June 7, 2013

A Brown-crested Flycatcher spreads its tail, the feathers a rich chestnut and glowing like colored glass backlit and shot through by early sun. Black, black, black are the Redwings, their calls make me feel cozy from a lifetime of familiarity with them, “O-ka-leeeEEEEeee-oh!” A Gray Hawk flaps in low, as is its mode, and that flycatcher who is apparently on duty guarding his new family goes crazy, screams after the hawk and tells it to beat it, with loud, “Whit-will-do! Whit-will-do!” They both are quickly out of sight with an, “Oh bother!”, and a “And don’t darken my door again!”

New plants arrive on their own in the pastures, sometimes harmless, sometimes ones that are welcome and can contribute something good to us, some are nightmares, some a combination of most of these things, depending on the time of year and the growing conditions. Suddenly I’m seeing scattered in most of the pastures a “new” grass, it’s becoming obvious as the fruiting heads dry and turn pale against the green bermuda. It’s a “Canary Grass”, though I can’t be sure of the species until Tom O. takes a specimen to the University Herbarium in Tucson. Not a bad thing to have, it is supposedly a palatable graze for cattle but might become toxic if the leaf blades mold. Not much chance of that happening here.

Oh … my … Goddess. A cloud!

Now, where’d it go? Got scared I guess. Gray Hawks call plaintively, with a sound of “souls that cry, for water: cool … clear … water.” There is none for them in the San Pedro, only in The Stockpond, and only if I keep it filled … […]

It’s 107 degrees, so my wits are becoming somewhat dulled as I pull and cut out the Bull Thistle (naturalized from Eurasia) that are showing magenta as their first blooms of the year open on that most troublesome weed. Saguaro Juniper folk are determined to see that not a single seed is produced this year by that biennial destroyer-of-pastures, thus the weeding has to be kept at for a few years, no slack allowed. I reach down almost to the ground at a little clump of mesquite to yank a stem of purple thistles that are bolting already, and there is a quick and unwelcome movement from off to the right: it’s Phat Phreddie, coiled up right there yet utterly invisible, and this time he intends to nail me. Although he stretches out the full length of what his coiling let him manage in the strike, he comes just short of changing the course of my day, misses my wrist by about four inches. He springs back like a jack-in-the-box to where he’d been lying, and only then rattles. Mighty thoughtful of him. Once I calm down I continue with the weeding a bit further out of his strike-zone, and he lies there contentedly most of the rest of the day. I keep going back to see if he’s slunk off, so the thistles in that area can be cleaned out, but I give up on the weeding there eventually. There’s a lot of talk locally about how rattlesnakes don’t rattle in warning any more, as if we’re watching evolution happen, as the snakes who rattle when they run into humans are more often than not removed from the gene pool. I’ll note that this is a topic of conversation and a theory that is being discussed over the whole of The West, and a quick glance at the Internet on the subject will reveal it’s been talked about for the last century. Professionals and herpetologists say the idea is absurd and an “urban legend”, while the people who put the theory forward most vehemently seem, ironically, to be of the type that otherwise talk about Evolution as if it is an anti-Christian hoax. While the sides debate, maybe we should lay in a supply of baby rattles …[…]

That snake’s coil and strike was too-o-o-o close this time, and Tom O. and I decide to keep a garbage can and snake-grabber handy from then on–if Phreddie presented the opportunity to be grabbed safely, he’d be deported. A hand gets jumpy at this time of year.