Saturday, February 28, 2009

Baby Goats

Aunt Tana has some baby goats, and Desert Boy and I went over to take a look the other day. Baby goats are irresistible. The goats greeted Aunt Tana enthusiastically. These are orphans--the mother of three of them died soon after delivering them, and two others were part of a litter of four and the mother had mastitis and could only feed two of them. This is unusual, most years the goats and their moms do just fine.

Tana keeps goats for milking and sells the meat goats. She gets too attached to the goats to ever eat them herself, though. I can see why, they are so cute when they are babies.

The little goats love to play. The long ears are from their dad, a boer goat. Goats have been domesticated since about 6,000 to 7,000 B.C., making them one of the longest-domesticated animals. There are many different breeds. Boer goats are considered to be meat goats and can get quite large.

Boer goats have a variety of color patterns. It was hard to get a  picture of a baby goat standing still--like most babies, they move around a lot! Look at this cute baby goat--now we're going to look at the daddy.

That's right, the goat spoke. Well, at least in my mind. The goat smelled a lot--it wasn't a goat I wanted to pet.
The goat wanted some attention. Somehow the grown up goat wasn't as cute as the baby.

Here's a mama goat with her two babies. Look at her udder--she is so full of milk. 

This is a first-time mama goat. She has two kids, about four days old, and one is happily feeding. The mama goat has very small ears because her mom is a LaMancha goat. This breed is known for its very short, almost non-existent ears and excellent butterfat milk.

Here's a mama goat still waiting to deliver her kids. There is just something about goat eyes that makes me just want to say "Ahhhh" and scratch her neck.

Jewel, the horse, loves baby goats. Goats make great companions for horses, keeping them calmer and possibly keeping them healthier.

I just had to end with a picture of some more cute baby goats. It won't be long until they've grown up!

Friday, February 27, 2009

Prairie Falcon

Outside our house are some tall trees that the birds just love. The other morning I saw a small, crow-sized raptor fly up to the top of one of the Lombardy poplars. I ran back in the house to get the camera, because I instantly knew it wasn't a red-tailed hawk by its size and shape. With a closer look, I saw that it was a prairie falcon.

The prairie flacon has yellow feet, a mottled belly, darker back feathers, and interesting stripes on its face. The stripe that goes across its cheek is called the mustache--even for the females. 
Usually I spot prairie falcons low to the ground, not on the tops of trees. That's because prairie falcons fly low to surprise small mammals or other birds, their favorite prey. Prairie falcons are known to be aggressive birds. Their preferred habitat is open country, but apparently once in awhile they don't mind a change of scenery.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

In the Bus

Desert Boy is obsessed with buses. Every time he sees one, he points and starts saying "Bus, bus, bus." Except he doesn't stop at saying bus three times. He says it over and over and over.

He loves to go down to the shop area and play on the old buses. There's something even better, though, and that's getting on a real bus, a working bus.

Fortunately for Desert Boy, Aunt Tana drives the bus. She let him get on the other day and practice driving in her driveway. He found out how all the lights operate. He steered this way and that. And then he grabbed the door handle and pulled it closed. He closed it so far it locked. 

No one panicked. Desert Boy was doing what he liked best. And the back door was open, so Cousin Clay was able to jump inside and come to the rescue. That's what cousins are for.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Animals Eating Dead Elk

A few weeks ago, I did a post about an elk that was killed by a mountain lion. A camera was set up to document what came and fed on the elk. Finally the photos came back, and today we're going to look at what feasts on a huge dead bull elk. Before you look at the photos, take a guess. What do you think eats a dead elk?

A mountain lion showed up. This wasn't much of a surprise, because it was a mountain lion that killed the elk. An elk will provide food for almost a week for a single lion. For some reason the photos came out double-exposed, so that's why there are some extra shadows in there. One of the nice things about the wildlife cameras is they will provide a date and time stamp so you know when the creature walked in front of the camera. I enhanced these photos since they were taken at twilight.

Here's the lion again. You can just imagine the power in those legs, and the stealth of the cat as it took down the much bigger animal. 

I went on this trail the other day, and when I got in the area of the elk, I just kept on a'movin', hoping the lion didn't look at me as easy meat. Most likely the lion has moved far off, but you never know.

There's something about not being the top of the food chain that makes me feel a little more alive. Really.

It was cold, as you can see by all the snow, so the elk meat was frozen. I bet it's not as tasty frozen as when it's warm just after the kill. I'm just guessing here, I have to admit I haven't done any taste tests. Nor am I planning to. (You weren't thinking I would, right?)

You have to look closely at this photo to see what's feasting on the elk now. It's night, and a nocturnal animal is in the body cavity. It's black and white with a bushy tail.

Here's a better shot of the spotted skunk, successful in grabbing a piece of the meat. Spotted skunks are rarely seen in this neck of the woods, so it was exciting to get a picture of it.

Now it's daylight. (I cropped the picture if you wondered what happened to the date and time stamp.) What's the blue thing next to the elk carcass? Does it have feathers?

Sure enough, it's a bird, a Steller's Jay to be exact. Okay, I definitely wasn't expecting a Steller's Jay to be posing on the elk carcass.

The camera took more photos after this set taken in late December, so it will be a matter of time to see if any other animals made use of this "free" source of food. And that's all for today. I need to go make some food. Yum.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Coyote Springs--A Pipe Dream?

Out in an uninhabited valley about an hour north of Las Vegas, an incongruous sign and palm trees rise from the valley floor. This is the site of Coyote Springs, touted as a 42,000-acre master-planned community by developer Harvey Whittemore. The plan is for 159,000 houses to be built here, along with schools, fire departments, and shopping centers. Where would these people work? Las Vegas is oft-mentioned, but it's about an hour away, mostly on a two-lane highway with lots of slow-moving recreational vehicles. No houses have yet been built, with Pardee Homes announcing that the building has been delayed  due to a slowdown in the economy.

The first of 16 golf courses is completed. The Coyote Springs website begins "Coyote Springs is defined by a continuous valley of green." I couldn't quite find what they meant, since this is dry desert with lots of space between the cacti, creosote, and yucca, but perhaps that green is going to be the golf courses--if enough water can be found. There are no streams flowing through the area, no springs, no lakes, no ponds. Water has to be pumped out of the ground and piped here. In a desert area with little precipitation, it certainly raises the question: Is this kind of development sustainable? Or is it destined to become the next ghost town?

There were a few golfers on the fairways on the winter afternoon. For this opportunity, it costs up to $175 plus caddie gratuity. If you want to save some money, come golf in the summer, when playing under the sun in 110 degree temperatures will run you just $105 plus gratuity.

Another entrance further down the road has the big Coyote Springs sign, but the landscaping has yet to be completed. I find it rather interesting that every plant has its own irrigation drip, even the cacti.

There's an onsite nursery at Coyote Springs. The trees look outlandish in this place that gets just a few inches of precipitation a year.

This is the entry to the golf club. There were a few vehicles in the parking lot the day I went by.

In the foreground is some of the desert landscaping. It's nice to see them make some attempt to preserve some semblance of the desert, especially since most of this area planned to be developed is (was) desert tortoise habitat. 

I have to wonder who would want to live out here. People who like the remote desert aren't going to want to live with tens of thousands of other people. People who like living near other people are going to want to have more amenities nearby. And the site used to be owned by a Department of Defense contractor and was considered fairly worthless because it's downwind from Area 51 and Nellis Air Force Range, which has bombing practice. 

Recently the developers petitioned the county commissioners for a change in zoning so they could include a hotel-casino on the property. Again, from the Coyote Springs website: "In the town of Coyote Springs, schools are a primary focus." I've always thought schools and casinos to be an odd juxtaposition. 

Despite some xeriscaping, the developer just had to add palm trees. The nearest native palm tree is found hundreds of miles away.

Even worse than the palm trees are the fake rocks and pond--yes pond! planned at the grand entrance.

To the far left of the Coyote Springs is a man-made waterfall. The water will then pool below the sign. I guess this is to make it obvious that as the advertising proclaims, "an amazing desert oasis is taking shape."

It will be interesting to see if home buyers are as elusive as water in this dry, isolated place.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Road Art

One road near my house has a bunch of road art on it, art on fence posts and wires. The man who started the tradition called it "Post Impression Art." He had a number of wonderful artworks out that over time blew away in the wind or were removed by the BLM. Nevertheless, other people add to the artwork from time to time. Here's a small sampling today. I love the one above, a well-done play on the "Great Basin."

Sometimes the artwork isn't a visual pun, but rather just something eye catching that helps relieve the monotony of the fences.

Here's a recycling post. 

One of the long-time favorites of the area is the horse driving the old Model-T. He's a reliable driver, there every day. Except when someone steals him. That's happened twice--what is with people who think it's fun to steal a horse skeleton and leave the car without a driver?

Friday, February 20, 2009

Great Backyard Bird Count Results

This past weekend was the Great Backyard Bird Count. I did two counts; the first was when I took Desert Boy for a sled ride down the road. We didn't actually see the Canada geese pictured above during the count, but we saw them a little later in the day--hundreds down in the feed yard. 

On our walk we saw a bald eagle, ravens, American robins, northern flickers, and European starlings within a half-hour time span. One of the advantages of birding in the winter is there aren't so many birds around, so it's easier.

Later during the weekend I went up on the mountain and did some cross-country skiing. The snow was relatively deep, so there weren't too many birds around. But I found several red-breasted nuthatches hanging out in a white fir, eating the little seeds. There was also a mountain chickadee, a Townsend's solitaire singing its repetitive whistle, and a raven. Not too much, but they are still hardier than I am, being able to hang out so long in the cold and snow! 

It won't be too long until the migratory birds start coming through. One of the neatest things about birding is that you don't have to go anywhere to see bright and colorful birds come and visit from a whole bunch of different states and even countries. 

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Feeding the Heifers-Part II

Feeding the heifers is an important ranch chore from late January to mid March. Yesterday we saw the cousins getting the hay ready, and today we're going to take the hay out to the circle field, where the heifers are. Desert Boy was very excited to have another opportunity to drive the tractor. He still doesn't steer very well, despite my husband trying to show him. I've told him I think we should wait a few years, but I get outvoted.

We have two different kinds of hay on the trailer, oat hay on the left and alfalfa hay on the right. This mixture gives the heifers a more balanced diet. (At least I think it does--my husband isn't around to check with, but if it sounds reasonable it must be right, right?)

One of my jobs was to take the fence down so the tractor could go through. Because the cousins usually do this job, the fence is closed with a ratchet strap. It's so much easier than the usual loop of barbed wire that you have to wrestle with while trying not to get your clothing torn.
As soon as we get into the field, the heifers come quickly. They like to eat. After all, they're pregnant, and pregnant females everywhere like to eat. My husband is taking the twine off the bales of hay, and although cows are usually a little hesitant around humans, these heifers are totally ignoring him in their quest to chow down.

Number 138 is staring at me, just daring me to get between her and her hay. I wouldn't even think of it. She is, after all, a lot heavier than me. She's also pregnant and who knows what those hormones are doing to augment her strength. Supercow. It's the new hero comic, just wait.

Some of the heifers already have calves. Most of them were sired by semen from a black angus bull that was artificially inseminated. Therefore nearly all the calves are black.

But here's a brown one. Its dad is probably one of the "cleanup" bulls. For the number of calves being born, there are usually two bell curves. One peak is nine months after the artificial insemination, and another is nine months after the cleanup bulls were allowed in the pen with the heifers. The peak around the artificial insemination is usually more pronounced because the AI took place over just a few days, whereas the cleanup bulls did their business over a longer time period. (Did I need to put a disclaimer at the beginning of this paragraph? Sorry if I did and you are now totally disgusted learning about the intimate lives of cows.)

Back to the food. The hay bales are set on chains that rotate as the tractor drives, so the hay slowly falls off the trailer. The heifers don't want to wait for the hay to reach the ground, though, they want to eat now.

I love the expression of the cow in the back corner, the one that says "Hey, don't leave me out! I want some hay too!"

The heifers are chowing down as fast as they can, grabbing clumps of hay and chewing away. The arrival of the hay trailer is definitely a high point in their day.

As the trailer moves, some of the cows stop at the first piles of hay falling off, but many keep following the trailer. There must be something to the old adage the grass is greener on the other side...

Standing on the trailer and watching the cows, I kind of feel like we're in a long parade, with the tractor as a lead. I wonder how long the heifers will follow the trailer.

They keep coming and coming...

The little calves watch their mamas and decide they should come check out the hay too.

But then a couple get distracted and chase each other. Little calves are just the cutest! This is the biggest reason I like to go along to feed the heifers--to see the little calves.
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