Relief in the desert

3 07 2018

Terra and Kestrel

Terra and Kestrel drink from an arroyo seep that has been quietly and consistently producing water during these hot, terribly dry days.

Most of the curve of the arroyo is in the shade, and part of it runs into the sunshine. This photo was taken in the late evening, but even during these long summer days, with the sun high overhead, I think this little nook is mostly shaded.

I had been wanting to explore this area for the last several weeks, knowing from previous years that a seep was here, but it wasn’t until I saw Kestrel leading her band that I knew where she was likely headed – and had time to follow them.

Particular note: If the horses had been at all bothered by my presence, I would have left immediately.Β  I spend a lot of time with these mustangs, always quietly and at their direction (paying close attention to their comfort level). This is already a stressful time for them, and under no circumstances would I add to that stress. While I watched from a distance (I have a long lens!), three different bands came to drink. The first band stallion chased away the second momentarily, then the second and third bands drank together. They were still in the arroyo when I slipped away.

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Best. Water. Man. Ever.

4 06 2018

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Spring Creek Basin’s mustangs are fortunate to have Steve Heath – Heath Water Service – in their corner when it comes to delivering water in this time of terrible drought. This isn’t the first time we’ve relied on Steve (and Cecil Foster before him) to deliver water to the basin’s catchment so the horses have a consistent source of water in that trough seen in the background of this photo. It’s one of only two clean sources of water in the basin, the others being silty, salty and fairly low quantity. Two ponds still have water, and there are some other small sources, but they’re shrinking rapidly.

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Steve on top of the storage tank putting the hose into the hatch to pump water.

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Best. Water. Man. Ever. πŸ™‚

We are so grateful for his dedication and willingness to deliver water to our mustangs!

The Colorado chapter of the National Mustang Association is helping BLM pay for water deliveries to the mustangs during this drought.

Horse Park Fire update: Inciweb lists the fire still at 1,221 acres and 90 percent contained, but by the lack of activity – and smoke – the last couple of days I think they have it pretty much nailed. πŸ™‚ And big news: The area got about 0.15 inch of rain yesterday! For us, that’s huge. It doesn’t ease the drought, but it gave us a little relief.





Horse Park Fire

28 05 2018

The first thing to know is the most important: Spring Creek Basin’s mustangs are OK.

Horse Park is immediately north of Spring Creek Basin. The Horse Park Fire started Saturday night by a lightning strike, and firefighters were on it pretty much immediately. The fire is outside the basin’s northeastern boundary and moving basically northward, pushed by strong winds from the south/southeast.

Early in the day, I was with Steve Heath (Heath Water Service) in the basin to show him theΒ  roads. There’s a big difference in go-to-ability between his loaded water truck and my nimble Jeep, and we wanted to see where he can go with his truck to deliver water farther into the basin than the catchment when the drought situation requires it.

Good news on that front, too: Steve is confident that he can get his water truck to the places where we might set water troughs for the horses (in addition to the water catchment).

It was interesting – and a little (a lot) sobering – that while we were scouting for water locations, this fire blew up on the basin’s northeastern horizon. As of the 10 o’clock news on the Denver CBS 4 station, the Horse Park Fire was at 1,000 acres with 0 percent containment.

Following are some photos from the day:

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Several planes were in the air all day, small planes like this one (above) and big planes like the one below:

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Part of the fire was in McKenna Peak Wilderness Study Area, where fire retardant is forbidden, one of the BLM fire guys told me. Once the fire moved north from the WSA, three big air tankers started dropping the familiar red material.

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This is the same plane as the closer photo above, a few seconds later. Looks pretty crazy, huh?

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At least two helicopters were carrying water buckets from what appeared to be numerous sources to sites that were burning on top of the ridge. The main feature here is McKenna Peak. Perfectly placed behind McKenna from this vantage point (the eastern end of roller-coaster ridge), Temple Butte is mostly blocked. The fire is to the left – north.

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I was glad to find these guys on roller-coaster ridge, watching the fire from the basin side. Crew leader Dan was helpful with information, as was Patrick Seekins, BLM fire management officer, who called within 15 minutes of me calling dispatch in the morning to report the smoke. They had been aware of the fire and mobilizing pretty much since it started the previous night.

Unofficially, by my observations and from information given by Patrick and Dan, there was a lot of activity on this fire: a crew of smoke jumpers and a crew of hot shots; a fire team out of Norwood; BLM firefighters from Dolores; three big air tankers (resupplying in Durango, Cortez and Grand Junction, I think Dan said); at least four, maybe five, smaller planes dropping retardant; at least two helicopters carrying water buckets; at least one aircraft coordinating all the others (there were a lot of “birds” in the sky!).

Here’s a link to an article about the Durango Air Tanker Base in The Durango Herald. Planes like the one pictured with the article definitely were flying above the Horse Park Fire and dropping retardant.

It is incredibly dry out there in this land of no rain. Really, really, REALLY dry. This is not the first fire in the region, and it won’t be the last.

Fire restrictions are in place pretty much everywhere. PLEASE be super careful.

S'aka, Horse Park Fire

I asked Dan to please pass along to his colleagues the thanks of Spring Creek Basin’s mustangs and their human admirers. πŸ™‚ There seems to be very little chance that the fire will burn down into the basin, but it’s close enough to raise the anxiety level.

The mustangs are in good shape – living in the moment, doing what they do. πŸ™‚

P.S. Happy Memorial Day. It is a day to remember the service of others! Thankfully, those in my family who served their country came home. Today, we remember and honor those who did not make it home to their loved ones.





Water update

17 05 2018

Comanche at the new catchment trough.

Comanche and his band have found the “new” catchment trough (where we installed the apron and new trough two summers ago and the evaporation cover last fall).

The horses have two ponds and the two catchments as water sources, as well as numerous (if not high quality) seeps in various arroyos throughout the basin. Our BLM herd manager (Mike Jensen) is committed to closely watching the drought situation (we’re in the D4 category now – exceptional drought). Our awesome water hauler (Steve Heath) is able to pump water directly into the storage tanks. In the next week or so, we’ll be scouting locations that his water truck can reach to pump water into big troughs – supplied by BLM – elsewhere in the basin if conditions warrant.

Local ranchers have been hauling water continuously already this spring because it’s so dry.

And that wind – that howling, awful wind – is leaching away the moisture we don’t have, day after day.

It’s tough, folks, for wildlife and for livestock, and certainly not only in Disappointment Valley. That said, please know that the mustangs do not seem to be stressed. They have decent forage, as well as water sources, and they’re well dispersed throughout their range, not sticking to certain places as they would if they were stressed about sustenance/water.

Members of Disappointment Wild Bunch Partners are monitoring conditions closely, and the Colorado chapter of the National Mustang Association has offered to help pay for water deliveries to Spring Creek Basin.

We are so grateful (as always) to our Tres Rios BLM guys for being committed to the well-being of our mustangs!





Grateful

8 04 2018

Storm; Brumley Point

We’ve had grey skies lately. Tonight – Saturday night – we’re reaping the rewards of those clouds: RAIN.

Life-giving and so needed.

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Stopover, Spring Creek Basin style

4 03 2018

Canada goose on roller-coaster ridge pond.

She gets a perfect 10 for nailing her landing. πŸ™‚

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And she totally knows how to rock a pose.

Canada goose on roller-coaster ridge pond; Kwana

Not quite synchronized, but we’ll give them props for interspecies partnership. πŸ™‚

Two bands were at the pond with the goose (and though I called it “her” and “she,” I don’t actually know its gender), and they were very interested in her bold vocalizations. She was by herself; hopefully her mate (?) will join her soon. Tis the season.





Partnering for mustangs

18 10 2016

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Yep, once again, volunteers showed up to support Spring Creek Basin’s mustangs! This is the apron project to provide a second source of clean water for our mustangs – now fenced to protect the apron from the horses walking on it. They’ve sure enough found the water in the trough below the tank, which is below this apron.

This crew has a lot to smile about because in just a few short hours, these awesome folks built a four-strand smooth-twisted-wire fence around the apron! Our BLM guys snuck out of the office last week and dug holes for almost all the heavy wooden posts – which serve as H-braces and the nifty new gate – and that was most of the hard work.

In the photo above, left to right: Laura and Bob Volger (Four Corners Back Country Horsemen), Kat Wilder, yours truly giving the thumbs’-up, Frank Amthor (4CBCH), Mike Jensen and Garth Nelson (range specialists; Mike is the herd manager), and Kat’s son Ken Lausten, fence-builder extraordinaire. Always-present Pat Amthor relieved me of my camera to take this pic of our hard-working crew. πŸ™‚

Some more pix below before I got caught up in the efficient assembly line of pounding posts, wire stringing and stretching, and clipping wire strands to posts:

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Garth (left) and Frank work together to set the horizontal braces in the, you know, H-braces. Luckily for us, Garth and Mike Jensen already had done most of the hard work, digging holes and setting most of the wooden posts during a jail break, err, an escape from the office last week. In the background, Mike (left) and Bob Volger are digging a hole for another post to complete that H-brace.

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Here’s a closer look at Mike and Bob setting their post.

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As soon as Garth and Frank had finished this H-brace, Ken and Kat got right to work stringing wire. Mike’s running a T-post through the wire to unroll the next strand down to the next brace.

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Comin’ through! (The apron is to the left.)

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Ken stretches the end of the lower strand of wire, helped by his mom, Kat. At a diagonal, you can see the wire already tensioned into place by Mike and Garth. (That’s probably not really a word, but the diagonally-wrapped wire holds tension on the two vertical posts, so the one posts helps the other hold the horizontal wires stretched between H-braces.)

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And this is a good view of the apron, which we laid out in June – the object that we’re protecting from sharp mustang hooves. Why yes, it IS already working to funnel what little rainwater we’ve received down the newly laid pipe to the catchment tank AND to the trough, which is up-to-the brim full of water for the mustangs (held level by a float ball). πŸ™‚

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Garth pounds a T-post between H-braces while (in the background) Bob and Frank dig a hole for another post to serve as an anchor in a slight depression between H-braces so it will hold the wire tight without pulling the T-posts out of the ground.

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Laura Volger (4CBCH) helps Mike hold a wire strand in place so he can staple it to the post. We set our wires at consistent heights all the way around.

And things continued in just such a manner until the apron was all fenced in and protected.

This was another fabulous project in Spring Creek Basin with BLM employees and volunteers, all working together for the benefit of our beloved mustangs!

Just in case you thought it was all work and no good food, Pat Amthor brought homemade apple cake made with home-grown (Durango area) apples. You better believe we all polished that off and sent Pat home with an empty cake pan! (Sorry – no pix. It went from pan to bellies too fast!)

Thank you, thank you, once again to our committed BLM range specialists and our dedicated volunteers. With your help, our Spring Creek Basin mustangs continue to thrive on their home range!