A False Dawn, in wintry silence on The Ridge.
One can forget that the Mallard, that every-duck, is also one of the most beautiful of waterfowl. This morning an incredibly handsome male is palling around with a little Teal on The Stockpond water; I wonder if that one in eclipse plumage of four days ago is this one, now come into its own with a brand new, very natty courting outfit.
Joel gives a go at rototilling a stretch of mesquite-cleared pasture, to see if it’s moist enough to receive the tines deeply enough, but it’s not and more watering will have to be done. I watch the days go on, and the optimum window for winter graze planting slowly being closed. Fifty or more Chihuahuan Ravens materialize from nowhere, descend on that plot, and look it over hoping to find our oats and barley, only they don’t realize we haven’t planted any yet. The Ravens know we do this every year and can read the sign that will be hung out for the easy feast … they will have their pound of seed, and that must be worked into our sowing rate!
Cooper’s Hawks are terrorizing both ponds, thrilled with the constant arrival of more thirsty birds out of the North. Migrant “traps”, all right! I know not to bother trying to find anything around them if those Cooper’s are about.
Vermillion Flycatcher numbers are up again, all immatures, but no Kingbirds to be seen now for a couple of days. Tail-pumping Gray Flycatchers are looking green and not their namesake color, in their fresh Fall plumage.
Checkerspot Butterflies are on that #3 Pasture Burroweed, even though the crowns of the plants are offering mostly fluffy seed heads to the wind, and hardly any nectar to insects. There is much coupling of grasshoppers … scandal!
The pressure on the irrigation pump seems a bit low, and I wonder if the fix we did on the deep underground main in #4 has maintained its seal. The shaft down to the break was left unfilled so that it all could be easily watched for a while, but instead of water down there (and I’m happy about that) what I do find to my alarm is a hole-bottom filled with Box Turtles that had fallen in and couldn’t get back out. They are all very much alive and don’t seem worse for their ordeal, and they scurry smartly off in every direction when they’re got out of there. That shaft will be filled in but pronto!
Lots of Devil’s Claw in that overgrown field that we don’t irrigate, the plants luxuriated in the wonderful, now gone Monsoon. Their fruits are everywhere, dangling and green still (and looking like some exotic vegetable only to be found in the trendiest of farmer’s markets) or brown and dried, and scattered about …
Dusk comes on, a pair of Peregrine Falcons tussle with each other in the air over the roof of the truck while I wait at the pump at The Stockpond for it to use up the last of the lower electric rate minutes of the day. I turn it off, and make the rounds of emptying waterlines, a chore of real winter: it is going to freeze tonight, though I can’t tell how deeply and can’t chance swelling ice breaking the fabric of the hoses. It is almost dark when the last of that work is done, and the Mourning Doves are sailing in from all sides to drink at The Cienega. In the Bottomlands moves a cold like the breathed presence of a malevolant spirit by whom Summer has been overpowered, is helpless–taken–but such brutality will never keep Summer down, not in these Spanish Borderlands.