Category Archives: Animals on the ranch

Beware The Rooster

While living in the country and raising large animals, I have experienced many ways to become injured. For example I’ve sustained a broken arm after being pitched from a horse and received serious whole body bruising after being run over several times by a mad mama cow and firmly planted in a barbed wire fence. Nevertheless, a friend from Lubbock recently visited with what I thought was a novel animal-inflicted injury.

To back up a bit, our friend Judy Wilkins decided to raise chickens in her backyard in Lubbock. Truly fresh eggs taste much better than store bought ones, making her desire to raise backyard chickens understandable. However with the passage of time, one of the baby chicks that she had bought turned out to be a rooster rather than a hen. I’m sure mistakes can easily be made when sexing baby chicks.

Speedy the Rooster all grown up

The rooster had a pleasing crowing sound during the morning, and Judy decided to keep him for its local color and audio value. What else would a nice civilized lady like Judy do after all, certainly not do away with the animal by making him into a chicken dinner. She named the rooster, Speedy and kept him with her egg laying hens. And a handsome but scheming rooster he had become.

Apparently Speedy as he became larger became increasingly aggressive. Various efforts were made to socialize the bird such as petting and scolding it. But all efforts by the nice and patient Judy and her friends met with very limited success. The rooster proved incorrigible but hope sprung eternal. Speedy became aggressive in “protecting” his hens, flapping and squawking when people entered the chicken coup.

Speedy adopting his aggressive stance

One lovely summer morning Judy entered her chicken coop to retrieve several farm fresh eggs to make into a tasty breakfast dish. In as quick as a wink, Speedy came out of nowhere and attacked Judy’s exposed leg. Like a sewing machine, Speedy left a series of vertical, triangular wounds down her calf as precise and as straight as a seam in a fine garment and for a distance of over half a foot. The blitzkrieg attack lasted brief moments but the damage had been done and proved the aptness of the rooster’s name. Soon blood gushed from Judy’s multiple rooster-inspired wounds and flowed down her leg. I suspect about this time, Judy had lost her inkling for an egg breakfast, although I wonder if a rooster dinner might at some point have crossed her mind.

Regrettably, due to my poor photographic skills the picture I made of Judy’s heavily pecked leg has been lost. Perhaps this omission is just as well. Needless to say, the rooster’s grizzly revenge was not a pretty sight. Judy’s patience proved exhausted following the rooster attack and Speedy was, ahem, re-homed.

I mention this surprising incident and injury in case you might be considering raising chickens to enjoy the delights of farm fresh eggs. While the eggs are tasty and tempting- Beware the rooster!

Winter At The Ranch

Winter at Medicine Spirit Ranch moves at a slower pace than  the rest of the year. The fields no longer require fertilizing, cutting grass, baling, and hauling hay. Likewise major repairs of the barns, major fencing changes, and replacing gates or cattle guards await better weather.

A few jobs increase during the winter. The feeding of the stock requires range cubes be fed daily to the cattle rather than  only a couple of days a week when the grass is green. We also provide large bales of hay typically three times a week via a tractor that requires a little time.

Two Black Baldy cows with their calves

Otherwise cedar chopping increases during the winter as the green cedar is easier to spot among the brown grass, and fences always need a bit of mending.

Otherwise winter tasks are largely determined by what most needs to be addressed. Some items simply are stumbled upon during morning rounds. For example today I stumbled across the carcass of a dead Black Baldy cow located at an infrequently traveled portion of my ranch. I had missed her late last year but never found evidence of her. I have no idea how or why she died but am especially perplexed because of losing two other cows last year. Only once before have I lost a cow and that was when her hind legs became paralyzed while attempting to give birth to a particularly large calf. She unfortunately failed to respond to the passage of time and treatment. Three cows dying in a year made for a very bad year indeed.

Last year also saw dreaded ice storm Uri from which we are still recovering. It was amazing the number of downed limbs and trees that resulted and that continue to litter parts of my ranch. I had hoped we would have the freakish mess cleaned up within a year, but my hope will go unrealized. There simply remains too much damage for us to clean up anytime soon.

Ice storm Uri left downed trees and limbs across our ranch

I remain hopeful that 2022 will prove better than last year. Surely the problems encountered in 2021 won’t recur. Reasons for hope are abundant. I have some outstanding calves ready to go to market and prices are good. We also are making good progress clearing the new land purchased last May. Hopefully, we will replace the previous bad fence along the county road, will have re-seeded the land, and have sufficient rain to grow a nice stand of grass. I also remain hopeful that we may finally see Covid-19 in the rear view mirror. Here’s hoping for a better future!

In addition the Great Blue Heron greets me almost daily. As previously noted in several blog pieces, the Great Blue Heron promises good fortune, and its presence adds to my optimism about the coming year.

A Great Blue Heron. Not my heron but representative

I wish you a wonderful 2022

Making Smoke

These past weeks we’re been making smoke- a lot of it. In May we obtained a piece of raw land adjacent to our Hidden Falls Ranch. I claimed at the time when we closed on the property that it was the WORST piece of property in the county. My less than flattering description resulted from the intensely thick cedar that covered it which had choked out the grass necessary for raising cattle. Being an eternal optimist, I secretly believed that with lots of TLC and bulldozer clearing, the property had the potential to return to  the pristine grazing land that once it had been.

Thick foliage covers the land, consisting largely of cedar

We have now spent three months clearing the land. Two part-time bulldozer operators have been working. The land is opening up dramatically and I may yet realize my fondest hopes. To my knowledge, the land has never been cleared. For centuries this land had few trees and consisted of rolling prairies with native grasses. The land changed over the decades due to over grazing and an influx of non-native trees. During the cattle drives from south Texas in the 1800s the mesquite and cedar (actually two varieties of Juniper) spread into our area and in some instances even choked out the native Live Oaks, Cottonwood, and Pecan trees. What is now our new piece of land became forested with thick cedar groves.  By doing so, the cedar sucked up vast amounts of precious water and the thick canopy prevented grass from growing. For at least the last 50-75 years, the land was used solely for hunting purposes that did not require clearing of the land.

My wish is to return the land to the prime grazing land that it once was. With luck and good weather we may finish clearing the land by the end of the year, and then spread native grass seed, and have the land in shape for grazing within the next several years.

Along with the bulldozing has come a new animal on the ranch. Meet Dozier Dog. One of the bulldozer operators comes to work with his Australian shepherd. To my amazement, the dog rides in the bulldozer with Coy, moving side to side in the bulldozer to observe its progress. The dog’s name is actually Remy, but to me he is “Dozer dog.” Despite the racket of the bulldozing, loud crackint of the trees being felled, and the ever present dust, Dozer dog rides happily along intently checking on the progress being made. Apparently the only dislike he has is going up very steep slopes and having branches fall over and into the cab of the bulldozer. Can’t say that I blame Dozer dog for disliking falling branches or steep climbs. At these times Remy seems content to wait in the bed of the pickup.

One outcome from dozing so many cedar trees has been huge piles of upended trees. Over the last several weeks and for months in the future, we will be burning the piles of trees and limbs. Hence, we are making lots of smoke. Vast plumes of gray smoke coil into the sky along with a scattering of ash over a wide area The acreage is opening up and revealing lovely nascent grazing land and striking vistas. We light the fires in the morning and burn huge piles of cedar all day. We take precautions to limit the spread of the fire by weed whipping around the burn pile, and stand  by with rakes, shovels, and large water containers to deal with any unwanted spread. So far, so good. The bulldozer pushes trees and limbs that are standing in piles nearby. All has gone well thus far.

I’ve been asked by friends who have moved from cities to the countryside whether a permit is required in order to burn. The answer is no so long as the county doesn’t have a burn ban in place. It is assumed that caution will be used that to me means low wind and wet conditions.

Bella: Hey, I don’t like another dog on the ranch. I want all the attention

In case you haven’t read it, consider picking up a copy of my book, Carrying The Black Bag: A Neurologist’s Bedside Tales. It is a heartwarming read about some terrific people with neurological disorders who teach lessons about love, humor, and especially courage. It is available via Amazon or your favorite bookstore and can be ordered as a traditional book or as an e-book.

An Unusual Visitor On The Ranch

While searching for a lost cow the other day, I came across a sight that caused me to make a classic double take. Before me stood a large Axis deer with a truly impressive set of horns. I had never previously seen an Axis buck or any other Axis deer on my ranch. These deer also go by the name of Chital which means spotted in Hindi. Indeed the spots on the adult Axis deer make them distinctive as do the impressive horns on the bucks.

Our Unusual Visitor On The Ranch


The buck I spotted didn’t appear to be afraid of me or of the truck I was driving. He walked calmly by in front of me, as if searching. I had heard that Axis deer did not jump fences (not true) and wondered how in the world he found his way into my pasture. This surprising visitor caused me to research the topic which I found interesting enough to share with you, the reader.

Axis deer were introduced into the Hill Country of Texas in the 1930s as an exotic animal for hunters. They also exist in parts of Australia but the largest populations exist in the Asian subcontinent. This variety of deer originates from India but found the Texas Hill Country to their liking. The terrain in the Hill Country is similar to that from whence they came. It did not take long for Axis deer to escape from the hunting ranches in Texas and populate this area. Axis now compete with our native White Tail deer.

Axis males are from 150 to 250 pounds and are about the same size as White Tail deer. Nevertheless, when meeting at a feeder, the Axis deer will run off the White Tail deer. White Tail and Axis do not interbreed given that they represent different species. Axis deer browse and graze and live in herds typically up to about fifteen individuals. They tend to vocalize much like an elk although not quite as loud.

Many Axis deer in the Hill Country were killed by the severe ice storm experienced last winter (see previous  blog piece for description and pictures). Obviously this big boy escaped harm which may explain why he is wandering about alone and perhaps searching for a herd of Axis deer to join. The ice storm may be one of the rare risks in Texas for this species of deer. We have no wolves in the Hill Country and mountain lions are fairly rare. Packs of coyotes may present a risk for Axis deer, as they do for White Tail deer.

The meat from Axis deer is said to be the tastiest of any wild game. Also being an exotic, no season exists for them and they can be hunted anytime. The open season for Axis deer is like that for feral hogs who are far more damaging to property and fences. The general advice has been to shoot Axis deer, as they are slowly out competing our native White Tail population. Actually we are so over populated with deer in the Hill Country that the hunting season for White Tail deer keeps getting extended and hunters are urged to shoot Axis anytime they come upon one.

I must admit that the beauty of this large buck left me momentarily mesmerized. Not being a hunter, I would find it difficult to shoot anything quite so magnificent as our recent visitor.

Summer Satisfaction At The Ranch

The seasons seem to roll by with greater speed these days, but what a year it’s been with Covid-19 restrictions and ice storm Uri. Admittedly, feelings of personal vulnerability  have been great. A humbling year to say the least.

Nevertheless, life has returned this summer to a more normal state. One of the most pleasing days of the year at the ranch is when we have cut, raked, and baled the hay, especially when its a good hay crop. And this year we had the second best hay crop ever with 166 round bales (each weighing about 900 pounds). This is greater than our own needs, although still feeling vulnerable, I’ll keep a larger reserve than I have previously and will sell the remainder.

While the rains have not been tremendous this year, they came at the right time. We experienced a good rain just after fertilizing (whew, such a big investment in dollars that could easily go for naught without rain). We also had timely rains during the growing season and then a dry spell long enough to cut, rake, and bale the hay. The bales will be left in the fields for several weeks, as the bales when wrapped tightly get hot and spontaneous combustion has been described with barn fires resulting. Following a reasonable interlude for the bales to cool, we will fill our barns to the ceilings with newly cut hay. Nothing like the pungent smell of newly harvested hay.

Bales of hay in the pasture

Bella , Jack and yours truly inspecting a bale

 

The birth of a calf is another satisfying event. Over a period of several weeks we had 15 calves born. It is such fun to see the calves scampering around.  They are so curious that they will come up to humans, at least until their mothers emit a deep mooing sound to let them know they are getting out of line. What fun to watch their playful antics and watch how rapidly they gain weight on nourishing mothers’ milk.

Previously I’ve written also several blog pieces about a Great Blue Heron that has frequented our ranch. While we have other herons about the ranch, I had not seen the one with whom I had developed a certain symbiotic bond. Well, yesterday he (I assume it is a he) returned. This heron sits on the same limb of a nearby tree, sees me and flies to a spot about thirty yards from where I stand. As I begin to throw out food to Survivor Duck and the fish in the tank, the Great Blue Heron slinks down the embankment, drawing near to me. There he squats down and folds his neck amid the weeds, awaiting an unsuspecting fish to swim by. On spotting a small fish, he swiftly lunges and extends his long neck, usually coming up above the water’s surface with a fish clamped in his beak. What a treat to have him back at our stock tank. Legends say herons are good luck! Finally after Covid-19 and the devastating ice storm, we could use some good luck.

Age and Wisdom

When recently  feeding out a steer (a Longhorn/Charolais cross), I decided to put his Longhorn grandmother, Bell, with him for company. This was to calm the calf that for the first time was separated from its mother and herd, and in addition to pamper Bell who was the first cow on our ranch and for whom I remain sentimental. She is now north of 25 years of age and in recent years has been becoming progressively skinny and competing poorly for food with the larger herd of Black Baldies.

Over the three months of fattening, like the calf, Bell gained weight and began to look much healthier. She relished the daily feedings of grain. When she would see me approach in the pickup, she would head straight away to the food trough with the steer following closely behind. When the calf was eventually fattened, loaded into the trailer, and taken to be processed, I opened the gate to reunite Bell with the herd.

But it seems Bell had developed an appetite for the finisher feed. Whenever I passed her for the next several days, she tended to track me hopefully with her plaintive brown eyes. I also observed her not feeding well on the still short Spring  grass, nor could she compete successfully when I doled out supplemental protein cubes. In short, she was once again dwindling.

I tried to feed her extra, but proved unsuccessful due to the other stronger cows showing up and running her off. This morning this unfortunate scenario reoccurred. I felt bad that Bell was unable to obtain more than a mouthful of grain before being driven off by the other cows and the bull. After my unsuccessful attempt I went about my ranch chores but continued to ponder if there was another strategy to supplement Bell’s diet. I eventually headed  back up the hill to where the herd resided.

But halfway up the hill, I found Bell standing alone. She seemingly had placed herself in this prominent position where I couldn’t miss seeing her but also located out of sight from the remainder of the herd.  I stopped and gave her a large portion of grain. She ate with gusto and without being molested by the other pushy cows, calves, or bull.

By guile and experience, Bell has found a way to obtain her extra feeding. I must admit being older myself, that I gained satisfaction at seeing the old girl outsmart the rest of the herd. Animals sense when another is slipping and afford them little succor. This old Longhorn had always been the smartest cow in the herd and for many years, despite not being the largest cow, served as the Bell Cow. When she eventually had to give up her rank in the herd, her daughter, also a Longhorn, took over as the Bell Cow. The Longhorns being smarter always led the Black Baldies to where the grass was best and the water plentiful.

Watching Bell this morning reminded me of the old saying that experience and guile can beat out the enthusiasm and vigor of youth. Once again, Bell the aged Longhorn proved this aphorism to be true.

Bell the old Longhorn is on the left and Cinnamon her daughter is on the right

Survivor Duck

Years ago my neighbor and I shared a brood of Rouen baby ducklings. They were delivered by mail, raised in cages, and eventually when ours were grown walked by Trudy down to our nearby stock tank. Actually to Trudy’s surprise the following day she found that they had walked back to our back fence, and she had to again walk them back down to the stock tank.

These Rouen ducklings became big breasted and flightless ducks. While they can manage to fly for very short distances and at a foot or two above the water, they essentially are flightless. What we had not counted on was that these flightless ducks became particularly vulnerable to varmints, such as raccoons and coyotes. Sure enough, one by one, the ducks disappeared without so much as a suspicious pile of feathers being left behind. That is, all of the ducks but one, this being a male Rouen duck.

This is not MY Rouen duck, as he is currently moulting and not very pretty. This picture of a male and a female Rouen duck is taken from the internet


I’ve named thislone lone duck, Survivor duck, for obvious reasons. But what wasn’t at all clear to me was how this duck managed to dodge the predators and live when all the others had been lost early on. He has now been without any of his fellow ducks for some three or more years. How in the world did he manage this feat of survival?

As is my routine very morning, I head to the stock tank and throw out feed for Survivor Duck and for the bass and other stocked fish in the tank. Almost every day Survivor Duck paddles over to me and enjoys his breakfast. His ability to pluck the pellets from the water always reminds of of a sewing machine. His head simply flies up and down so fast that it becomes blurred.

He has become so used to my presence that he is almost tame. He will waddle along the ground a step in front of me and eat the feed that I throw either on the ground or in the water. I doubt he would let me approach him close enough to pick him up, but it would be close.

On the days when Survivor Duck doesn’t appear, I always fear he has become the latest duck to meet with a grisly fate. But within a day or two, I see him churning through the water toward me, as I open the duck box and begin to throw out feed.

My answer to this nagging question of how he has survived came not long ago. As I approached the stock tank, I scanned the pond and did not see Survivor duck. But Suddenly my eyes were drawn upward to a flying duck at around fifty feet. I watched it fly the length of the stock tank. As it approached overhead the duck banked to the right and made a long lazy loop out over the edge of my property and my neighbor’s property only to complete the circle back over the stock tank.

The duck flew toward me, lost altitude, extended its feet like orange skids, and landed in the water not more than twenty feet away. To my amazement it was Survivor Duck. Our so-called flightless duck had become proficient at flying. No doubt this ability explains his remarkable ability to avoid any duck devouring predators. I can now attest that there is at least one Rouen duck in the world that is NOT flightless.

Perhaps this just goes to prove that when faced with special challenges, this duck learned to evolve and adapt. Hmmm, may be there is a lesson here.

 

Winter At Medicine Spirit Ranch

The work changes with the seasons at Medicine Spirit Ranch. In many ways winter is the busiest time of year because we must keep the animals supplied with hay and supplemental protein.

Also we carry out tasks more suited for winter months. For example, the small evergreen juniper saplings, referred to locally as “cedar”, visually contrast better in winter from the tall brown grass. This makes it easier to find the cedar in winter and to apply a set of loppers to the task. The cedar is most unwelcome on ranches, because it demands huge amounts of water and competes with the various grasses needed for our grazing animals.

Also we repair fences during the winter. The fences become stretched from cows leaning over them and deer jumping through them. Also feral hogs have made their unwelcome appearance and will likely create still more fencing problems. Ugh!

We horses need our protein pellets every day. Now don’t be late!

We work on equipment during the winter that typically is in heavy use during the warmer parts of the year. We cut dead trees and clear drainage pipes under ranch roads. The daily cattle feeding is greater during the winter than during the remainder of the year as we keep them supplied with hay in the form of giant (900 pound) bales. We also feed the cattle range cubes on a daily basis to supplement their protein needs.

The horses on the other hand receove their protein containing feed every day year round whereas the cattle don’t during the non-winter months. Given the excitement and jousting for the range cubes by the cattle, we refer to it as “cow candy.”

So why do the horses get supplemental feed every day of the year and we don’t?

This past week we’ve been repairing a well in one of our pastures. This job proved arduous, as we had to dig up a 45-gallon container that was buried in the ground. The container stores water and moves it to a nearby water trough. We found a leek at the connection that fed into the bottom of the tank. Unfortunately after replacing the pump motor, replacing the water container and some  PVC connections,  and then reburying the tank, we sprung yet another leak. It seems the large water container sank deeper into the hole, re-breaking the PVC pipe. A second attempt at this fix hopefully has addressed the problem. We’ll see. So far, so good.

Curious how the cattle stood around the developing pond resulting from the leak and gawked at our inability to fix their water trough. I am pretty sure Number 36, a.k.a. “the Tongue” was chuckling. Cheeky cow! She is my nemesis.

We continue to vaccinate calves for black leg (a bacterial infection) and periodically take a load of yearlings to market. Six calves have been born within the last week or so. They are so cute at this age. See their pics below.

We never seem run out of tasks on the ranch despite the season. Nevertheless, I can hardly wait for Spring to arrive.

Doggie Birthdays

We recently celebrated 14th Birthdays for both our male Border, Buddy and his Sister, Howdy. She resides with her human companion, Suzy Gillette about twenty miles west of Fredericksburg. Fourteen years old in human years equals 98 dog years- now that’s really old and calls for a PARTY!

Buddy on left and Howdy in the middle as puppies. Howdy was a large puppy born breech. I had to help deliver her myself.

An event of such grand significance, in addition to Howdy and Suzy, demanded we invite our good friends Tom and Linda Norris. They’re invested in our family and willing to act a little silly to celebrate whatever, so long as wine is served. Trudy made scarves for the birthday dogs as well as scarves for Bella, our female Border collie, and Little Jack, our Texas Brown dog. Their canine attendee scarves had printed messages that read, “He’s Our Buddy.”

A grown up Buddy

 

A grown up Howdy

As you can see, both Buddy and Howdy have almost identical markings. The big difference is that Buddy is black and white while Howdy is red and white. Their behaviors are almost identical- both being rather shy, loving, and extremely smart.

Trudy put together a menu fit for a canine banquet. It was as follows:

Mighty tasty I might add. Needless to say this menu was for the human attendees.  The meal for humans was served in dog bowls (see below). The doggies had bowls overflowing with doggie treats and favorite canned dog food.

Admittedly, ours were brand new dog bowls, but what a lark to see the humans eating their “paw-sta” from dog bowls. All really got into the spirit of the party and enjoyed their meals.

Needless to say we also enjoyed snacks and appetizers prior to the big meal. This included a snack mix, we referred to as Puppy Chow.

Puppy Chow

The tasty appetizers were largely for the human attendees at the party, but I’ve been know to sneak a few treats for our doggie companions. They were mighty good and enjoyed by all!

A sampling of the tasty appetizers

As you might expect some adult beverages were available to heighten the enthusiasm of the human companions. These came in red, referred to as Buddy’s Bonanza, and white, referred to as Howdy’s Hurrah. The dogs were served generous supplies of cool, fresh well water.

Following the meal, cookies were served to the human companions. As you can see, Trudy outdid herself by creating cookies in the image of dogs.

Trudy created cookies in the image of dogs

 

Needless to say, both humans and dogs enjoyed themselves. We celebrated our faithful dogs, told stories about their skills and foibles, and described how they mirrored our own aging process. Both dogs are slowing up. Both dogs have some health problems. Buddy suffers from a weak rear end. It gives out on him periodically. Nevertheless, he is always anxious to load up in the pickup and cruise the ranch. Admittedly he can no longer leap into the bed of the truck, requiring me to catch him mid-air and lift him in. Both dogs continue to play vital roles in supplying the affection and loyalty to their human companions.

The occasion brought to mind the Ode To A Dog written years ago by George Vest who was a Missouri State Senator. It turned out that a loyal and much loved dog had been shot and killed by a neighboring farmer who suspected the dog was marauding his stock. The State Senator presented in court, representing the bereft dog’s owner. What follows was this lawyer’s poignant closing argument to the jury.

 

A Portion of George Vest’s Closing Argument To The Jury:

Gentlemen of the Jury: A man’s dog stands by him in prosperity and in poverty, in health and in sickness. He will sleep on the cold ground, where wintry winds blow and the snow drives fiercely, if only he may be near his master’s side. He will kiss the hand that has no food to offer, he will lick wounds and sores that come in encounters with the roughness of the world. He guards the sleep of his pauper master as if he were a prince. Where all other other friends desert, he remains. When riches take wings and reputation falls to pieces, he is as constant in his love as the sun in its journey through the heavens.

If fortune drives the master forth an outcast in the world, friendless and homeless, the faithful dog asks no higher privilege than that of accompanying him to guard against danger, to fight against his enemies, and when the last scene of all comes, and death takes the master in its embrace and his body is laid away in the cold ground, no matter if all other friends pursue their way, there by his graveside will the noble dog be found, his head between his paws, his eyes sad but open in alert watchfulness, faithful and true even to death.

 

Needless to say, George Vest won his law suit!

Such strong and loving sentiment for our loyal canines, seems to me, to deserve an occasional celebration. I recall with love and amazement how Buddy as a half grown Border collie broke up a fight between two bulls and then herded our bull back across the neighboring ranch to the break in our fence. I also recall how when I was laid up for six weeks with a bad back, how Buddy laid beside me virtually the entire time. Such loyalty from a dog earns loyalty from this human.

Happy Birthday Buddy and Howdy. For our lives, you have added much.

Buddy with his place in the sun. Rest well my old dog for you deserve it.

 

Avian Apocalypse: Why Should We Care?

An article in the prestigious journal Science recently revealed that the bird population in this country has dropped 29% since 1970. The reasons given for this loss include reduced habitat and increased use of pesticides that diminish the food sources. This loss was pretty much across the board and included such common birds as Robins and Starlings. But why should any of this matter to us?

The other day I was feeding our lone survivor duck at the stock tank near our house. The morning was clear and the temperature had not yet risen to an uncomfortable range. The lone male Rouen duck (looks like a Mallard duck but larger breasted see example below) waddled up to me, awaiting my throwing of his food.

There standing before me within my own shadow stood this survivor bird. He is the last of a group of twelve we raised and put on the tank, the others having become food for local predators (fox and raccoon we think). He is a wily little duck that greets me each morning. I’ve wondered many times what sets this duck up for survival whereas the others made early exits.

I lifted my eyes toward the opposite side of the tank and noticed among the catails a beautiful Snowy Egret. This long legged white heron has been residing with us for the last several weeks. Also nearby on the top limb of the tallest tree sat our resident Great Blue Heron. I’ve written several blog pieces about this marvelous Great Blue heron, its beauty and its mythology.

A Great Blue Heron. Not my heron but representative

I must admit to a moment of profound awe. There in front of me were three beautiful birds. Each has its story and its own beauty. Later on I blithered on about this magical moment to friends; the profound impact it had on me, and the beauty of the birds. Admittedly my friends did not fully understand the magic of my bird sighting. Perhaps you had to be there to appreciate the moment.

Moments of wonderment like this are a major reason why we must reverse the loss of our bird population. The thrumming of their calls first thing in the morning, the beauty of their synchronized flight, and their contributions to thinning out noxious insects are practical and important reasons to protect them. Think how sad it would be if our skies were cleared of birds and our ears failed to hear their melodious calls.

Animals and animal behaviors fascinate me. Even though on the back porch of my years, I’m so glad to still experience awe and wonderment of nature. Yes, Trudy and I will continue to spend countless dollars filling our multiple bird feeders and enjoying their beauty, song, and flight. We hope you will too.