(Warning: Long Post Ahead!)
[Wi-fi is hard to come by in these parts of the country, so I haven't been able to post in a while. This was pre-written on one of the long car rides! I'm sorry for the inconvenience!]
The first full day on the ranch was a geat one. I woke fairly early and went downstairs to wait for the others to rise. Breakfast was good; cereal, orange juice, and fruit. We then gave the horses (Chap, Rojo, Devil, and Herman) their 'breakfast' of apple treats and carrots. We led them into the corral but put Herman into the roundpen to be worked. We stood in the center of the ring with a rope, and had Herman trot and canter around, in different directions. After a while, he decided to come into the center and "submit" in the Equine way of lowering his head and licking the air. The halter was put on his head (a rope halter, not the typical nylon w/buckles type) and I rode him bareback.
He did fine, not much trouble. I had to get used to having only a halter without a bit to control him with, since my usual Huntseat/saddleseat lessons use snaffle bridles. It was fun, and a different experience. Next, my brother then got on him, and some other family members. Herman did well for all of them! After seeing the good results in the roundpen, we led Herman out in front of the house, where we tacked him with a saddle and a bridle with a bit. He did not like that bit one bit! (No pun intended.) I mounted him and took the reins, but he didn't calm down. We finally decided to take the bridle off and replace it with his normal halter. Thinking this would make him do better, I asked him to "Walk!". He did...however didn't go beyond the opening to the field. No matter how hard we tried, he just wouldn't listen-- he even tried to brush me off under the trees! After a few minutes of this nonsense, we just put him back into the corral with the other horses. He hadn't been ridden in a while and isn't worked every day so he just wasn't ready.
After lunch and a break from the heat (full of riddles from an old book, ex. would be "What two letters contain nothing?" answer at the bottom of this post) I took my 500mm lens outside for a workout of its own-- birding!! I finally had a chance to bird the ranch, and boy, was it successful! I saw FIVE Life (new) birds in the span of 2 hours. That's got to be a record. The first of the day was a Yellow-billed Cukoo (Life bird)- very unexpected. It was preening as I captured these photos:
Next came another unexpected visitor: a Spotted Towhee (Life bird)! It was foraging. These birds are very stout, entertaining, and colourful! They have a very unique and funny style of foraging...
I walked a little further, only to come across an Eastern Kingbird with a grasshopper in its beak. It was thrashing the grasshopper against the branch, to stun it, presumably.
(The grasshoppers were everywhere so this was a welcome sight!)
Then in the same tree I spotted a female Yellow Warbler, who (like all other Yellow Warblers) wouldn't let me get a good photo of her! Next was another Eastern Kingbird and then...
a female Orchard Oriole (Life bird)! At the time (since I got such a fleeting glance) I thought she was another Yellow Warbler. Upon looking through my photos, however, I ID'd her correctly.
A while later I saw a 1st year male Orchard Oriole as well...this time I knew it was an oriole...
Then came sightings of a Red-tailed Hawk, Western Kingbird, Lark Sparrows. But the next prize view was of a Great-crested Flycatcher (Life bird). He was gorgeous and demonstrated a few calls for me!
Then...the next Life bird was the chatterbox House Wren. I had been hearing them all day, but hadn't sighted them until...
Finally, a young American Robin strutted past, displaying the heavy spotting that characterizes juveniles of the species.
Late afternoon brought a trip to the Cheyenne River, where we hiked down a steep hill (dodging pointy yucca) to get to the banks but didn't find anything. Another surprise came when, as we were gazing down at the faraway Cheyenne (from atop the hill) an American White Pelican(Life bird) flew by and landed in the river!! I recognized the color pattern immediately, however I didn't believe that I had actually seen a pelican in South Dakota! Of course I consulted my bird field guide and saw that they, in fact, live in parts of SD. Certainly a cool sighting!
LATER, I tagged along as the boys went out to the field to shoot cans and bottles. Nearby was a prairie dog town, where Burrowing Owls were living! I was so excited; this was a species I wanted to see before leaving South Dakota. They were beautiful, and it was neat to see them fly. One even hovered for a while over the truck. They stayed low to the ground, and went into the prairie dog's burrows. Burrowing Owls have such character.
PHEW, WHAT A DAY!
(Answer to riddle: N and G)