed Trogon, Lesser Ground Cuckoo, Spectacled Owl, Laughing Falcon, Crested Caracara and Turquoise-browed Motmot. My last day, going down the dirt road, I was fortunate to see the Laughing Falcon cross with a large serpent in its claws.  The Crested Caracara followed, and off to the side a ferocious but very short aerial battle between the two large falcons occurred. The Laughing Falcon appeared to have won and maintained his position over the dropped snake.  Both birds refused to leave the area and so permitted me the exceptional close photos. I spent many hours under a special old fruiting tree trying to get a decent photo of the Long-tailed Manakin male, but it seems resistant to my efforts, being small, dark and always high behind leaves.

Today I move onward to the mountains and cloud forests of Monte Verde.  Later. Dave





Report from La Fortuna, Costa Rica, Apr 24, 2022

Hello.  I have been in La Fortuna for 8 days.  It sits just a couple of miles directly east of and under the Volcano Arenal, which was active as recently as 10 years ago.  The volcano presents an almost perfect cone, visible about half the time and covered by clouds the rest. La Fortuna is sort of the center of adventure sports in Costa Rica and so is full of young (and some old) tourists – the tour vans constantly ply the streets, and tour store-fronts are everywhere.  I came for some of the area birding. My best luck was on a small secondary forest reserve just outside of La Fortuna proper, called Bogarin Trail, with some impressive wildlife finds not commonly seen. One of my favorite sightings was a large male Emerald Basilisk – basilisks are the dinosaur looking lizards, with crests on their heads and sails on their backs, and most impressively they get up on their hind feet and run, including the ability to run on top of water. The male in the photo below was trying to chase off a Striped Basilisk male, a different species.

I spent a day on the backside slopes of the Arenal Volcano at the Observatory Hotel’s grounds high in the rainforest.  It was not nearly as productive as some other photographers had indicated to me earlier, but it had some stunning views of the volcano and Lake Arenal, along which I will be visiting in the next 3 days.

Among my favorite pictures, a small but colorful Boa Constrictor (probably only about 5 feet long), a Black and White Owl, Grey-necked Wood-Rail, two baby Rufous-winged woodpeckers in the nest, a Coati on the Arenal Volcano’s slopes and a mother Agouti with a very rambunctious baby.

It has started to rain daily as the rainy season approaches on the eastern side of the country. I am making use of a high-quality poncho which protects my pack and camera gear.  I will now be traveling to the western half of the country where the rains start a month or so later.  The restaurants in La Fortuna are quite good, though I have been eating mostly in the sodas, which are the small, usually family owned, cafes all over the country. The domestic beers, as in much of the world outside the US, are nothing to brag about – mostly watery pilsners. The cheap red Clos wine (which started in Guatemala), available in liter cartons, travels well and keeps me going in the jungle research stations where no alcohol is otherwise available.

Today I travel to Nuevo Arenal, a small community on the shores of Lake Arenal, the largest inland body of water in the country. I may look at lakeshore property, with an eye to possible purchase. From there I travel west to the edge of the Nicoya Peninsula to visit waterfowl in the mangroves and dry forest flood plains.

Later Dave


Seven Days at Organization for Tropical Studies’ La Selva Lodge, April 18, 2022

Hello.  I last reported on Tirimbina Rainforest on the Sarapiqui River.  From there I moved just a few miles to La Selva’s Lodge on the Puerto Viejo River which controls a large swath of primary rainforest adjacent to the Braulio Carrillo National Park.  This mostly is Caribbean lowland rainforest with a huge number of animal and bird species.  The center offers many dorms and cabins for visiting scientists and students participating in onsite research.  All meals are included and served in a cafeteria style – the food, while not exactly top flight, was always more than filling.  I spent 5 to 7 hours daily walking the miles of trails through the rainforest.  While in the trail system, except in occasional spots where a giant tree has recently fallen, one seldom sees the sky, and only hints of scattered specks of light indicate whether it is cloudy or clear.  This is where the forest floor is not much brighter than night under a full moon. Around the station’s administrative center, dorms and labs, the area is somewhat cleared and attracts a huge number of birds.  I believe it rained some every day, and on occasion there were huge downpours.  Under the canopy one often can only hear the rain – after maybe 20 minutes the drops will begin to fall from the leaves and reach the forest floor.

My favorite trail, the Sendero Arboleta, had recently produced a camera trap photo of a jaguar a few weeks before my arrival.  Of course, the chances of actually seeing one live are nil. The weather was unalterably hot and humid, broken only by being hotter if under sunlight, and a little less hot during the rains.

I did manage some interesting photos.  If you go through the photos below you might notice quite a number of them have birds appearing on the same tree-shrubs thick with packets of small berries, the unripe ones a pretty pink-red and the ripe ones dark blue-black. I think I counted over 20 species of birds on these shrubs eating the ripe berries.  I was very lucky to spend time watching a Three-toed mother sloth with a 3-month-old baby clutching to her chest, and I managed a couple of pretty neat photos of the pair.

The Howler Monkey families roared at all hours.  A large suspension bridge crosses the Puerto Viejo River connecting parts of the Station, and the Howlers use the suspension cables as their highways across the river.  Often two families would sit in the trees over opposite sides of the bridge and for hours hurl what I took to be insults back and forth over the river.

From La Selva I arranged a private driver to transport me onward to the touristy town of La Fortuna on the eastern flanks of the Volcano Arenal, one of the most perfect volcanic cones on earth.  Some eruptions occurred from 1968 through 2010, but the mountain is docile now.  I will be here at the Monte Real Hotel for some 8 days.  Later.  Dave


Dave along suspension bridge over Sarapiqui River, Tirimbina, CR

Dave Cox in Costa Rica, Tirimbina Rainforest Organization Lodge along Sarapiqui River, Apr 8, 2022

Hello all.  After 2 ½ years without foreign travel, it finally seems like heaven to be on the road again.  I flew to Costa Rica March 28.  After 7 days in the top floor suite of the El Presidente Hotel in downtown San Jose, spending much of my time planning the specifics of my visit and arranging transportation, I finally am off on a birding photography adventure.  First two stops are along the Sarapiqui River in lowland tropical rainforest. I have been 5 days in the Tirimbina Lodge and tomorrow move on for 7 more days to the nearby La Selva research station of the Organization for Tropical Studies.  From there I will spend close to the next 3 months visiting various different environments, some cloud forest along the volcanic flanks and other mangrove swamps and lowland rainforest.  I have used a private bird guide daily to help locate and id the birds, and hope to continue this way.

I have selected a few of my favorite shots from the last five days and posted them below. I especially favor the poison dart frogs (the Strawberry would fit on my thumbnail), the Trogons and the Toucans.  I should routinely be posting new bird and wildlife photos from here out. Later, Dave

US Short Trips in South-West, including Archeological Footprint site, late 2021 to early 2022

Covid has halted all trips in the last year except for several short hops around the Southwest. I am on my way, finally, on an international trip to Costa Rica for 3 months of wild park visits.  Before going I will post a few pictures of birds, petroglyph sites and the famous White Sands “footprint” site  I found interesting in the last year.

The rock art is from a hodgepodge of cultures; Sears Point and Painted Rock sites, along the now dried bed of the Gila River in southern Arizona, contain a combination of Hohokom and Patayan petroglyphs from about a 1000 year ago, along with a fair number of much older archaic petroglyphs. The Three Rivers site in New Mexico is an unusual site with Mogollon petroglyphs from about 1000 years ago.  The VBarV Ranch site has the fabulous Sinaguan puebloan petroglyphs, also about 1000 year old.

The one really special trip I was fortunate to make involved tagging along with a weekend field trip for a graduate archeology class from the University of Arizona – the seminar subject was the peopling of the Americas.  For almost 80 years most archeologists have believed the earliest humans arrived in the Americas, crossing over the land bridge to Alaska, at the end of the last ice age about 12 to 13 thousand years ago and could only have migrated down into North and South America after the glaciers started melting in Alaska and Canada.  For over 40 years occasional finds at sites as diverse as Florida and Tierra del Fuego on the southern tip of S America have presented suggestions of much earlier human presence, some over 20,000 years ago, but in all these cases the dating had problems.  Further, there were no convincing theories of how humans could have arrived from alternate routes before the end of the glaciation.

Last year a newly published report from White Sands in New Mexico revealed the first “solid” dating of  human footprints along an ancient lake bed, finding tiny grass seeds both on top and immediately below the footprints which for the oldest layers consistently dated to 21,000 to 23,000 year ago. These human footprints exist along with thousands of Pleistocene animal footprints of ground sloths, bison, mammoths, dire wolves, bears and saber tooth cats. The site now is worked every January when the weather best permits.

Dr. Vance Holliday is teaching the graduate class and led the field trip – he is one of the authors of the published paper on the footprints.  I drove to the site from the White Sands National Park with Clare Connelly, the Park archeologist and another of the paper’s authors.  The ancient lake edge and most of the thousands of footprints are located in an area at the far northern reaches of the Park (well beyond any roads or visitor areas) and extend far into the Army’s White Sand Missile Range.  No roads exist to the site, which is approached by 4-wheel drives over the gypsum white sand desolation.  Passing through the site are multiple lines of mammoth footprints leading presumably to the lake edge.  At the human footprint site, Clare uncovered and showed us several examples; one small area, about 2 X 2 feet, contained a large cave bear footprint, half covered by a human footprint, and just behind were prints of a baby bear, dire wolf, bison and sloth. A little deeper were footprints of children, and at another spot a perfectly preserved hand print as if an adult tripped and caught herself with a spread hand in the mud.

I have included a couple of photos of mammoth prints at the site, but provided no details on the approximate location of the site nor photos of the human prints, as those we saw have not yet been subject to a published report.  Other than the professionals working the site, it will never be open to the public, though the footprints are being plaster cast and a replica of parts of the site will presumably be built in the coming years near the National Park touristed areas.

Tomorrow I fly to San Jose and should be uploading periodic reports and photos in a couple of weeks.  Later Dave

Report on Grand Tetons area, Black Canyon of Gunnison & Chaco Canyon, June 11, 2021

I last reported on leaving Yellowstone from Cody, and was headed to Dubois, WY to be near several river headwaters – more on the headwaters later. Before heading to Dubois, I spent a day traveling the famous Bear Tooth Highway, one of the most switch-backed highways through one of the highest passes in the Continental US.  It is open generally less than 3 months per year due to high altitude weather conditions.

Dubois is a small town in the valley which rises between the Wind River Range on the southwest, here comprising the Continental Divide, and the Absaroka Range, forming the wildest part of southeastern Yellowstone.  The drive northwest from Dubois crosses over the Divide at the high Togwotee Pass, then drops down into the Grand Tetons Valley, with the Grand Teton Range to the West.  Below the Divide, on the western side of the meeting point of the two ranges, I had my third and best encounter, twice in one day, with a grizzly bear, this one a huge healthy female with two small cubs. Later, upon discussions with a local and some internet research, I found the Mama grizzly was ear tagged with number 863, but was popularly christened with the folk name ‘Felicia’ (I still haven’t quite discovered how these names originate, but once they do, they stick). As grizzlies tend to stay in the same general area for life, local sightings provide a history of a female’s cub raising success. I got some pretty nice photos of Felicia and her two cubs, so the photos posted below are dominated by Felicia’s family.

I spent parts of two days in Grand Teton NP, and tried to reproduce some of the famous historic photos, particularly one by Ansel Adams. Actually, I tried to better Adam’s most famous photo of the Teton Range beyond the Snake River.  Adams used a huge 8X12 plate format camera and did his usual custom dark room dodging and burning to create his much reproduced print.  I used the latest digital equipment to take several dozen telephoto shots, professional software to stitch these shots into a single massive resolution photo, and Adobe Lightroom professional software to dodge and burn certain areas of the final shot.  My end result has more resolution (could be printed larger with better detail), and shows all of nature’s colors, while Adam’s remains black and white. In the end, I produced a very nice large color image of the Grand Teton Range.  Adams produced a masterpiece. A large scale print of Adams’ photo sold last year at auction by Sotheby’s for $988,000. I probably could sell mine for the price of the professional printer’s charge.

From Dubois I started my return trip, heading again through Rock Springs, then south into Colorado to Montrose, to visit for the second time the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. On the way through northwest Colorado on small county highways I drove through areas where the roadways were covered with millions of 2 inch long Mormon crickets (really a type of katydid) passing from side to side, a plague on the vegetation in the area. The Black Canyon is one of the least visited Parks in the system because it lies so far off any tourist route or major throughway. The canyon is only a little over 10 miles long, but approaches ½ mile deep with less than ¼ mile across at top, forming the narrowest, deepest chasm that I believe I have seen anywhere on earth.  The vertical cliffs are almost black, inserted with lighter colored long wavy lines of ancient magma.  Standing at railings at the cliff edge looking straight down a half mile to the river induced in me more vertigo than has any overlook at the Grand Canyon.  On hiking the half dozen or so short trails from the car pullouts to the precipice’s edge, the surrounding shrubbery sounded alive with clicking noises; upon close inspections, the small branches were seen to be covered with small beautifully marked cicadas – I have included a photo – I do not know whether these are the same species as those back east.

From Colorado I dropped into New Mexico and for the third time visited the Chaco Canyon National Historic Site.  This is a little visited Puebloan Indian site, but is by many accounts the single most important ancient Puebloan site.  The dry canyon contains within a 4 mile stretch at least 5 huge pueblos constructed entirely of native rock and ponderosa pine log roof or floor supports, with hundreds of multi-story ‘condo’ rooms.  The outer perimeter walls form giant ‘D’ shaped enclosures with central courts and dozens of Kivas. The largest and most excavated is Pueblo Bonito, which covers 3 acres and where the straight wall of the ‘D’ shape runs 175 meters. It contains approximately 650 condo units, some built up to 5 stories, with 3 Great Kivas and 32 regular Kivas (Kivas are circular, mostly underground, masonry lined rooms with huge pine trunks forming a cross pattern to support a roof structure – thought designed to mimic the earlier underground pit houses, they morphed into ceremonial structures. De-forestation to construct the pueblos and severe drought affecting crops coincided to probably explain the demise of the Chaco Canyon complex as well as almost all other Puebloan complexes in the 4-Corners region.

From Montrose I have traveled to Silver City for a couple of nights, and tomorrow return to Tucson.

You might wish to skip the remaining sections of this report and go directly down to photos, as the remainder contains a summary of my thoughts, developed over a number of years, on the origins of three major river systems in the US.

River Headwaters

I traveled to Dubois in part to visit the area of river headwaters for three major continental US drainage systems which I have grown to believe are misnamed, resulting in their sources being unappreciated. I will briefly summarize my reasoning for each river system, identifying each with the current accepted names (which I try to show are in error). Historically, river naming conventions generally attempt to use the name of a) the longest tributary above the confluences, b) the tributary with the largest flow, or c) the tributary which drains the largest area.

Mississippi River Drainage:  Once the extent of the Missouri River became known (after expedition of Lewis & Clarke), it became obvious that the Mississippi River should have been named the Missouri below the confluence. The Missouri above the confluence is twice as long, drains 3 times the area and generally equals or exceeds the flow of the Mississippi. The Mississippi, however, was named so long ago there was no change.  Unappreciated still, at the confluence with the Missouri, just inside the western border of N. Dakota, the Yellowstone River has the larger flow, and appears to have a slightly longer run as the Missouri has an indefinite start just west of Bozeman, a wetland into which numerous small streams run. Thus, I posit that if properly named, the lower Mississippi and Missouri all should be known as the Yellowstone River, the mightiest river in the US, which runs down to the Gulf Coast.

Columbia River Drainage: At the confluence with the Columbia River, which comes south out of Canada, the Snake River drains slightly more area and is slightly longer above the confluence. The flows are roughly comparable. Therefore I argue the Columbia River, which flows west between Oregon and Washington to the Pacific, should properly be named the Snake River.

Colorado River Drainage: At the confluence with the Colorado River, in Canyonlands NP in Utah, the Green River drains a larger area and is longer above the confluence; the flows vary depending on relative snow packs from year to year. The Colorado River below the confluence should properly be named the Green. (This actually is a known issue, which resulted from a US congressional play by the Colorado delegates early in the 20th century.  At that time the Colorado River above the confluence was named the Grand River, and the river running below the Canyonlands was named the Colorado, not for the state, but for the Colorado Plateau in southern Utah and northern Arizona through which the river carved the Grand Canyon. The Colorado state Congressional delegation somehow got the Congress, over the objections of the Utah and Arizona delegations, to rename the Grand River running out of the State of Colorado as the Colorado River, implying that this was the major tributary rather than the Green).  Anyway, either the Green River should be renamed the Colorado, and the river running out of Colorado should go back to the name Grand River, or, the river below the confluence should be renamed the Green.

My Conclusions: The three great river systems, which together drain over 55% of the continental US, should be known as the

Yellowstone River which drains, into the Atlantic at the Gulf of Mexico, the central 40% of the entire US which lies east of the continental divide,

Snake River which drains, into the Pacific, almost the entire northwest US which lies west of the continental divide, and

Green River which drains, into the Gulf of California, the entire southwest and part of the northwest US lying west of the continental divide.

Most interesting for me and the reason for the visit to Dubois, these three river systems have their headwaters within less than 70 miles of each other, centered approximately on Dubois, WY. The Yellowstone starts at Younts Peak about 33 miles NNW of Dubois, just inside southeastern Yellowstone Park.  The Snake starts at Ocean Plateau South Mountain, about 16 miles WNW of Younts Peak in southeast Yellowstone Park. And the Green starts at Winifred Peak, just south of Gannett Peak about 27 miles south of Dubois in the Wind River Range. Thus the headwaters of the 3 drainage systems for 55% of the continental US all start next to each other, just across the continental divide, running respectively east, west and south.

My apologies for the aside discourse on river headwaters.

Later. Dave