We visited our son and his family in the Texas Panhandle this past week. It was great seeing how much our five grandchildren have grown in our absence. On the first morning after our arrival our familes jumped into two cars and headed for nearby Palo Duro Canyon State Park, the "Grand Canyon of Texas."
Carved out of the colorful mudstone, sandstone and limestone formations by the Prairie Dog Town Fork of the Red River, Palo Duro Canyon is 97 miles long and up to 20 miles wide and nearly 1,000 feet deep in places. It is the second largest canyon in the US, after the 277 mile long and 6,000 foot deep Grand Canyon.
Palo Duro Canyon is noted for its many hoodoos, which are pillars of sedimentary rock topped by capstones of hard rock such as limestone. Erosion by wind and water removes the softer rock underneath, leaving the capstone to protect the pillar, usually tilting over until it eventually collapses. I mistook this hoodoo formation along Lighthouse Trail for "The Lighthouse" hoodoo (pictured in the above link), which is similar but much larger and can only be approached by way of back trails. Next to it is Castle Peak.
My favorite stop in Palo Duro is this blind (or hide, which is a much more appropriate descriptor) next to one of the shops. It provides excellent views of the shrubby habitat, and has interpretive information and photos on its walls.
A water feature and seed and suet feeders are positioned conveniently in view.
I could not tarry for very long as the children were anxious to go hiking, making me recall my impatience with photographers during my many years as a non-photographer. While we did not see many species, there were fabulous photo opportunites at close range in the soft morning light.
White-crowned Sparrows were the most abundant birds.
They splashed in the little pool at the fountain.
A female Northern Cardinal arrived...
...and waited patiently (?) for her bath.
A male cardinal took his turn.
An American Robin...
...was joined by a male House Finch.
A Spotted Towhee displaced them.
Sometimes called a "Ground Robin," the towhee is actually a large sparrow. It scratches noisily with both feet as it forages on the ground.
I was pleasantly surprised when a Brown Thrasher showed up at the seed feeder. These relatives of mockingbirds and catbirds are primarily insect-eaters, as evidenced by their long sharp bills.
The thrasher has piercing yellow eyes.
I almost missed seeing two male House Sparrows roosting quietly in a nearby shrub.
Time was running short, and I hoped that a Black-crested Titmouse would show up. The range of this species is restricted to central Texas and northeastern Mexico, and it is found at feeders in residential areas and pockets of oak woodlands. Finally, two did appear.
Later, our three granddaughters explored a restored "cowboy hut."
At about 7:30 in the morning on November 4, just as we were departing from our motel in Canyon, Texas for our drive to Albuquerque, this roll cloud suddenly appeared on the northern horizon. This is the view to the east as it approached.
The sky was otherwise perfectly blue, and the cloud stretched as far as the eye could see to both the east and west horizon.
It moved towards us remarkably fast, and passed directly over us, heading southward. This is the view to the west.
As we drove westward along I-40 about 30 minutes later we could still see it all the way across the sky, eventually joining the southern horizon and disappearing. We noted no unusual wind or temperature change, though there was already a brisk breeze from the north (as evidenced by the flags). There were no storms anywhere in sight, but our son, who is a meteorologist with the local National Weather Service, later said that a cold front had passed over at that time.
"A roll cloud is a low, horizontal, tube-shaped, and relatively rare type of arcus cloud. They differ from shelf clouds by being completely detached from other cloud features. Roll clouds usually appear to be "rolling" about a horizontal axis. They are a solitary wave called a soliton, which is a wave that has a single crest and moves without changing speed or shape. One of the most famous frequent occurrences is the Morning Glory cloud in Queensland, Australia, [caused by] mesoscale circulation associated with sea breezes that develop over the Cape York Peninsula and the Gulf of Carpentaria. However, similar features can be created by downdrafts from thunderstorms and are not exclusively associated with coastal regions." Ref: Wikipedia
Thanks for visiting! After working from our iPhones with limited connectivity, we will now start tackling our correspondence backlog. We prepared our last couple of blog posts in advance and put them on "automatic pilot," and missed visiting our many social sites. Hope to catch up in the coming week!