Friday, August 21, 2009

What Summer?

From what I have seen and heard from others, we are not the only location experiencing unusual weather this summer. I mentioned previously that we have had more rain than I can remember at any other time since we moved here. Couple that with cooler than normal temperatures and this has been the summer that wasn't! We are finally getting some warmer days this weekend and Ken and I are going to celebrate by hiking up to Deep Lake for a few days.

The weather has had an effect on plant and animal life in the area. A number of species of birds that we normally see as occasional visitors migrating through in spring and fall have decided to stay around for the entire summer. The wildflowers have been spectacular and longer lasting and the few pine trees we harbor have had a bumper crop of cones. We knew the cones were ripening when we were suddenly invaded last week by flocks of pinyon jays and Clark's nutcrackers. I don't know how they knew but suddenly, all in one day, we were overrun with the two species of birds that we had not seen all summer. The pinyons are beautiful birds that many visitors mistake for giant bluebirds. We have quite a few visiting our property every year even though they seem to be pretty scarce in the rest of the area.
I like this photo because it shows one with an actual pine nut in its mouth. It is funny to watch the rock doves as they will follow the pinyons from tree to tree and sit at the base hoping to snatch up the nuts the pinyons drop on the ground.

Another effect of the cooler weather this summer has been the smaller number of snake encounters. We are used to having at least a couple dozen meetings each summer and this year we are probably at about a dozen so far. This good sized rattler was camping out in the chicken coop when I went down to feed yesterday. You can tell by how fat he looks that he had been doing a good job eating mice in the area. When Ken went to relocate him you could clearly see three mouse bumps in his mid-section. That coupled with the patch of warm sunshine made him lethargic and easy to grab. He wasn't too happy about being relocated to an area well away from the chickens and llamas but it beat chopping him up like most people do. The funny thing was that when he was in the coop the chickens were wandering around like nothing was out of the ordinary. They gave the reptile a wide berth but they weren't in a panic and he seemed totally unconcerned by their presence. I think he knew he couldn't eat them and they posed little threat to his existence so he just settled in to digest his breakfast.

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