Chestnut crowned

27 05 2023

This little lark sparrow was fluttering around from sage to sage. It may have been admiring the mustangs … or the wildflowers … or another lark sparrow! I was admiring all of the above.

Passing by a passerine

20 05 2023

Speaking of “bright eyes” (yesterday’s post wishing I could see more of Sundance’s eye through his forelock), this little fellow’s bright eyes are literally masked by his markings, and in the overcast light, they weren’t bright enough to reflect light (at least from the distance at which I was in my Jeep). I heard him rather than saw him and backed up to hear more!

He’s a loggerhead shrike, known for impaling their prey, all the better that it doesn’t get away while feasting!

Handsome little songster!

Early blooms

25 04 2023

Some examples of some of our early bloomers may be seen below.

This is one of our earliest bloomers: phlox (don’t ask me what specific kind!). Most of our little bunches (and they are extremely low-growing and tightly clustered) are white. But some are:

Palest pink.

These Indian paintbrush (again, there are multiple specific types) also were very little bitty.

And then there are these beauties:

These little flowers are at least as numerous as phlox, and there are a few different things that look a lot like it … but not exactly like it. If you can give a positive ID on this little plant/wildflower, I’d be most appreciative!

With the infusion of a little rain last night – hopefully widespread? – hopefully we’ll see some more of these tenacious little wildflowers this spring!

‘Pink moon’ rising golden

8 04 2023

April’s full moon is known as the “pink moon” for pink flowers in the phlox variety that bloom in April. It’s also the first full moon after the start of spring, which was March 20, which makes it the paschal full moon, which is the full moon before Easter Sunday.

Phlox (I don’t know the exact kind) is usually the first tiny wildflower that blooms in Spring Creek Basin. I haven’t seen any yet, but with the warm temps and the winter moisture, it can’t be long. Phlox here is usually white, but it also sometimes takes on a pale pink blush. … Pink moon, indeed. 🙂

Just hangin’ out

27 02 2023

Do you see what I see?

This big group of elk was on the southeast shoulder of Filly Peak in the western part of Spring Creek Basin.

Winter is the season of elk in Disappointment Valley, where we have less snow and the livin’ is easy (or relatively so). 🙂

Where eagles winter

6 02 2023

The most positive identification I can give for the raptors pictured above is that they are eagles. I *think* the top one might be a juvenile bald eagle, and I *think* the bottom bird might be a juvenile golden eagle. Adults of both species were present but had flown away before I stopped to photograph these individuals. They were perched on branches of a cottonwood tree above Disappointment Creek in Disappointment Valley. A dead deer wasn’t far away, and in addition to the eagles, magpies and ravens were johnny on the spot to clean it up (which they did in a day or less).

The sharpness definitely leaves a lot to be desired, but I wasn’t too close, and this is a heavy crop of the original image. In my own defense, I never claimed to be a bird photographer. 🙂

We have golden eagles here year-round, but the bald eagles are winter visitors. In the last several years, seeing the balds has become less frequent. They’re more frequently seen along the Dolores River and in the Norwood area.

** Particular thanks to the late Wilma Bankston for the title of this post, which is the title of her book, “Where Eagles Winter: History and Legend of the Disappointment Country,” about the early settler days of Disappointment Valley.

12 from 2022

31 12 2022

Looking back helps us look forward (*when* it helps? sometimes I think looking forward is the only way to go … though I’m not very good at this myself). I think this is the third year of the (admittedly borrowed, in my case) tradition of posting 12 pix at the end of the year that represent each of the previous months. It has been a good year in Spring Creek Basin. After another less-than-positive winter and a dry spring, we had a second-in-a-row summer monsoon season and a relatively rainy early fall. Then things got dry again before we finally started to get snow a couple of weeks before Christmas.

Our excellent BLM partners – Mike Jensen, Garth Nelson and Daniel Chavez – put their enviable skills to work and built a second water catchment in the basin, starting in early summer and finishing in the fall. It’s another (our fourth) such project to catch and store liquid gold and bank it against continuing drought conditions; with the newest catchment, we have the storage capacity for 50,500 gallons of water. That’s really quite enormous (!). (Of course, we need Mother Nature’s continuing help in the form of snow and rain!)

We lost some horses (as we do every year), and we had some foals (as we do every year), and the herd and the range are in excellent and very good condition overall. In September, we celebrated our 11th anniversary since the last roundup. Fertility-control treatments continue apace, and because of the efficacy of the native PZP that we use, and the aforementioned good condition of horses and range, there’s (thankfully) nothing (no removals) on the horizon.

Without further ado, as 2022 comes to an end, let’s remember some scenes of Spring Creek Basin and its fabulous mustangs to carry us ahead into 2023 (some have been previously published here; others are new to the blog):

Tenaz (showing off his rarely-seen generous star with wind whipping aside his forelock) and the mustangs rang in the first day of 2022 with fresh snow! A handsome bay mustang does look rich and supremely healthy in new snow. I know I write that a lot with regard to bay mustangs, but really, have you ever seen a better color combination!? OK, OK … all of the other equine colors look pretty fabulous, too. 🙂


Even baby horses like Lluvia love to catch fluttering snowflakes on their lips! They do make me laugh, these ponies (see yesterday’s post about laughing with friends!). 🙂 With their thick, insulating coats, mustangs are well adapted to winters in high desert areas such as Spring Creek Basin. Our winters are fairly mild, though we do have some frigid days … and snow!


Dundee, Rowan and Aiyanna came from Sand Wash Basin in September 2021 and were welcomed here with monsoon-grown grasses. They filled out nicely that fall, but by March, they were a bit on the lean side. I think that had to do with their youth: Dundee was 2, and Rowan and Aiyanna were yearlings – all three still growing. They all blossomed throughout this year, as you’ve seen from recent pix of the girls. On this particular evening, they were high on a ridge on the west side of Filly Peak when another band appeared below, sending them into a gallop that I was thrilled to “capture” in that glorious golden light!


We may not have gotten much snow last winter and not much rain in the spring, but because of the previous summer’s monsoon rains – which, after a period of tense waiting, filled all the ponds – we came through winter and into spring with full ponds, which meant fantastic water in April. One of the greatest joys of watching mustangs is seeing them splash and play in water in nearly-belly-deep ponds – and then drink long, thirst-quenching draughts. Again, these ponies do make me laugh!


Corazon works his classic mustang-silhouette-at-sunset pose. He has really come into his own as a steady band stallion these last few years, and his son and daughter adore him. His son, in particular, is a mini-me who inherited both his black-and-white coat and his flank heart. Though Corazon’s namesake heart isn’t visible in this image, I think it’s one that does cause one’s heart to soar, just to see a mustang free in the wild, the glowing horizons fading into infinity.


You’d never know it to look at them, but these sprightly creatures are sisters! Their mama was lovely Tesora, whom we sadly lost in February. She lives on in their spirit and beauty. Lluvia sticks close to big sister TaylorK, whom she knows more as an auntie. Family is – always – everything. (As they run, do you see the soaring bird in the pattern on Lluvia’s shoulder? She has another on her right shoulder.)


With green all around him as the summer days advanced through July, Sundance made clear to another stallion, who was a bit closer than Sundance thought was appropriate, that his proximity was NOT appropriate. He does look rather intimidating, doesn’t he? Sundance is one of the most laid-back stallions out there (and really, they’re all fairly easy going, most of the time), and he’s also very protective – just like all of them. All it usually takes is a bit of posturing, sometimes some sniffing and nudging and squealing, and points are made! Successful conversation … without a word spoken.


Speaking of proximity issues … ! These two boys are former longtime BFFs, with the sorrel previously the lieutenant of the grey. But then those roles reversed, and sorrel Braveheart wasn’t so generous as to allow Pitch to be HIS lieutenant. The more things change … eh?! Our bands are generally very stable, but the horses are wild, after all, and young stallions do grow up and seek families of their own – as do the fillies.


Stepdaddy Braveheart is quite proud of and protective of his family of Winona and Reuben. (Remember that amazing grass this fall after the monsoon rains?!) This was a beautiful, warm evening when a few bands had gathered together (but not *too* close together), and I moseyed along with them as they grazed and moved from the northwest valley toward Spring Creek canyon. When the little threesome paused in the most photogenic spot possible, with iconic McKenna Peak and Temple Butte in the background, I couldn’t press the shutter fast or long enough! This is the photo I gave Connie Clementson upon her retirement as manager of Tres Rios Field Office in Dolores.


In October, BLM wildland firefighters along with some Forest Service (San Juan National Forest) partners from around the region (including a crew from Monticello, Utah (Manti-La Sal National Forest)), conducted a prescribed burn to help maintain wildlife habitat on the ridge south of Spring Creek Basin that forms part of the southern reach of Disappointment Valley. Because of the moisture we had earlier in the summer, the three-day burn moved slowly and was well monitored by at least 30 firefighters. I don’t know what the total acreage was, but it wasn’t a huge area, and it mainly consisted of burning piles of old, fallen pinon and juniper trees so grasses can grow. To clarify, the burn was NOT in the basin. But the slowly drifting smoke – which was visible from the basin but didn’t blow over the basin – made for some dramatic scenes. As I remember, it rained a couple of days after the end of the burning, and our sky returned to its usual clear turquoise.


Napping with pals is just about the best, most peaceful way to spend a lovely fall day in November. There were two bands and a group of young bachelors in fairly close proximity to each other when I hiked out to visit with them all, and it was such a soft, quiet, gentle evening among friends. The horses draw such comfort from each other … and I gain such amazing comfort from them. On these days, especially, I wish such peace was something that could be bottled and shot into space to rain down on people and places less fortunate than us.


In early December, we were still pretty dry in the basin, but we had this little cherub to brighten the days. 🙂 She’s a classic example of grey foals being born a color (sorrel, bay, black, etc. – my family even has a grey Quarter Horse mare that was born palomino) and *greying out* – though our grey foals don’t often grey out as fast as this little girl. Mama Echo was born black. I think I’ve mentioned before that grey is the dominant color among the mustangs of Spring Creek Basin. In that way, too, these two are classics. 🙂


As in years past, how about a bonus pic?

Winona and her son Reuben and one of the many amazing views from Spring Creek Basin, looking out across far lower Disappointment Valley to Utah’s La Sal Mountains, snowclad once again from fall onward. If that scene doesn’t scream (ever so quietly, of course) *peace*, I’m not sure what could. Their band and a couple of others had gathered at a pond, and they were walking away. I was trying to anticipate horses walking *across* that view, but mostly, they were lined straight out away from me as they left the water to return to their evening grazing. When I saw Winona – with confident baby Reuben leading the way – I was somewhat disappointed that they were so far away. … Then I realized that, to capture *that* view, my long lens needed the space of distance. Truly, sometimes it really *does* all come together!


Thank you all for reading about and enjoying our Spring Creek Basin mustangs this year. Many special thanks to those of you who faithfully come up with comments every day (sometimes, it must be nearly as hard as it is to come up with blog-post titles)!

Here’s to a coming year with plenty of moisture (!), and full ponds and catchments, and forage that grows ’em up strong and healthy. To take to heart a lesson from the mustangs and other wildlife: Be present in the moment! Some times (sometimes? many times?), that’s ever so much better than looking back or worrying about what’s ahead. 🙂

Happy New Year’s Eve!

Merry Christmas!

25 12 2022

Merry Christmas to you all, and may the light and joy and peace of the season be with you now and throughout the coming year.

From our herd to yours, may many wild blessings shine on you and your families!



This – THIS – was Christmas morning sunrise over Disappointment Valley! 🙂

Pretty glorious on the day of Christmas magic. Blessings to you all!

Wish granted!

13 12 2022

Mother Nature blanketed Spring Creek Basin with at least a couple of inches of snow! The amount varies a bit, but I’d guess there’s an average of at least 2 inches of the golden white stuff covering the range. It came in on a fairly warm wind, and the snow was nice and wet. Now, our temps are going to drop significantly, with highs in the 30s – much more seasonal for Colorado in December than the 40s and 50s we’d been enjoying lately.

Mostly, the horses seemed to be sheltering in out-of-the-way places, and I didn’t see many bands, but Cassidy Rain and her family were happy to visit briefly (well, maybe *I* was the one happy to visit?). 🙂

Now, let me take you on a little tour around Spring Creek Basin, seen under a pristine cover of fresh snow:

From near the original water catchment looking northwest over the rimrocks above Spring Creek canyon over northern/northwestern Disappointment Valley. Utah’s La Sal Mountains are usually visible along the horizon in the distance … but it was still snowing over them while the clouds over us were breaking and giving us that brilliant Colorado sunshine.

Our newest water catchment got a good dose of snow to start melting and filling the tanks!

From the north(ish) part of the basin, looking southeast toward McKenna Peak and Temple Butte. Look at all that pillowy white frozen goodness!

Approaching the basin’s east pocket: Juniper and her family – and the rest of us – got our snowy wish. 🙂

As I was heading out of the basin, just as the sun was sinking into a cloud bank above the valley’s southern ridges, I stopped on rollercoaster ridge to photograph a wild little snowburst over western Disappointment Valley beyond Spring Creek Basin – from a single crazy cloud! And yes, in the foreground is a pond, still – still! – nearly full to the brim.

Despite the coming frigid temps, I think we’re all pretty happy about the snowfall. 🙂

White gold

25 10 2022

Did I mention that Spring Creek Basin and Disappointment Valley got rain?

And then we got snow. 🙂 And before Halloween!

This was yesterday morning in Disappointment Valley, just beyond the rimrocks and southwest of Spring Creek Basin. No ponies-in-snow pix; too muddy, and that snow was melting fast! For fare somewhat different than you usually expect to see on this blog, please enjoy this mix of pix of golden cottonwoods crowned with good-as-gold moisture: