Western Pygmy Rattler!

Our summer was hot and dry after the spring floods, but the birds in our yard managed to carry on and raise a brood or two, as if to defy Ma Nature’s wrath and heat.  The pair of Eastern Bluebirds that appeared in our very urban yard fledged one young after being attacked by what I suspect was English Sparrows.  A few weeks later they nested again and something predated their nest and they gave up.  By the time they tried the second time, it was very hot and they probably would have sautéed in that wooden box.  At the end of August, they were flitting around in our neighbor’s back yard, so they have stayed in the area.

Around our neighborhood, Brian and I have both heard Monk Parakeets once or twice during the summer.  The discovery was so brief we couldn’t see where they went.  Those birds fly as if on a serious mission when they are airborne.  Hummers are visiting our backyard feeder and the sage and morning glory.  We have had many Mississippi Kites all summer and I’ve loved watching them glide across our yard.  Brian saw one with a Starling in its talons.  I suspect they are mostly after the conventions of dragonflies that have been so prominent everywhere I look.

Throughout the summer, we didn’t spend much time at our cabin.  Vegetation grew well and our trees and pasture are still green and lush.  Welcome rain had fallen in our corner of McClain County and provided our granddaughter’s horse, Sadie, with some nice prairie hay.  That is, if Sam and I decide to rake the pasture after it had been brush hogged.  “Real” ranchers have mowers, rakes and bailers – the Muznys have a lawn rake and some empty sweet feed and bird seed sacks!  It works for us and is much appreciated by our always-hungry horse.

While raking the pond dam, I heard a Barred Owl shouting match, an upset Pileated Woodpecker.  Soon the Great-horned Owl joined in and we had a chorus.  On Labor Day the birding had to be curtailed a little when the grandkids, a friend and Sadie the horse came to visit.  This trip no turkey hen jumped out of the weeds and caused Sadie to toss her rider and Sydney made her first actual gallop across the pasture – with no hands on the saddle horn!  I think most of the birds just stayed out of the way.

Driving on Hwy. 59 toward Byars, in the area between Wayne and Rosedale, we saw a flock of well over 100 Cattle Egrets surrounding the grazing Angus cattle in the pasture.  In the past we’ve seen a few, but this was a major gathering.

On September 12th, Sadie and Sydney arrived for another riding session.  I think Sadie likes these visits even more because she gets to graze on fresh grass.  Almost before her hindquarters hit the grass when she exits the trailer, her head goes down and she’s a happy horse.  In between horse rides, Sydney made a few rounds on the 4-wheeler.  As she rode down the drive from the barn, I heard her make a gravel-throwing quick stop and Granny was summoned.

I walked over to see what she’d found and saw a small, very pretty snake that I had never seen before.  Brian was summoned and I went to get my glasses.  We had a ‘lifer” snake!  It was a Western Pygmy Rattler!!  (Nealand can stop reading here!) The coloration in one of our old snake I.D. books does not do justice to the beautiful colors.  In over 35 years on this property, not once have we found a poisonous snake.  After photos and admiring it from a couple of feet away, we encouraged it to go back into the woods before the other two males in my family decided we didn’t need a rattlesnake in our “yard.”

An afternoon rainstorm brought a Phoebe up to the cabin, and a warbler-chip I didn’t get to identify.  The Pileated Woodpecker landed in the dead oak behind the pond dam and our Red-shouldered Hawk spent about 30 minutes earlier in the morning at the dead oak and it screamed and screamed, before gliding out across the pond and over the timber.  I love to hear them.

A brief camping trip to southern Colorado at the end of July with Tim, Amy and the granddaughters allowed me a few high country birds.  We put out birdseed at our campsite north of Chama, NM, and attracted Juncos and Pine Siskins and a Pine Grosbeak.  The little Siskins were so tame, we were careful not to step on them!  The hummer feeder attracted the ubiquitous Broad-tailed Hummingbirds.  The Steller’s Jays (always fun to watch) found our stash of seed and came in for their share.

West of Cimarron, NM, we spotted a large herd of female Elk.  Several years ago we had seen a herd of cows and their bulls, but this was in September.  It was our granddaughters’ first Elk sighting.  Our extremely civilized campground in Cimarron Canyon was visited by a bear, but not our campsite.  It seems the campers next to us failed to put their ice chest with their steaks inside their vehicle.  Some folks just don’t think the rules apply to them.  Put your food inside!!

Our trip was cut short due to truck transmission issues, but we made it to our front door before the weary device totally gave up and died.  I’m still pouting a little because we had planned to spend several days in the cool of the mountains, but at least we didn’t have to walk home!