Only mama knows

30 06 2008

Alpha

A picture is worth a thousand words, eh?

Alpha

Left-side belly …

Alpha

Right-side belly …

Only Alpha knows when baby is coming. The rest of us just have to wait!

Jif

Jif with Two Boots and Twister. She’s back with Grey/Traveler’s band. She’s thinner, and she’s limping on her left front, but she seems to be doing all right. She’s keeping up with the band, and that’s always a good thing. It’s hard to tell the extent of her injury; it was hard to even pinpoint her injured leg. I thought it was her left, then it looked like her right … I’m pretty sure it’s her left. But I also saw her take three to four steps that looked completely sound – before she stumbled and almost went to her knees.

Iya nursing Houdini

Lunch break

Bachelor 7 in the basin

Most of the Bachelor 7 (minus Mouse) with the basin in the background – looking southeast. Not all you see is in the herd area, but a lot of it is. From left: Kreacher, Chrome, Aspen and Comanche. You can just see Hook’s mane and Duke’s head behind the other horses.

Duke

Duke. He seems to be doing well, hanging out again with the Bachelor 7, who are all still practically part of the family of Steeldust’s band.

Now to really freak you out …

Baby collared lizard

I think this is a baby collared lizard. Check him out, all puffed and preened! I saw this lizard when another one raced across the road in front of my Jeep and led me to the rock this one’s on. They both disappeared under the rock.

Female collared lizard

Given this one’s muted coloring, I think this is probably a female collared lizard.

Bull snake

Bull snake? Pretty cool, really!

All we can do is wait for Alpha. She’ll foal when she’s darn good and ready to foal!

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Good news

24 06 2008

Take a deep breath on the Jif mystery. David Glynn was out in the basin this weekend, and he and his horse, Buck, came across Jif! Alone but seemingly hale and hearty. From his description, I think she was tucked away farther east than I looked, back in the little hills beyond that water hole off the doubletrack. You can bet I’ll be looking for her this coming weekend! Many thanks to David for providing that welcome information! It’s good to have another set of eyes out there!

What on Earth is she doing out there? Alone?! David said one of his thoughts was that she was off having a foal, but he didn’t find one. That was one of my initial thoughts, too, but she just didn’t look pregnant. It’s possible the horses got separated while grazing, and when the other horses wandered off, she found herself alone. Maybe she’s been hanging out waiting for them to come back. The last time I *know* a band used that water hole was Thursday evening (while she was missing). Sunday, the water was clear, and the horses had moved back closer to Spring Creek. The clear, shallow water makes me think they hadn’t been to the water enough to stir up the mud.

Relief!





One less

23 06 2008

Some sad news to report: Jif, the little dun mare Traveler stole from Hollywood earlier this spring, is missing. I saw all the other horses this weekend, and she’s not with any other band. Duke was back with the Bachelor 7 following Steeldust’s band on Sunday, so my hopes of her being with him were dashed.

Thursday evening, I climbed a tall mesa in the area where the horses had been and walked all along the top of it (not very big on top, but it affords a good view of that area), and I didn’t see her. If she’s down in an arroyo, I wouldn’t see her, even from there. I also hiked Friday and Sunday in an area that’s cut with arroyos and has more trees than the other areas, but I never found her.

I went a long time thinking Slate, the grulla mare that had been with Bounce and Alegre, would show up … but she’s still missing. Even with all my hiking in the herd area, I haven’t found a trace of her. (I last saw her Dec. 29, 2007, from Round Top.) I don’t know what the normal mortality in the herd area is, but I’ve/we’ve lost three horses (all mares) since last fall. Ceal was thin, and I didn’t expect her to last through the winter, but Slate was only 9-10 (she was an introduced mare from Sand Wash Basin), and I think Jif was young, just 3 or so.

Jif with Grey\'s band

This was taken Monday; that’s Jif at far right.

Jif

She wasn’t visibly hurt or limping then.

It’s the reality of life in the wild, but I feel so helpless to just LOSE her without a trace, without knowing what happened.  

And Lady Alpha still has not foaled. Maybe she’s not pregnant at all but just fat, like Luna?! I’m still watching.





Summer solstice – June 20, 2008

21 06 2008

Summer solstice moonset

Friday was summer solstice – shortest night and longest day of the year. It did seem like the shortest night – I got up at 5 a.m. and was hiking by 5:20. Here’s a timeline of my morning hike, trying to illustrate the horses in the light – and shadow – of their home range:

Ty and Copper

5:58 a.m.: Sun not yet risen. I saw a flash of white and a couple of the bachelors (Aspen and Hook) nearby and thought I’d found Alpha and Steeldust’s band. Nope. It was the “southside boys,” who range far and wide throughout Spring Creek Basin. Above is Ty and Copper.

Southside bachelors

6:03 a.m.: From left: Cinch, Copper, Corazon and David. You can just barely see Copper’s markings on his left front and hind pasterns.

Grey\'s family, Round Top

6:23 a.m.: Grey/Traveler and his band – still missing Jif (see next post) – in the shadow of “lizard mesa,” northeast of Knife Ridge – with Round Top in the light in the background.

Seven\'s band

6:25 a.m.: Seven’s band on the edge of night and day …

Iya, Houdini and Grey

6:32 a.m.: Iya, Houdini and Grey/Traveler (and the yearlings following) ran through the light over the saddle on the edge of Knife Ridge to the shade on the other side, following Steeldust’s band.

Moonset over Steeldust\'s band

6:44 a.m.: The just-past-full moon took a long time to set over the far ridge on the west side of Spring Creek Basin. That’s Mahogany and Steeldust’s band.

Grey and Twister

7:06 a.m.: Almost full light. Grey and Twister looking back at Cinch and David and the other bachelors. I was still in the shade of Knife Ridge when I took this photo.

Cinch and David

7:06 a.m.: The objects of Grey’s interest: Cinch and David. The rest of the boys are down the little slope behind the trees.

No bugs until 8-ish. No breeze until 9-ish. Simply gorgeous.





Finally … still waiting … huh?

21 06 2008

Where to start?

Duke

Look who finally decided to make an appearance!

Duke

Duke saw me; I saw Duke. I think we surprised each other. Just to the left (his right) is the little entrance to Wildcat Spring off the main loop road. He shied at something I couldn’t see, and although I didn’t think too much about it at the time, it may prove significant …

Grey\'s band

This photo of Grey/Traveler’s band is similar to one I had on the previous post. Who’s missing? The significant part is that Jif is NOT just off to the side like she was outside the frame of the previous pic. She wasn’t anywhere. This is the “huh?” part of this post’s title.

Almost all the northern bands were clustered right in the same area, just north of the little water hole off the doubletrack (I’m afraid it’s going to be dry in another week or two). The only band missing was Seven’s, and I thought Jif might have been with them (however unlikely). They were farther to the south – no Jif. So then I started wondering if she’s with Duke – what he shied at. I saw him before I saw any of the other horses (except the pinto family, from the county road, on my drive to the basin), and I wasn’t looking for any other horse(s) with him. I really, really, really hope she’s with him because I don’t really like the alternative. It’s like a flashback to Slate’s disappearance.

And the “still waiting” comes to rest, of course, right squarely on Alpha’s (still-) round belly. She looks completely serene and calm (how many babies has she had??) … but no baby yet.

Grey\'s band with bachelors nearby

Grey/Traveler’s band in the background with some of the Bachelor 6 nearby. Left to right, the bachelors are (in order of heads): Hook, Chrome, Aspen, Kreacher. They’re not *quite* as close as they look because of the compression caused by the telephoto lens, but they’re pretty close. It was like being in the Pryors with all the bands so close.

Mouse and Steeldust\'s band

This is just to the right of the previous photo: Mouse and Steeldust’s band. Mouse and Comanche – and sometimes bold Kreacher – are hanging out fairly close to the band. These pix were taken right from the road, and they were all just napping. It was hot (mid-90s) and windy, and the gnats are ferocious.

Bounce, Alegre and Gaia

Bounce, Alegre and Gaia. Look how big she’s getting! I didn’t realize I’d caught Gaia and Bounce in the same stride until I saw the photos on the computer. I don’t know whether Bounce is Gaia’s sire or not. He was gathered with Slate, but Alegre was not gathered.

Hollywood watches over Ember

Hollywood is a fierce protector of his adopted family, even though he’s not the band stallion. But that evening, when the band went to water, he drank right beside Mouse and Comanche – although he *was* between them and the band!

Hollywood and Baylee

Later in the day, here he’s watching over Baylee while she took a little snooze.

Molly, filly, Roja

Finally got a good look at Molly’s foal – I think she’s another filly. She’s sorrel like Roja, and not a white marking on her – like Roja. If I’m right about the resemblance between Molly and Roja, Roja is baby’s big sister.

Seven

Seven, later in the day, as they were headed to water.

Pinon and Ember

Pinon and Ember were playing together late in the day and stopped to scratch each other’s backs. The sun was just barely gone from a far ridge. That’s daddy Steeldust at left.

These are my favorite two photos of the whole day:

Pinon and Ember at sunset

Pinon, left, and Ember, wild, wild babies. I love how the light just cradles them in its glow.

Hollywood watches over Pinon and Ember

That’s Hollywood at left, guarding the babies. The only thing I did to these last photos was “unsharp mask” and a little cropping. That’s just how they came out of the camera.

At the risk of being totally mushy, I have to say again that each time I’m able to enter the basin and share the horses’ world is a blessing unmatched. Their world goes on with or without me, and as wild and beautiful as they are, for them to allow me to sit back and observe them and take photos of them is just crazy cool. I’m grateful to them. This day was really the first time in a long time I saw them just hang out in the same place without being constantly on the move with the bachelors following.

Looking for Jif, I went up on the tall mesa just north (northeast?) of Knife Ridge so I could look down on the whole area the horses have been frequenting recently. I didn’t see her, but they were still there, snoozing in the sunshine, seemingly not nearly as bothered by the gnats as I was.

I wonder sometimes how they see their world, about all the trails and good grazing and drinking spots they hold in their memories. The foals are starting to nibble on things, following their mothers’ examples. (Luna, by the way, is fat. I’m sorry, girl, but there’s just no other word! Ember was 2 months old Thursday, and Luna is just as broad as Alpha.) That evening, I saw them go to the water hole, and I circled around the bachelors to see what they did. Mahogany led the way, but Luna drank first, followed by Alpha, then Mahogany, then the rest of the band. Mouse and Comanche weren’t shy; they stepped right up to the water and drank, so Hollywood joined them – like they were pals. Was he careful to drink between them and the band, or was that pure coincidence? Ha. Doubt it.

Two last photos:

Alpha

One of my favorite-ever photos of Alpha, taken just near sunset.

Bachelors running

And this one: Chrome, Aspen and Hook, running through the June sunshine just before sunset. Happy boys.





Back in the basin

18 06 2008

Molly had her foal

Yep.

Still pregnant

Nope.

And no sign of Duke.

Ms. Molly had her foal between June 3 and June 7. David Glynn, who visits the herd area frequently, provided news about the new foal while I was on vacation. He also emailed that he saw Duke this past weekend, not limping, and that he was interacting with some of the bands. Good news.

Molly is thinner than the other mares, but given her estimated age (older than 20!), that’s to be expected. This might be her last foal; she was gathered and released, and she got the immunocontraceptive. In her case, I think it might be beneficial for her overall health. I didn’t get very close to her, but her foal is a sorrel with the “muley” coloring around its muzzle. No telling yet if it’s a colt or a filly.

Alpha might be going for a world record gestation … or I have another theory. Last April, she was with Grey/Traveler, but she was gathered with a stallion I called Junior. She has always been one of the last to foal, and although I didn’t follow her (or the other horses) as closely in the past as I do now, I didn’t think it was quite this late when she foaled previously. So, what if, between Grey and Junior, she missed her heat and was bred a month “late”? She looks like she’s bagging up, so I hope she’s close.

Bachelor boys

The “other” bachelor group was down in the southwestern part of the herd area when I saw them, right from the county road. This photo shows all the boys but Ty, who was a short distance to the left. Here, from left: Cinch, Corazon, David, Copper and Mesa. I stopped and took pictures from over the roof of the Jeep until they “hid” behind some juniper trees. I moved down the fence until they moved into the open. They ran back and forth some as their wariness vied with their natural curiosity.

David, Mesa and Cinch

David (bay with the blaze), Mesa (solid bay) and Cinch.

Copper, Corazon and Mesa

Copper, Corazon and Mesa. Copper is a slight muley bay with left front and hind pasterns; his mane falls mostly on the right side of his neck. Mesa is solid bay; his mane falls on the left side of his neck.

Sweet boys

Copper and Ty (black). Such sweet boys.

With such a fortunate encounter for my first sighting of the horses since my return from vacation, I knew it was going to be a great day. I used four memory cards (of various storage) and *saved* almost 800 photos (I probably culled at least that many). I don’t know why I took so many pictures this particular day, but a friend suggested that maybe it was because I really missed the horses. 🙂 She might be right.

Alegre and Gaia; Molly and foal

The northern bands were all up in the northeastern part of the basin again … which is really, truly the eastern part. I tend to think of it as northeastern because it’s “in the back” as far as the loop road goes, and tucked under the natural boundary hills. But I looked at a map recently (who needs a map when you know where you’re going?), and realized it’s pretty well centrally east. In this photo, Alegre and Gaia are in the foreground, and Molly, her foal, Roja and Seven are in the background. You can see the road in the foreground.

Ember and Luna

Sweet baby Ember and mama Luna.

Grey\'s band, minus Jif

Grey/Traveler and his family also were in the area, closest to the water hole – what’s keeping all the bands in this area, I think. Jif was just a little apart from them.

Two Boots loves Twister

A picture like this is my favorite to take because it’s my favorite thing to see: interaction and evidence of affection among the horses. That’s Two Boots with her head over Twister’s back. They’re about shed out now. Two Boots shed out a lot lighter, even though she’s still dark grey. Last fall, she was *really* dark. And Twister is showing his pretty rosy grey color. Stepdaddy Grey in the background.

Pinon

Too cute! Pinon here, standing up nice and straight for the camera. Definitely a colt. His little dark patch is clearly visible here. I’ve noticed something similar on a couple of other horses: Luna has an ever-so-slightly-darker spot on her right barrel, behind her shoulder, and Comanche has a dark spot that’s maybe about the size of a baseball on his right barrel. Luna’s spot is bigger but almost unnoticeable.

Tres amigos

Back to front: Aspen, Chrome and Hook. While I was thinking about Duke, I realized the Bachelor 7 (six without Duke) have been dogging Steeldust’s band since just after I realized he was limping, around April 15.

Playing with an audience

Aspen and Hook decided to relieve the monotony by play fighting – with an audience. In the immediate vicinity were the other bachelors, Grey’s band, Steeldust’s band (of course) and Bounce’s family. Hook initiated the whole thing (tattle tale), and at one point, he got one foreleg up over Aspen’s back, and they went around in a full circle before Aspen was able to shake him off. Notice Mouse and Comanche snoozing in the background. That’s Kreacher at upper left, and in the middle ground is Grey and his band.

Gaia napping

I had walked out from the road, over a hill, through a couple of arroyos and up another hill to try to get a better look at Molly and her new foal and was returning to the Jeep when I saw Bounce, Alegre and Gaia closest to me and the other horses a little farther out. I took the above pix of Aspen and Hook, wishing I was closer to them, but then I had an opportunity to get a little closer to where Gaia had just laid down and Alegre was grazing. A juniper shielded me from Alegre, but Bounce had me in full view. Conspirator? I’m pretty sure that even Grey and some of the other horses also knew I was there, but I don’t think Alegre ever did. She grazed farther away from me and closer to the other horses (which were back toward the water hole), and I waited until they were gone before moseying on back to the road.

Alegre and Gaia near sunset

Alegre and Gaia near sunset, taken from the road.

I drove around the loop road twice, looking hard for Duke. Never did see him, but on my way out, I saw Poco, Bones and Roach at the water hole below the roller-coaster ridge road.

Roach at water hole

He’s in the (obviously) dry part of the water hole – photo taken from the ridge road. Poco and Bones were just behind him to the east. This water hole and the one in the east, off the doubletrack, are the only water holes I know of that still have water. Spring Creek has water in places. No sign of the horses anywhere near the water catchment.

Not quite full

Not quite full … but pretty cool.

It’s good to be back.





One stop shopping – June 1, 2008

1 06 2008

Alpha still pregnant

Not yet.

Other duties this weekend kept me out of the basin until Sunday, and when I finally got there, I still had to wait to see horses, not finding ANYBODY until I got all the way around to the northeast, near a section I call “north park.” It hasn’t taken me that long to find horses any time I’ve been out this spring. But once I got there, voila, they were ALL there (except the bachelor band that includes the two pintos and the pinto family).

I saw Steeldust’s band first, but Seven and the girls were actually closer.

Molly, Seven and Roja

Molly, Seven and Roja were pretty close to the road, and I took these from right next to the Jeep. Usually this group does not like vehicles, but they were unusually calm, so I was able to stand there and take photos. I was close enough – and Molly has shed out enough – to see her “DC” brand very clearly now. She was gathered and released, and the brand indicates that she got the immunocontraceptive. I was also close enough to think I see a resemblance between Molly and Roja – could Roja be Molly’s daughter? It would help explain Molly’s protectiveness … but where was Roja when Molly was gathered? And I still think Molly is pregnant. Time will tell!

Bounce, Alegre and Gaia

Next were Bounce, Alegre and Gaia, grazing in what looks like a dry pond (I’ve never seen water there, though). These guys were the only ones who acted normally – when Alegre saw the Jeep, she led the baby away into the trees.

But by the time I got around the curve and over the hill, Steeldust’s band was already on the move out of sight, and Grey/Traveler was about to follow.

Houdini and Iya

Houdini and Iya

Two Boots and Twister

Two Boots and Twister. These guys are still shedding out. They may get rid of that itchy hair fast now, though; it was 86 degrees today! Definitely the first weekend you could really call “warm”!

Grey and Jif

Grey/Traveler and Jif. The family was all spread out. These guys were closest to the road, and they all trotted up to it and raised the dust trotting on down it, following Steeldust’s band.

A note about Steeldust’s band: Mesa, who is usually a member of the bachelor band that includes the two pintos, hooked up with the Bachelor 7 (minus Duke), who are dogging Steeldust, last weekend, but during the week, he must have gone back to his buddies. Also, Duke is still on his own, and although I did a couple of drive-bys of the north hills and did quite a bit of hiking in the Wildcat Spring area, I never found him.

I waited until the horses were out of sight and the dust had settled before I drove on. From the road near the double ponds, I spotted Poco and Bones. Then I just caught a glimpse of a red streak – Roach – galloping across the road to the west. After Grey? I never saw his band, and Roach disappeared, so I drove on until I was on a little rise where I thought I’d be able to see to the west – not a soul. I waited, and Roach came galloping back. He stopped just short of the road, looked at me, then galloped back across the road to his own family.

I want to take a moment to say that while the wildflowers are still out all over, the cheat grass is turning purple, and the water is still shrinking. There’s good water in the pond just below the roller-coaster ridge road, but dry, cracked ground is encroaching on the water. The pond just off the road to the trap site, just inside the herd area boundary, is toast.

Sego lily

These sego lilies are so beautiful! And lilies in the desert? Surprising, and that makes it even more worthwhile to stop and appreciate them!

The loco weed also is “podding.” How do you say that? Not everywhere, but from the blooms, pods are sprouting. I hate it, just for the threat of danger, though I think the horses stay away from it.

What else is blooming? Prince’s plume, larkspur, vetch, at least a couple different kinds of daisies, still the paintbrush, lots of globe mallow, the lilies and still some cacti.

Steeldust\'s band

When Grey and Steeldust took their bands to the road – unusual for both these stallions – my first thought was “Alpha must have had her foal, and it was her decision to go.” Alas. The girl still hasn’t foaled, so I’m not sure why they took off. Steeldust’s band, in particular, is always on the move these days with those pesky bachelors eternally hot on their heels. They ended up out in the open, northeast of the southern part of the loop road. I sat in the Jeep on the road and watched them through the binoculars, and still they kept moving. Over the course of about an hour, I watched them head west about halfway up that long east-west hill that runs out to the dugout intersection. When they came closer to the road, I walked out to get a closer look at Alpha.

Kestrel

Pretty girl Kestrel, napping right near the band, most of which are just to the right.

Hollywood

Hollywood, ever vigilant.

Butch, Mahogany, Pinon and Piedra

Butch, Mahogany, Pinon and Piedra. There was a shallow arroyo between me and the horses, which often helps them feel like they’re safe.

Boy talk

You’ve heard about “girl talk”; Hollywood, Comanche (center) and Mouse are having a little “boy talk” here.

Daddy, Mama, Baby

Baby Pinon naps with Mama and Daddy (Mahogany and Steeldust). I’m pretty sure he’s a colt.

After a short walk back to the Jeep, I drove back up to the north hills to try to find Duke. But after another drive-by and a cool hike up a hill, across a hill and down to a boulder outcropping looking down on Wildcat Canyon, I still couldn’t find him. Pretty cool view down to the canyon, but the footing changes dramatically to a really volcanicky-rocky, pebbly, hard-to-walk-on surface. I walked down to where the old dam blew out downstream of the spring. It’s pretty mucky there, but there is a steady flow of clear water. There weren’t very many recent hoofprints or manure piles, so I’m not sure whether that’s where Duke is getting his water. I walked all around, but didn’t see him – or any recent sign of horses – at all. Knowing there’s nothing I can do for him doesn’t stop me worrying about him.

Didn’t see the other bachelor group or the pinto family, and I didn’t go looking for them. I was most interested in seeing Alpha! Vacation time is finally upon me, and I’m heading to Texas to visit my family and the horses and cows and dogs and barn cat. I don’t think I’ll make it back to the basin before I leave, so there will be at least a two-week lull on the blog. We could have two more beautiful babies by the time I get back!