Some thoughts occurred recently while looking through some of my wildlife photos.  Especially how so many creatures really “fit” in their surroundings.

Horned lizard in the driveway gravel.

Horned lizard in the driveway gravel.

I realize it is mostly for defense (or sometime offense) but it just makes more apparent how poorly most of us humans seems to fit our surroundings.  We want to distance ourselves from dirt and sand and smells of nature and cover our scents with industrial chemicals and our flesh with cheap, poorly made clothes.

TreeFrogNo point to this ramble really, other than to note the feeling of discord with our surroundings while displacing those who may fit in better.

GopherSnakeCropI currently live in a fairly harsh place; a marginal land overrun with industrial agriculture.  A land of extremes where creatures are in constant struggle for water or food.  Yet we survive, and hopefully learn to harmonize and not run counter to the way of the earth.


Southwest Washington

Our second week on the Portland area was primarily spent north of the Columbia River in Washington State.  Battle Ground, Vancouver, and a trip to Mount St Helen’s.  Although it was hot and dry most of the time, it was a relief after spending months in the Southwest on archaeological excavations.

DSC_0840These photos are not the best, but do capture some of the beauty of the area around Mount St Helen’s.

DSC_0839The dirty snow on the mountain in the distance.

DSC_0842It was a hot and windy day for the ridge-line trail but still a great little trek.

DSC_0844The mountain, as seen from the northwest.  The enormous crater is from the most recent eruption.

DSC_0850Wildflowers are reclaiming the ashy landscape.

DSC_0861A new lake was formed from the eruption.  A beautiful place to spend an afternoon.

DSC_0855Geology, geomorphology, and biological reclamation in action everywhere you look.

The New Gypsies

I have seen photos from this book around the web for a while now.  A fair number of “hippie” Brits are living mobile, a difficult thing to do in the U.S.  Iain McKell has done a wonderful job of photo-documenting the unique, beautiful, sometime spartan accommodations used by these folks on the move.  If I get back to Britain I will try to track these people down.

I have to admit, I’m mainly in it for the wagons.  None of these look like high-speed movers, but who really needs that when it is home?

Most of these clearly appear to be restored (more or less) original horse-drawn wagons.  Bow Tops, Open Lots, a Showman or two, but others look to be a bit more home-grown.

A close examination of the photos show some interesting clues to life on the road.  I particularly like the “tip out” on the above wagon.  I suspect it is for sleeping more people but I can imagine an outside space protected like this for cooking or storage.  Hmmm, next project?

In my opinion, wagons like this are a great alternative for the modern nomad, as long as one can find a safe place to settle for the night or week or month.  As with the Romani gypsies, modern travelers, living outside the norm of the greater social group are likely always to face fear and suspicion from the mainstream culture.  Unfortunately, this will probably always be the way of the world.

I think there will always be some of us who are okay existing outside the “normal”, expected behaviors of our peers.  In a case such as this, or other fringe social groups (e.g., the Society of Primitive Technology) we can find kindred spirits who may understand our outlook in ways not found in more mainstream lifestyles.

Please have a look at the art of Iain McKell and be sure to scroll down the left side of links to see more of his photos, including some fine shots of traveler’s wagons.

Wildlife Battle

I was fortunate enough to see an amazing wildlife battle yesterday evening.  It was life at its rawest on the Llano Estacado.  I wanted to be an impartial observer but, being human, I stepped in and intervened.  I live in a rural area with a lot of wildlife including many raptors and snakes.  It is not uncommon to see a hawk swoop down and catch a rabbit, rat, mouse, or lizard.  I was heading home to eat so I wasn’t too concerned with watching when a large hawk landed hunched over some prey out in the scrub.  I went past to check our back gate and came back the same way a minute later.  I saw the hawk was hopping around and it looked like it was fighting something.  Due to the brush and growing darkness I couldn’t tell what it was fighting with but wanted to have a closer look.  There was a split second of frenzied activity and suddenly the hawk was flipped onto its back on the ground.  Luckily, I had a camera so I was able to snap off this shot.

She looks shocked!  I would have had a hard time believing it had I not seen it.  A relatively small snake was all over the hawk and choking the life out of it.  It was dark and my initial thought was that it had been bit by a prairie rattler.  The hawk’s beak was open, eyes bulging and obviously gasping for air.  Closer inspection showed the snake to be a gopher snake, and net even a very big one.

My presence was obviously upsetting everybody and there was more thrashing.  The snake was able to hide under the feathers pretty effectively.  I wanted to just grab the snake and unwind it but images of being bitten or clawed by a frightened hawk kept me at a little distance.  Not sure what to do next I was able to call someone down to give me hand.

Can you see terror in her eyes?  At this point I was pretty sure the hawk was done for as the snake had three coils around its neck.  So, I could let it die and have one less chicken killer around or save her to help keep down the rodent population.

I grabbed a yucca stalk to help hold the hawk down while I grabbed for the snake and tried to avoid talons.  I doubt it would have done much but it was all I had.

Here I am awkwardly pulling snake out with one hand and holding the hawk away with the stick.

She got up, staggered around, shook herself out and flew up into a nearby tree.

This irritated snake actually pursued me, snapping at me until I left.  I can’t blame it.  That was a traumatic event.

Anyway, it was a wordy story.  I have spent a lot of time outdoors and seen many interesting animal behaviors but nothing like this before.