|11:08PM -- "Hornly" the resident hooter confronts brazen plastic imposter.|
It was good to get back to 'the Chimineas'.
Nearly 7 months has passed since my last visit, and a lot happened during the long winter.
More than once the storms had reclaimed the ranch's roads as gullies and washes.
Then it would dry up a bit, and thinking the worse was over Cowman Ross would start to grade -- until another storm rolled in with vengeance.
When spring halfheartedly arrived Craig and the team camera trapped the accessible areas near the ranch house.
We spent the first night reviewing a grant proposal, transferring backlogged photo files, and checking cameras (3 more were out of commission).
For dinner we threw together a clam pasta prepared by the redhead.
Craig observed that it didn't taste much like clams, and I had to agree, though I'll allow that a second beer might have compromised my ability to discern the delicate essence of bivalves.
We turned in early, but as for the coyote serenade, I have nothing to report. It was too cold to sleep with the door and windows open.
We set cameras the next morning in a new canyon and found a fairly large sandstone cave.
That afternoon RandonTruth and Craig's assistant Heather rolled in, and we enjoyed our reunion over grilled chicken burritos.
I was ready to test my automatic owl caller in the field, but the 15 minute cycle of the 3 v motor (a lavatory air freshener donated by neighbor Richard) wasn't performing as it had the day before.
|The plunger on the air freshener didn't start the CD player.|
This was a disappointment, as the local pair of great horned owls (GHOs) had just fledged their young within walking distance of the ranch house.
Fortunately RandomTruth is a man of the modern era.
He quickly copied the owl calls from my CD to his IPod, inserted pauses, and it worked like a charm.
|The modern owl caller (left) and my Rube Goldberg owl caller.|
After dinner we wired my hooter decoy to a stump near the nest tree, hid the IPod and speaker beneath it, and set up a couple of cameras nearby.
My cam was also on the fritz, but fortunately RandomTruth's home brewed camera trap caught the action-- thanks Ken.
Here's what happened with his photos.
The resident GHO, presumably the male (who we will call Hornly) arrived at the stump at 11:08 PM -- 2 hours after the decoy boldly announced its intrusion into the breeding territory.
With cocked tail and wings a-hanging he had a rather ruffled if not disturbed presence.
And perhaps he noticed that the puny offender had an uncanny ventriloquistic ability.
|11:10 PM -- Hornly looks in the direction of the call.|
There were no photos of an aerial strike or a wing-flapping attempt to mount, but 50 minutes later Hornly felled the brazen imposter.
|12:45 AM -- after Hornly's first strike.|
The vanquished hooter however refused to retreat and continued to announce its presence as if nothing had happened.
Hornly apparently struck again and the camera captured him hooting in victory.
|1:36 AM -- Tail up and head bowed -- Hornly is probably hooting in victory over his plastic foe.|
And so begins another promising season of camera trapping on the Chimineas.
If we get our grant, we will start a new experiment to test survey methodology.
And one last thing, as I packed up the morning of my departure I found a can of clams in my grocery bag.
I immediately recalled Craig's wistful observation about the unclammy flavor of the clam sauce, and laughed uproariously .
And you won't believe this, but it is true.
When I carried the Rube Goldberg owl caller to the car it started to play.