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Sun Jan 05, 2014 at 02:13 PM PST

A Beautiful Day for Eagles

by Jakkalbessie

... American Bald Eagles, not Philadelphia Eagles, that is.    (My apologies to to Philly Eagles fans.... I have been told that coming up with a title that catches the eye is important if you want your diary to be read.  ) My husband, kossack divineorder and I went to listen to live music last night here in Santa Fe, and of course, the Philly Eagles game was on as the band was warming up-- hence the title.  This diary is a collaboration by Divine Order and myself.

Lake Abiquiu Annual Eagle Watch

We belong to a kayaking Meetup for Albuquerque and Santa Fe and the leaders had sent out a meetup invitation to come and help count the Bald Eagles at the Abiquiu Reservoir.  We had thought about going with the group out on the water but then read that the leader had decided inflatables would slow the group down creating safety problems, and were not advised to be a part of the boat group counting. As we went to bed Friday night we waffled back and forth on whether to go even though we wouldn't be able to take part with the paddlers.....

 photo IMG_5864.jpgAmerican Bald Eagle, GTNP,  photo by divineorder

Divineorder had voiced concern  about a dkos post about unexplained Bald Eagle deaths in the neighboring State of Utah. We woke up Saturday morning to a beautiful day, and spur of the moment decided to go after all. We are wildlife watching addicts and have great luck photographing them while kayaking on the Snake River in Grand Teton National Park, and we looked forward to the possibility of participating in the count and seeing more of these beautiful birds.

The sun was shining and we knew from past experiences of camping and kayaking there that it would be a wonderful way to spend a Saturday morning so we rushed to get dressed and on the way out the door .

 photo IMG_3478.jpg Northern New Mexico of Georgia O'keefe fame now includes the stark, colorfully beautiful US Corps of Engineers Abiquiu Reservoir. Photo by divineorder

Santa Fe to 'Georgia O'Keefe Country'

Leaving Santa Fe we headed the 57 miles to Abiquiu Lake.  This is a beautiful drive as you can see mountain ranges in the distance and the beautiful red rock country that was made so famous to some by the late artist Georgia O'Keefe.

Santa Clara and  Ohkay Owingeh

Its also important to note that this area is home two two Indian pueblos, Santa Clara and Ohkay Owingeh which have had inhabitants hundreds of years before O'keefe made her famous visits. Click on the links for some fascinating history of these people!

Victims of a Sudden Craving For New Mexican Food

As we were driving out to Abiquiu, we stopped on the other side of  Espanola and got a  get a carne adovada burrito.  Divineorder loves chile colorado and I love green chile, and since the adovado is prepared with red I got mine with red and green chile (Christmas) for breakfast!  Mmmmmmmm.

While we waited for them to prepare the burritos we noticed that there was a sign in the window of the restaurant about the drought conditions in the area and the fact that some areas would not be able to be irrigated.  This notice was dated July and there was another hand-written sign about a "ditch" meeting coming up.  

New Mexico water has laws dating back to agreements in the l700's !  

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Constructed originally during the 'flood control' era of Corps building, the reservoir now holds water for cities and communities downstream on the Rio Grande and is a popular recreation site in summer.

From the Corps website:

Welcome to Abiquiu Lake Recreation Area

Abiquiu Lake is a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers managed lake, with recreation areas and a campground.  Federal Recreation Passports are accepted.  The lake is a 5,200-surface-acre reservoir and offers some of the finest fishing in northern New Mexico. The area includes a fine panoramic view of the Cerro Pedernal (Flint Mountain) from the dam. The scenery of the area includes Pinon (Pine), Juniper and Sage among colorful rock formations.  Reptile fossils 200 million years old have been found in the area.

Surrounding attractions include: Abiquiu Lake Recreation Area

    Ghost Ranch
    Georgia O'Keefe Museum
    San Pedro Wilderness
    Cumbres Toltec Railroad
    Chaco Canyon
    Bandelier National Moument
    Taos and Santa Fe, N.M.

 photo IMG_3457.jpg

Looking for Bald Eagles

Because of our breakfast stop we arrived we arrived at the Corp of Engineers Visitor Center as the orientation was ending and were told by two of the Rangers where we could go and join one of the groups doing the observation from the shore.    

Annual Eagle Watch

.... described by the Corps:

The purpose of the watch is to collect data which will assist in national and local tracking of the bird’s numbers. It is also an opportunity to encourage shared stewardship with the public to help keep track of wildlife populations and ensure that their habitat is adequate for their numbers. Volunteers are asked to dress warmly and bring binoculars, notepads, and drinking water.

National Wildlife Federation officials have asked that participants in each state count eagles along standard routes to provide data trends. The basic objectives of the survey are to index the total wintering Bald Eagle population in the lower 48 states, to determine eagle distribution during a standardized survey period, and to identify previously unrecognized areas of important winter habitat.

The annual midwinter survey represents a unique source of long-term, baseline data. Unlike nesting surveys, it provides information on both breeding and non-breeding segments of the population at a potentially limiting time of year. The count has become a national tradition since 1984, and is an annual event at Abiquiu Lake. In addition to providing information on eagle trends, distribution, and habitat, the count has helped to create public interest in the conservation of our national symbol, the Bald Eagle.

So we walked back to our cars as all the others were leaving the parking lot, kayaks on top of some cars and others not.

We had  a little trouble finding the secondary drive  to the overlook and were down in the campground looking for it when we  observed our first American Bald Eagle perched on a dead tree on the high cliff overlooking the water!  What a treat!  Then we noticed there were observers above the Riana campground and where they  had a panoramic view of the reservoir and in the distance .

 photo IMG_3466.jpg Bald Eagle Watch Volunteers on land .  Photo by divineorder  

Only problem was how to get too them.  After hurriedly snapping a few shots of the eagle we headed back toward the entrance and luckily were greeted by  one of the Rangers in a vehicle who had come down to directed us to the overlook. It was a steep unpaved drive that apparently is mostly used by hikers.  From there one could have a spectacular view of Pedernal peak made so famous by Georgia O'Keefe' paintings.  

 photo IMG_3469.jpg NM, Land of Enchantment.... Note Corps of Engineers work boat carrying some of the Eagle Count volunteers.  Photo by divineorder

Once we got out with our scope and cameras we noticed that way down below there were two Corp of Engineer boats that were leaving the boat ramp and heading in opposite directions to observe and count the eagles from the water.  

 photo IMG_3485.jpgCorps of Engineers Ranger points out sectors on map where boat counters were verifying our spottings. Photo by divineorder

Sector Map

We were spotting Bald Eagles  from up on the overlook with long reach spotting scopes and binoculars.   Rangers would communicate back and forth with the observation boats as the eagles were spotted.  They had the lake divided into sectors and we land observers would identify which sector we had seen them in and then they would be identified as mature or immature.

We had only just arrived and reported the eagle we had seen below when more Bald Eagles were sighted !

 photo IMG_3468.jpgTwo Migratory Bald Eagles enjoy the silence of the closed Riana Campground.  Photo by divineorder

We left about lunch time and noticed that wind was picking up.  We wondered what the kayakers would experience and hoped all would be okay.

 photo IMG_3488.jpg

Drama for the Kayakers

This morning divineorder told me that comments on the Meetup site told of how high winds had come up and that the returning kayakers faced three to four foot waves!!!

We had enjoyable time joining the watchers at Riana Campground overlook. Got a couple of nice photos of the Meetup Kayakers later departure on slick waters. At the time was a bit envious :) . However, reading today, and having survived a similar day paddling our Sea Eagle on the Colorado River below Glen Canyon Dam to Lee's Ferry when we had estimated 50 mph gusts know our boat would have been fine.

 Still, once the wind picked up was not as envious as when the group paddled out. We left the overlook after contributing two confirmed sightings to our group which had total of 8 by then. The wind was just starting to pick up as we left so missed the groups' dramatic return. We are so very glad all are safe!

The leader of the Meetup has always emphasized safety and this day was a great example of why!

A Beautiful Day For Bald Eagles But......

Glad to have taken part in an activity that is helping gather data about the American Bald Eagle and wonder what their future is as a result of climate change.

As we were driving back to Santa Fe we were rewarded with two bald eagles putting on quite an aerial display above the Chama river as we drove past.


Received an e-mail  from friend in South Africa yesterday catching us up on her news.  She shared,

"On Wednesday it is Nelson Mandela's 94th birthday and it has become a tradition for all people to do 67 minutes of 'good' for those less privileged on that day. I work for a soup kitchen which feeds the clinics at a maternity hospital, about 120 in all, but on Weds we will be feeding everyone in the wards as well, about 240 in total. It will be great and I am looking forward to it. Busy making 20 litres of soup right now!"
Wow, what a wonderful concept!

Nelson Mandela Day is not only celebrated in South Africa, but is also an international celebration as well.

Nelson Mandela International Day, July 18
      For freedom, justice and democracy
Check out this impressive web page by the
United Nations
This year on 18 July — Nelson Mandela's 94th birthday — the UN is joining a call by the Nelson Mandela Foundation to devote 67 minutes of time to helping others, as a way to mark Nelson Mandela International Day.

For 67 years Nelson Mandela devoted his life to the service of humanity — as a human rights lawyer, a prisoner of conscience, an international peacemaker and the first democratically elected president of a free South Africa.

How the Day came about

In November 2009, the UN General Assembly declared 18 July "Nelson Mandela International Day" in recognition of the former South African President’s contribution to the culture of peace and freedom.

General Assembly resolution A/RES/64/13 recognizes Nelson Mandela’s values and his dedication to the service of humanity, in the fields of conflict resolution, race relations, the promotion and protection of human rights, reconciliation, gender equality and the rights of children and other vulnerable groups, as well as the upliftment of poor and underdeveloped communities. It acknowledges his contribution to the struggle for democracy internationally and the promotion of a culture of peace throughout the world.

Follow below for more about this great man and how we can all make a difference.

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After reading Meteor Blades and Robert Greenwalds diary yesterday and with the encouragement of my husband, I am going to try my hand at writing another diary.
Last Saturday after participating in Occupy Santa Fe, my husband and I went to eat at one of our favorite places and as I was paying I saw a card inviting people to come and see a showing of a documentary "Red Gold".  The card said Alaska's last great salmon fishery was in peril.  Since salmon is one of my husband's favorite fish, I thought maybe we should go see what this was about.  It would also be a chance to explore more of Santa Fe.

So through a combination of riding the bus and biking we arrived at the place where the showing was going to be held.   We cooled down outside before heading in to watch the documentary.  There was food, delicious salmon appetizers and drinks for people before going in for the showing.  While people were enjoying this, we were urged to sign a letter to our Senators urging them to oppose the Pebble Mine project.

The Pebble Mine project is considered a "threat to jobs, water and a way of life."
"The Pebble deposit is a vast low grade deposit of gold and copper located in the headwaters of the Kvichak and Nushagak Rivers in Bristol Bay, Alaska.  If built, Pebble would be one of the largest mines in the world.  It would also cause incredible harm to the world's largest wild sockeye salmon fishery.   The Pebble Limited Partnership(PLP) has not relased its final mine plans but cvompany executive have siad the Pebble mine complex, which would cover some 54.5 square miles based on the most recent PLP estimates, would procue between 2.5 and 10.78 billion tons of waste including acit and heavy metals that will have to be treated in perpetuity.  Any release of this waste into the surgace or groundwater has the potential to damage Bistol Boy's salmon and rainbow trout populations and the people who depend on them."

This information was garnered from the brochure available before we went in to see the documentary.  After having some of the delicious appetizers and a glass of wine went in to watch the documentary.  It was  well done, from my point of view, showing the people who have lived in or enjoyed the riches of Bristol Bay juxtaposed with the people from the Pebble Mine Project.

One of the things that came across for me in viewing this documentary was the fact that Bristol Bay has been a part of the indigenous people's culture for thousands of years and that way of life would be in peril if this mine was allowed.  There was a vignette of an elderly gentleman explaining how this was his way of life and had always been.  He told of the salmon season and when it was over, then it was time to pick the berries and when that was over, it was time to hunt the caribou in a way that suggested it did not feel his way of life was lacking but was in tune with nature.

The documentary also shared some of the experiences of the commercial fishermen who have fished this area their entire lives.  Once again, no rich folk, but people loving what they were doing in spite of the "on the edge" aspect of it and what it would mean to lose this.

I guess I could go on and on about the scenes in the documentary but it was extremely powerful and moving.   One thing was clear to me---these people loved this way of life and did not want to lose it.

"Currently the Bristol Bay salmon industry provides over 10,000 jobs.  In 2008 (most recent data) the total wholesale value for commerically caught Bristol Bay salmon was over $300 million.  Estimates also show that over $75 million was spent in Alaska on Bristol Bay sport fishing trips.  For 10,000 years this fishery has sustained the indigenous people of the area--most of whom still rely on their subsistence fishery as a signifcant part of their non-cash income."

After the showing of the documentary there was a panel to answer questions and take comments.  Two of the panelists were indigenous peoples, one was a sport fisherman, one a commercial fisherman, and one that operated a sport fishing operation.  
The panel discussion was very informative.  Both of the indigenous peoples were women, one who still lived in the Bristol Bay area and the other whose mother still was fishing the area handed down from her grandfather.  

When the sport fisherman got up to introduce himself, he said he had seen Stacey (one of the women) talking to people about why they needed to oppose the mine and had not paid her much attention until it was clear to him what might happen if the mine came into being and what it would mean to him.  He mentioned his daughter and how he hoped to bring her up there fishing and you could tell it was a very emotional moment.

Stacey, one of the indigenous people's, spoke of growing up in the salmon fishing business.  It was very heartwarming to hear of her love of this life from about the age of ten when she went on her first  real fishing experience.

The other girl, whose name I cannot remember still lives in the area and had many of the same stories as Stacey.  She did also add that it was amazing that she was on a panel with sport fishermen, and people that had a business of sport fishing because in the past, they would be enemies and fighting for their allocation but this mine project has united them all to be able to survive.

On the environmental side of this story, what can we believe about the safety record of any industry, especially mining?  It was mentioned that salmon are very sensitive to copper and if even a small part enters the water it can mess with their compass and who can guarantee they will return to Bristol Bay to spawn?

Another issue that was raised was the fact that the area for the proposed Pebble Mine is in an area that experiences approximately 3000 earthquakes a year.  WHAT!!!!  According to one of the panelists, this information is even shared on the power point presentation by the Pebble Mine project.

It was also pointed out that the "Alaska Department of Natural Resources (DNR) manages nearly 12 million acres of state land in the Bristol Bay watershed includinng the land where Pebble is proposed.  In 2005 DNR released its current Bristol Bay area plan which reversed decades of balanced resource management and suddenly favored mmining development by opening its entire 12 million acres for mining and reducing slamon habitat protections by 94 percent.
  One of the panelists also said, the DNR has never turned down a mining permit
At present the local tribes, commercial fisherman and sports fishermen have called on the EPA to help.  "The EPA has the authority and an unprecedented opportunity to safeguard this unique and valuable habitat and the health of the local people by exercising its Clean ater Act Section 404(c) authority and to protect the Bristol Bay watershed.  The unique conditions of the Bristol Bay headwaters justify an immediate action by EPA  to prohibit dredge and fill activity related to large scale mining

At the end of the evening they asked all of us to get involved and get the word out.  This is my attempt to get the word out.

You can visit www.SaveBristolBay.orgto learn more ways you can help.

Follow "Save Bristol Bay" on Twitter and Facebook for the most up-to-date news and information.

The film Red Goldcan be also be ordered online from Felt Soul Media.

Here's the trailer:


This is my first time writing a diary here, and decided maybe this one would not inflame too many souls even though it is a hot topic.

I was motivated to write this after reading about  solar panels going back up on the White House.

We, as a country really need to think more about Green Energy/Clean energy and so thought I would share our experience in making the decision to go solar.

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