Roadrunners in winter, part 3 of a series

Hanging around in between other people’s doings is what I am doing these days.  First my daughter’s wedding, then my move to Fresno, where she has moved with her new husband.  The apartment I have dibs on is not yet ready.  Thus I spend long days still in Mountain View, fitfully packing, chatting with Elf and Opus, and watching Netflix…

So here’s Part 3 of my series from a 1990s blog in New Mexico, about the seasonal habits of roadrunners.  These characters are so much fun to observe, and their interactions with donkeys sometimes almost caused me to choke from laughing so hard…

roadrunner-in-wisteria
Lying in wait in the depths of our big wisteria tree, this roadie was so fixated on a bird feeder hanging on a lower branch that he never moved as I filled it.  The sneaky posture is so snakelike it seems quite natural that Roadrunners frequently catch and devour large rattlesnakes…

Roadies in Winter

As the cool days and icy nights of the high desert winter shrivel plants, send the largest grasshoppers and crickets to arid sandy sepulchres and deliver lizards to hibernation recesses inaccessible to roadrunners, the omnivorous birds scout food over widening areas.  They crouch in tree limbs near bird feeders, scoot along fence lines where windblown detritus is most likely to contain torpid insects and snakes, patrol hay stacks for mice,  poke around manure piles for edible larvae and large insects lurking in warm compost.

The first lemon and peach lights of a midwinter’s dawn sky often reveal large flocks of crows gathered in the donkey paddock.  Like a gaggle of pokey window-shoppers in a mall, these somber suited birds meander through dead weeds, pausing to drink at the stock tank.

The long grey sword of a beak brandished by the roadrunner cleaves the flock in twain as crows drop their dignity to squawk and scatter.  Body gliding, legs pedalling, the dashing bird rides an invisible bicycle, shooting into the heart of the crow flock.  Beak aimed for a sleek, black chest, topknot ruffled high, the roadrunner drives like a missile to the target.  No matter that the moment he scatters the crows one will inevitably swoop back to tap his long downcurved tail, causing him to spring to a fence for safety.  He has to pace dogs, spook donkeys and charge crows.

Why?

Because it is the nature of roadrunners to indulge in activities which baffle the rest of us.

As the desert sun steams crystal ice off crisp brown weeds in the paddock, the agile roadrunner foots a mile between himself and slow-motion crows, scooting along the dirt side of a drainage ditch looking for breakfast.

What a pity his beak won’t grin.

*********

Over in California’s Bay Area right now, here is a resident rodent (sort of sounds like roadrunner, doesn’t that?) doing what it loves — teasing Elf and Opus during a mid-day walk.

black-squirrel-drawing

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