The desert is looking splendidly arctic these last couple days! Here are a couple studies I yesterday made of the snow-laced slopes Deep Springs Valley in the grim half-light of a stormy winter dawn. I’ve been looking forward to seeing winter here in the Great Basin desert since we arrived in the heat of July, so I’m thrilled that it’s finally come. More storms, please!
Even a cloudless evening can sometimes hold surprises. On this clear day back in September in Nevada’s Toiyabe Range, I watched the relentlessly blue sky and didn’t hold out much hope for an exciting sunset. Still, I climbed a ridge above my camp, and while I sat photographing aspens in the cirque below me, I gradually became aware that something remarkable was happening in the sky behind me. Two triangles of rosy light began glowing above the canyons of the South Twin River, pointing southeast toward the looming bulk of Mount Jefferson in the neighboring Toquima Range. They only seemed to grow brighter and more distinct as the evening blues deepened around them. I’ve seen a lot of gorgeous twilight glows in evening skies, but I can’t recall a dusk light show quite like this one.
The Toiyabes aren’t bad at sunrise either:
I spent a spectacular evening back in early September up on the south slopes of Deep Springs Valley. The fractal, almost mineral, branches and white blooms of the wild buckwheat (Heermann’s buckwheat, Eriogonum heermannii, is my best guess) seemed perfectly made to complement the stony mosaic of the landscape. Unlike the far end of the valley, which is all intrusive granitic plutons (very attractive in their own right), the south end is composed of the Cambrian formations of the White Mountains. The area below my perch in particular, known as the Poleta Folds, is a favorite of geology fields trips from far and wide for its striking contorted bands of limestone.
Deep Springs Lake may not be much of a lake post-Pleistocene, but it can still reflect some evening light when times are good.
Night falls on Deep Springs Valley:
One of the many pleasures of moving to Deep Springs Valley has been making the acquaintance of the locals. Our most notable residents are the black toads, Bufo exsul, an endemic species that lives only at the springs near Deep Springs Lake. They’re very small (pictures actually tend to exaggerate their size somewhat), but quite attractive, and it’s a privilege to have an endemic species here that doesn’t require a Ph.D. to identify, but can be seen amiably hopping around.
Here’s a wide view of their habitat, where the greenery from the springs meets the dry playa of Deep Springs Lake:
Also from Deep Springs Lake, an excellent dragonfly:
These dark Sceloporus lizards are very abundant:
Here’s a local who dropped by our place one morning:
An Argiope spider (Argiope aurantia?) found in a nearby canyon:
Notable creatures I haven’t yet photographed: the pretty orange Panamint rattlesnakes, coyotes (one of which we saw being vigorously chased by a redtail), kestrels, other trickier-to-identify hawks and falcons, nightjars and great horned owls. I’m hardly a serious wildlife photographer, but there’s plenty to work on out here. But for now, have another toad!