The Roadrunner

The fascinating thing about roadrunners is that they are members of the cuckoo family. They are born to run and can outrun a human being. Roadrunners can take on a rattlesnake, eat mammals and insects and are very territorial. These cheeky birds mate for life but live solitary lives until the springtime comes, when the male and female will join forces to build a nest together in order to raise their young. Roadrunners survive in some of the most inhospitable environments and have made Anza- Borrego Desert State Park- home. You can see these birds racing down the side of a road, or if severely threatened, will take to the sky in short bursts of flight.

One day last winter, Michael and I were biking along Borrego Springs Road toward Seely Ranch- a grapefruit, date and orange farm when we spotted a roadrunner sitting in the middle of the road. I biked past it and did a double take because it was staring off into space and didn’t react to the sight of me cruising by. When Michael also biked past him and he once again didn’t react, I knew something was terribly wrong and we circled back over to check on him.

He was breathing rapidly, with his beak slightly open, and looked dazed and confused. I thought to myself that it must have been hit by a pickup truck that had passed us on the road a little while back. We both got off of our bikes and I knelt down to get a closer look. There was no blood or obvious harm, and the only thing I could see that was wrong, were maybe a few feathers misplaced on the upper, right-hand shoulder.

I stood up and ran over to the grove to get a long stick and went back to the Roadrunner and gently nudged the stricken bird. I chose a stick because of all the photos I had seen of roadrunners leaping up in the air and grabbing rattlesnakes with their beaks. I didn’t want the roadrunner to fly up in my face and send me running in alarm! It didn’t leap up in my face but only reacted just enough for me to continue prodding it while I carefully guided it off the road. If we would have left him there, he would have been hit by the next vehicle that drove past.

Once I got him over to the shoulder, it continued to pant with its beak slightly open. I stayed with him, and after awhile, his eyes started to clear and he slowly came to his senses. I continued to speak softly to him just to make sure he didn’t go back out into the street. After 5 minutes or so, the poor thing shook his head in dazed confusion, but then looked me square in the eye before taking off at a lopsided, but much steadier lope, back down the row of orange trees. By the time it disappeared into the trees, he appeared to be almost normal again.

The truck must have just barely clipped him as he was dashing across the street; just enough of a blow to daze him, but not enough to cause any lasting damage. I have seen this happen to me when a roadrunner dashes across the street and I have narrowly missed the bird. Roadrunners are incredibly adapted to the harsh conditions of the desert and smart enough, and tough enough not to get hit by cars very often. I have never seen one dead on the road.

And this reminds me of the rascally roadrunner that has claimed my backyard as his own, and visits almost daily. If he so much as spots Callie looking at him, he will let out a prehistoric screech and start running over to her.

This scares the living daylights out of her and she tries to play it safe by sitting on the inside of the screen door. Even that isn’t a safe zone for her though. He has actually gone so far as to come looking for her inside of the house if the door is left open. Now that is one, tough, bird!

A Sequel to the Sacred Olive Trees

Today dawned golden and bright with a brisk temperature of only in the 50’s. This is the best time of year to be living in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and Borrego Springs. Exotic migratory birds like the oriole, tanager, and flickers, return for the winter. Packs of coyotes have raised their young and if all goes well, the pups will survive and contribute to the chorus of howls and yips by adding their own little squeaky voices to the early morning mix. The bighorn sheep once again move to higher ground with their springtime lambs and every one of us that made it through the harsh summer can take a deep sigh of relief. The desert is where I call myself home now, and I am eternally grateful that the heat is once again behind us.

The summers are brutal here in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. We had a high of 124 degrees F, but because there is a constant source of water that is made available with natural springs flowing most of the year, bighorn sheep, bobcat, mountain lions, badgers, desert foxes, quail, roadrunners, many species of birds, jackrabbits, cottontails and so much more, are able to survive the summer heat.

Fortunately for us, we were able to travel in our 24ft Class C RV during most of the hot summer in order to escape the scorching months of July and August with our cat, Callie and only had to return last week to settle in for the fall and winter season. We will continue to take shorter trips for the fun if it, but the desperation of fleeing the heat of summer is behind us.

Callie has been on an antibiotic for 7 days now for acute bronchitis, which was triggered again when we drove through the horrific fires of Santa Rosa, California. Due to the highway 101 closure, we were forced to dry camp at Salt Point Campground north of Bodega Bay in order to try and get away from the smoke. Fires had broken out all over the map and we were not successful in finding a campground which was smoke-free. She started coughing soon after we spent the night there and it became progressively worse the second half of the 5-week trip. Fortunately, I have a good vet in Morro Bay who was able to call in a compound prescription for us and she is on the road to recovery.

This morning was the first day Callie dashed across the backyard in order to reach a fast enough momentum to climb high up on her beloved olive trees. She loves these trees and climbing them is a passion for her. The higher she climbs, the prouder she becomes! It is always a good sign when she throws herself on the trunk of the tree and then dashes straight up until she can climb no higher. It made me feel good too, to see her once again feeling better.

The Return of the Rascally Roadrunner

Have you ever listened to the call of the roadrunner? It almost sounds like a toy machine gun slowed way down to a tat-tat-tat, and is very different to any other bird call that I have heard. The rascally roadrunner loves my water fountain and comes rushing through the backyard in search of bugs and snakes. He has so much attitude and appears to own the place because if I leave the screen door open, he marches right in and demands we take notice of his presence.

He is difficult to photograph though and becomes alarmed when I aim the phone/camera at him, taking off at a zig zag run as soon as I do. He can fly short distances and has quite a wing span, but prefers running, and is very fast.

When Callie hears the tat-tat-tat, she looks around with concern and only seems to want to figure out where he is for her own safety. I doubt seriously if he is afraid of Callie at all. He makes his rounds, grabs a quick drink of water and then heads back out to the desert zipping right and left and sometimes his legs really do appear to spin just like in the cartoon. What characters they are! 

Callie is napping today in the front bedroom Lara vacated and is unaware that Lara has left. It is cloudy and very humid out and the monsoon season appears to have come. Thunder and lightning  storms are expected for the weekend.

That Rascally Roadrunner

Mr Roadrunner is going solo again and making the rounds of our backyard around noon each day. He loves to race back and forth and zig zags across the yard and always makes it a point to check in to see if Callie is eavesdropping on him. If she is sitting by the door and they make eye contact, he zips right up in front of her just like the cartoon character with such fast movements he is a blur of motion. A second before he collides with the screen door he puts on the brakes and rocks back and forth while staring at her intensely. This always takes Callie by surprise and she rears back a bit before leaning forward again so as not to loose too much face. He has the upper hand and he knows it. There is no doubt in my mind, or Callie’s mind for that matter, that he could poke her eyes out and would do so in a flash if she gave him any lip. I hope she isn’t caught outside some day when he is making his rounds and she is challenged to a dual. I believe that Callie would just turn and  run like hell, but he is so fast that he would overtake her with ease. He looks like a descendent of some dinosaur and he is one bad ass dude. Fortunately for today, he found Callie safely inside and paid her a quick visit, gave her the evil eye and then spun around to continue his journey. It is just another peaceful day in Borrego Springs where coyotes make sneaky midnight visits and rascally roadrunners follow with attitude in the full light of day…

A Chance Visit

My husband and I were sipping tea and coffee outside after our morning  bike ride when who should come to visit, but Mr. Roadrunner, and this time he brought his mate. The male has a beautiful headdress of red, black and white that flashes brilliantly when he stops to stare at me. He is really quite stunning and seems to know it! He runs very fast with a burst of energy for a short distance, and then stops abruptly and bobs his head. The female is more subdued in color but just as beautiful, and takes her cue from him. When he starts to run, she shadows him and I can only imagine what would happen when they come across a snake. It appears that they work as a team when hunting, and they are not afraid of Callie at all. If I had stayed perfectly still, they would have come into the backyard.  I wanted to take photographs though, so it forced them to stay on the wall.  To my surprise, they are eating the black olives from the olive tree and that is why I am seeing them more often. It has become an everyday experience to see at least one of the roadrunners careening through the backyard.  They zip back and forth and act like they own the place, and would  love to see Callie challenge them to a dual. Callie on the other hand thinks “not a chance” and acts brave but stays close to me and just makes funny little facial expressions and clucks to herself. When they flew back over the fence and into the desert, Callie raced up the olive tree to get a better look, and watched them with intensity as they ran along with their funny lope, back into the wilderness. What a wonderful way to start the day.

The Table has Turned

In my last blog, I told the story of Callie and the mockingbird and it reminded me of Callie and the roadrunner. Callie’s abusive behavior toward the poor mockingbird is reversed when the roadrunner comes a courting! I grew up watching Wile. E Coyote and the Roadrunner cartoons and I can assure you that the roadrunner is indeed the smarter animal. I have a roadrunner that careens through the backyard on his way to wherever he goes, and he has such a badass attitude, that even Callie keeps her distance. He truly owns his territory and Callie is lucky to escape with her life whenever he chooses to make a visit. If he spots Callie resting in the shadows of the backyard, he will make a beeline toward her and challenge her to a dual. Callie does not take him up on the offer and instead looks up to me to be her protector. He makes eye contact and then clucks and bobs his head up and down and sways back and forth with his long tail feathers the only thing preventing him from falling over. His beak looks like a samauri sword and you can tell he has no problem with using it as a lethal weapon. He seems dangerous even to me! He runs along the top of the wall itching to pick a fight with anyone or anything that gets in his way. He coolly and methodically takes a drink of water from the fountain and will even blast his way into the house if the door is left ajar. He is fearless…. I can clearly visualize him in a fight with a rattlesnake and I feel very sorry for the snake.  Callie may have been a bully with the mockingbird, but the table has definitely been turned when Mr. Roadrunner pays a visit!