Friday, July 9, 2010

It's a zoo out there

Some notable animal sightings on my jaunt to Dechambeau Ranch and back.

First, I shooed a wee, gray garter snake off E. Mono Lake Drive, for fear of its life (I've seen several squashed around the neighborhood). I actually said "Shoo," and whisked my hand like a brush, to make it slither, which it did.

Then, on the jeep trail at the end of the Drive, I came across a modest-sized gopher snake. Not sure there are any gophers out here, but what do I know--maybe there are gophers that dig sand and pumice, and feast on succulent sagebrush root.

Some call them bull snakes. Take your pick.

Anyway, I crouched down with this 2.5 foot gopher/bull for a few minutes to observe. Not great for training, but hey, it was an easy day, and I was in no hurry. One should always have time to commune with the wildlife. I usually do.

The serpent let me nudge it a few times--I mean literally push a curve into its smooth, scaled side--but it didn't budge. Seemed a bit stiff. It was only when I stood up and loomed again that it wended into the brush, and disappeared like a barber pole turning out of sight. Gopher snakes have a beautiful checkerboard back that kind of plays tricks on the mind if you watch for a long time. I took a few steps to run on, but then decided, nah, I better go after it in the brush. But it was gone, must have slunk down a hole (dug by a gopher?). It felt slightly radical to be looking around for snakes in the sage in my short shorts.

Snakes love pavement, and shadeless roads in general, and so do runners (not the shadeless part), so I've had more than a few encounters with them. All practice for when I finally run across a rattler. I'm betting on this summer. In any case, this won't be my last post about my running relationship with snakes.

Now, a follow up on pinyon jays: Down where the the jeep trail from Mono City dumps onto Cemetery Road at Wilson Creek, I flushed another flock. This time, they rose in a united squawk--and sheesh, there were so many. I tried to count them as they passed a certain point in the sky, but my eyes (and legs) couldn't keep up, and I lost count in the 30s. Actually, I think I counted the 30s twice, accidentally, before I called the exercise off. They were hard to count because they weaved all over, trading places with each other, unlike another more regimented, tight-flying type.

But there were about 50, I estimated. As I learned the other night, their flocks can get as big as 500 birds, and many individuals spend their whole life in the flock they were born into. They nest in a colony, too. I'll have to read more about their society.

And finally, running through Dechambeau Ranch, suddenly there was a great, gray motion by my left shoulder! An owl that I'd roused from a low crux in cottonwood! It took flight without a sound, but I locked one eye with one of its--we were both a bit scared.

75 min, 10+ mi; Around Dechambeau Ranch from Mono City, evening

No comments:

Post a Comment