Yesterday Bear and I sneaked out. The weather forecast promised the chance of rain and the word “breezy.” Breezy here means winds under 30 mph — perfect on a summerish day. It keeps the bugs at bay and the skin nicely cooled. There was little rain, but the breezy definitely panned out.
We had the Refuge to ourselves except for the legitimate residents who, during the day-time, this time of year, are nesting birds, raptors, ravens, garter snakes, frogs, and (you’re lucky if you see one!) tiger salamanders, along with the invisible small and large mammals.
Hither and yon (always wanted to write “hither and yon”) were the shells of duck eggs. In one spot, there were six broken eggs. That spot, a turn-out with several large boulders to keep people in their place, is a favorite of weasels. Judging from the interest my dogs show in the nether realms of those boulders, I’m sure a few weasels have snug little burrows down there. (Always wanted to write “nether realms”)
The dogs don’t get to explore the edges of the road until October. I have not seen a rattler at the Refuge, but if I were a rattler, I’d live there. There is lots of food, water, and hiding places. Bear and Teddy are used to the change and have stopped yearning to examine the road’s soon-to-be-overgrown grassy horizons.
A red-tail hawk observes the world and hunts from four trees across the Big Empty. In all likelihood — and hopefully — he has mouths to feed at home. He and his spouse nest in some old cottonwoods near an abandoned ranch. Red-tail hawks are my oldest raptor friends, and I love to see them. I get homesick for California (I admit it) and seeing this guy and his lady connects my worlds. He was trying so hard to find food, but the little birds — red-winged blackbirds, Meadowlarks, and the like were persecuting him almost beyond endurance. They’re right to be vigilant. Both they and their eggs are hawk food. The last I saw him, he was perched in a tree near my dogs’ favorite trail, one we take in winter.
On the other end of our walk, two ravens were fighting the same battle. While one hunted, the other drew fire. I don’t know if this pair — which has been here since last fall — nests nearby. I think they must.
It looked like the hawk and the ravens had a deal, “OK, Dude, you take the prey from that grove of trees west, and Harriet and I will take the east, sound good?”
Spring is hard. I watch it from start to finish, and I think it is exhausting for everybody. The birds arrive in March/April and follow their instincts, instincts that, to a human, look like “hope” and “love” in all its slow-greening beauty and libidinous frenzy. Bachelor birds preen, strut and call. Seeds beat their future against the still frozen earth. “C’mon! We only have a few months!” Raptors arrive adding an airborne danger to the ambient canine danger. Voles and mice shudder in their little shoes. Rising waters flood muskrats out of their homes. Everyone’s hungry — in the real world, food is scarce in spring. All the beings do the best they can. Summer’s bugs — which I hate — are somebody’s food. And then? Late summer brings the May Fly (sign, to me, of good things to come) and plenty to eat, seeds, harvest, and the whole show, and DAMN! After all that, we’re tired!!! I believe that nature welcomes winter as gratefully as I do.
I paused to look at the golden sedges I painted after a beautiful snowy walk with Bear this past February. The sedges are beginning to fall over, surrendering to the next sedge generation.
I watched the wild sky, with storm cells desperate to form, fighting high pressure and warmth and wind. Virga tried to reach the ground. Mammatus clouds built and dissipated. And there between earth and sky, the avian hunters, and lower still, my dog and I.
Then I came home and had a cup of tea 🙂
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