Saturday, May 4, 2013

The unusual, beautiful, and scarey and sad

First, I want to show you the view out my dinette window:

Isn't this a great campsite?  So it's easy for me and Katie to walk down the gently sloping hill to the water, and then look right and left to see if anything interesting is feeding or walking along the edge of the Rio Grande.  (I still can't believe I'm living on the bank of the "Rio Grande.")

First the "unusual."

The other evening, we were standing at the top of the hill and I saw the weirdest looking ducks. I've never seen ducks this color before, so I took lots of photos.  I was losing the light, but still got some pretty good ones.

When I got back to The Palms, I got out my field guides and looked them up, but they weren't shown in the Birds of Arizona Field Guide, which has most of the birds I see.  Then I checked the Sibley Guide to Birds of Western North America, and there they were - Cinnamon Teal.  Aren't they an unusual color?  I took lots of photos and couldn't see their eyes in any of them. Looking at the drawing in the guide, their eyes are the same color as their feathers, with a thin black ring around them.

There were two Cinnamon Teals floating around with two Blue-winged Teals.  According to Sibley's these two types of Teals are often seen together.

I'm sorry I didn't get the top of this bird's head - he stood up too fast and I lost him.   But I wanted to keep the photo of the white feathers under his wings.

Next is the "beautiful."

The Snowy Egrets come around from time to time fishing along the edge of the water.

They slowly work their way down the river, eyes on the water, just like some fishermen I've known.

Yesterday afternoon there were two of them, right at the edge of the river and I saw their yellow feet.  You can see this water isn't very deep.

And last, the scary and sad.

Late yesterday afternoon a few people were standing around at the edge of my campsite, and a Ranger drove up.  I went outside to see what was going on, and the camp host came over and told me there was a skunk in the area. It was either sick or dying, and was seen nearby.  She said one of the campers saw it being bitten by a rattlesnake, and they killed the snake.  So when another camper reported a skunk that was acting strange, it was presumed this was the one that was bit.

A while later Katie, who was sitting in her car seat, started barking and looking out her window. I looked over, and there was the skunk in our campsite.

I went outside to snap a photo; it wasn't moving and appeared to be dead. I went over to the camp hosts' site and told them where the skunk was.  The wife said the Ranger told them if it died overnight, leave it alone and an animal would probably take care of it.

At 4:45 am, Katie started barking and woke me up.  There was a weird barking near us that lasted for about 20 minutes, ending with a keening sound that went on for a while.  I got out my flashlight and looked through the window, but couldn't see anything. It didn't sound like a dog or coyote (a neighbor said it might have been a fox).

This morning I looked outside and the skunk was gone.  The camp host came over and we checked the area, but there was no fur or blood, nothing in the loose dirt showing it had been eaten or dragged away.  I thought a larger animal might have grabbed the skunk in it's mouth and carried it off, leaving no trace.

Later in the morning, I looked out my window and saw Phyllis, a camper from across the street, stopped at the river's edge taking a bunch of photos up toward the trees.  When she walked by The Palms, she stopped and said the skunk was there at the base of the tree, sleeping.  I was really surprised, apparently last night it wasn't dead.  Good thing I didn't get too close.

I went down with her to see it, and got some pictures.

The man camped next to me was walking along the river - he was the first one to report the skunk - and as we were talking the skunk woke up.  (Obviously these were taken with my zoom lens).  It turned around and looked at us, then down at the man, then back at us.

Poor thing. It obviously wanted to be alone and we were disturbing it, so I went back to The Palms.  When I went back after a while, and it was gone.

I went back a little while ago, and there it was stretched out by the tree.  I must have missed it the last time I looked.

A couple of people came by and we started talking, and it slowly moved to a hole at the base of the tree and settled there. As it was turning around very slowly, making it's way to the hole, it raised it's huge tail at us. It didn't spray, but I definitely heard what it was saying and went home to The Palms.

I guess Fish and Game will come by and take care of the skunk, but they have such large areas to cover, who knows when they will get here.  I think the skunk is dying and has no energy to move much, but of course, just in case it's dangerous, it is still a little scary.  It's too close to where people are taking their kids down to the river this weekend. 

I'm definitely going to keep Katie (and myself) away from bushes and piles of leaves, because of the skunk and any other rattlers that might be around.  I always do anyway, but I'll be especially vigilant during the rest of our stay.

From me and Katie, have  a good weekend, everyone.  :)


  1. I have yet to have the luck of seeing a Cinnamon Teal. Good for you!

  2. Loved the pic of the cinnamon teal ready for flight. Last year I had a momma skunk and 4 kidlets come to my pond every day for a drink. They were fun to watch. They followed momma single file all in a row. Cuties

  3. Beautiful pictures of the ducks.

    What a saga with the skunk. I'm surprised the ranger or the camp host didn't put the poor thing out of its misery. It was perfect bait for something to come and tear it apart while it was still living.

    That is sad, but I guess it goes on all around us in nature...we just don't see it.

  4. Those are beautiful birds. Be careful out there with the crazy skunks and rattlers!

  5. I always love looking at your pictures, Barbara and tonight is no exception. You are seeing so much beautiful scenery and the wildlife is incredible. I feel sorry for the skunk. I would think if it was bitten by a rattler it would have died within a day, but maybe not. Sometimes nature can be very sad.

  6. Scary, scary. Maybe it has rabies?
    I love the lush greens along the Rio Grande, but only in the winter month when these kind of critters are asleep :)) On the other hand - than you don't get to see all these birds. What a luck to see a cinnamon teal so close up!

  7. aw poor skunk. gorgeous gorgeous pictures... I have never seen a Cinnamon teal... never. wow

    snowy egrets are beautiful lacy looking birds ... ain't nature something... seriously

  8. Those Cinnamon Teal are so pretty. Thanks for the photos.

  9. Nature can seem so cruel to us and it is really sad to see an animal suffer. Hopefully he has died. Those Cinnamon Teals are beautiful birds.

  10. Awe, poor little skunk. One passes through here nearly every evening. I don't go outside till the odor is gone. One morning, one headed for me, I ran off as fast as I could!! A friend of mine got chased by a skunk once. She got inside of a building & the skunk was attacking the door. It turned out to be rabid. Yikes!

    The ducks are really cool looking! Glad you were able to identify them. I saw a bird yesterday I've never seen before. It was beautiful. A scissortailed flycatcher. Got pics of it & put it on my blog. Turns out, it is the Oklahoma state bird. Really pretty bird. Of course, this afternoon when I didn't have a camera in hand, it got closer to me & said, nah nah nah! Nature! Humpf!


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