Crescent Moon, topaz chalice, hovering above the peaks that crest the Muleshoe country, all else is stars and constellations. Not a sound of bird, but the night is rich with chirps and singing of insects. Martins overhead are gone, flycatchers on the mesas are gone, Chats in the bosque below are gone, there are no calls of Sonoran Desert Toads, nor Spadefoots, nor Red-spotted Toads from the far flats. For crickets, though, it is their time, and they will only get louder as the months of the year wind down–all their predators having gone to Mexico or dug towards Hades. When light finally suffuses the sky towards the East where Dipper rises and sparkles, two Great Horned Owls hoot a duet. Cold air flows right through the house, to be captured by closing doors and windows early as a hedge against the still 90-degrees-hot and sweaty days.
It’s a madhouse of birds newly arrived and soon to depart (though I wonder when) at The Stockpond: Bell’s Vireos, Blue Grosbeaks, the first White-crowned Sparrows, the first Yellow-rumped Warblers–the comforting and at-home burrs and buzzes of those Vireos, though, will be the last that I’ll hear for today they vanish. Several Wilson’s Snipe take off with a much bothered, “Shrekk! Shrekk!”, circle, land again, crouch, freeze, tilt their back end at a 45 degree angle with bill pointed a slant the other direction to touch the mud. The ephemeral dirt tank sounds like a bird aisle in a pet store, with the chattering and whistles of many Lark Sparrows, Pyrrhuloxia, and the Brewer’s Sparrows that today arrive at the Mason Pastures. Gad, one of those Fall warblers, the ones to be identified in part by process of elimination … green above, yellow throat, yellow under tail coverts, grayish crown; I think I can take it for a female Nashville Warbler. A Rock Wren calls out a chittling note from the hillside scree on the other side of Cascabel Road. Cassin’s and Western Kingbirds, still aplenty on the fences and wires and poles, still entertaining with their boldness, their colors, their lusty joy of flight.
Those little frogs of Summer never grew up into Bullfrogs (it appears we are Bullfrog free, who knows how, or for sure?) and they’re still very active–I can never get “the jump” on them and have a good look. Not that frogs are so easy to tell apart, even if they’re in the hand. No chance of that happening, what with how they leap in panic from along The Stockpond edge even at my distant approach, scream an “EEEeeeep!”, splash and are gone. Today, though, while I watch dragonflies and stand completely still, one of the frogs rises submarine-like to the surface at my feet; I don’t dare blink, though it does, one eye looking up at me, then the other. It has a knobby face, with a beautifully bright green jaw, the top of the head green but duller, and it’s spotted on every limb going out onto the toes. Could these be Chiricahua Leopard Frogs, known to be making their last stand along The Border in about the only habitats left that are dependably wet year round, ranch ponds and cattle drinkers? I grow tired being motionless, move ever so slightly, and it submerges and is gone so quickly that it is as if it had never appeared to begin with though little swirls of mud show something had indeed been there.
A dear mamma cow, Brindle, looks a little odd, isn’t walking with the right rhythm, and while I try to divine if she has a problem or it’s my imagination, an immature Cooper’s Hawk hunts past us. Tom and I look over this herd later on, and find Brindle’s entire left side collapsed and enlarged; neither one of us have seen anything like it, and fear she will be carried off by it. Vultures have lately become thin on the air, not many around still to clean up a carcass, but one suddenly comes into view high over the cow and the humans now alarmed by her appearance. Everyone instantly has the same thought, endemic in this far country under the Mae West Peaks: “She’d better do it now before the Vultures leave.”–Kathleen. “Good thing the vultures haven’t left!”–Pat.
The last sun rays on The Stockpond light brightly, stunningly, the stripes on the head of a single Snipe, who probes the mud with its marvelously long bill, all the way up to its eyeballs!