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Thursday, December 14, 2017

Pretty Pintails! | Quivira National Wildlife Refuge

Pretty Pintails! These and Mallards definitely are making up the majority of our duck population these last couple of weeks, but no complaints from us.

Much Needed Snow in Bear Lake Area | Rocky Mountain National Park

Finally some much needed snow! There is 11"of snow on the ground in the Bear Lake area, with 3.5" of new snow. There are icy road conditions that are currently being plowed.

Carlsbad Project in NM | Bureau of Reclamation

We're taking a step back in time for Throwback Thursday to learn about the Carlsbad Project in NM. Today's photo shows a group of workers after cleaning one of the Project's lateral canals. 

The Carlsbad Project was one of the earliest Reclamation projects and is significant as a surviving example of mixed 19th and 20th century technology. Many features of this project are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Carlsbad Project is in southeastern New Mexico near Ft. Sumner and Carlsbad.

The Carlsbad Project stores water in Santa Rosa (a Corps of Engineers Dam), Sumner, Brantley, and Avalon Dams to provide water for about 25,000 acres within the Carlsbad Irrigation District.

Project features include Sumner Dam and Lake Sumner (formerly Alamogordo Dam and Reservoir), McMillan Dam (breached in 1991 and replaced with Brantley Dam, Avalon Dam, and a drainage and distribution system to irrigate 25,055 acres of land in the Carlsbad area.

Learn more about the history of the Carlsbad Project here:

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park in Colorado | U.S. Department of the Interior

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park in Colorado isn't the most visited or well known national park, but with some of the most beautiful, dramatic, and steep cliffs in North America it shows just how amazing and diverse the National Park System is. Nick Souvall came here on a last minute change of plans, and he says, “I'm sure glad we did as we were treated with amazing views and an amazing sunset." Photo courtesy of Nick Souvall. — at Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.

Pretty Oleander Blossoms

Perhaps this might make a good background for a meme

Beautiful Trumpet-shaped Flowers on Shrub

Beautiful Trumpet-shaped Flowers on Shrub

Fruits of Prickly Pear Cactus

Prickly pear cactus bearing a large number of fruits.

Webb Telescope, Chamber A | NASA's James Webb Space Telescope

In case you missed it, The Atlantic news magazine selected this image of Webb telescope as one of 35 hopeful images from 2017! See the article here:

Chris Gunn, one of our team’s photographers, snapped this shot shortly after Webb exited Chamber A at NASA's Johnson Space Center. Chamber A is Johnson’s massive cryogenic vacuum testing chamber, and scientists and engineers at the center put Webb through a series of tests inside the chamber to ensure the telescope functioned as expected in an extremely cold, airless environment akin to that of space.

Mouse Tracks | Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife & Fish Refuge

Oh the stories of the snow! Fresh fallen snow shows even the little tail drag of a mouse making its way into the prairie. 

Photo: Mouse tracks by Katie Julian/USFWS.

Shoulder Hump of the Bison | Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge

Bison have muscles in their shoulder hump that help them clear away snow to forage during winter months.

Photo credit: DJ Hannigan

Happy 199th Birthday to Mary Lincoln! | Lincoln Home National Historic Site

Happy 199th Birthday to Mary Lincoln! #Onthisday Mary Ann Todd was born in Lexington, Kentucky, 1818. Mary held, poise, charm and intellect. According to one observer, that whenever she spoke "Lincoln would listen and gaze on her as if drawn by some superior power." 
[Image Description: Mary Lincoln sitting on chair. Formal gown with flower crown,]

Winter Solstice is Coming | Chaco Culture National Historical Park

Next Thursday is #WinterSolstice! Days will start to get a little bit longer while nights will shorten. Join us for our sunrise program at Kin Kletso. Gates open at 6am. #Sunrise #ShortestDay

Roosevelt Elk | Olympic National Park

29 years before President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed legislation to create Olympic National Park in 1938, President Teddy Roosevelt designated a part of the Olympic Forest Reserve as Mount Olympus National Monument. This was primarily to protect a large herd of forest elk for whom the Olympic Mountains served as a breeding ground. In fact, this is where Roosevelt Elk get their name. 

Have you spotted any Roosevelt Elk while hiking in ONP?

Keisha the Virtual Intern
NPS Photo

Frogcicles? | Voyageurs National Park

Frogcicles? In the winter, as ice starts to form on Wood Frogs’ skin, their bodies produce glucose. The glucose acts like an antifreeze and is carried through the bloodstream to body tissues. This “antifreeze” prevents cells from completely drying out and shrinking. The heart, lungs and other organs shut down completely until the frog thaws in the springtime. #WildlifeWednesday

Three Researchers Return to Earth from the ISS

In case you missed it, three people returned to Earth from the International Space Station this morning at 3:37 a.m. EST. NASA astronaut Randy Bresnik, European Space Agency astronaut Paolo Nespoli and Sergey Ryazanskiy of Roscosmos returned from 139 days in space, where they conducted science and research aboard the microgravity laboratory. More:

A hoary marmot in a field of alpine wildflowers stands next to a rocky trail with a mountain in the distance

This past summer, this hoary marmot was observed chowing down on alpine wildflowers like there was no tomorrow. It took a break to pose for this photo along the Siyeh Pass trail with Mt. Siyeh as the backdrop.

Hoary marmots (Marmota caligata) spend 7-8 months of the year hibernating. With such a short active season, it’s no wonder they spend most of the time they’re awake desperately consuming vegetation to build up their fat reserves. By late September, marmots have curled up in their burrows for the winter. Their body temperature drops to 36 degrees Fahrenheit, respiration slows to one breath every five minutes, and their heart rate is only five beats per minute.

Hoary marmots are also known as “whistlers” or “whistle pigs” due to the loud, shrill, repetitive whistle they emit at the slightest possibility of danger. Birds of prey, grizzly bears, wolverines, or mountain lions may prey on marmots.

In Glacier, marmots are most often seen during July and August in boulder fields and talus slopes. One may observe them sunbathing on rocks along the Highline Trail or, as in the photo above, eating wildflowers at Siyeh Pass. (ah)

NPS Photo/Anya Helsel
[Image description: A hoary marmot in a field of alpine wildflowers stands next to a rocky trail with a mountain in the distance.]

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

The annual Geminids Meteor Shower is here! | NASA - National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Heads up, right now! The annual Geminids Meteor Shower is here! If you aren’t able to step outside, you can check out the dazzling display

Dusk over Black Duck Marsh | Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge

Dusk over Black Duck Marsh

Photo: Aubrey Hall/USFWS
 — at Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge.

Trumpeter Swans | Great River and Clarence Cannon National Wildlife Refuges

Trumpeter swans are our biggest native waterfowl, stretching to 6 feet in length and weighing more than 25 pounds! Can you spot the one with the neck collar?

Photo: Trumpeter swans by James Roane.

Mallard Ducks | Two Rivers National Wildlife Refuge

With the cold temps this week the refuge's Swan Lake is freezing over. Mallard ducks are still hanging around the small area of open water and actually help keep it from freezing by constantly moving and feeding. 

Photo of mallard duck by Bill Coatney/USFWS Volunteer.

The full moon two weekends ago lit up Yosemite Falls | Yosemite National Park

The full moon two weekends ago lit up Yosemite Falls, as well as the snow and ice accumulated on the shelves and cracks to the east of the plume of water and light. When the moon is bright over Yosemite, you often don't even need to turn on your headlamp to walk the trails: moonlight reflects off of the granite cliffs and illuminates the valley for those awake and outside to see it.
Head outside to a park or an open space near you tonight, to catch the peak of the 2017 Geminid meteor shower (peaking tonight and tomorrow night.) Up to 120 meteors per hour can be viewed at the height of the shower!

Striped Skunk | U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Midwest Region

Do you have a winter retreat? Striped skunks do! After fattening up in the fall, skunks head off to their winter burrow where they’ll spend most of the colder months resting.

Photo: Striped skunk by Katie Theule/USFWS.

Horned lark in Stevens County | Morris Wetland Management District

Horned lark in Stevens County

Alex Galt/USFWS

From Midwest National Parks

#FindYourPark #MidwestNPS

Ducks | USFWS National Wildlife Refuge System

“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature -- the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.” ~ Rachel Carson in “Silent Spring”

Featured: 🦆Ducks at Sam D. Hamilton Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge ( in Mississippi. 
📷Rob Snell

California Wildfire Emissions | NASA Earth

California Wildfire Emissions

After more than a week of burning, the wildfires in Southern California continue to loft a nasty mixture of aerosols and gases into the atmosphere.

On December 11, 2017, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite acquired a natural color image (left) of smoke billowing from the Thomas Fire in Ventura County, California. By that day, the fire had already burned 230,500 acres (93,000 hectares or 360 square miles).

The corresponding map (right) shows the concentration of carbon monoxide in the area, based on data collected by the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) on Aqua. The concentrations reflect total “column” amounts of the gas, measured vertically through the atmosphere by AIRS. Orange areas indicate the highest concentrations of carbon monoxide.

When fires burn through a fuel source—such as vegetation, gasoline, or coal—emissions can include everything from hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides, and carbon monoxide. Close to the source of the fire, the air quality on that day was rated unhealthy. As the image pair shows, smoke and carbon monoxide appear offshore as well.

Dejian Fu, an atmospheric scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, thinks that the carbon monoxide plume likely stemmed from the burning onshore and then blew out over the Pacific Ocean. This map shows the gas concentration up to an altitude of about 5 kilometers above the surface.

Carbon monoxide contributes to reactions that produce ground-level ozone, a harmful pollutant. It can also make breathing difficult to dangerous when trapped near the ground.

The sky is ablaze with color during sunset at Ninepipe National Wildlife Refuge in Montana | U.S. Department of the Interior

The sky is ablaze with color during sunset at Ninepipe National Wildlife Refuge in Montana. This wildlife refuge rests among the prairie potholes of the Mission Valley to serve primarily as a refuge and breeding ground for native birds. Photo by Dave Fitzpatrick, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Mountain-Prairie Region.

It's National Violin Day | Harry S Truman National Historic Site

It's National Violin Day. While Truman was a piano man, his famous friend Jack Benny always had his trademark violin. In 1959 comedian Jack Benny brought his TV show to the Library, giving millions of Americans a televised tour. During the show Truman exchanged one-liners with the comedian. In one segment they teamed up for a duet with Truman on piano and Benny playing his violin.

Fall snow drifts across Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado | U.S. Department of the Interior

Fall snow drifts across Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. By now, Dream Lake, Bear Lake and Emerald Lake are frozen, but the frosty beauty of these areas still draw hikers throughout the winter. Swirling clouds and cracked ice make gorgeous pictures, but please be safe and carry the proper gear. Photo by Carlton Fuqua ( — at Rocky Mountain National Park.

Elk | Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve

#WildlifeWednesday - Elk are frequently seen from the park entrance road in early morning or evening during quieter months. Originally primarily a prairie animal, elk have largely been pushed into the mountains by land development and hunting pressure. Great Sand Dunes National Park protects a huge portion of natural grasslands where thousands of elk thrive year round. Watching these majestic animals roam in wide-open spaces is yet another inspiring experience at Great Sand Dunes!
Photo: NPS/Patrick Myers 

#greatsanddunes #elk #grasslands #prairie #dunes#biodiversity #findyourpark #encuentratuparque


Christmas Cactus

Beautiful Succulent

Blooming Aloe

Prickly Pear Cactus

Agave Plant with Interesting Coloration

Cactus growing out of rock





Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Alpenglow, Mount Herard Above Dunes

Alpenglow, Mount Herard Above Dunes
NPS/Patrick Myers

Though it's been a dry winter season so far, the mountains have been blanketed with snow a few times. At moments like the one in this photo, the reason for the historical name of this mountain range becomes apparent. At evening, sunlight shifts toward red on the color spectrum as it shines across atmospheric haze in this vast valley. Early explorers, moved by this phenomenon, gave these mountains a unique name: "Sangre de Cristo" - the Blood of Christ.

These mountains are also unique in that they rise dramatically from the desert valley floor to over 14,000 feet (4267m). Beyond being a stunning visual backdrop to the dunes, the Sangre de Cristos are an important geological barrier to form the dunefield, and a setting for multiple ecosystems with incredible biological diversity.

Great Sand Dunes National Preserve protects the portion of this range that is the dunes' snowy watershed, the source of refreshing streams that wrap around the dunefield each spring!

#greatsanddunes #dunes #sand #desert #alpenglow#biodiversity #biologicaldiversity #geology#sangredecristo #bloodofchrist #sunset#sangredecristomountains #sangredecristorange#findyourpark #encuentratuparque

Crater Lake

With a depth of 1,943 feet, Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States -- and one of the most beautiful. Surrounded by cliffs, the lake is fed entirely by rain and snow. No matter what time of year you visit, Crater Lake National Park in Oregon is sure to leave you speechless. Photo courtesy of Ilanit Manor. — at Crater Lake National Park.

Night Lights of the Levant

From NASA Earth:

Night Lights of the Levant

This photograph, taken from the International Space Station (ISS), shows the sweep of the coastline of the eastern Mediterranean Sea. The cluster of lights at image center includes the major population centers of the Levant. The brightest lights are the cities of Tel Aviv in Israel, Amman in Jordan, and Beirut in Lebanon.

Other light clusters include the Nile Delta in Egypt, and a nearby thin string of lights revealing the Suez Canal. The more scattered lights of the Turkish coastline and the country’s mountainous interior arc from top left to top center.

Populations are small in the deserts of the Middle East, so few lights appear in vast portions of Saudi Arabia (right), Syria (top center) and Iraq (top right). The largest population centers cluster where water is available, especially along the great rivers of the region, the Tigris and Euphrates. In Iraq, the capital city Baghdad stands as the brightest spot where these rivers meet.

Images such as this also show the hints of conflict. In Syria, darkness now reigns along a 300-kilometer stretch where lights use to line the Euphrates River in the east of the country. This has left most of eastern Syria in the dark.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Starkly Beautiful Denali National Park and Preserve in Alaska

Winters can be harsh, though starkly beautiful at Denali National Park and Preserve in Alaska. Temperatures can be well below 0 degrees F by November, and on the winter solstice, Denali receives less than 5 hours of true daylight. Those who venture to the park in winter will find plenty to do -- from skiing and winter biking to mushing and snowmobiling. Photo by Katie Thoresen, National Park Service. — at Denali National Park and Preserve.