Tuesday, August 28

Lunar eclipse

I got up at 3:30 I saw a pale blur (the moon?) buried beneath a thick layer of clouds, and thought, 'Oh, no!' Not too hopeful, I got up at 5:15, and saw a reddish, totally-eclipsed moon. It was beautiful. I got up again, after the total eclipse was over, and, at 5:45, the moon was half shining, the other half in shadow. Beautiful too. I guess I'll stay up now, and go for an early escarpment jog a little later.

The 2001 totality captured by NASA astronomer Fred Espenak. I rotated the image in order that it appear like the totality I saw. Image courtesy of Fred Espenak, copyright 2003, used with permission, www.MrEclipse.com

I'm stll sort of sleepy. The sky is getting red to the north. The Sandia Mountains loom as a dark silhouette across the eastern sky. I can see stars here in the city. I saw Orion and even the Peades last night, as I searched for the Moon's dark orb.

Further Reading

How often do eclipses occur?

Monday, August 20

Late summer on the trail

Had a nice jog, smelling purple sage as I went. The scent was heavy to attract bees, and it did. Dozens of bees on each bush: drinking, dipping in and zooming out.

The trail across the escarpment. Photo by author.

As I got close to the actual climb up the escarpment, I noticed a nearby roadrunner, working his way up slope, too. I kept an eye on him as I climbed and spotted him almost at the top. H
unkered down between a couple of big lava rocks, he had stopped short to keep an eye on me.

On the trail, a rabbit blasted across. A kestrel nearby took off and flew south low hunting. Another joined him and was not welcome. The first flashed cream breast as he veered away west. Millipedes, not many, moved like slow freight trains. Grasshoppers soared across the path. And fly-eating dragonflies flitted. A rock wren landed on a big lava boulder and did not sing.

Monday, August 6


On my hike Saturday, I saw millipedes, their paddle-like legs flickering against the ground and pushing forward. The 6-inch creatures looked like miniature, brown freight trains snaking through a pass. I wondered how many legs they have. I know their name implies a thousand. But how many?

A millipede, curled for defense. Photo courtesy of the Petroglyph National Park.

It turns out each body segment has 4 legs. So, I found a millipede image and counted 75 segments. That's 300 legs on a 6-inch bug.

They curl up for defense, and extrude a nasty-tasting juice to discourage predators.

I see them usually after a rainstorm, like on Saturday. Normally, they spend daylight hours underground to keep cool and moist. We in the Chihuahuan Desert are in the monsoon season now (when we get half our yearly rainfall in the three months of July, August and September).

So millipedes crawl out in the cool after hours of a shower. They need water to eat and digest dead plants and animals that form their diet. Eating litter cleans the desert landscape, since things decay slowly in dry heat. Moreover, their excrement returns nutruents to the soil faster than the decay process does.

By the way, millipede ancestors were the first animals to walk on land
about 420 million years ago. The ancient creatures were much bigger than their 6-inch descendants: six feet long and 18 inches wide (2 by 0.5 m).

For lingering questions:

Fossil millipede found to be the oldest land creature

Millipedes of Petroglyph

Saturday, August 4

A hike that's turning into a jog

4 May 2007. I just got back from a walk up the escarpment (a broad mesa west of Albuquerque).

Starting up, I could hear a noise, and finally identified it: high above, sitting on a rock at the edge of the escarpment was a road runner, calling its fool head off.

Once up, I took the left fork and headed south. I started jogging about then, and jogged for a half hour. I figure at 5 mph that's two miles. It just seems incredible compared with the short distance I could do when I started. And it feels like I could jog forever.

As I jogged along, I spooked a couple of quail every now and then. They'd take off down the road, and pretty soon I'd catch up with them, and off they'd go again.

Flowers everywhere. White, purple, yellow flowers of various kinds and an occasional pink daisy. The mesa was green with the fresh rain. It seems to turn green overnight. The road looped around and headed north. Heard a meadow lark making an unusual 2-note call.

On I went, now walking, right past my cutoff. Went a power pole too far, and doubled back. Now heading east towards the mountains. A great ocean of waving yellow grass with the mountains blue in the distance.

Past my favorite pinion tree by a canyon and to the escarpment. A canyon wren sat on a rock on the edge of the trail down, singing away, until I got too close. Then he flew away to settle elsewhere and start singing again. Down in the flatlands I saw two humming birds.