Bird Watching at Blackwater

There are many bird watchers that visit the Blackwater Draw site.  Many visitors gleefully return from their mile hike around the site, binoculars dangling, to mention particular bird sightings.  This weekend was a delightful exception. One of our visitors, Robert Templeton of northern New Mexico, provided such extensive knowledge of migratory birds and returned with a list of birds that he and Karen Cohen witnessed during their visit, it seemed necessary to post the list.

Please visit Robert’s site to learn more, and keep the lists coming!


Ladder-backed Woodpecker. Just one of the birds spotted this weekend.
Image from

April 6, 2013 bird sightings at Blackwater by Robert Templeton

  • Northern Harrier
  • Eurasian Collared-dove
  • Mourning Dove
  • House Finch
  • Western Meadowlark
  • White-crowned Sparrow
  • Rock Wren
  • Red-tailed Hawk
  • Say’s Phoebe
  • Ladder-backed Woodpecker
  • Chipping Sparrow
  • Killdeer
  • Barn Owl
  • Great-tailed Grackle
  • Swainson’s Hawk

Shadows and Stone

Despite what many of us were taught while learning the trades of the cultural resource management world, archaeological imaging does not have to be dull, drab, or black-and-white.

Ken Williams’ photography, as seen on, highlights some amazing stoneworks of prehistoric western Europe with an eye for emphasizing the beauty, alignments, and surroundings of these structures in brilliant colors and contrast.  He also highlights some photos of actual archaeological work in progress and this interest my cartographic side greatly.

They are performing a 360° scan, collecting about 500,000 data points per second.

Also, check out his blog here:

Messing About With PhotoShop

I am very visual and like to see things on a large-scale so I recently re-scaled and stitched together a portion of our work on the South Bank bone bed.  If this image is to be used for publication, it will need a lot of work.  There is really nowhere to stand and it is currently unfeasible to create a scaffold or walkway over this excavation.  Because of this, all the photos were taken “blind”, holding the camera as high as possible with the auto focus turned on.  There is, of course, distortion at the edges and the vignette around each individual image.  This will need to be removed to color/light merge them into a smooth transition.  Although it is much easier than it used to be, it all takes a lot of time.  Hopefully there will be some payoff in the end if for no other reason than it really expresses the complexity of bonebed excavation.

The image is very large and I hope it doesn’t cause too much trouble with people’s browsers.  Click the photo to see a much larger version.

Hawk and Snake

Blackwater Draw is still an active hunting site.

I was fortunate enough to see an amazing wildlife battle yesterday evening.  It was life at its rawest on the Llano Estacado.  I wanted to be an impartial observer but, being human, I stepped in and intervened.  I live in a rural area with a lot of wildlife including many raptors and snakes.  It is not uncommon to see a hawk swoop down and catch a rabbit, rat, mouse, or lizard.  I was heading home to eat so I wasn’t too concerned with watching when a large hawk landed hunched over some prey out in the scrub.  I went past to check our back gate and came back the same way a minute later.  I saw the hawk was hopping around and it looked like it was fighting something.  Due to the brush and growing darkness I couldn’t tell what it was fighting with but wanted to have a closer look.  There was a split second of frenzied activity and suddenly the hawk was flipped onto its back on the ground.  Luckily, I had a camera so I was able to snap off this shot.

I would have had a hard time believing it had I not seen it.  A relatively small coachwhip snake was all over the hawk and choking the life out of it.  It was getting dark and my initial thought was that it had been bit by a prairie rattler.  The hawk’s beak was open, eyes bulging and obviously gasping for air.  Closer inspection showed the snake to be a gopher snake, and net even a very big one.  A friend pointed out that it is likely the hawk grasped it near the head to keep from being bit but the long lithe coachwhip was able to fling itself around the neck and body.

My presence was obviously upsetting everybody and there was more thrashing.  The snake was able to hide under the feathers pretty effectively.  I wanted to just grab the snake and unwind it but images of being bitten or clawed by a frightened hawk kept me at a little distance.  Not sure what to do next I was able to call someone down to give me hand; at least to take a few more pictures as I expected to be slashed or bit by the hawk.

I grabbed a yucca stalk to help hold the hawk down while I grabbed for the snake and tried to avoid talons.  I doubt it would have done much but it was all I had.

Here I am awkwardly pulling snake out with one hand and holding the hawk away with the stick.

She got up, staggered around, shook herself out and flew up into a nearby tree.

This irritated snake actually pursued me, snapping at me until I left.

Anyway, it was a wordy story.  I have spent a lot of time outdoors and seen many interesting animal behaviors but nothing like this before.

(copied from author’s personal blog)