You might know Louis L’Amour from his epic portrayals of the American West, pioneers, cowboys, women and men who built the new country. He was also quite a good poet. “Forest People” is one of my favorites from the collection Smoke From This Altar, perfect for the muddy springtime when the critters leave their story on this spot of land we call home.
I read their story in the sand,
Another in the snow,
They write it with their tiny feet
As they come and go;
Here one stopped to eat awhile,
There one paused in fear—
This was a sparrow’s landing field
With marks of his running gear;
Their joys and woes and tragedies
Are written clear and bold.
Their swift, minute biographies
The tracks they leave unfold.
We were surprised when our doorbell rang last Monday (we weren’t expecting anybody and our neighborhood is pretty quiet). A man in a hard hat explained that his crew had been sent over by our electric provider to install bird guards on the power pole in our front yard. What a pleasant surprise!
He asked if we’d recently reported a dead raptor which is why they are usually sent out. I shared our awful electrocuted bobcat story. He said he’d never heard of such a thing. Neither had we, neither had we…
I watched as the men very carefully installed insulative boots to the top of the transformer as well as rubber insulation to the bare wires going to and from the transformer. The crew chief provided a play-by-play analysis of the proceedings and he reassured me that our power pole was now bird and critter safe. What a relief!
I appreciate that our electric provider has been utilizing these protective measures on all newly installed poles since 2002. I just wish they would retrofit the existing poles without waiting for an animal to die first. But I know there are tens of thousands of poles under their service area and the cost would be prohibitive. At the very least we are reassured that our power pole will kill no more!
This mystery photo was an admittedly difficult challenge, we did not have a winner this time. Thank you to those who hazarded a guess!
My eye was drawn to a spot near the base of a tree when I saw the leaves on the ground moving up and down. I guessed that it was a smallish burrowing mammal scurrying around under the leaf litter. I was quite surprised to see a bird head pop out a few moments later—it was a Curve-billed Thrasher! They excel at ground foraging; flipping stones, tossing debris, and turning over leaves in their search for yummy bugs.
(Click images for larger versions.)
Your challenge is to identify the
animal critter in this picture. This photo has not been doctored; it is the glorious combination of two things, my lack of ability as a photographer and the subject’s stubborn refusal to be photographed.
Enter your guess in the comment field. Please be as specific as possible. We’ll announce the winner next week.
Updated 02-07-13, changed animal to critter. Mea culpa.
Two nights ago shortly after midnight we were in bed just about to put our books down and turn out the lights. Then we heard a huge boom outside our window and our entire house went dark. Sliding into shoes, grabbing jackets, and flashlights we dashed outside.
Thoughts flew through my head: If this was a horror movie we’ll be chopped into pieces as we run out the door. Don’t be ridiculous! Could it be vandalism? Nah, we live in a nice quiet neighborhood. Perhaps something went terribly wrong with the electrical work we had done last month? I’m gonna be so mad at Richard! No, he’s a good guy, he wouldn’t make a big mistake. Is our house on fire? I hope not! Did a vehicle run into a power pole?
It was easy to see that our neighbors lights were still on. As we rounded the corner of our house we were relieved to not see any flames. A quick check of our digital meter showed it was completely blank. Nothing looked amiss with our connection so we used our flashlights to follow the power line back to the closest power pole in our front yard. Up on the transformer we made out the shape of a head with big ears. Our hearts sank as we realized that an animal had caused our outage. Since it was nighttime and the transformer was a good 25 feet off the ground we presumed it was a Great Horned Owl. The bird must’ve flown into the wires, dying as electricity arced through its body, the resultant power surge tripping the junction.
Since it was a work night for Lance he headed back to bed after helping me unplug everything just in case there was a surge when our power was restored. I sat up reading by candlelight, waiting for the repair man and was pleasantly surprised that our electric provider respond within the hour. When the electrician shone his bright spotlight up on the transformer I was shocked and horrified – it wasn’t an owl up there – it was a bobcat! A gorgeous, healthy bobcat. I was already incredibly sad thinking one of our neighborhood owls had died but I wasn’t prepared for that.
How in the world did a bobcat climb all the way up there? And why? It got worse when the electrician said that it has happened before. They’ve even had mountain lions and once a bear killed in that manner. How horrid, how terrible, how senseless! I think he was trying to reassure me when he said that the bobcat died instantly. I guess that is a slight relief, at least the animal didn’t suffer. I stood there in the cold, dark night crying as the electrician removed the carcass from the transformer and reconnected our power. He left the bobcat at the base of the pole citing company policy and informed me I’d have to report the incident to Arizona Game and Fish in the morning.
I dreaded waking up the next morning – I would have to tell Lance, I would have to call Game and Fish, and I would have to see the bobcat in the daylight. After Lance left for work I made the phone call. Game and Fish had no interest in the bobcat’s body and they gave me permission to bury it. I figured it was the least I could do. So I took a deep breath and drug myself outside to bury that poor animal. I had plenty of time to think as I dug through rocks and clay. This bobcat could’ve been the one that we’ve sighted several times on our property. This could’ve been the one that touched noses with our cat Rookie a couple years ago. With such huge paws and a distinct size advantage the bobcat could’ve easily killed our cat, instead he nonchalantly sauntered over to the nearest tree, lifted his leg and peed.
The worst part was picking it up. I knelt down by the bobcat – it looked like it was sleeping, there were no signs of trauma. It was an amazing animal. Half of me hoped it would wake up, startled by my touch. Sadly I slid my hands under its cold, soft fur and carried it to its grave. Our bobcat will always have a home here under the canopy of a large palo verde. The evening before had been a very dark night indeed.
It was difficult to turn our thoughts to typical fall activities since October in Tucson started off with temperatures in the high 90s. While people in other parts of the country were raking leaves and turning up their furnaces we were watching butterflies swarm our flower beds and swimming in our pool. It wasn’t all fun and games—we had a bunch of yard work to do and the hot weather didn’t help with that at all.
The second Friday of the month we had a lovely dinner with Matt (the founder of Automattic, where Lance works) and his sister Charleen. We offered them a choice between two of our favorite local restaurants, Mexican at El Charro or steak at El Corral; they opted for the beef. We enjoyed the dinner and conversation.
That Sunday Lance boarded the first flight of his multi-leg trip to Montevideo for a work meeting. Good thing he had planned to arrive a day early since his flight out of Miami was canceled. After catching a few winks in a hotel he hopped on the early morning flight and finally arrived only about 12 hours late. No one else had any trouble traveling so they were all able to get right down to work. Lucky Lance had similar difficulties on his return—arriving home after an eight hour delay. Lance was understandably tired when he returned but he declared the meeting a success.
I had less glowing news to report since it was during Lance’s absence that Rookie died. Not exactly a cheery homecoming.
Woke up one wet September morning to find our front yard had been mucked up by marauding Javelinas (aka Collared Peccaries). Rocks flipped, cactuses chomped, holes dug, and plants eaten – what a muddy mess!
As we made repairs and salvaged plants we noticed that our visitors had found another way to leave their mark. With their muddy snouts they painted dots and swooshes on our metal coyote. Pretty creative, eh?
I dunno about you but I kinda like it! And lucky us, we’ll get to enjoy it until the next big rain…
(Photo was taken two weeks after actual event, hence the dry ground.)
As lovely as our time in Oregon had been it was wonderful to return home at the beginning of July. There’s something about the Sonoran Desert that just gets under your skin (sometimes literally, unfortunately).
After an unusually dry start to the year we hoped the monsoons would bring much needed moisture. It was such a relief when we learned that the storms started early with two big soakers moving through Southern Arizona in late June.
It only took a few big storms to bring our rainfall totals back up to normal for the year. One of the problems with receiving such heavy rain in a short amount of time is that much of it runs off instead of soaking in. On our property we’ve dug ditches, created berms, and formed wells in an effort to keep the water on our land. After all, every drop counts!
In between yard work and our flood-canceled dinner plans we still managed to get together with family and friends. It was wonderful to catch up with everyone. After being away for a month it was nice to be home.
Photos: View our photographs from July Rains.