Tag Archives: Petersen guide to birds

My dog chewed my Peterson’s Field Guide!

Remnants Roger Tory Peterson's Field Guide

Yeller, my Australian Shepherd-Labrador mix, chewed and swallowed several color plates of my Roger Tory Peterson, A Field Guide to Western Birds, ninth printing of the 1969 edition.

Here is Yeller with snow several winters ago.  He’s a good dog!  Yeller has a habit pattern of wanting to play at about 6:30 p.m. in the evening.  Sedate most of the day, when that time rolls around he will seek me out in the office and pester me until I play with him.  He is most fond of me wrestling with him on his huge pad, a 3×4 foot mattress-like dog pad, until I give up.  Yeller will lead me to his pad, pick up a toy and challenge me to play, “Take Away!”

I am not always a good play companion for I get too busy with very important things like writing a blog and will command, “Lay down.”

Yeller retrieves 25 lb. sacks of dehydrated goat milk and children’s toys from about the countryside when I used to let him run uncontrolled.  I’ve found rubber Daffy Ducks and Pluto the dogs in my front yard, carefully placed by Yeller after rambling through neighboring pastures and juniper groves.  I keep him indoors now and will let him out on a “field leash,” a twenty-five foot yacht rope leash I used to train bird dogs.  In most cases, the toys he brought back to the ranchito were abandoned by insensitive little primates in the veld.  He is a rescue dog, sort of St. Bernard-like.

This fine, courageous dog chewed my Peterson’s one night last week.  When I arose at 5:00 a.m., I found my field book that I have carried in field packs, backpacks and floorboards of many pickups scattered into hundreds of pieces on the floor of my office.  Many of the color plates had been consumed.  He was especially hungry for the quail and duck color plates.

Punishment?  No way.  The act of destruction occurred in the middle of the night and if I had chastised Yeller he would not have connected the “event” with my scolding voice that I hardly ever use because he is such a fine dog, good dog.  Besides with all the scents attached to that field book, carried in my sweaty hands, dropped in a bog, stuffed in field bags with Trail Mix and held in my possession since 1972, I could hardly blame him.  My fondest remembrance of referring to the Peterson was when I was up in the Sangre de Cristos, near Truchas, New Mexico, and I identified my first Black-billed Magpie (Pica pica) that flew about the trail I ascended into the Pecos Wilderness.

That’s okay, Yeller, I understand you.  I can always get another Peterson’s from Amazon.com, but there never be another dog like you.  Now, go fetch your toy!  It’s playtime!

Yeller is looking for Peterson.

 

 

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Long shadows soaring

Long shadows in the grove

This afternoon I decide to walk into field, grove and far pasture of native grass.  The walk.  What propels me, anyone, to walk into the raw material of nature?  Flying up in my face are three urges: what is changing out there?  Who is out there?  And, what is the surprise, the non-contingent event, large or small, that will stop me, stop us, and reveal the universal in the particular?

Before I walk into the field, from the house on top of Poprock Hill, with the aid of binoculars, I count approximately ten ducks, mallards mostly, feeding at the south end of the stock pond, the same pond that Star, my paint gelding, and his mother, Lilly, drink and cool their feet in mud.  The pond is low this December, the water line two feet below the cockle-burr plants I must root out next Spring.

I walk through the alleyway of the barn and through the two corrals, striding slowly next to the fence line of the Dooleys, our neighbors to the west.  Their stock pond is also low.  Yesterday morning, I heard a lone coyote call and yip near the pond.  (After dark tonight I heard the same coyote near the Dooley pond.)  I walk past the pond, counting vultures and crows in the air.  I see the gray, cocked-tufted, long-tailed bird that builds nests on barn light reflectors, pulling horse hair around the nests, dabbing the nest with feathers and mud.   I must pull down my Peterson and type it when I can.  I walk beside the west fence line, away from the mallards on the pond so as to keep them feeding, turning as they do upside down, their rumps fully exposed, their heads plunging and bills nibbling below the surface for tadpoles and moss.

I see that deer have been licking the salt block I put out last summer in the grove.  I do not see deer in the late evening so they must come after dark.  I see deer hoof prints abounding, more than I have seen in months.  The soil is hard packed from the lack of rain, but hardly any dust is stirred up for the wind is slight and cool from the east.  I believe when the deer walk down the pasture road, their small hooves stir up dust.  The horses and deer as well ducks browse and feed in close vicinity.  I have seen Star and Lilly wade up to their ankles in pond water while five feet away mallards dunk each other and dive for food.  The deer browse for grass alongside the horses.

In the tree grove alongside the creek, I notice shadows of trees are long, but it is only two o’clock in the afternoon.  This makes me fully aware, these long shadows, that it is nearly Winter and that the sun sinks lower towards the south until December solstice, a few days away.  In the low underbrush, two wrens feed, each starting at the top of the bush and making their way down towards the ground, spiraling downward, gravity’s pull upon their browsing.  I was aware of the calendar, December it is, but the natural effect of being outdoors and seeing the long, long shadows of elm, ash and oak force my day into the truth of the season changing to Winter.

As I walk with short breaths up the road and into the edge of the far field of native grass, I hear the surprise.  I hear the call of the Sandhill Crane above me — a gentle warble of sorts — and I look intently, but cannot see the flock flying south.  I hear them, once, twice, three times.  I take a photograph of side-oats grama grass, turn around, retrace my path, avoiding the mallards on the stock pond still quacking, and come home.

I come home because I have seen what is out there and what is changing.  And, I have been surprised at life soaring in the wild.

______________________________

Notes:

The date of hearing the coyote at night is December 8, 2010.  This post was composed the next day.

The bird in the barn alleyway is most likely a flycatcher.  I looked it up in the Petersen, but could not find a precise description or photo.

Correction: “Sandhill” Crane, not Sandhills.  Also, “grama” grass, not gramma grass.

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