“Cute Little Things”

The cranes are leaving, heading north. Only (according to experts) 3000 remain. I know there is a way to count animals and wildlife biologists know it, but I don’t. I love them, but this year I realize that I’m not crazy about the hype of the festival even though I was part of it. I’ve realized I don’t like hype at all.

I was thinking last night of the first time I visited the Refuge. It was August 2014, my first trip to Monte Vista. I thought it was beautiful, but I had no idea what it was. I took pretty pictures. The second time was in that fall, and I went to see if there were cranes because I’d read that the cranes came through in fall. I drove the loop and didn’t see anything. I felt self-conscious and alien. The next time was the actual crane festival, and I saw how incredible they were. I was also experiencing them in a more ambient way — flying over my house, hanging out where I was then walking my dogs. Now that fragment of the crane’s world is a fragment of mine, or more than a fragment. I continue to see more as I wander out there, and one of the cool things in the past several months has been muskrats.

A couple years ago, during the festival (that didn’t happen) a few cars were blocking the road. I walked by and someone said to another someone, “She saw a beaver out there.” I shook my head thinking, “There are no beavers out there; there are no trees, and for the love of god don’t any of you have dogs in your SUVs…” I steered my sweet Bear through the clutch of tourists, all with their cameras pointed at the pond, hoping for a glimpse of a beaver. It’s not like I knew what it was, either. I didn’t.

The woman had seen a muskrat. Last winter my friend Lois saw one swimming, and I contacted the Refuge to find out what it was. We wanted it to be a river otter but, uh, no river and the ponds are seasonal. “Muskrat, probably,” came back the answer. I immediately went to Google college to learn about them and started watching. Now they are part of the world and I’ve spotted many of their nests along the water. This past fall, when the ponds had dried up but there was still water in some of the ditches, one of them scurried across my path toward the ditch. I thought she must have been looking for a new apartment. She did not care one bit that a woman and two dogs were headed her way.

Now the ponds are full and I know enough to see them as they swim across. I guess my experience with the Refuge might be called “Slow seeing.”

This spring a goose couple have staked their territory on a muskrat nest. From their customary altitude, the top of that nest is a promontory.

It’s been more than a week since I’ve been out there to get the “news.” This cold really kicked my ass and scared me a couple of times. I’m finally feeling like it’s on the way out, but wow. Just don’t get it. It’s not as much fun as it looks. I appreciate all the good wishes in my whining.

Extra points for finding the muskrat nests in the featured photo.

28 thoughts on ““Cute Little Things”

  1. I don’t know that I would call your experience in the Refuge “slow seeing” — so much as maybe “sequential observations.” You are seeing and learning and building on what you saw before! It wouldn’t have occurred to me that it couldn’t be a beaver where there are no trees — duh!!! The nest — just to right of center, below the left side of the bare patch on the mountains? I’m glad to see Martha re-emerging — how are the dogs doing?

  2. Tell the cranes to wait! The ones we see are on the feed line with our sheep, because everything is still buried in snow. Maybe next month. . .

    Glad to hear the car will be running, just in time for April 6th!

    • I want the cranes to wait, too, since I haven’t gotten to spend much time “with” them, but a friend up in the Bighorns has already seen them. It seems they’re as habituated to the “clock” as Bear is.

  3. Wow! You really did have the material for a muskrat post. Good on RDP for bringing it to the light of day. Your post today makes me want to go take a walk today. Perhaps I will. Wish I’d thought of it before the sun was fully out. The sun is not my friend in terms of being out in it, although it gives me many gifts each day. I really enjoyed your tale of the day.

    • They are really cool. I’d love to see river otters and there might be some along the Rio Grande, but I stopped walking there. Maybe it’s time to go back!

  4. We had a creek running the perimeter of the neighborhood growing up – lots of muskrats! Then we moved and had the creek in the backyard!! My father was not amused when the muskrats decided his garden refuse pile was a good source for building materials – they were not tidy about taking what they wanted…
    I’m glad to hear that you are feeling better and that the car will be repaired soon. Bear will be happy to go to the Refuge with you!!

    • I can’t wait to get out with Bear. Walking with her is just so sweet. Teddy’s great in his own way, but there’s something about Bear and me on a walk that I savor. Those muskrats must have loved having help collecting their stuff. They work hard!

  5. But wait, there’s more! That’s so cool, Martha. I bet there is still a lot to learn about the Refuge.
    I would be quite happy to wear a mask permanently if it meant never getting another cold. I hope you get some sleep now that your blocked nose is no longer trying to kill you.

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