Everyday we walk to what I call “the last waterhole.” It’s located in the southwestern borderlands just inside the property line and is the last permanent hole of water on the place. Unlike many days, even when surrounded by mounds of snow, today there were no water bugs skittering around on the surface. And I saw no movement in the depths. There’d been silver tadpoles and a giant black tadpole that would quickly hide when my shadow fell over the water. I fleetingly saw something dark and longer. Perhaps it was a newt. Or just another absurdly plump black pollywog. I know to not trust my brain.
When the tadpoles disappear, I wonder if raccoons made meals of them. A week ago I saw a better answer. In the snow next to the water was a single large bird footprint. I’m thinking heron. I should have taken a photo because the next day it had melted away.
Right now the waterhole is full and overflowing with the snow melt and because of the constant feeding of springs, it never freezes. Still, it’s quite small: twelve feet long, five feet at the widest and only 14 inches deep. In dry times, the waterhole will shrink somewhat and there’ll be no visible inflow or outflow. It’ll do all of its business underground like much of this intermittent stream.
Buzzards are a common enough sight over the hollow.
For over a decade it was the bigger turkey vultures we would see on a near daily basis, until the black buzzards spread up from the south like armadillos. While six or seven are often together in the sky, there’s been four particular individuals hanging around close for a couple weeks.
These four will hang around the barn, but today they followed this one to a different location.
I wonder if this is the boss as the other three followed it to some oak trees by the spring.
Three of the four buzzards landed in this dying white oak.
The fourth landed on this big oak up on the hillside.
This one was quite interested in what I was doing.
The buzzard with the Elvis hair was more nonchalant.
Stepping out on the porch this morning we saw about the only resident of the hollow that gives us pause: a horsefly. (I naively call any big fly a horsefly.) Tricky fellow was difficult to see on the black plastic. Horseflies sure do bite hard. And always on the back of the neck. Red wasps? Not as bad as advertised. Copperheads and pygmy rattlers? We invite them to lunch. Horseflies? Mean and smarter than a chimpanzee.
Crossing the yard, we scanned the skies for the needed and promised rain. We saw few clouds but could feel change on the breeze. Near the tiny apple trees we saw this bumblebee on a thistle. (I naively call any big bee a bumblebee.) I normally cut down thistles, but missed this one. Old Chandler sure hated bumblebees.
We circled through the blackberry field (ate a couple ripe berries) to the pond (still empty). The yellow dog dramatically froze and scented the air, so I paused until he barked twice and trotted forward. Back down through the field above the house he was still snuffing around with extra vigor, so I knew something was near (something is always near). I stopped to look at the leaves on a big mulberry tree when a heavy bodied deer exploded out of the brush. It must have been lying down and I think it had antlers, which surprised me. The fat dog tore off through the trees in fruitless pursuit. A normal day.
Yesterday I found myself at a deserted Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield near Springfield, Missouri. For misanthropic reasons, I enjoy any park best when I’m the only person about.
Standing at this sign I was unprotected from the wind and the 40 mph gusts (per KSMU radio) tried to rob me of my $3 baseball cap. Looking straight ahead and slightly to the left, there is as pretty an Ozark springhouse as I can remember seeing. When I stepped inside it I heard something slip into the water and believe I could see a frog floating in the dim light. My night vision isn’t what it once was, and I was avoiding soaked boots on such a cool morning, but I now wish I wasn’t such a coward. All my frogs are asleep this time of year.
Walking across the windswept field to the springhouse, I couldn’t help but notice ample evidence of armadillo activity. I returned to my vehicle using a slightly different route and found one armadillo finished with its earthly digging.