Rain fell and our reservoir will last (current analysis) until February 15. Enough water fills the cow tank so ducks feed and socialize.
The longhorn painting hangs above my daughter’s fireplace in Lubbock, Texas.
SEVERAL springs ago some friends and I arose before dawn in Moab, Utah, to witness the sunrise mating dance of the Gunnison sage grouse: a surreal display of nine ornately plumed, chicken-size birds tottering about amid the sagebrush like windup toys, fanning their spiky tails and uttering a magical sound — “pop … pop-pop!” — as they thrust yellow air sacs out of their snow-white chests.
Read the rest of the article and support adding the Gunnison sage grouse, the drumming lover, to the endangered species act.
On the matter of we people expanding into the wild, the veld, we decide whether to deep clean and cultivate assiduously the earth or whether to leave unturned and uncultivated the earth upon which we trod. In between this binary choice–turning or not turning the soil–there is no middle ground. This choice is one of those locked-down moments of either-or, either alive or dead, nothing in between, either turning the soil for cultivation or leave it alone.
Therefore, to keep alive and robust the biota of this good earth–the Gunnison sage grouse, for example, –we must as a people, as temporary tenants of this space, here and now, leave sufficient areas of territory for species to live, to roam, to rest, to raise families. Yes, we need to cultivate land as well, but large tracts of it? At the expense of destroying major habitats? In response to all living things, therefore, let us ratchet down, pin down less tightly, our clearing land and cutting trees and brush, so that we as a people can rise early in the morning and attend the dance of life in those spaces we have tenderly set aside.
(To be continued, The post-industrial order.)
My Spring vacation ends today. Tomorrow back to work, teaching. On the list of chores for ‘vacation,’ several tasks were accomplished, some were not. I changed the flatbed tire, carted the Case DX-55 for repair and managed cleanup in the corrals. The tractor remains in the shop for repair. The barn alleyway remains unpaved with rain coming tomorrow. I shall have to wade through mud after the rain.
The unexpected came up. I shopped for a lower-gas-mileage car, preparing to trade in the white F-250 (I’ll be left with Old Bull, the gray 2002, F-250). Shopping for a new car ate up two days of the seven-day vacation. Is that not the norm? I did not purchase a new vehicle.
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I spotted a male Western Bluebird yesterday perched on a yucca-flower stalk, occasionally turning around on the dead pods, flexing its wings.
This morning I saw two monarch butterflies, one in the grove and one near the house. They fly higher than treetops.
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Spring arrives in a couple of days.
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I have continued to photograph each new flower I see on the ranchito. I’ve not identified all of them, but they have been photographed. Yellow predominates as blossom color. Here are clover with yellow blossoms and a pale-leaf yucca whorl. The pale-leaf I am confident in identifying, but as to clover, have you ever looked up how many clovers there are? There are several genus and species listed on the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center website. This clover abundantly erupts on the ranchito.
Of course you know how it all starts out. Going to do one thing, then end up doing another! The rain ceased today, this morning actually, and I walked to the pond the see if it was overflowing (it was, but that’s another post). As I walked by the brush pile I had stacked for several years, I saw these birds flitting in the old mesquite stems and thorns. I thought: Ah, more white-crowned sparrows. I know you. I see you all the time.
Wrong. I got back to the house, downloaded or uploaded the pics and they aren’t white-crowned, they have rufous coloring on their top. How did I see white in the field? Okay, I was mistaken. Not the first time, nor the last. Fair enough, I go to the Peterson’s. There are several species of sparrows! I knew that, but what rufous is it? Ruffous-crowned, Ruffous-winged? I finally broke down and went to the photo editor that I have, the Hewlett-Packard all-encompassing uber-editor to enlarge the photo and get some closer definition of attributes. I take photographs with the full pixel rating: seven, eight megabytes of pixels so I can enlarge and view detail. Yes, I know. I am running out of space on my desktop after three years of blogging. And, this is what I enlarged:
I go back and forth in my Peterson’s looking at all the sparrows, even the larks for goodness sakes. Tail is rounded, mustache? What’s a mustache on a bird? I go to my Audubon field guide, but it does not even list any rufous sparrows. Oh, it’s an eastern region Audubon. Figure that, will you?
I getting really frustrated not finding any attribute that is a definite signature until I look at the beak. The beak. It’s pink or brownish and the identity is finally achieved. It is a Field sparrow with rusty cap, pink bill — a Spizella pusillad.* It’s note is a tsee, having a ‘querulous’ quality. Thanks to Peterson’s, I am relieved of puzzlement and doubt.
Starting out to check the pond, I end up spending time identifying a bird. You know, the one with a pink beak and querulous quality to its note.
*Notes, corrections and additions:
For possible error in identity, please see the comments from Caralee and Rubia below. The link provided by Caralee shows the Rufous-winged Sparrow in several colored photographs that correspond to my photographs of a ‘Field sparrow.’ A factor analysis is in progress to resolve identity.
Early this morning as I walked down the road to feed Star, I saw these meadow larks (Sturnella neglecta) sunning on the barbed wire fence between the house and arena pasture. I walked quickly back up to the house, grabbed my camera and took a few shots. The larks are skittish and I did not get close, but I edited the ‘Early morning landing’ above as the sunlight pierced the feathers, creating an illumination that I saw only when I enlarged the picture. Fascinating.
The photograph below captures the small flock on the fence. When I came back to the house after feeding Star I looked out the front window and saw that the flock (or another group) had come around to the front of the house and was feasting on insects and seeds on the front lawn. You can click on the ‘Larks on barbed wire’ below and obtain a larger image. I did not get a picture of the flock at the front of the house.
I have noted that birds are singing more here at the ranchito since the weather has warmed and rains have come. I saw my first Western Bluebird (Sialia mexicana) a few days ago perched on a T-post beside the road to the barn. I have a goal to photograph the bluebird this year. I have seen as many as eleven bluebirds bathing in the runoff water from the horse trough.
Notes, corrections and additions:
To disclose my identification of the ‘meadow larks’ above, I have to add that my confidence in typing the above birds as meadow lark is fairly high, but with a bit of doubt about western or eastern. When I got the Peterson’s guide open and starting reading about the meadow lark, there are at least two varieties, western and eastern, and I will have to look closer for the signature attributes. The white edges on the tail (seen in the first photograph) are specific signatures for the western variety, so I go with that identification. Besides, this is west Texas.
I will look again in the morning at the flock, pending their reappearance.
Within the last two months, I have collected a special farrago of items relative to the Southwest and travel south of the border. I had thought about writing a post on each of these items, but probably will not in the near future. I do not want these bits and pieces to go stale. So, in this mixed bag of items you may find something of interest. Click on the hyperlinks for details.
Tundra Native Flies To Texas | NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth. The Snowy Owl comes to Texas — near Dallas. This is so rare of a sighting down here that I may drive over to the area and photograph the owl (Robertson State Park at Lake Ray Hubbard Snowy Owl sighting site location courtesy of Texas Parks and Wildlife).
In Arizona, Rare Sightings Of Ocelots and Jaguars – NYTimes.com. The New York Times relates to Arizona. But, two years ago near Abilene, Texas, three sober people sighted what was thought to be a jaguar. The Texas Parks and Wildlife agency did not confirm the sighting along a brushy ridge line that extended for miles running east and west. Given the craziness of some hunters, I have not given the story publicity and I do not intend to pinpoint the location.
How safe is Mexico for tourists? – World – CBC News. This writer has experience in Mexico and his website seems worthwhile. This is a valuable article for those of you seeking to take your Spring break in Mexico. Combined with the State Department’s guidelines and warnings linked below, avoid some places and enjoy safely other areas.
Mexico. U.S. Department of State Travel Warning to Mexico. The State Department updates these warnings regularly.
BBC – Travel – A German enclave in central Texas : Cultural Activities, Texas. This is about Fredericksburg, one of my favorite towns in Texas. I went to Fredericksburg as a boy, before it became touristy. It still has the old-town feeling. This was written for the British Broadcasting Company.
I walked in the grove this morning. Several peninsulas emerge in the grove, cut by the swift and long-flowing water of Salt Creek. Upon purchasing Flying Hat Ranchito eight-years ago, I found a red metal chair on the peninsula I photographed, a solitary chair for the previous owner to muse, observe or rest. I took the chair off the peninsula.
Wet and cold the air, I saw track of the Great Blue Heron that frequents the creek that meanders among the elm, oak and juniper. I see one or two of them each day flying to the cow tanks about the ranchito. The heron track I identified with my Peterson’s field guide to animal tracks, a new third edition I purchased when Border’s went out of business in Fort Worth.
I was not alone as I walked in the grove. The Great Blue Heron — past and present — walked with me in the grove today.
12:00 p.m. — 1:08 p.m.: After thirty minutes communing with a fussy wren, I finished a brief field observation with a walk up Salt Creek about one-tenth of a mile. I logged tadpoles, frogs, wrens, bluejays, heard the cry of the red-tailed hawk or the Harris hawk, photographed a turkey vulture (not included herein) and saw the owl (unidentified) fly into the grove away from my hike. Back at the ranch house, I identified the wren that had chattered at me — a Bewick’s Wren (Thryomanes bewickii). I saw numerous tracks in the mud.
I counted two monarch butterflies within the cool willows of the water cache — see photograph below for the Salt Creek water cache with sky blue.
The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Birds states that Bewick’s Wren prefers drier conditions to its resemblance, the Carolina Wren. Bewick’s Wren has certainly enjoyed dry conditions throughout the summer.
I liked this photograph of the prickly-pear cactus with the willow and pecan trees in the background. It describes in essence what this part of Texas and my ranchito is all about — wet and dry, green and brown, cactus and pecan, things-that-stick-you and things-you-eat.
Fox I did not see. I did not expect to see any, but one never knows. My friend, Wild Bill of Wild Ramblings Blog, suggested that I get a animal call tool that sounds like a wounded rabbit to attract the fox. I think I shall because I want to see fox again. Cougars and bobcats have been sighted in our area, so I shall be cautious. I don’t want my day spoiled by predators of that size taking me from behind. We have a saying out here, “If it doesn’t sting or bite you, it will stick you!” I’ll take the stinging and sticking anytime over the biting. Now, where are my field catalogs?