Tag Archives: Sandhill Crane

Fur, crane and juniper berries: field log

The Scientist does not study nature because it is useful to do so.  He studies it because it takes pleasure in it; and he takes pleasure in it because it is beautiful.  — Jules Henri Poincare

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[These are primary field notes taken today.  Time entered in UTC or Zulu time, i.e. 1759.  Post-field note commentary bracketed and italicized.]

12/27/2011

Flying Hat Ranch, North Erath County, Texas, Lat 32.43 N, Long -98.36 W, elev. 1,086 ft. Turkey Creek Quadrangle map.

1759.  51 deg. F.  [Cold enough to start into the field with line jacket, but by the time I got to grove, I shed the jacket, putting it on the fence post.]

1805.  Three or more ducks on pond.  No identification.  Woodpile near pond has been reduced by rain and natural deterioration.  Tree limbs and logs have settled in earth.  [Erath County has taken the burn ban off.  I’ll not burn the pile because it houses several critters.  The ducks are three and they make little noise.  They paddle to the far side of the pond as I stride by.]

1817.  Barbed wire between grove and arena pasture broken, 5 T-posts from the gate, towards the west.  Apparent deer tracks on the ground, no sign of struggle, crawling under, deer popped the strand.  Fur on ground.  Photos taken.  [I have seen juvenile deer scoot under the fence; hence, I think they broke it.  I looked carefully for signs of an entanglement in the wire, but found none and also went over to the creek embankment to make sure no deer had fallen.  I’ll repair the fence later this winter.  I wonder if it is deer “fur” or “hair?”  According to Scientific American, mammalogist, Nancy Simmons, there is no difference between fur and hair.]

1828.  Juniper berries on tree to the east of brick pile.  Tree is 20 feet high, 20 feet across  at lower crown.  Five juniper trees in immediate vicinity.  One large juniper 30 feet to east-southeast of the little grove.  This juniper is 30 feet tall, trunk is 2-3 feet in diameter.  [I had never stopped to count the number of junipers in the small grove, nor estimated the height of the tallest tree.  My recent post on junipers has prompted my focus.  I thought about picking the berries and consuming them, reenacting my Zuni experience.]

1843.  Red oak leaf falls.  I think it a floating butterfly.  Then I see the red oak.  No butterfly.  [What tricks our mind plays.  I thought for a moment that a Monarch might have roosted and emerged in the sun.  The leaf floated like a butterfly, not a swaying back-and-forth manner like a leaf.]

1849.  Two burrows near east water gap, one looks inhabited.  [Skunk, armadillo?  Other?]

1853.  Remnants of deer-stand ladder.  [I have dismantled all deer stands in the trees that I can find.  This ladder will be dismantled soon.  I hate it when nails are driven into trees.]

1855.  Bull bellows on Dooley Place.  [The Red Angus bull bellows.  ‘Twould be interesting to take field notes at a certain point for just sound, not images, just sound.]

1858.  Harris hawk ascends into tree at about 10 foot level, watches me approach, then flies low out of tree towards north.  [I have typed the Harris before.  There are two of them that soar and predate in the grove and surrounds.  They’ve been here on Flying Hat for two years.]

1908.  Scare 4-7 turkey vultures from dead mesquite tree at southwest part of grove.  [I hope Ethan Connell has checked the turkey vulture on his Life List in his Peterson’s.]

1917.  Flock of Sandhill Cranes overhead, flying north to south, catching wind currents.  [When I first heard the Sandhills,  I looked too high, gave up and then found them at a lower altitude.]

1930. Turn around at northwest corner of far field and return to house. Star whinnies at me.

1938.  White-crowned sparrows fly low in brush about arena at southeast end.

1942.  Scare up the resident jack rabbit while searching for stone tool in situ.  [I cannot find the stone tool.  I do have it located, however, on the GPS and I can locate it later.  I had placed a yellow surveyor’s flag at its place, but the elements have blown it down — or possibly, Star.]

1946.  At pasture-house gate.  [Log entries conclude.]

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Filed under Cedar, Deer, Ducks, Field Log, Sandhill Crane

Sandhills, Lilly and clumsy me

Left knee with icebag

Given the fact it’s a Saturday and most people want a calm and relaxing — well, maybe some activity — after a hectic week, the last thing a person needs to see is a knee with icebag.   My apologies, readers, but here it is or rather up there is the knee.

I was chasing Sandhill cranes most of the day to photograph them.  It was Wednesday and I divided my time between working on Blackboard (I teach five online classes of history) and going into the field of 53 acres of Flying Hat Ranch (FHR).  As my posts indicate from Wednesday, I was hearing but not seeing the elusive, high-flying bird.  It was a good day and I got work done, issues resolved on Blackboard and shot a number of photos for fieldwork.

I found and marked with an engineer’s flag several lithic tools in the field.  But every time! I heard the Sandhills, the camera was either in the truck or at the house.  Besides, until late afternoon, I didn’t see any.

Brenda comes home from work and I am walking back to the ranch house from the barn and I hear the Sandhills and look above me and what to my wondering eyes should appear but about 300 Sandhills, in at least two V-formations.  Beautiful and they were calling.

So, I broke into a sprint.  On my first or second spring up the lane, something popped or snapped in my leg.  I skipped, not sprinted, to the house and got the camera, but the cranes had their throttles to the wall and I missed the shots with the camera.  But I did see them.

My leg hurt and in the middle of the night, at two o’clock, I woke up in pain and by Thursday morning, I could barely walk.  I went to Fort Worth to the clinic and they sent me to Harris Methodist hospital for x-rays.  The P.A. told me I might be looking at an orthopedic surgeon!  Or rather, he would be looking at me with a scalpel in hand.

As it turned out, Friday I learned (after icebags and pain pills) that nothing was broken or torn, but it was arthritis!  Good news?  Bad news?  How in the dickens can arthritis bring me down to jumping on one leg from bed to bathroom, for crying out loud?  I don’t know, but next Wednesday I have an appointment with my Primary Physician for a yearly checkup and in addition to him invading my body cavity without mercy, he will enlighten me on the knee.

Brenda is taking care of the dogs and Star.  I’m looking at walking canes on the web.  Ever Google “canes”?  Well, live long enough, you will.  There are all sorts of canes.  Canes that fold, canes that have stupid heads on them, curved canes, canes with swords and even canes with risque girls painted along the stem and nose (there’s a whole glossary of cane nomenclature).  I’ve not picked my cane.  I have some nice looking cedar staves down along the barn I may craft upon and develop an Etsy Shop for homemade canes.

Lilly, the good old girl that we had to put down in January, had osteoarthritis too, and in the left knee really bad.  But, you know what?  She got up with a struggle and ate and walked and even pranced in the snow despite her knee.  She’s taught me a lesson about arthritis among many I’ll eventually churn out on Sage to Meadow.  I’m up and I’ll be in class Tuesday.  Star will be fed — I’ll do it slowly.  I’ll continue to contemplate canes.  If my knee continues to be painful, I’ll have to hire a person to do some seasonal work.  I’ll do a jig in the snow.

Frankly, if I had to hurt myself, I’m glad I was chasing Sandhills rather than tripping over the cat.  And, if I had to learn a lesson about dealing with the pain, who better to be my teacher than Lilly?  When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.  She did and doesn’t even know it.

Enough of this!  Now, where’s that pain killer I used to give Lilly?  Oh, yes, it’s in the tack room next to the saddles.

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Filed under Adventure, Lilly, Sandhill Crane

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.

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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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Filed under Field Log, Life in Balance

Sufficient fowl for our day

North Erath County, Texas, Lat 32.43 N, Long -98.36 W, elev. 1,086 ft. Turkey Creek Quad.

Two ducks on stock pond, November 1, 2010.

Your habitat, wherever you may be, probably sustains larger flocks of ducks, but I was glad to see these two ducks on our pond once again this Fall.

I walked across the Arena Pasture, diagonally to the road and directly to the pond, quietly edging up the slope and stopping in an area of broomweed in order to take a photograph of the two ducks.  I had seen them three days ago and yesterday there were a dozen or so of their acquaintances feeding on the pond.  When I finished snapping this photo, I walked on the road and scared up other ducks that were feeding, altogether about twelve.  I will be more careful and not frighten them to flight although they rise just enough to clear the cottonwoods and land on Blue Pond, our neighbor’s stock tank to the east of us.

I took this walk after lunch, down to the Grove and around the edges of Salt Creek that has several caches of water, but is not flowing owing to the lack of rainfall.  The water caches provide a source of water for deer, raccoon, fox and bobcat, among other species.  Birds drink their fill and as they scatter in the trees, I hear their wings slap leaves.  I walked, ambled is more like it, for forty-five minutes, taking photographs of foliage.

Yucca in the Grove as I ambled on November 1, 2010.

I came across a species of yucca that I must identify.  I think it different from the narrow Pale-Leaf variety we have close to the house.  This yucca has broader leaves and its color is a deep turquoise.  The turkey bones that Olivia, my granddaughter, and I discovered this summer have been carried off.  No feathers of the Thanksgiving fowl remain.  What animal would carry off bleached bones and feathers?

I eased into this walk today, relaxed and breathing deeply.  Nothing lay ahead of me except my next step, my scan of the ground and sky.  I would have liked company, but this solitude was restful and aimless, other than to walk to the far field and turn around to retrace my trail.  I could hear the dogs bark back at the house.

Then, I heard them.  Sandhill Crane.  I looked high and all I could see were the stratocirrus clouds.  Their calls are like burbles, water gently falling over smooth stones in a clear stream.  Gentle and calming.  I could not see them.  Their calls faded and I walked back up to the house.  I stood for a moment on the back terrace and as I started back into the house, I heard a flock of Sandhill again.  I looked up and 2,000 plus feet above me, a flock of crane flew.  They could of been higher above ground than that and as I pulled my camera up for my first shot of the season, I could not see them.  But I had seen them and they had such a pale-grey, whitish even, underside that it reminded me of the underside of jet planes I see above.  Their undersides reflected the clouds below them and I took a photograph of where they had been, aiming their graceful necks towards the southeast and warmer climes.

I shall photograph them soon, but today I could not find them low to our earth for they soared above me and my camera.  I heard them.  I saw them, but their image I could not preserve en camera today.  But I photographed two ducks for our Fall season.  What’s the saying, “Sufficient unto this day?”  I think so.

Stratocirrus where the Sandhill Crane had flown, November 1, 2010.

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Filed under Birds, Ducks, Sandhill Crane