First light

13 07 2010

The morning I found the fire, I found something else first: mountain-goat ponies!

Chrome’s band up on the high western boundary. They are the one band hanging around somewhat consistently in this area within proximity of the water catchment. I hope at least a couple of other bands are taking advantage of the good water; I’ve seen Kreacher’s and Grey/Traveler’s in the region.

Jif as sentinel. Love her color in that early morning light with the earth of her home reflecting up at her, her reflecting it out … love it. Anybody taking bets on the belly? If she foals in August or very early September, Grey bred her before Chrome stole her … Otherwise, it will be Chrome’s baby – possibly his first?!

Two Boots and Rio at the top of the world. It really does fall off in rimrock cliffs that form the westering boundary of the basin … but not TOO close …!

Love this little mister!

Disappointment Valley stretches out and away beyond Chrome, Rio and Two Boots. Spring Creek Basin is tucked into a little paradise at the valley’s eastern edge. This is looking sort of north-northwest.

Looking more westerly over the valley. This is what happens when you “bandolier” your camera and your hip fires shots without your consent – or help with composition! Quite a fall from the rimrock here. Toward the lower center, you can kind of make out the road to the basin that crosses private ranch land.


12 07 2010

Comanche, back, Kestrel and Winona

A new band this spring – when Kestrel had Winona, Comanche, a bachelor, appointed himself her protector, even as she continued to stay within shouting distance of Mahogany (not her dam). But now they’re their own separate little family, and they seem quite happy and content.

Had some beautiful cloud-fringed light when I visited with them. Isn’t she a doll?

And trying to escape the gnats as best she can. 🙂

Copper on fire

12 07 2010


Don’t have words for this one, really. Just wild beauty, touched by the sun.

Ode to brothers

11 07 2010

Lippy little boys like to chew on things. Mom will do, but moms get annoyed, and you don’t want to upset the flank that feeds you. So siblings do even better … until they decide enough is enough and are always coming after YOU.

Rio and Cuatro were standing head to head when I first saw the band, some distance away from Two Boots and closest to Chrome, playing gently with each other. Even big brothers know you have to be gentle with baby. Then they turned their attention on Hayden – well, Cuatro did, and Rio stuck right to his side.

Hayden decided the best maneuver is “escape,” so he’s trying to walk away (and he may realize that Cuatro has something of a “shield” now in the form of baby Rio). See Rio’s legs and tip of his ear on the other side of Cuatro?

“See, kid, this is how ya do it, give ‘im a big bite right in the stifle.”

“Whoa, little bro – time to stop! See, ma’am, we were just horsin’ around …”

And there you have it, the most fearsome creature known to little boys – horses or humans: Alpha Mare/Mom! 🙂

And then little boys who can go to find their own comforting mamas, always willing to welcome them.

“The end.” 🙂

Well, one more:

Rio and Cuatro

Love these boys. 🙂

Ode to mothers

11 07 2010

Mama Two Boots rubbing an itch on baby Rio (yes, gnats, still).

Mama Kestrel and baby Winona

Coming up next (when I can find the time to tweak more photos …): ode to brothers.

Here’s a preview:

Rio, left, and Cuatro, center, really are at least half-brothers (mama: Two Boots), and Hayden is stepbrother-by-circumstance … but they don’t know any differently. Mama Jif in the background. Rio is learning all kinds of brotherly things. During this particular visit, he stuck to Cuatro like glue, playing, following while Cuatro turned tables and harassed Hayden – until they came up against the most fearsome creature in their everyday lives …! Can you guess? 🙂

Hippity hop

9 07 2010

While I was riveted by this big blooming beauty –

– pretty right? – it’s called “4 o’clock,” but I have no idea why because I’ve seen it blooming at all times – the twitch of an ear, perhaps, caused me to focus in on this, just in front of that:

Holy Jack, rabbit! Can you believe that eyeball?!

I was “just driving along when,” by the way, and I took these pix right out the Jeep window. I’m glad I saw Jack before I opened the door and scared him away! (Or is it Jacqueline?) S/he did finally streak away – long ears flat back along his/her body in a way that reminded me, oddly, of a racehorse – but wow. I just can’t get over that eyeball!

Not 10 minutes later, I was walking out to see a band when I saw Jack’s cousin – Peter:

Or is it Petra? 🙂 And yes, the hole is home. See the one right in front of him/her under/behind the greasewood roots/branches? That’s apparently the “front door.” It was in the side of a shallow arroyo. Not too worried about flash floods, I guess, eh?

It’s fun to see some of the basin’s smaller residents from time to time!

Fire on the hill

9 07 2010

My campfire? No. I never have a campfire in the basin.

A (live) tree on fire with several other pieces of nearby deadfall burning as well. Probably hit by lightning the night before. The first two photos are closer shots of the main trunk. It burned all the way through in the several hours I watched. Amazingly, I found cell service in the basin and called the Forest Service and was waiting for them to send somebody out … I finally had to leave – felt like I was leaving an “untended campfire.” I did scoop handfuls and handfuls of dirt onto every place that was burning, but it was like using a garden hose on an inferno – it just didn’t help at all. I ran into some government folks on my way home, and I think they were going to check it out or send someone(s). I had given directions and left a rock cairn at the road and rocks across the road and a rock arrow pointing directly to it … The good news was that the tree was only about a 5-minute hike from the road and was pretty well surrounded by dirt and shale-rock soil. I don’t know how or if it would spread once the fire reached the “crown,” which was then on the ground. There were about seven separate little fires burning from this one tree. Fairly near Wildcat Spring just above a horse trail. It was pretty disturbing to catch sight of smoke rising into the sky in a heavily treed section of my beloved basin! It was a very helpless feeling to not be able to do anything, hoping the dirt stopped the spread. I’ll be calling again and will hopefully update this post with “all out”!

UPDATE: The Forest Service fire folks are monitoring it from the air. There was no smoke from it today, apparently. Weather conditions are favorable to leave it alone. We did get rain in Durango this evening, so hopefully the basin is getting more rain as well.

UPDATE 2: I had a great chat with the fire management officer this morning. The herd area manager has flown over the area twice, he said, and the lookout at the Benchmark fire lookout tower (a wonderful, eagle-eyed woman I met last year when the tower got historic designation) is keeping an eye on it as well. And he may go out today to have a look at it on the ground. She (fire lookout) said a good rain swept over the area yesterday – yay! The FMO did tell me they would like to see fire play a natural role in the environment there, and of course, I recognize that and understand it and support it. Fire suppression is not the only job of FMOs – it’s also to calm nervous nellies like myself. 🙂 And, of course, to recognize not every fire has to be put out. My second year in Colorado, the Missionary Ridge Fire blew up north of Durango. The plumes of smoke were massive in the afternoon – just about the time I was driving in every day to work, up and over and down Hesperus Hill with just about the perfect view. It looked like a nuclear cloud signaling the end of the world. I realize how much it affected me THEN when I see smoke NOW. I have also seen blackened stumps all around – there’s one burned to the ground on the way to this tree (as well as a big pile of what I’m pretty sure is bear scat!). Can’t say it doesn’t still – or won’t again – freak me out to see smoke again some gentle morning after a thunderstorm – but “they’re all over it,” as they say. 🙂 Thank you!

UPDATE 3: The basin has apparently had some good, heavy rain, and the FMO doesn’t expect any spread from that fire. Part 2 is that maybe with the summer monsoons (they’re here, so says the press!), we’ll start seeing water hold in the ponds and other depressions in the basin, giving the horses better access to better water than stinky Wildcat Spring and salty hoof-print puddles. C’mon rain!

Farther up the hill

7 07 2010

Steeldust’s band was quiet on the hill. They’re “together” again, Mouse and Aspen still the boys tagging along, the other boys guarding their mares closely – still. Storm and Gideon move freely. At one point, Aspen came a little too close to napping Gideon, and Luna stepped up beside him. Although she was then right beside him, Butch also stepped up – between her and Gideon! The little mister gave a little shift but otherwise didn’t move, content and confident that stepdaddy would protect him without stepping ON him. And he didn’t. Really a remarkable little event.

As I mentioned, Bounce also came over to have a little visit, and he found Storm a willing playmate.

I was sitting on a slanted flattish rock in a little drainage on the treed slope, trying to take advantage of a bit of shade under a sky with swiftly moving clouds. Love how Bounce is watching me watching him while he lets Storm nibble on him.

It was interesting to watch the interaction of Bounce with Storm, almost 2, and with Steeldust, a mature band stallion as Bounce himself.

A little sniffing, a little posturing.

Then it was back for another round of playing with Storm. The quality of their interactions was really interesting. He and Steeldust eventually had a rearing collision, and Bounce decided the party was over.

Now for something different. Two legs, yes, and two wings!

What is it? I noticed it when it flew up from right beside me – flew out just a few yards and landed – and settled. Didn’t make any sound, and it was so quiet even when I surprised it to flight that I wasn’t at all startled. It stayed at least as long as I did. I wondered if it had a nest nearby (July?) because it stayed so close. Hmm. Can you see it?

How about now? Talk about adapted! The intricate pattern of its feathers is just about the most beautiful type of plumage on a bird I’ve ever seen. Maybe it’s a “poorwill.” In the nightjar family, the book says. I’m not sold on that as the ID – the pic in the book is even worse than these of mine. I’d be happy if someone can tell me for sure!

I left the horses to their naps and went on up the hill, unsure if the grey I had seen earlier with Storm-chaser was Mouse or Hook. I was hoping it was Hook, but if it was, he was out of my sight. The horses were about halfway up the hill. I don’t very often think about snakes while I’m out in the basin. I did see a rattler in Sand Wash Basin, but the only rattlers I’ve seen in Spring Creek Basin have been on a road – at night – and I was safe in the Jeep! I grew up in rocky Texas hill country, so I’m not afraid of snakes, but I don’t want to surprise one as close as I did the bird!  No snakes, and I found a pretty little “park” below the cliff at the top of the hill – the confluence of at least two canyons.

I basically followed the edge back down: This is looking down at Wildcat Spring and on out to Round Top in the far distance. The hill in the middle distance is the north side of what I call the east-west hill.

Up the hill

6 07 2010

Bounce’s band were up the hill and across the canyon from Wildcat Spring when I visited with them last week. I can identify some of the grasses out in seed – needle and thread, Indian ricegrass – something that grows in green bunches, maybe one of those. Bounce was trying to get maximum scratching power out of a just-barely-tall-enough juniper, and I thought – not for the first time – oh, if only I could help you …

He’d shift forward and backward and – as you can see here – side to side.

Then he gave a whinny and strutted up the hill for a flirty (!?) visit with Miss Gaia.

You can see by their tousled forelocks that we had a bit of wind to keep away the gnats.

Most-lovely Alegre and Whisper were just a few steps up the hill. In addition to the grass, the hills hold much more surface rock and cacti. I always marvel at their ability to make comfortable the roughest places.

And little Liberty investigating a fallen tree …

Steeldust’s band was farther up the hill across a little drainage (at the top of this hill, the land falls off in a rugged cliff to the “canyon confluence” behind Wildcat Spring). I went to visit with them … and Bounce decided that was a good idea, too. He played with Storm for a few minutes until Steeldust chased him away. More to come.

Happy Independence Day

4 07 2010

Freedom is not free, as the saying goes. It means responsibility. It means fences. It means cooperation. It means a greater good. It means my right may not be your right, but it’s as important to me as yours is to you and should be acknowledged as such – and vice versa.

Independence doesn’t mean thrown away. It means pride – and having the courage to look beyond pride and ask for help when it’s needed – it means giving help before it’s asked of you.

Our “free-roaming” wild horses and burros are not. Not really.

Kreacher and his girls can circumnavigate Filly Peak, but they have no access to the pinon-juniper-dotted hillside below the clouds, touching the sky.

Are they less wild? Less free? We all have chains snugging us to the responsibilities and demands of life.

Mustangs are “America’s horses,” more than any other breed in existence. They evolved here. They returned here. They thrive here.

Their freedom depends on us to make their lives as independent as possible.

Let freedom ring. 🙂