Friday, September 27, 2013

Roadrunners

I'm not typically superstitious, but when we bought this house, there were three odd things (signs, if you will) which I could not ignore - they just made the whole thing seem right. The first had to do with the house's street address. It happens to be a combination of numbers, in the same order, that I was already using for online passwords and PINs, comprised of the numbers in the small Bears' birthdays. The second has to do with the name of the general area we live in, which is known as Bear Canyon. There are actual bears in the area, including one captured last week, right up the street. The small arroyo behind our property has an ursine name too. So it's a very bear-oriented place, even before we got here. The third and final sign came in the form of a family of roadrunner birds nesting in our front yard, close to the courtyard which leads to our front door. The realtor who sold us the house was the one to discover them; it was spring and their babies had recently hatched. Our realtor felt the roadrunners were good luck. They seem to have decided that this is a terrific place to live, just like we have.

I was sitting at my desk the other day, gazing out the window at the courtyard when I heard a ruckus in the vigas (beams) which form the open roof of the courtyard. Suddenly, I saw four roadrunners descend from the vigas, landing in the river stones that cover the ground. This was our nesting pair and their current offspring, on the hunt for food. I watched them for about fifteen minutes and they were fascinating. This is the first time I've seen all four of them together and I suspect the offspring must be ready to fledge, as they looked fully-grown to me. The parents seemed to be teaching them. There was lots of squabbling and pecking and chicken-like squawking, along with their signature buzzing-clicking noise. I think the parents were giving the kids some life lessons before letting them go. At least, that's how it looked to me, an official giver of life lessons.

Roadrunners are very difficult to photograph. They move extremely quickly and can leap, or soar, very gracefully onto high surfaces, such as roofs and tree branches. They also startle easily and won't stick around for long. But I really wanted to attempt some photos of them to share with my readers, after your enthusiastic response to my photo of a roadrunner in our backyard. I tiptoed to the kitchen, where my camera happened to be, and stealthily crept out the front door. They began to scatter immediately but I followed them as they traversed the front yard and the street in front of our house. I tiptoe-ran (barefoot, natch) across the stones in our front yard and the warm concrete driveway to get as many pictures as I could. It was exactly as comfortable as it sounds, but I think I got some good shots, to give an idea of how these birds look and behave.


I think this is a female, probably the mother. Roadrunners belong to genus Geococcyx; it has been a long time since my rudimentary study of classical languages, but would this mean something like "land tail" or "ground tail" in Greek? If so, you can see why. The roadrunners usually keep their tails pointed somewhat downward like this.


Can you see the little tuft on top of the head? It's made up of black feathers and they sort of rise and fall as the roadrunner hunts and interacts with the other birds. It acts somewhat like a dog's hackles, I think; as I approached them with my camera, they raised their head-feathers at me and began to click like mad.


This one had started heading down to the street in front of the house; the large rocks are part of a terracing feature in the front yard. They are a good six to eight inches tall, but this bird just zoomed right off the edge on foot. I would probably do a face-plant if I tried it.

I attempted to obscure the house number on the curb across the street. Please don't stalk me.

Here, all four birds meet at the end of our driveway. They were headed west, toward our next-door neighbor's house. When they move as a flock, they seem to float along together. They all keep their heads and tails stretched out the same way and they move so quickly you can't really see their feet. They look like they're on a conveyor belt.


They've stopped at the end of my neighbor's driveway. They stood like this for about a minute, conversing in low buzzing tones. Then they scattered again, having attended to their collective business.


This fellow (or lady-bird, I'm not sure) broke off from the flock and walked up the neighbor's driveway, over the low cinder-block wall dividing the neighbor's property from ours, and back onto our side. He rested under our large desert willow tree for a few moments.


I think he must be one of the juveniles, he looks small and generally babyish to me. Here, he perches on the wall, permitting me to get relatively close...


...before turning tail and launching himself from the wall to catch up with the others. I like the way the feet are poised on the wall's edge as he takes off. Our avian friend was off like a shot and the whole flock headed westward before vanishing behind a juniper bush. They were gone a long time; I didn't hear their distinctive noises for a couple of hours. I assume they were feasting on luscious lizards and rodents elsewhere in the neighborhood.

I was happy when I heard (and then saw) their return; I enjoy hosting their nest, where they've raised their babies and delighted us with their sounds and speedy movements. I do feel they've been lucky for us; we've liked raising our babies here too. And they provide science lessons, to boot. In spring, we find their eggshells on the front walk and we watch their babies grow. This brood is about to leave, I think. I feel bittersweet every time their babies fledge, like I should serenade them, singing "Sunrise, Sunset" in the courtyard to send them off. I know there will be new babies next year, though; they seem to like it here and I hope they stay a good long time.

34 comments:

  1. Your photos are perfect! You did a great job photo graphing those fast lil things!
    I just can't look at one without thinking "That doesn't look like the Road Runner that Will E Coyote chased"... haha... they made those birds look huge! And they are just tiny!
    I hope you have a great weekend,
    Tammy

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  2. Thanks for the photo shoot of the road runners. It was interesting to see the real thing, as opposed to the cartoon character. :-)

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  3. What an interesting post, I enjoyed learning more about this fascinating bird. You've done a great job with the photos, they've turned out really well.

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  4. Aw I loved this. You got some super duper shots of them. Very Interesting !!!

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  5. For some reason I wanted to start my comment with 'Beep Beep' (sorry, memories of watching Roadrunner and Will-e-coyote when I was younger).
    You've taken some great photos - I've never seen one before. They'd fascinate me if they were living in my garden. They obviously feel very safe on your property - you are their custodian to some degree.

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  6. Such wonderful photo's.
    Clare x

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  7. What a fascinating thing to experience for you and your kids. Watching nature is as you said a great science experiment.
    hugs to you,
    Meredith

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  8. Wow, would have love to have seen this x

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  9. Thanks for this, I've only ever seen photos in nature books - these are a lot more fun! Chrissie x

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  10. I love seeing new birds in my area, but these roadrunners are so different from anything we have here. Love the idea of you running down the road barefoot to capture these speedy birds on your camera .... your neighbours are used to this from you though, right?! Thanks for sharing these shots & your commentary on the birds, a real delight! Have a great weekend Jennifer. Wendy x

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  11. Aw how lovely. Loved reading about the road runners there very cute your very lucky to have such lovely nesters in your garden :) xx

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  12. That is a great post. What special photos. Thank you so much for sharing x

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  13. You are such an engaging writer! Your gentle words just flow from one sentence to the next and the result is always such a sweet story of simple, beautiful things in life. I loved learning about these birds. I have never seen one, not even, I don't think, in a zoo. Great pictures! I laughed at your comment: "Roadrunners are very difficult to photograph...they move extremely quickly..." I thought to myself, "wait until she has grandchildren!" lol
    Thanks for another enjoyable post!

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  14. You did an amazing job of photographing those speedy roadrunners. This is another creature that I've never seen in our home state so it's cool "watch" them in your yard (yes,sounds like the perfect place for your family). I enjoyed this blog post and you made it into a learning experience for me too. Happy Friday!

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  15. What fascinating little birds!!! By my experience birds are not the easiest subjects to photograph. Well done!! ......xx

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  16. What fun to have such interesting birds share your home with you! We have skunks and raccoons who live around here. But they keep quiet during the day when we come and go. We rarely see them. Thanks for showing us your bird family.. we sure don't have those here! ((hugs)), Teresa :-)

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  17. I loved this post! I've never seen a road runner in person and it was so fun to see your pictures. You did a great job with those speedy little birds!

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  18. I loved this!! It's not jut the roadrunners, it's you, Jennifer. I feel like lately your posts are less guarded. Probably not explaining myself very well, but I feel that you are jumping off the page at me. Does that make more sense? I love that. And can I just say that your new profile picture is fab. You look very pretty.

    Leanne xx

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  19. Wonderful little birds. I will show my eldest boy your pictures tomorrow (he's asleep now, at least I hope he is), he's such a mad keen birdwatcher. You are very lucky to have them nesting on your property, it must be fascinating to watch them. Your photos are fantastic - I know how tricky wildlife is to photograph!

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  20. That is way to cool! Those roadrunners are amazing! And to have them nest right there in your front yard garden is such a sign! I'm a believer in signs and think that yours make for a wonderful home!!! Happy weekend to you lady!!

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  21. Thank you so much, Jennifer, for this wonderful post. I really loved your photos and learning about these amazing birds. I spend a lot of time watching the birds in our garden, I don't think I'd get anything done if these cuties were residents.
    Have a lovely weekend. I'm getting butterflies at the thought of Yarndale and meeting on-line friends for the first time
    Carol xx

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  22. Wonderful pictures and I do like those road runners. lucky you ☺

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  23. I don't think I've ever seen them outside of cartoons :) They really are cute!

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  24. fantastic photos of birds that I knew nothing about apart from the cartoons. Thanks for sharing. Julie x

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  25. Hi there. Thank you for popping over to Chalky'sworld World and leaving such a lovely commentPlease feel free to pin away x x x

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  26. Love this post Jennifer it was so interesting to read. I have never seem a real roadrunner and I just love that little tuft of hear on their heads. Your home sounds wonderful and what wonderful reasons to buy the house. Some things are just meant to be! Enjoy your weekend xoxo

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  27. Wonderful post! So interesting Jennifer. I've only seen a roadrunner in cartoons. Your house's good karma was calling you, like that. Great photos too! :)

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  28. Wow great photos! I know roadrunners are hard to capture on film.

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  29. Thanks for this wonderful post on roadrunners! Living in the Midwest most of my life (except for 3-1/2 years in KY when I was a teenager), I have never seen a roadrunner and didn't know much about them, either. I love how you tied the post into life with your own family. You're a wonderful writer!

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  30. Aw thank you Jennifer, I so enjoyed seeing more of your very interesting road-runners, and I must say you did so very well to follow them and snap such good pics! Full marks for perseverance and your lovely commentary!
    I also go along with your 'reasonings' when deciding to purchase your home and think it's a good thing to follow the 'signs' - and I don't think superstition comes into it anyway!
    Joy x

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  31. Great to see the whole roadrunner family, they look great and so funny to think of you hopping along the street following and photographing them. Still dissapointed they don't meep meep :( Loving the pictures though, and the story. Here's hoping they keep bringing you much luck and happy times for many more years!!

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  32. Jennifer! Thanks for another terrific post!!! I enjoyed learning more about roadrunners as you shared your roadrunner family with us... a great meld of narrative and photos.
    Gracie xx

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  33. I so enjoyed this post. You tell a good story.

    Meep-meep! (sorry...) x

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  34. Just found you recently, and love your blog, and your crocheting and sewing skills. I live in Arizona, so am somewhat nearby and can relate a little on the surroundings and weather, tho I think it stays hotter here into Fall. You are so creative! Will continue to watch what you do. xxoo

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