Dozens of those pipits land around me as I set up the lines to guide for Joel when he soon comes to give another try at cultivating for the winter pasture planting, and a dozen Javelina come to drink at The Cienega there. Russet the Harrier floats by me, with such grace that no one can have helped yelping out like I, “Oh! Oh, oh!” Then all the Meadowlarks fly in, join this wildlife samba rolling down the Pasture around me.
It’s an evening of delightful balminess, a Bahamian 80 degrees at sundown. A Red-tail out there looks like it’s stomping grapes, then flies off with a snake dangling long from its talons, flies low over the pasture and vanishes along with the light into the bosque.
Doves, wave upon wave of them, come flapping loudly and wing-whistling loudly … volleys of 30 or 40 birds at a time, in low over the pasture to the North, come vaulting over the mesquite tree tops. Hundreds–countless–they come, they come, they come, landing among others already rimming the entire pond, two or three at every cow pog full of water. So crowded do they become that some hover and teeter barely above the water out in the middle with bills thrust down to sip like hummers, almost falling in. The air is so full of the loudness of all this, and the whipping around of wings, and the silhouettes of ever more arriving doves, I for a moment can imagine why some people could become unsettled or even feel panic with such a level of wild activity, remember Boris Karloff’s presentation of “Pigeons from Hell” that revisted me in nightmares for most of Third Grade. You know you’re in trouble when they stop cooing.
On the edge of #3 Pasture I find a returned Marsh Wren that lets me approach within a couple paces, close enough that I can see the white stripes on its back. I also find the place in the fence on the road (well, one of the places in that fence) where Mycha the Cow took advantage of how the whole line is being buried in the mud and rubble of sheet flood after sheet flood. The top wire is now so low that Mycha just springs over with ease and nonchalant grace, to vacuum up the mesquite beans that those other, mere mortal cows who don’t have the nerve to follow (gracias a Dios!) can only dream about getting to. I haze her up the long road stretch to The Green Gate, she traipses back in, I pull up to The Stockpond and lose Mycha’s grand, teeth-grinding irritation in a water’s edge once again so alive with birds that I don’t know what to look at; I’m still so worked up and shaking over the chase with that cow that I can’t hold the binoculars still for a while anyway. Once I calm down, the birds all set themselves before me beautifully: pairs of Wilson’s Warblers, pairs of Black-headed Grosbeaks, sets of Lazuli Buntings, kingbirds, a bright female Bullock’s Oriole, Bell’s Vireos, an Orange-crowned Warbler, Abert’s Towhees, Blue Grosbeaks, a Nashville Warbler, immature Western Tanager, a Black Phoebe, McGillivray’s Warbler, a Swallow bombs in and bombs out too fast to see what species. A pair of Lucy’s Warblers are the last I’ll see in what seems with them a true farewell-to-Summer (I thought they’d all gone by now, it’s been so long since I’ve seen or heard any.) The flock of Brewer’s Blackbirds passes overhead.
The cows have been set to graze down the bermudagrass in #2(north) Pasture, to make easier its preparation for the planting of winter small cereals, as wheat, oats, barley and rye plants are called when used for grazing. Another Marsh Wren is there, and from the uncultivated other side of the River fence slides along another snake, who crosses bare patches of ground and pops down into a hole in the tufts of bermuda. This Ring-necked Snake is more mellow than yesterday’s Rattler (though it, too, is said to be venomous) and a handsome reptile it is: lead gray, with an orange band around its neck worn like a fine piece of jewelry.
The Monsoon, the Summer, end with a bang literally, as thunderstorm cells sweep in and over the Mason Pastures …
Pat drives us down the Cascabel Road past the pastures, on a run in her big pickup to get a load of hay. The only snakes that have been seen in their usual numbers round about the countryside this year have been the Diamondbacks, though not many of them have been crossing the road. I’ve wondered where the Red Racers are … and as we ride along and Pat and I are chat away, my eyes latch on something I can’t quite get a grip on for a moment: the head of a large bright red snake is staring at me through the windshield. More of the snake appears, and I yell at Pat to pull over! When we come to a stop, the sweet and friendly thing keeps coming out … and out … and out, from under the hood and goes to splaying itself across it, then turns around and tries to duck back into the engine area where it had nestled itself until we disturbed it. I grab it and pull, and can hardly believe its length, which approaches seven feet. How smooth and cool, nice on the fingertips, polished, stunningly pink and red with all the rare beauty of a coral necklace hand-strung by a master craftsman. Once it gets the idea I’m not going to let it slip back under the hood of the truck, I’m able to pull it off enough for it to loop to the ground and pop towards the roadside growth, and it disappears so quickly it seems I’ve done a magic trick. Its action is all rosy quicksilver: nothing can move and vanish like a Red Racer!