Tag Archives: Animal Adaptability

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.

My Friend: The Great Blue Heron

Okay, okay calling the Great Blue Heron a friend just might be an overstatement, but developments of late have made me wonder.

Great Blue Heron in flight

Over the last few years I’ve written several times about a Great Blue Heron that frequents our stock tank and how he waits patiently for me to toss out fish food. I’ve referred to this as my “chumming for heron.” After I retreat a safe distance, the heron flies in on magnificent wings and and crouches waiting for a fish to swim by, or else dives from five to ten feet into the pond to retrieve his meal.

In this almost daily feeding ritual, the heron is used to my presence. I can now get within twenty yards or so of the Heron before  it with its stiff legs struts away or flies away.

For the last several weeks, to my surprise, when I arrive at the large stock tank at our other ranch a mile or two away from the heron’s haunt, the Great Blue Heron flies in to meet me up with me there. He picks a spot to perch on a ledge, the bank of the pond, or on top of a tall tree while I go about throwing out fish food. Again the heron uses my fish feeding as a hunting opportunity.

A strange feeling overcomes me when I see the giant bird circling languidly above. He clearly seems to  monitor my terrestrial progress. Previously I’ve written of the many heron myths, all of which indicate the heron predicts good luck. He is almost like a ancient Greek god who follows my actions with interest or at least with mirth. I find myself wondering what he sees from the great heights achieved in his flight. I suspect he has wonderful eyesight, as he can spot a fish several feet below the surface of the pond. While I am pretty sure about his good eyesight, I have no idea about his hearing. Also I’ve never heard him utter a single sound. He is my silent watcher on land, water, and in the air.

The heron shows adaptation, I suppose. He has learned that fishing is more productive after I summon the small fish to the surface of the ponds. Perhaps its behavior is really no different from the cows who carefully attend my coming and will draw near for my spreading of the tasty range cubes. Also the horses on spotting me will actually gallop behind the pickup when they see me heading for their feed trough.

The relationship with the heron represents symbiosis, that is a mutually beneficial relationship between the Great Blue Heron and his human rancher/fish feeder. I know that I sense wonder from the magnificent bird and feel strangely comforted, knowing he silently watches over me, even if  just for reasons of hunger. The benefit for the heron is obvious and can be seen by its ample girth.

Whereas privacy remains a concern for many, and people feel they are being watched in public; I sense something different. I sense a benevolent and silent watcher, looking after me. Thank you Great Blue Heron, but leave a few fish for me.

Carrying the Black Bag book

My book is in bookstores or online (or contact me and I’ll send it). If a speaker is needed for your event, contact me as I love to share these stories with others either via print or in person. Keep the book in mind for birthday presents or other gift occasions where you wish to present a positive view of dealing with health issues.

 

 

Great Blue Herons Are Adaptable

I’ve written about Great Blue Herons in this blog previously and have been especially impressed with their legends and natural beauty. Pleasingly our ranch has again been graced by several Great Blue Herons that create in me a sense of awe both by their size and striking beauty.

Each morning I’ve spotted  a Great Blue Heron in the top of a tall tree on the other side of our stock tank, watching me. My procedure has been to throw out feed for the duck and  fish. I always throw some feed near the shore to attract fish for the heron that I know will soon arrive. The feed  attracts fish and the Great Blue Heron arrives as soon as my back is turned. I’ve written of this previously in a blog post “Chumming for Heron”.

A Great Blue Heron. Not my heron but representative

The heron’s technique in the past has been to make himself small by curling itself up, hiding in the weeds, and at the right instance, launching itself at an unsuspecting  fish. Lately the fish seem to have caught onto the heron’s fishing ways and avoid swimming close to the bank of the pond. Nevertheless, many fish surface for the food just out of the heron’s reach.

Successful fishing. This is not really my heron but a look alike. Mine is too camera shy to allow me to snap a good image of it.

I’ve witnessed the heron missing meals of late due to this adaptability by the fish. To my surprise and in response to the change in fish behavior, I’ve also noticed a change in the heron’s fishing tactics. The heron  has begun landing on the surface of the water and swimming around like a duck. Upon spotting a fish in the shallow water, the heron suddenly turns tail to heaven. Soon it surfaces with a fish in its beak.

Also I’ve witnessed a second change of tactics. The heron flies across the tank at low altitude obviously searching for fish and then suddenly plunges into the water head first. The heron submerges itself, but sure enough on regaining the surface it has a fish in its beak. It then swims to the bank where it  enjoys its breakfast.

Such adaptability in herons as well as fish, I find interesting and surprising. I assume  in the game of life for herons and fish, adaptability benefits both just as adaptability has great value for us humans.

I trust the heron will enjoy a nice meal for Thanksgiving, as I hope readers of this blog will as well. Happy Thanksgiving!