Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Tuesday March 30 2010
Tuesday March 30 2010
The flowers had started to emerge.
We had one wicked round of buffalo gnats already.
Mac already cast off his winter coat.
We could have used a few more conditioning rides before our first spring endurance ride on Saturday. (Of course, the rain/wet snow/ice balls/gusty winds/20's wind chill would not stop some intrepid riders, but I am not one of those).
Winter has returned.
Wave after wave of snow, ice balls, rain, sleet, then sun, pass through. The Owyhee mountains disappear, then emerge with another new coating of snow, then disappear again. All of it accompanied by strong winds, providing for a shivery re-winter bite.
The horses can't get out of the wind-driven snow, even under the hay barn roof.
They turn their ice-covered butts to the wind,
heads low to the ground.
They walk funny into the wind, cocking their heads sideways to keep the stinging cold flakes out of their eyes and ears.
The new Texas horse appears to be rather stunned by the weather - he's probably never seen snow.
One wave of winter passes through, and the horses drip and thaw, until the next surge howls through and drops another load of ice on them.
Winter doesn't want to give up.
Of course, I'm not complaining : )
Monday March 29 2010
A storm is coming. Gales ripping down the canyon, cold rain obliterating the Owyhees. Raindrops reach the next county before hitting the ground.
The horses turn tail to the wind and stinging rain.
Stormy and Kazam hunker down beneath the roof of the hay barn (while the new Texas horse paces the fence).
Rain, flash floods, snow, cold in the forecast the next few days. The radar looks a mess.
Looks like winter is giving a last gasp before bowing to spring.
Saturday, March 27, 2010
Saturday March 27 2010
He's seen ATVs zooming around, but he must not have come across motorcycles before, at least not on the trail.
Carol and I were headed back on the flats after a loop on the Bilbo Baggins trail. I thought I heard motorcycles up ahead - which is amazing, since I can't hear well anyway, and I ride with a bandanna over my ears for warmth and to keep out the bugs.
Sure enough, a minute later, about half a dozen motorcycles popped up out of a wash a quarter mile away, heading towards us. We stopped; Carol got off. I stayed on Mac because I thought he might be okay. The bikers saw us and actually stopped (wow!), turned off their motors (wowow! thanks guys!), and gestured to us to come on.
I rode Mac toward them, and Carol led Suz behind me... but as we got closer, Mac's head got higher and his eyes got wider, and he started to get very very light on his feet like a cat - his Ready-For-Flight mode.
Ohmigod! Funny things! Shiny things! With moving things on them! They resembled humans and sounded like humans, but they couldn't be humans!
I dismounted and led Mac. He followed behind me, eyes still wide and nostrils dilating, while we stopped and talked to the bikers. Suz was braver, going right up to a biker to touch his motorcycle.
Mac thought it best to stay further back.
We chatted a while, then led our horses away;
the boys waited till we were ready and they started up their engines.
Oh my! Mac about leaped with all 4 feet in the air behind me, and he was quite alarmed, especially with the nosier motorcycles! (See his expression above.) He was really anxious when some of the things started rolling away! And growling and farting and sputtering! Suz was already calmly following Carol down the trail, but it took Mac a little longer to calm down. Eventually he forgot them and started reaching for grass to eat.
It was a good motorcycle encounter - nothing like a little machine edumication out on the trail. Maybe next time he won't be afraid of them.
Friday, March 26, 2010
Friday March 26 2010
Never mind Kazam looks not in the least, in color, size, shape, personality, and not to mention sex, like her mother Princess; but Smokey still sidled up to Kazam to try to nurse.
She's been weaned for 3 months, and has been hanging out with the (much) older boys since then, but she must have had an instinctive pang for her mama, and momentary loss of her senses.
Kazam set her straight right away.
Thursday March 25 2010
Today I was able to ditch the dogs, and I snuck up Bates Creek from the house.
I knew where I should find a long-eared owl or two (last May, I found several, including a baby), so I slowly and as quietly as possible approached the spot in the creek where the brush is thickest and where I know they hang out.
I looked, and looked, stopped and studied the brush and tree branches every few yards, but didn't see one. You won't see a long eared owl unless you flush one, or unless you are really, really good. They are so camouflaged and look so like the tree or brush they are sitting in, and since they won't move or blink, your eyes simply won't comprehend one.
I walked very slowly upstream along the bank - no owls. I was sure there had to be owls in here. I slowly walked back downstream along the bank, and still saw nothing. Just as I was about to give up, I noticed a pile of whitewash under some brush. Ah ha - an owl had obviously been sitting there for a time. I kept looking at the brush - and realized I'd been staring at the long eared owl the whole time!
Quite unbelievable. (Looks obvious in the photo, but it wasn't!)
He didn't move, didn't blink, just stared at me. I was quite sure there had to be more owls around there, and very possibly one on a nest, but I could not see an obvious nest (there was a possibility, but I was pretty sure nothing was on it) and didn't want to disturb him or them any more.
I continued on upstream, and not 30 yards further I spotted a small nest in the crook of a snag and - also camouflaged so well I would not have made it out if the wind hadn't been blowing its ears - sitting on it, a great horned owl!
The other thing that gave it away was the partner great horned owl that flushed out of the tree next to it. He flew upstream
and immediately came right back with two Ravens chasing it! One Raven landed close and was knocking (vocally) at the owl; the owl was snapping his beak at the Raven, which they do when they are threatened.
I left them all alone to have their row, and continued upstream another quarter mile to two more empty nests. Was one of these a Raven nest? I'd seen a Raven flying in this direction last week with sticks in its feet.
Under one of the nests
I found some fairly fresh whitewash and a broken pellet.
I think the nest was unoccupied at the moment. Maybe Ravens nest a bit later in the spring, or, maybe this Raven pair (or another) are just toying with nest-building but decided to stay childless another year.
Getting tired of the bird posts yet? Hope not, because while I'm done with Bates Creek, I'm not done with the area yet!
Thursday, March 25, 2010
Wednesday March 24 2010
Birdwise, it's been a stunning couple of days!
If you work your way up Bates Creek Road and study the leafless (for now) cottonwood and locust trees on the creek (and you know where to look), you will first see a great horned owl on a nest.
Next, 3/4 mile upstream: remember the golden eagle nest on Bates Creek? I hadn't seen the eagles in two weeks. Nothing near the nest, no eagles on their favorite pointed peak on the rim, no eagles anywhere. I thought they were gone. Monday something made me look at the nest again, and look closer - there was a bird sitting in the nest!
I couldn't quite tell what it was through my binoculars, but blowing up the pictures - looks like a golden eagle!
(Tuesday, I saw two eagles flying, and nothing on the nest. There was a tractor plowing the field right below the nest...)
A half-mile upstream from the eagle nest is another nest; Monday two Ravens were on it. Tuesday two magpies were on it.
Another quarter mile upstream: occupied red-tailed hawk nest.
Another half mile upstream: occupied great horned owl nest.
1 1/2 miles further upstream, occupied red tailed hawk nest.
All of this in a 3 1/2-mile stretch.
Any riparian canyon you come across in this desert country, especially one thick with cottonwoods, you're likely to find something in a nest.
On Rabbit Creek (on the way to Stormy's dental appointment): 2 immature golden eagles were flying above the creek; a red tailed hawk stood on a nest,
and a quarter-mile up from there, in a deep wash
where we once flushed a half-dozen long eared owls, I found one on a nest.
I'm astounded by all the nesting birds on our creek. Last year I noticed only 2 occupied nests (red tails). Did I just not notice the others? Was I too busy, gone, or just oblivious? Shame.
This year I know exactly where they all are. I still have at least 2 possible golden eagle territories to check out. I suspect I will find nesting long-eared owls and Ravens up Bates Creek from the house; and possibly nesting red tailed hawks a half mile up Pickett Creek from the house, and nesting long-eared owls further up in the Narrows. If I really do some sleuthing, I'm sure I can find a screech owl nest or two (they prefer tree cavities in snags), because I hear them at night on the creek.
But I'm waiting till I can ditch the noisy boisterous dogs before I snoop. No chance on sneaking up on birds with 4 dogs thrashing through brush, and I don't want to overly stress the birds at a critical time on their nests.
It's going to be a bountiful, birdiful spring and summer!
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Tuesday March 23 2010
It's been a long time - 5 or 6 years (Stormy has a bad owner) - since Stormy had a dental appointment, so today Carol hauled him, with her mare Suz, to meet Sarah.
Sarah's a full-time equine dentist. She lives in northern Idaho, and once a year she brings her rolling dental clinic to a place down the road from here, where she parks and works on patients.
Stormy was a bit leery as I led him to the dental trailer. Sarah has a living quarters horse trailer, with the hauling part set up with her dental equipment, and stocks for a horse.
The whole setup was mighty suspicious, as was his owner's extra-sweet voice that
was telling him he'd feel so much better later.
He was reluctant to go up the ramp into the stocks, but once he got in, he got the Happy Shot
that made him oblivious.
For a 19-year-old Thoroughbred who hadn't had any teeth work done for half a decade (shame!), he wasn't in terrible shape. Sarah had a first look in his mouth.
His canines had already been filed to a decent level but they were caked with tartar. Sarah got that off with a pair of pliers.
He had no wolf teeth, so he either had them removed long ago, or he never had any.
Next: put on the torture device-looking mouth speculum
that locked his mouth open,
prop his head up in the round hanging gallows
and on assistant Carol's shoulder, and he was ready to go.
His pre-molars and molars - 6 on top and 6 on the bottom, each side, running from the middle to the back of the mouth - had sharp hooks on the first and last teeth,
and a sharp edge on the outside of some of the molars. I got to stick my hand in his mouth (almost up to my elbow) and feel the sharp hooks on the back teeth. He had sores in his cheek from them. Sarah used an electric power float
to file them down
and a hand float to finish them and to level the other molars.
He had a small overbite,
which wasn't a big concern, but the incisors had a curve and diagonal that had a steep table angle
that Sarah wanted to correct. By balancing the angle of the incisors, all the teeth - incisors, canines and smoothed molars, would work together and grind food more efficiently, passing it from front to back of the mouth and on down the throat, and the teeth wouldn't trap pieces of hay. It was either that or I'd be dental flossing him.
She used a burr, a little round spinning ball,
to fine tune the teeth, and a spinning wheel
to grind down the incisors,
to correct the 'table angle' and curve.
Remember when I asked if Stormy was fat with his big belly in November? Most people suggested it was a hay belly. Whatever it was, it's definitely shrunk in the last month, and even through his winter coat I could see an outline of some of his ribs, even though it hasn't been a fierce winter. I'd also noticed him throwing wadded up chewed hay balls out of his mouth now and then. I'd had a feeling he wasn't able to grind his food up right.
I've had dental trauma and am somewhat terrified of dentists. I sit in The Chair and will myself to relax, even as my toes are curling and my fists are clenching; and I constantly flinch and jerk - doesn't matter how gentle the dentist is. Even just a cleaning, I almost can't stand it - the sound, the feeling... and watching Stormy being worked on, I was doing the same thing, tensing up and holding my breath. The sound of a power float on big horse teeth is like a jackhammer in a construction zone; it's awful. You know how your teeth smell when they're being drilled into - get a whiff of the horse teeth when they're being ground. Stormy would twitch and jerk and I'd do the same in empathy. Next time I'm asking for some of his tranquilizer.
Sarah said he could gain 75 pounds (oooooh, isn't he going to be happy!), and she'd like to see him again in a year, to see how his teeth have worn. It will be more of a maintenance visit, since she did a lot of corrective work this year (since his bad owner waited so long to get him to a dentist). He'll be digesting and absorbing his food better because he'll be able to chew it better (and without pain). I just wormed him with Panacur also. He ought to be looking mighty spiffy in a month or two.
Now, I only have to figure out a new way to trick him into going to the dentist again. I've got a year to do it.