March 27, 2017

Wildlife Surprises


Since I can remember, one of my favorite things about the farm has always been the wildlife. A dear childhood memory of mine is my mom waking me up with unusual cheer on her face with a surprise to show me.
I followed her into the field, and we crept quietly up on a patch of bare ground, and she pointed at it. In the dirt clods, I saw nothing at first and then my eyes worked through the camouflage and there, as clear as day, were four neatly organized Killdeer eggs. It was an experience I treasure to this day.

The farm is full of treasures like this, and these gifts are the best reward for our conservation efforts. By Cache Creek, I have started to turn a pile of weeds into native plants, which builds habitat for countless new critters.

Last season, I planted a handful of grasses and flowers to see who would do well. With the swollen state of Cache Creek roaring beyond me, I was inspecting their progress after one season. The structure of the Deer Grass was amazing. The vigor of the Creeping Wild Rye unique. A memory of native bugs swarming the yellow flowers of the Gum Plant made me happy to see that she had done well, and already the Yarrow was shooting up new flowers for this season.

On my way back to the farm office, I was driving over the bridge of the canal, and I was caught off guard by a bird standing in the yard to my house – it looked like a Roadrunner – not the kind on Loony Toons, but like real Roadrunner, which I had seen before in the desert. “That’s weird, there is no way – that must be a pheasant,” I thought. I pulled my phone out and fumbled in a panic to get the camera on. I backed up and got a good look confirming the little guy wasn’t a hen pheasant and started snapping pictures as he zipped away.

I wasn’t ready to tell anyone what I had seen out of fear of being laughed out of the room. A week later, I had some local conservation professionals out to the farm to help me with my project – one of them was a wildlife biologist. “So, I think I saw a Roadrunner here – possible?” as I handed him the fuzzy picture on my phone. “Yes, they are here, not many of them, but they are here.” Awesome.